Before becoming a professional poker player Greg Mueller had dreams of playing in the National Hockey League. So on a day when the most prized trophy in hockey, the Stanley Cup, made an appearance at the World Series of Poker it’s only fitting that Mueller captured his most coveted prize – a WSOP bracelet.
Limit Hold’em is not only a game of skill but a test of one’s patience. Wednesday evening Mueller showed plenty of both on his way to taking down the $10,000 Limit Hold’em World Championship to win that bracelet and $460,836 cash.
“Seeing the NHL guys, seeing the Cup and hearing the Anthem – it was right during our dinner break,” said Mueller, who played pro hockey in Europe. “I went to my car, I had goosebumps. I was so jacked because of the anthems, the hockey, the Stanley Cup.”
The Stanley Cup, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and a group of NHL superstars were in attendance for the filming of the NHL Charity Shootout – an event being filmed for broadcast on the NHL Network. The annual NHL Awards are being hosted across the street at The Palms Thursday night.
“I was like ‘Oh my god, maybe this is destiny – maybe it’s my night.”
While the night did end up belonging to Mueller the day actually started with 12 players remaining before Jennifer Harman, Maria Ho and Mark Klecan all hit the rail before the final table began. Once it did Mueller waited for his opportunity to strike and when it came there was no stopping him.
Kenny Hsiung saw his final table appearance end way too early considering he started the final day of play as the chip leader. Short on chips and in need of a double up the Hsiung got his last bets in with K Q against the A 8 of Daniel Alaei. The flop brought an ace for Alaei but it also brought three diamonds giving Hsiung a draw to the nut flush. The turn and river bricked however and Hsiung was out in ninth.
After losing a huge pot, and large piece of his stack, with kings against aces Soheil Shamseddin found himself in dire need of some help. Three consecutive double-ups were of little help to him when het ran into Matt Glantz. After Shamseddin raised from the button Glantz put another bet into the pot and Shamseddin called. The flop came Q Q 2, Glantz bet and Shamseddin made the call. The turn was the J and Glantz again led with a bet. Shamseddin raised and put himself all-in and Glantz called. Glantz turned over 9 9 while Shamseddin showed A 3. The river didn’t produce an ace and Shamseddin’s run was over.
It was at this point that Pat Pezzin went to work. A shortstacked Michiel Brummelhuis responded to a raise from Glantz by moving all-in for his last 115,000. Glantz, Pezzin and Chad Brown all called to see a flop of 8 4 2. Glantz bet the flop, Pezzin called and Brown folded. Pezzin and Glantz checked the K on the turn and the T on the river. Pezzin showed pocket nines, good enough to beat the pocket sevens of Glantz and Brummelhuis mucked his hand and exited, stage right.
Pezzin came back from dinner still looking to do work. Within 30 minutes of returning from his meal Pezzin sent Matt Glantz home in sixth and Matt Hawrilenko, considered one of the best heads-up Limit players in the world, home in fifth.
Glantz raised and Pezzin called from the big blind. After a flop of A Q 5 Pezzin put his last bet in and Glantz called. Pezzin turned over Q J for a flush draw while Glantz showed A 3. Glantz couldn’t fade the flush draw though as the K fell on the turn putting Glantz out in sixth spot. Only a few hands later Hawrilenko suffered the same fate when his Q 8 couldn’t outrun the Q 9 of Pezzin on a 6 3 2 K 3 board.
Pezzin then took a step back and let Mueller have his turn as the crusher of dreams. Alaei raised from the button and Mueller called from the big blind. The flop came Q T 6 and Mueller bet, Alaei raised, Mueller three-bet and Alaei called and was all-in. Mueller had flopped top pair with T 8 and need to avoid only an ace as Alaei held A 8. The turn and river both bricked out for Alaei and his run at being a double-bracelet winner was over with a fourth place showing.
Letting Mueller get hot may have been a mistake that Pezzin will regret. Over the next two hours the former professional hockey player went on a tear. Chad Brown found out just how brutal when both he and Mueller called a Pezzin raise to see a flop of J 7 6. The players checked around and when the Q hit the turn Brown put out a bet, Mueller raised and Pezzin folded. Brown made the call and the two players watched the 4 hit the river. Then it got silly – and painful for Brown. Brown checked, Mueller bet and Brown put out a raise and Mueller followed with a three-bet. Brown put in a another raise and Mueller capped the action. Brown called and mucked his hand in disgust as Mueller showed 3 5 for the straight flush. The result had Mueller in the chip lead and gave him some confidence moving forward.
“When I hit the straight flush and I got all those chips I said ‘today’s my day’,” said Mueller. “I don’t really want to Hollywood him too much. To get the fifth bet out of him I’ve got to stall for a second because he almost folded it. He’s check-raised me, I’m raising. I see him raising for chips I know he’s got the nut flush, the board’s not paired. He has to lose the max in that situation. It was an unbelievable hand and a sick cooler for Chad.”
It took nearly an hour but Brown faded enough to get all of his chips in the middle pre-flop with Mueller. Brown showed Q T and Mueller turned over A 9. The board ran dry for Brown and eventually gave Mueller an unneeded straight to send Brown home in third. With the National Hockey League Charity Shootout going on on the main stage it was only fitting that two Canadians do battle for the bracelet.
When heads-up play began Mueller held 3.8 million of the 5.5 million chips in play. Mueller then took four of the first five hands of one-on-one action to increase his lead and make the bracelet inevitable. On the final hand of the night Pezzin was only left with two bets and both ended up in the middle pre-flop. Mueller held pocket fives and Pezzin was flipping with T 8. The board ran dry for Pezzin and he was sent to the rail in second place giving Mueller the bracelet.
Mueller entered the final table Wednesday having made six final tables in the past three years. He’d finished runner-up twice, most recently to Philip Tom last summer. The win puts his lifetime tournament earnings over the $1.5 million mark.
$10,000 Limit World Championship Final Table Payouts
- Greg Mueller - $460,836
- Pat Pezzin - $285,196
- Chad Brown - $188,855
- Daniel Alaei - $134,733
- Matt Hawrilenko - $100,688
- Matt Glantz - $80,342
- Michiel Brummelhuis - $67,647
- Soheil Shamseddin - $59,996
- Kenny Hsiung - $55,996