WSOP: Frank Kassela Takes Down $2,500 Seven-card Razz

Frank Kassela won the $2,500 H.O.R.S.E.

When fifteen players returned on the final day of action in the $2,500 Seven-card Razz, many assumed that it would take quite some time to reach a final eight. Only a couple of hours later, seven players had been eliminated at a furious pace, and our final table was set.

9th place finisher Dee Tiller had “elite eight” hopes, but was sent to the rail after a flurry of big hands didn’t go in his favor. Tiller acted on Stuart Rutter’s bring-in, followed by Pispala’s completion of 12,000. Rutter folded, and Tiller called. After fourth street, Tiller went all in with his last 50,000, and Pispala snap-called, with Tiller’s [5x] [3x] / [6x] [7x] [Qx] [2x] bested by Pispala’s [6x] [3x] / [5x] [2x] [5x] [8x] for the time being. Tiller added a king on seventh street to take the lead, but Pispala lucked out with an [Ax], and Tiller was sent home with $15,329.

Shortly thereafter, Chris Bjorin was axed in relatively unspectacular fashion. Bjorin was forced all in on third street against Vladimir Shchemelev. Bjorin was holding [6x] [5x] /[2x] against Shchemelev’s [Ax] [4x] / [2x], but when completed, Vladimir’s board ran out [Jx] [5x] [3x] / [10x], giving Shchemelev the wheel and Bjorin the exit.

After the two exits, the game slowed down a little bit, and a quite peculiar discussion broke out amongst the table. All of the players except Mikko Pispala wanted to both register and play in the much larger $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship, and were even contemplating chopping the prize money seven ways. The only thing that stood in the way was the lure of a gold bracelet, and a number of players including Jennifer Harman had set out only for that. Other players, however didn’t care at all about the bracelet. “I’d sell mine to get this over with and play the H.O.R.S.E,” exclaimed Maxwell Troy.

Play picked up after our seventh place finisher was decided in Stuart Rutter.Vladimir Shchemelev brought in with a [Tx], and Rutter’s completion with a [7x] started off the theatrics. After a series of betting and calls from Rutter, the hand ended in Shchemelev’s favor, with Shchemelev tabling [5x] [7x] / [10x] [4x] [8x] [Qx] / [X] against Rutter’s [3x] [6x] / [7x] [Qx] [Ax] [Qx] / [X], and Rutter got no help on seventh street with a [Jx]. Shchemelev had made ten low, and Rutter immediately headed for the Horse Championship.

Next in line to feel the wrath of Melville Lewis was Jennifer Harman, who had been trending downwards since her arrival at the final table. After Jennifer called the bring-in and completion from Melville Lewis, Jennifer opened up the betting on fourth street, then bet again on fifth street. Her raise on fifth street brought a re-raise from Lewis, putting Harman at risk.  Harman caught a [Qx] on sixth and [4x] on seventh to go with her [2x] [4x] / [9x] [3x] [5x], and Lewis caught a [7x] on sixth and [2x] on seventh, beating Harman with a seven-six low.

Harman shook each player’s hands, then made her way to the H.O.R.S.E. event, a rather humorous trend that had begun to develop after each elimination.

Returning from the dinner break, many players opted for a more conservative approach, but apparently Mikko Pispala and Frank Kassela didn’t get the memo. After exchanging huge pots with one another, Kassela finally got the upper hand on some consecutives, and delivered the final blow to Pispala’s tournament life. Kassela tabled [Ax] [9x] / [5x] [Qx] [Jx] [6x] / [8x] against Pispala’s [3x] [8x] / [7x] [7x] [5x] [9x] / [3x], and Kassela scooped up the pot. Pispala’s elimination meant $45,433 in winnings, and we’re sure he’ll be pleased with his outcome in the long run.

The last four players tightened up the game exponentially, rarely getting into contested action. For four hours, not one player was eliminated, but all that changed once Vladimir Shchemelev hit the rail. The executioner was none other than Frank Kassela, who had been trending downwards until that point. A disappointed Shchemelev, tabling quad eights was consoled by a few of his family members before exiting. Lewis had tabled nine-seven for the win.

Maxwell Troy wouldn’t let Kassela go unchecked, though, and he took it upon himself to bust out our third place finisher and chip leader heading into play, Melville Lewis. Lewis had brought-in and Troy completed the bet for 60,000. Lewis snap-called Troy’s completion, called the standard bet on fourth street, and then raised on fifth street to move all in, with Troy making the call. On fifth street, Lewis held [8x] [6x] / [3x] [9x] [2x] against Troy’s [7x] [5x] / [Ax] [8x] [4x]. Lewis drew a [2x] on sixth and a [7x] on seventh, whereas Troy drew a [5x] on sixth and a [Qx] on seventh. Troy’s superior hand sent Lewis to the rail, creating a heads up showdown against Frank Kassela.

The heads up battle was excruciatingly long, but Kassela’s slow grind against Troy began to wear on the youngster. Eventually, Kassela forced Troy into a tough spot where he had to commit the rest of his stack, running out [3x] [2x] / [6x] [8x] [7x] [Qx] /[4x] against Kassela’s [4x] [3x] / [2x]. Kassela’s seven-five low was better than Troy’s seven-six low, and Frank Kassela became our first multiple tournament champion of 2010.

“It feels great, obviously. I think I was 105 out of 105 at one point, and barely had any chips left, so this was a really big comeback,” said a joyous Kassela.

Even in loss, Troy handled himself with a bit of humor. “I’ll always be the bridesmaid,”  Troy remarked after finishing in 2nd place for the second time this WSOP.

Kassela’s win is huge for a number of reasons. First, Kassela becomes the first two-time bracelet winner of the year, marking a rather historic moment at this World Series of Poker. Second, it ties him with John Juanda for Player of the Year leader, so this race is far from over.If Kassela continues to play the way he’s been for the past month, Juanda could see his lead disappear rather quickly.


  1. Frank Kassela : $214,085
  2. Maxwell Troy : $132,229
  3. Melville Lewis: $85,284
  4. Vladimir Schemelev: $61,795
  5. Mikko Pispala: $45,433
  6. Jennifer Harman: $33,890
  7. Stuart Rutter: $25,646
  8. Chris Bjorin: $19,686
  9. Dee Tiller: $15,329
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