Two Canadians in Final 3 of WSOP Event #29

Justin Oliver finished runner-up in WSOP Event #29

Many observers pegged the 2013 World Series of Poker as the “year of Canada” as Canadians took an unprecedented number of bracelets early in last year’s series. So far this year, however, Canadians have been shut out of the bracelet hunt, though Event #29: $2,500 No-Limit Hold’em was the closest chance yet.

1,165 players started the tournament on Day 1, playing down to 117 in-the-money positions. Of those 117 spots, seven went to Canadians, including Toronto’s Griffin Benger who finished 95th for $5,459, plus Edmonton’s Vincent Lam in 79th for $6,599, and Yong Lu in 13th for $24,277. Two Canadians pushed their way through that field as well to find their way to the final table.

When the final table convened, it was American Jamie Armstrong who had the biggest chip stack. Coming in with 2,345,000, the only other player over a million in chips was second-place Andy Phan at 1,975,000. The rest of the final table had under one million in chips, headed up by Weeds executive producer Matt Salsberg (who grew up in Montreal and attended Concordia University) with 880,000, with Sam Cohen picking up the tail at 380,000. Toronto’s Justin Oliver arrived at the final table with 680,000 in chips, putting him about the middle of the “small stacks” behind Armstrong and Phan.

It was no surprise, once the official final table of nine was set, that short-stacked Sam Cohen would get her chips in early. With barely 10 big blinds to start, she was all in on the seventh hand of the final table, collecting blinds and antes, and again on the eighth hand when she three-bet shoved over Oliver’s open to 65,000. With 360,000, Oliver tanked for several minutes, considering the 295,000 call before finally sliding the matching chips to the middle. When Cohen tabled {k-Diamonds}{q-Diamonds}, Oliver was happy to see a race against his {10-Diamonds}{10-Spades}. While Cohen was the one at risk and needing to improve, a loss would be a significant hit to Oliver’s stack. Fortunately for Oliver, the board of {5-Spades}{3-Clubs}{5-Clubs}{a-Diamonds}{4-Spades} missed his opponent’s hand, and Cohen collected $38,244 for ninth place.

Next to fall was Daniel Laming, the second smallest stack coming into the final table. Once again, Oliver opened to 65,000 and Laming over-shoved his 360,000 chips before it got to Salsberg in the big blind. Looking down at {a-Clubs}{q-Hearts}, Salsberg called for more than half of his stack, prompting the original raiser, Oliver, to fold. When Laming flipped over {k-Hearts}{k-Spades}, Salsberg looked to be in bad shape, but the {q-Clubs}{10-Clubs}{8-Clubs} flop gave him a few more outs with top pair and the nut flush draw. The turn was a blank {6-Diamonds} but the river {q-Spades} was the end for Laming. He placed eighth for a payout of $48,952.

Next to go was Andy Phan, collecting $63,502. With blinds at 40,000/80,000, Phan min-raised under the gun and Barry Hutter, on Phan’s immediate left, reraised him to 200,000. When action folded back to Phan, he quickly shoved for 890,000 and was called by Hutter who had him covered. Phan’s {q-Diamonds}{q-Spades} looked to be in good shape, despite racing against Hutter’s {a-Clubs}{k-Hearts} pre-flop. When the board ran out {9-Diamonds}{9-Clubs}{6-Diamonds}{2-Hearts}{a-Hearts}, Phan was Greensteined and sent to the rail in seventh.

Chips moved around the table for the next couple of hours with Barry Hutter, Jamie Armstrong, and Justin Oliver all holding the chip lead at one time, before Armstrong became the next casualty at the table. Oliver limped the button and Armstrong shoved nearly 20 big blinds. Oliver called after thinking for quite some time, and Armstrong was in a dominating position with {a-Clubs}{j-Hearts} against Oliver’s {a-Diamonds}{10-Clubs} but the board was not friendly to the big hand. The dealer laid out {8-Spades}{j-Clubs}{3-Diamonds}{9-Hearts}{7-Hearts} giving Oliver the runner-runner straight, and knocking Armstrong out in sixth place for $83,486.

Barry Hutter would be the fifth-place finisher less than 20 hands later. He shoved his sub-10-big-blind stack with {q-Hearts}{6-Hearts} only to get called by Thad McNulty with {a-Diamonds}{k-Spades} in the big blind. Hutter flopped a flush draw and second pair, but the board of {a-Hearts}{q-Diamonds}{3-Hearts}{k-Clubs}{8-Clubs} bricked out and Armstrong won the pot with aces and kings. Hutter picked up $11,368 for fifth place.

McNulty would be the next person cashing out, but it would take another 30 hands. Whittled down to about 8 big blinds on the button, he shoved over Justin Oliver’s 2.5 big blind open from the cutoff with {k-Spades}{8-Spades}. Oliver called with {a-Spades}{j-Clubs} and the board {q-Clubs}{3-Spades}{7-Diamonds}{6-Spades}{9-Hearts} missed both players, leaving Oliver with the best hand of ace-high. McNulty got paid $150,859 for the fourth-place finish.

That left three of the shorter stacks to start the day as the final three, but Matt Salsberg was still a small stack. With just 13 big blinds left, it only took him a couple of hands to get it in, finding {k-Clubs}{j-Spades} in the small blind after a raise to 200,000 from Justin Oliver. Pierre Milan in the big blind woke up with {a-Hearts}{k-Spades} and called before Oliver folded. The board of {5-Diamonds}{7-Diamonds}{8-Spades}{9-Diamonds}{9-Spades} couldn’t help Salsberg, and the Canadian Weeds producer would make $207,842 for his third place.

Heads-up play would last just three hands. The pivotal hand happend two hands after Salsberg busted when Oliver opened to 200,000 with {k-Clubs}{j-Hearts}. Pierre Milan three-bet to 525,000 with {k-Hearts}{6-Spades} and Oliver called behind. The flop of {k-Spades}{6-Hearts}{3-Diamonds} saw Milan’s dominated king jump out in front. Milan continuation-bet the flop for 425,000 and was called by Oliver. The {q-Hearts} hit the turn and Milan bet out for 1,225,000. Oliver reraised all in and Milan called with a stack just 230,000 chips smaller than Oliver’s. The {9-Diamonds} bricked for both players and Pierre Milan took down the massive pot, leaving Oliver crippled. The Toronto player was out on the next hand, collecting $332,198 for second place.

Despite starting the day with the third-smallest stack at the final table, Frenchman Pierre Milan was able to win his first WSOP gold bracelet, and collected $536,768 for the win.

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