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Elezra-fying! Eli Elezra Wins His Bracelet
It was one of the crazier heads-up matches PokerListings.com has ever seen. Scotty Nguyen and Eli Elezra, pounding back beers as they competed for the title of World Champion of SCSHLEOB (Seven-Card-Stud Hi-Lo Eight-or-Better), laughing, drinking, checking each others' hole cards, with their hijinks belying the serious poker maneuvering proceeding just beneath the surface.
Elezra came into the heads-up match with an 11-to-4 chip lead, but saw Nguyen battle back to take the lead, and with it, his chances for a first WSOP bracelet. But Elezra bore down, had a few more drinks, and - courtesy of a runner-runner Broadway Straight - pulled through, earning the title of SCSHLEOB World Champion and, as he revealed shortly after his victory, a heck of a lot more than the official $198,984 winner's purse.
Eli, you just won your first World Series of Poker bracelet. How are you feeling?
I feel wonderful. You know, after I won the World Poker Tour event [Mirage, Season 3], people would recognize me from TV everywhere I'd go, and they'd ask me, "How many bracelets do you have?"
I could never tell them. I'd say, zero. But now, finally, I can say that I have a bracelet in the World Series of Poker, and it makes me very, very happy.
I saw you try on the bracelet about halfway through the heads-up match. You must have been very eager to win it.
Oh yes. I mean, it was more than the money, because other than the prize money, I won an additional $250,000 bet against Barry Greenstein. Ten-to-one he laid me that I wouldn't win a bracelet.
I mean, for me, the money - I'm playing every night for three, four, five hundred thousand dollars, you know, when I'm playing in the high-limit games. So the bracelet was worth way, way more than the money for me.
How does this win compare to your WPT victory?
My kids always used to tell me, "You play poker, but we never see you on TV!" So the WPT was a stamp. Now the stamp of a professional comes from a World Series of Poker bracelet, so that's what I really am happy to have finally won.
Can you talk a bit about how the final table went for you?
When we started, we started eight handed, and I had the chip lead, but only by about $50,000 over Scotty Nguyen. But between me and third place was a hundred and some thousand, so I felt good. I knew I would finish in the top three; I felt it.
The way that everything started, before when I made final tables I came in with short-stacks so I didn't play for very long, but this particular final table I said to myself, "Out of everything, I don't want to see Scotty Nguyen heads-up."
It was funny, because I did end up with Scotty heads-up. I think he's probably the best tournament player. He played as good as me, but in a way I got really lucky in the end. I picked up more hands, and once I started drinking the beer, it started to look like I couldn't lose any hands.
You came in with about an 11-to-4 chip lead on Nguyen, but he came back and even pulled ahead at one point. How did you get back on track?
I had $1.1 million and Scotty had $390,000, and he beat me like four hands, he scooped me, and at one point I was down to $600,000 and he had $900,000, so I mean, I don't know. Heads-up, this is the way it goes.
In the WPT I came in as a 5-to1 dog, and I realized that all I had to do was be patient; if I woke up with a hand, I could make it pay. And that's what happened. It turned around, and I won three pots in a row.
You and Scotty were definitely having a good time at the final table. Was that a front or were you two really that relaxed?
I mean, I'm very good friends with Scotty. I believe I started playing with him in 1987. We played very small. And through the years, we moved up from $20/$40 to $30/$60 to $150/$300 and we got to know each other. I give him a lot of respect for what he's done through the years.
So we're still friends, and it was a very good feeling to get to play with a friend. If he had beaten me, I wouldn't have felt as bad as if someone else beat me, and I believe he doesn't feel as bad that I beat him.
Was there a point that you felt that the bracelet was yours to be won?
When he got down to $200,000, as much as it looked like I was drunk, I knew what I was doing, so I just said I'm going to wait for a key hand, and the key hand came down when I made the Broadway Straight.
Can you elaborate a bit about the prop bets you had?
Yeah, I laid prop bets with all of the big players, and I'm talking about Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson, Todd Brunson, Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey - everyone who is playing in the high-limit games. I laid them between three and a half to almost six to one that they wouldn't win bracelets. I would lose like $250,000 to $50,000.
And Barry came to me and asked if I had a bet on myself. I said, "No, what would you lay me?" He said 10-to-1, so I took it right away. I took it for $25,000, so I won actually $500,000 for this event, because I had an additional $50,000 bet, so it wasn't a $200,000 win, it was $500,000.
Where are you going to celebrate tonight?
I'm just going to go be with my kids; they're waiting for me at home, so I'm going to go celebrate with them.
Great - go celebrate, Eli. Congratulations.
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Eli Elezra is one of the most respected high-limit poker players in the world. Missing on his poker resume, however, was the one major achievement that would propel him outside the Big Game and into stardom. Now that Elezra has finally earned that WSOP bracelet - and by defeating a star-studded field and final table, no less - he can at last be recognized by more than just the regulars at Bobby's Room as one of the game's very best.