After the storm, there’s always sunshine and Brit John Kabbaj knows it. A veteran of the game, Kabbaj started playing live poker tournaments almost 20 years ago; he cashed his first career World Series of Poker prize 15 years ago when he finished ninth in a $3,000 Pot Limit Hold’Em event. He won his first and only gold bracelet five years ago in the $10,000 PLH World Championship.
However, for the last two years, the Brit has lacked any major results. His last decent cash dates back to 2012. What happened to Kabbaj’s game?
I have had probably the worst two years of my life. I lost everything I had and had to rebuild. I have started a new life in the last six month and now this is looking good for the future,” the veteran told WSOP.com.
How good you might ask? Well, how about giving up the city life to live in the Alps, in Austria? How about losing 25 POUNDS in the last three months JUST from walking his dog daily? And last but not least, how about adding a new WSOP win to his already impressive resume?
One fact is for sure: Kabbaj’s life changes propelled him back on top and his latest performance shows it. He started the final day of Event #25: $2,500 Omaha/Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8-or-Better third in chips and ready to make a stand for himself and challenge the top pros remaining in the tourney. Pros like eight-time bracelet winner Erik Seidel and four-time bracelet winner Tom Schneider.
Those two players and Kabbaj managed to survive the first four hours of play and qualify for the official eight-handed final table. Other players like two-million-dollar WSOP member Matt Glantz (18th), Konstantin Puchkov (16th), Owais Ahmed (15th), Allyn Jaffrey Shulman (14th), Robert Mizrachi (13th), Chris Reslock (12th) – all of them holding a gold bracelet in their trophy room – came up just short.
The eight-handed play kicked off with the elimination of Schneider by the hand of Seidel. Seidel eventually caught a straight and dodged a low to send Schneider packing for $23,833.
Mike Leah was next to fall in seventh; he couldn’t get away from his aces in an Omaha hand and ran into Kabbaj’s turned full house. Leah left the final table $31,115 richer.
From that point on, the Brit continued to increase his stack by hitting the million-chip mark after a Stud hand played against Seidel and Christopher McHugh.
Being severely crippled, Seidel had to gamble but couldn’t make his low and finished sixth for $41,230.
Joe Tehan did the same thing and paid for it…or actually not. He was eliminated in fifth place but did receive a worthy cash prize of $55,451.
A little while later, Terrence Hastoo announced: “If I’m going out, this is the hand to do it.” He was talking about a nice low #ah#2h#4s#5c hand. But the community cards were not kind to him, missing everything and sending him to the rail to collect $75,713.
The three-handed and heads-up play was actually a one-man affair by the name of John Kabbaj. He played strong, crippling McHugh and extending his lead even further after a Stud hand against Thomas “Thunder” Keller. With the Brit having two thirds of the chips in play, the ending seemed to be quite obvious.
And indeed it was. McHugh fell in third for $105,000. He couldn’t beat Kabbaj’s full house and couldn’t catch any low as well. Keller was the final man down, losing his last chips after a series of Stud Hi-Low pots. He won $165,177 for second-place.
Congratulations to John Kabbaj on winning the prestigious WSOP gold bracelet plus a $267,327 cash prize. According to Hendon Mob Poker DB, his last six-figure cash was collected three years ago in the $10,000 WSOP Pot Limit Omaha Championship. Will 2014 be a year to remember for him?