WSOP EUROPE: November Niner goes close, but Billirakis seals the deal

2011 WSOP Europe €5000 PLO champion Steve Billirakis

Pot Limit Omaha’s origins may very well be in the American Mid-west, but there’s little doubt the game has become a favourite among European poker players. Indeed, Europeans have an outstanding record in international PLO tournaments, including the World Series of Poker.

Consider this list of European Pot Limit Omaha WSOP gold bracelet champions: Elie Payan (France), Max Pescatori (Italy), Peter Smurfit (Ireland), Donnacha O’Dea (Ireland), Chris Bjorin (UK), Matthias Rohnacher (Germany), Jani Vilmunen (Finland), Theo Jorgensen (Denmark) and Dario Alioto (Italy).

Nonetheless, it was an American player who sat down at the most recent WSOP Europe finale table and ruined the Euro-party. Steve Billirakis won the €5000 buy-in Pot Limit Omaha championship. He collected €147,171 for first place.

Billirakis was also presented with his second career WSOP gold bracelet. His first victory took place back in 2007, in what was the first ESPN televised tournament of the year – a $5000 Mixed Hold’em Event. At the time, he was the youngest WSOP gold bracelet winner of all-time, until later in the year when Annette Obrestad broke his age-record at WSOP Europe in London.

Four years separate Billirakis’ two victories, but he said he is now a much better poker player than when he stunned the poker world at the 2007 WSOP. “I really did not know what I was doing at the time, compared to now. I did not have much fear back then. Now, my game is definitely much better than it was,” he said.

Billirakis is one of only four players to hold multiple WSOP gold bracelets plus a WSOP Circuit Series gold ring. The other three are Jeffrey Lisandro, Men “The Master” Nguyen, and Chris “Jesus” Ferguson.

Among the other players who ran deep in this event was Eoghan O’Dea, from Dublin, Ireland. O’Dea is one of this year’s WSOP Main Event finalists, otherwise known as the “November Nine.” He will return to Las Vegas early next month with the goal of winning the 2011 world poker championship. O’Dea finished ninth place in this tournament.

An interesting sidebar to Eoghan O’Dea’s final table appearance was the prior achievement of his father, Donnacha O’Dea. The elder O’Dea won a WSOP gold bracelet in this same game, Pot-Limit Omaha back in 1998. Had the younger O’Dea managed to win, they would have become the first and only father-son duo to win gold bracelets in the same game along with Doyle and Todd Brunson.

This event tied the record for the most international final table in WSOP history. Players from eight different nations were represented among the nine finalists, once again proving that this game attracts the very best poker players from just about every nation. Oddly enough, the host nation of France did not have a single player at the final table.

Attendance at the 2011 WSOP Europe continues to smash previous records. Through the conclusion of the first three events, overall attendance is up a whopping 38 per cent over the first three events held last year, in London.

Event 3: €5300 buy-in No Limit Hold’em (180 players; 18 players paid; total prizepool (€882,000)

1 Steve Billirakis (USA) €238,140
2 Michele Di Lauro (Italy) €147,171
3 Ramzi Jelassi (Sweden) €105,937
4 Sam Trickett (UK) €77,642
5 Jerome Bradpiece (UK) €57,912
6 Konstantin Uspenskiy (Russia) €43,950
7 Erich Kollmann (Austria) €33,922
8 Sam Chartier (Canada) €26,610
9 Eoghan O’Dea (Ireland) €21,221

• Additional reporting Nolan Dalla,

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