Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, Dan Marino, Barry Sanders, Dan Fouts, Ernie Banks, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds.  These are just some of the names that come up when sports fans talk about the greatest athletes without a professional championship.  Poker has a similar list: the best players without a World Series of Poker bracelet.  Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi crossed himself off that list earlier this month when he won the $50,000 Player’s Championship.  And this weekend, the list got even shorter, as the popular Gavin Smith won his first bracelet in the $2,500 Mixed Event.
Smith began final table play in the combo Fixed-Limit/No-Limit Hold’em tournament in a virtual tie for the chip lead with Jarred Solomon, as a difference of 3,000 chips separated the two.  Not long after the final table started, however, Smith won a huge pot from Solomon, giving him a commanding chip lead, almost double the next closest competitor, with eight players remaining.  Of course, this is poker, so it’s rare that anyone just cruises to a championship.  Smith hit a rough patch a bit later and slipped into the middle of the pack, well behind the chip leaders, with six players left to go.
Like any champ, Smith found his bearings and made a run, taking the chip lead back and only relinquishing it for a short time before going into heads-up play against Danny Hannawa with a 2.1 million to 1.7 million chip advantage.  The two played Fixed-Limit poker for just a few hands before a scheduled break and a game change.  In that subsequent No-Limit round, Gavin Smith dominated, taking a 2.55 million to 1.216 million chip lead into the next Fixed-Limit level.  Smith held his ground during that round, as well as the following No-Limit round, with neither player’s chip stack changing much during that time.
Smith finally closed the deal during the next Fixed-Limit round.  He had crippled Hannawa in the second to last hand and on the final hand, all of Hannawa’s chips got in the middle.  Hannawa tabled 10-8 off-suit, while Smith showed A-Q of hearts, giving him a great chance to win the tournament.  The flop of A-K-2 took Smith a lot close to the title, but when a Jack landed on the turn, Hannawa had some life, needing Queen for Broadway.  But another Jack fell on the river and Gavin Smith had finally won his first World Series of Poker gold bracelet, as well as not insignificant first prize of $268,238.
Smith had come close to winning a bracelet on several occasions, but for whatever reason, had never been able to go all the way.  After the tournament, he told WSOP officials, “Yeah, I seem to be pretty good at screwing things up.  I have had a lot of issues through the years.  I know this year I came in trying to try my ass off.  I have not always done that.  In the past, I sometimes went out and got drunk or hung out.  But this year, I decided to come in and try to play my best the whole time.  I came in and the first several events I kept getting my teeth kicked in.  I was playing well.  I was playing my best.  But I wasn’t seeing the results.  And then when I cashed in the Heads-Up that helped.  Then, the last three days everything just clicked.  I played well and things went well and everything clicked at the right time.”
2010 World Series of Poker $2,500 Mixed Hold’em Event – Final Table Results
1.    Gavin Smith – $268,238
2.    Danny Hannawa – $166,005
3.    Timothy Finne – $110,324
4.    Michael Michnik – $81,871
5.    Jamie Rosen – $61,441
6.    Jarred Solomon – $46,562
7.    Daniel Idema – $35,601
8.    Dwyte Pilgrim – $27,438
9.    Mike Santoro – $21,304

This site is registered on wpml.org as a development site.