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It was a victory not only over a massive field of 2,419 players but also one that marked the best moment in the career of poker professional Craig Varnell (cover image) who, was returning to the poker felts after a long hiatus of four years. The American created personal history by winning his first WSOP bracelet in the $565 Pot-Limit Omaha event at the ongoing World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2018 along with a payday of $181,790.
A massive $1,209,500 prize pool was created in the event over two starting flights and Varnell, who had just come out of a terrible run in the Colossus event, decided to jump in, last minute.
“It’s a great feeling that I accomplished something in the thing I do for a living, the highest accomplishment you can get.Poker saved my life. Before poker, I was in trouble and all kinds of stuff. Poker kind of leveled me out,” said Varnell, who at one point earned a living by washing cars and entered professional poker way back in 2005. However, Varnell’s run in online poker came to a sudden halt due to Black Friday and it was only in 2015 that he returned to the felts. The same year, Varnell shipped the WPT500 for $185,800, followed by a third place finish in the $1,000 WSOP.com Event.
Notables including Orlando Romero (19th for $5,830), Ryan Laplante (20th for $5,830), Millard Hale (21st for $5,830), John Racener (51st for $3,495), and Vivian Saliba (54th for $3,495) exited out on the second day of the play, and ten players returned for Day 3.
The official final table of nine players began after Conway Frankenheimer was eliminated in the tenth place. Frankenheimer went home with $11,621 for his finish.
On the final table, Varnell had to battle former WSOP Main Event winner Jonathan Duhamel and WPT Montreal champion Maxime Heroux, the latter being on the top of the chip counts at the start. Varnell simply ran dominant and trampled all opposition along the way! He went on to claim four of the first five eliminations including that of Duhamel, despite not having very good cards further surmounted by the fact that he started off with a short stack.
“Everybody was folding to make that final nine, I opened about 90 percent of the hands and just accumulated over a million chips just raising without having a flop”, he said, talking about his run in the final day. “They weren’t playing bad, they just knew they had one hand in them and they were folding hands they probably should have been raising, I just took advantage of the situation and then I just ran good in all-ins,” he added.
Final Table Recap
The final table was headlined by American pros except for Heroux and Duhamel who represented Canada. Ilian Li was the first one to exit and action saw Varnell opening for 300,000 from middle position. Li moved all-in for 475,000 and Varnell called with , coming up against the of Li. The flop@5h, brought a pair of fives for Varnell. The on the turn didn’t work in his favor, but the on the river brought him two pairs and Li was sent packing in ninth place.
In the very next hand, Varnellraised to 300,000 from middle position and Jason Lipiner 3-bet shoved from the big blind for 640,000. Varner called, with and Lipiner who had would have doubled up had the board not brought eliminating him in eighth place.
Another quick elimination followed within minutes when Varnell opened for 300,000 and Shaome Yang shoved all in, Heroux called from the big blind. With the board open , Heroux bet while Varnell folded. Heroux tabled for ten’s full of deuces, while Yang showed . Yang badly needed an ace but the river bricked out sending him to the rail in seventh place.
It was Varnell who emerged again the very next hand to claim onother victim. He opened for 300,000, and when Duhamel shoved on the button, he called. Varnell showed and Duhamel tabled . The flop came bringing Varnell a pair of nines. turn and river completed a three-of-a-kind for Varnell, eliminating Duhamel in sixth place.
In the subsequent hand, Christopher Trang opened to 350,000 from under the gun and Heroux 3-bet it to 895,000 from the small blind. Trang called, putting himself at risk and turned over while Heroux tabled . Clearly, Heroux had the preflop advantage and though Trang picked up a few outs on the flop, it was Heroux who won the pot, with the community cards bringing on the turn and on the river.
Varnell began applying more pressure here on and it was Maxime Heroux who was busted out next. Varnell raised to 420,000 from under the gun and Heroux 3-bet it to 1,380,000 from the big blind – Varnell called. The flop opened and Heroux shoved, on which Varnell snap-called. Varnell tabled while Heroux showed . Varnell had the top set, and turn followed by river gave him a full boat, eliminating Heroux in fourth place.
Next, Varnell raised to 420,00 on the button and called the shove from Omar Mehmood who jammed for 1,120,000 in the small blind holding . Varnell tabled and picked up a pair of fours on the flop . Nothing favored Mehmood as the rundown relegated him to the rail in third place.
The heads-up play between Varnell and Seth Zimmerman went through many interesting ups and downs and despite Varnell leading 6:1 in chips, Zimmerman doubled up several times and even led the heads-up for a while.
However, it was Varnell’s show overall and on the final hand, he raised it to 480,000 on which Zimmerman decided to 3-bet it to 1,440,000. Retaliating, Varnell four-bet pushing Zimmerman to the corner. Zimmerman called, Varnell tabled and Zimmerman showed . Till this point, Zimmerman was leading but the community cards brought two pairs for Varnell crowning him the champion!
Final Table Results (USD)
1. Craig Varnell – $181,790
2. Seth Zimmerman – $112,347
3. Omar Mehmood – $81,852
4. Maxime Heroux – $60,190
5. Christopher Trang – $44,677
6. Jonathan Duhamel – $33,477
7. Shaome Yang – $25,325
8. Jason Lipiner – $19,344
9. Ilian Li – $14,920
Content & Image Courtesy WSOP.com
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