Highlights of the 2017 edition of the WSOP Sydney

The WSOP International Circuit was back in Sydney for its second visit with 21 days of poker ongoing from November 28 – December 18 at The Star Casino. Although there were a scattered number of players from all over the world in attendance, it was the Australians that dominated from start to finish. There were 13 events in total with WSOP Championship Gold Rings as the coveted prize.

Here are the top stories of the circuit:

Michael Kanaan champions the Main Event

Michael Kanaan, 2017 WSOP Sydney Main Event Champion | Star Poker©
Michael Kanaan, 2017 WSOP Sydney Main Event Champion | Star Poker©

The WSOP Sydney Circuit Main Event drew in a huge field of 1,067 entries with Australian pro Michael Kanaan outlasting them all to win the AUS$394,837 (~US$302,890) first place cash and the WSOP Circuit Champion Gold Ring. In addition, Kanaan was also awarded a seat to the US$1 Million Guaranteed Global Casino Championship to be held in the USA.

With a Main Event field that large, getting an idea of who may take the gold most often comes down to the final table mix. Among the nine finalists, Kanaan was ranked 4thin chips but by experience, he towered over all of his opponents especially with his ANZPT Main Event title back in 2011.

In a short summary of Kanaan’s recent victory, he climbed into the leader’s seat after sending out Karam Bahi in 6th place, Sean Lannon in 5th place, and Nabil Edgtton in 4th place. This gave him half of the chips in play while the other two players, Michael Fraser and John Pachos divvied the other half.

Despite his lead, the three-handed round proved difficult for Kanaan with both players taking chunks of his stack. He seesawed from top rank to bottom rank then back up top again. After Pachos fell to Fraser in 3rd place, the heads up round arrived with Kanaan still well ahead in chips. Fraser put up a strong fight but in just half an hour, Kanaan ate up all of his chips and was crowned the WSOP Sydney Circuit Main Event champion.

With this victory, Kanaan easily crossed over the seven-digit range in total live tournament earnings. This was also his largest live tournament score, surpassing his 3rd place APPT Macau 2012 Main Event cash of US$223,340.

Johan Lees captures the Opening Event

Johan Lees wins the Opening Event for A$105,416 | Star Poker©
Johan Lees wins the Opening Event for A$105,416 | Star Poker©

Another poker player very happy the WSOP Circuit was back in Sydney was Australia’s Johan “Bucket Hat” Lees. Prior to this event, Lees has never recorded a live tournament major victory. Well, that now can be thrown out the door with Lees winning the AUS$500 No Limit Hold’em Opening Event.

The kick off event ran for a total of six days from November 28 – December 3 generating a huge field 1,357 total entries. Lees held a dominating chip count at the start of the final table but did have his work cut out by the time it reached the heads up round. Matthew Velcic held the lead after dusting four players.

However, the one-on-one seemed to be Lees’s forte; he took full control with persistent aggressive bets to easily surpassed Velcic in chips. Lees took the title with a winning straight and earned AUS$105,416 plus the first WSOP gold ring of the series.

Brendon Rubie wins the 5K Challenge

Brendon Rubie | Star Poker©
Brendon Rubie | Star Poker©

It was déjà vu for Brendan Rubie, one of Australia’s high-ranking players, who once again found himself within arm’s length of a WSOP International Circuit Sydney gold ring. Last year, Rubie reached the heads up round of the AUS$5K No Limit Hold’em High Roller title but missed the glory to fellow countryman Luke Edwards.

Returning to the same event this year, with 229 runners taking on the AUS$5K Challenge, Rubie maneuvered his way back into the heads up round and this time he made sure the result was much different. Up against fellow countryman Sam Higgs, and ahead in chips, this final battle was pretty quick with both players all in on the second hand. Rubie prevailed with pocket queens over Higg’s pocket jacks and was awarded the AUS$271,952 cash prize plus that shiny token, the WSOP gold ring.

This event had a total prize pool of AUS$1,087,750 with 24 players paid. One big wig in the ITM lineup was Australia’s #1 ranked player, Joe Hachem. He finished in 10th place, missing the final table by one spot. USA’s RandyNanonokoLew also cashed with his 21st place finish.

Andy Lee takes control of the High Rollers 2 event

Andy Lee WSOP 2017
Andy Hun Wei Lee winner in the $20,000 High Roller | Star Poker©

The event that drew in the smallest field in the circuit was the AUS$20,000 No Limit Hold’em High Rollers 2. That’s not to say it was the least popular though. On the contrary, the 36 entries for this event was a very good turnout especially with some of the world’s top players in the field. This is one of those events that seem exclusive with players wagering big cash to engage in a tight field dominated with others of high caliber.

After the first day of play, Australia’s Andy Lee held the high chair which he earned by knocking out two players simultaneously, Dominykas Karmazinas and Christopher Michael Soyza (fresh off his 3rdplace finish in APT Championships in Macau), then denying Jordan Westmorland a spot in the final nine.

On the final day, pros such as Kahle Burns and Brendan Rubie fell before the money, and after the bubble burst, it didn’t take long for the next two players to bust and earn their share, David Wang in 4thplace and Tolly Sakellariou in 3rd place. This left Lee and German pro Martin Finger vying for the title.

Between the two, Finger’s stats were clearly the more decorated however Lee had the edge in chips. After a five-hour long one-on-one battle with Finger unable to get out of Lee’s shadow, Lee finally closed it out to win the AUS$273,600 first place cash and the WSOP gold ring.

Article by Triccia David

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Tricia David

Tricia David has long experience as a recreational poker player and has been covering poker events since 2010 for numerous outfits in Asia. She spent one year working part time with Poker Portal Asia then became editor and lead writer for all event coverage of the Philippine Poker Tour (PPT). Under the PPT, she overlooked content for their website, and produced live updates on all their events. In addition, she served as the live and online events website content writer for the Asian Poker Tour. Currently, she does live events reporting in Asia for online news site Somuchpoker and is also one of their news contributors.

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