The weather in London, despite a few hours of drizzle, had been quite nice. The skies had been clear, the temperatures warmer than one might expect. Edgware Road teemed with exotic, international sights and smells. Rich tobacco smoke slipped from the Indian coffee houses. Arabic women looked from beneath veils as children trailed along the sidewalk. Meats spun on spits in windows up and down the street. And just around the corner, through a revolving door, stood the staid gatekeepers of London’s gambling glitterati.
The Grosvenor Victoria Casino is said to be among the most respected gambling venues in greater London. Its people have rules and they cling to them as if they were the last ties they have to the fine days when people respected each other and institutions such as The Vic.
It was in this setting that 236 poker players divided into two flights of 118 and battled for three days until eight of them reached a finely appointed table underneath television lights. The 16 players who had fallen before them had all walked away with money, but it was the final eight who stood to make the kind of money people will make an international call to phone home about.
Among them were a couple of PokerStars online qualifiers, a roofer, the son of a bridge champion, and a Russian champion. When the cameras began to roll, the final eight players stacked up as so:
1. Noah Jefferson (USA) 350K
2. Jonas Helness (Norway) 700K
3. Paul King (England) 160K
4. Mark Teltsher (England)700K
5. Graham Clarkson (Scotland)175K — PokerStars qualifier
6. Kirill Gerasimov (Russia) 58K
7. Istvan Novak (Hungary) 100K — PokerStars qualifier
8. Dale Greenleaf (England) 160K
For a full hour, it seemed there was more than money binding the players to the table. Blinds were given up without a fight. Raises reared their head, but re-raises were few and far between. It was not until Graham Clarkson, an e-commerce analyst from Scotland (aka flashbadger on PokerStars), decided to play a hand to the river did we see action. When Clarkson opened the door to post-flop poker play, the doors to the loser’s lounge soon opened. Clarkson lost a good portion of his chips when his A6 was no match for Kirill Gerasimov’s AK. Though he had few chips left, he managed to turn two trash hands into winners before finally watching his QQ succumb to Noah Jefferson’s AK. For his eighth place finish, Clarkson won 13,889 pounds.
Indeed, as often happens at televised final tables, when one player gave up the ghost, others soon followed. On the very next hand, Istav Novak’s KT was no match for Paul King’s A2. He placed seventh and won 17,350 pounds.
Dale Greenleaf did not want to make as hasty an exit and felt fairly confident when he flopped top pair. He found himself in a betting battle with American Noah Jefferson. When Greenleaf got all-in, Jefferson didn’t seem pleased with himself.
“I’ve got myself into a predicament here,” he said.
Turns out, Jefferson had basically committed himself to the pot with a nine-high flush draw. Unfortunately for Greenleaf, that flush got there on the turn. Greenleaf had a re-draw for a queen-high flush, but those outs didn’t materialized. Greenleaf was out in sixth place, cashing for 20,820.
Against the odds, Russian Kirill Gerasimov had surived thus far. He had come to the final table with just seven big blinds and had fught his way all the way to fifth place. There are those who would say he should’ve lived longer. He came in for a raise pre-flop and Jonas Helness called. When the flop came down 789, Kirill got his chips in the middle, only to find that his pocket aces were no good to 5-6 offsuit. Helness had flopped the straight. The 34-year-old Russian pro was out in fifth place, earning 24,290 pounds.
To that point and for a while thereafter, the action had not been what one would call overtly dramatic. However, after a ten-minute break, that would all change. On a flop of 782, Jonas Helness bet out 60,000 and Noah Jefferson called. A jack came on the turn. Jonas bet out, Noah moved all in and Jonas called. Jonas showed two pair to Noah’s top pair. Noah was behind and the look on his fce showed it. Then came the river. Jefferson paired his second card for a bigger two pair. Normally reserved, Jefferson breifly exploded with uncontrollable excitement. The American tournament player now had a chance at first place.
It would not be long before Jefferson and Helness tangled again. Jefferson came in for a raise, Helness re-raised, and Jefferson pushed all-in. After thinking for nearly five minutes, Helness called. The players both showed…
A pair of jacks.
Several people around the table murmurred, “Here comes the flush.”
Then the flop: three hearts. Noah put his hands to his head. When players are all-in, the dealer moves the cards to the center of the table. Sometimes it is hard to remember who had which hand.
In this case Noah didn’t seem to remember if he had the heart. After half a second he said… “I have the heart, right?” Indeed he did.
But turn and river proved ot be less dramatic. No heart. Just a split pot and two sighs of relief.
Relief for Jefferson would be short-lived. With first place in his sights, Jefferson was tickled to see pocket kings in his hand. When he and Londoner Mark Teltcher got in a betting war, Jefferson only had to worry about one thing: the aces Teltcher held in his hand. Both players got all their chips in the middle and the aces held up. Jefferson’s shot at the title wasn’t over, but his chances were severaly diminished.
With four players still remaining, the chips stacked up like this.
Short-stacked, part-time English pro Paul King doubled up once with aces, but could never get a foothold after that. He eventually put his chips in with K3. It was no match for his opponent’s ace. King was out in fourth place, earning 41,640 pounds.
Finally, Jefferson would give up the ghost. After popping over to The Vic after a friend’s Irish wedding, Jefferson battled his way all the way to four-handed play. He got his chips in with AQ after missing a flop, hopinh Helness had less of the flop. In fact, Helness has a pair of sixes. Jefferson couldn’t hit his draw and he is out in third place, earning a very respectable 72,870 pounds.
Going into heads-up play with nearly even stacks, it seemed like it would take a while to finish the match. Jonas Helness, an 18-year-old son of a bridge champion from Norway, was inexperienced but already a proven player. Teltcher was secretive and hard to read.
Heads up through the TV cameras
Those who predicted a long, drawn-out battle, likely didn’t see Teltcher turning a set of jacks at the same time Helness flopped a king-high flush draw. And anyone who didn’t see that coming, likely would not have predicted all the chips going in the middle with one card to come. Nonetheless, that’s what happened and Helness’ flush didn’t come. He earned 145,740 poinds for his second place finish.
That left first for Teltcher, who won 280,000 pounds and a seat to the Monte Carlo Grand Final next year.
Teltcher kisses his trophy
Teltcher holds up his winner’s check
A pose with Greg Raymer and PokerStars’ Conrad Brunner