Zeidman redeems himself, earns 1st WSOP bracelet

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The beauty of the World Series of Poker is, whenever you have disappointment, another opportunity is always just around the corner, usually within a few hours. Such an opportunity presented itself to Cory Zeidman of Coral Springs in Event 4 of the WSOP, the stud/8 tournament.

The Syosset, N.Y., native had seven WSOP cashes to his credit (all but one in stud), including a sixth-place finish in this same tournament last year when he entered the final table as chipleader.That knockout distressed Zeidman so much that his ultimate goal was to make amends by returning to the final table and winning this year’s event.Easy to say, but difficult to achieve, especially with a stacked field of 622 that featured Hall of Fame players Mike Sexton, Linda Johnson and Marsha Waggoner, stud experts Chris Bjorin, Todd Brunson and Chris Tryba, and the 1-2 finishers in the 2010 Player of the Year race in Frank Kassela and Michael “Grinder” Mizrachi among the final 15.

But as the field dwindled on the final day, Zeidman found himself in a familiar position as chipleader at the start of the final table. Before I get to the rest of the story, here’s a little background on Zeidman.

Zeidman, 51, has served as a poker columnist in the past, showing little hesitation to express his feelings about players, commentators or organizations. His battle with Phil Hellmuth on Poker After Dark in 2009 is legendary, as Zeidman’s vicious needling put Hellmuth on tilt. Maybe more notable is his suckout against Jennifer Harman in the 2005 WSOP main event when he rivered a one-outer for a straight flush to beat her full house.He angered many by faking anguish, which people called a slowroll, after the miracle river. Many of those Harman fans were a bit sensitive to her recent recovery from a kidney transplant at the time.

Zeidman is a polarizing figure on the felt, which gave me some trepidation as I approached him for an interview in a Rio hallway during a break in the stud action, but he couldn’t have been nicer.I asked him about Hellmuth.

“I don’t hate the guy, but I don’t like the way he tries to put himself above the game,” he said. “Obviously, he avoids me now, but I’m sure we’ll meet again. … We’re poker players; we’re not social heroes like firemen or school teachers, and we shouldn’t try to put ourselves in that light.”

A fixture on the South Florida poker scene, Zeidman has had several deep runs in tournaments at the Isle and he plays a regular cash game at Seminole Coconut Creek at the special glassed-in table.Those games include Grinder and Rob Mizrachi two or three times a week.

Now back to the final table. After mowing down Brunson, Xuan Liu, Grinder and four others, Zeidman faced respected veteran Bjorin heads-up for nearly two hours before winning.A 3-to-1 chip lead for Zeidman trundled back to even a couple of times, but the South Florida resident was able to turn his dream into reality by finally outlasting the Swede at 3:30 a.m. for his first WSOP title.

He earned a little more than $200K for his victory, but possibly the most important thing to him was receiving the priceless WSOP bracelet, which had more than 160 grams of 14 karat gold, in addition to the immeasurable prestige and memories the rare piece of jewelry represents for poker enthusiasts.

His perseverance in the face of last year’s disappointment means he’ll be bringing the hardware back to South Florida, but he’ll be looking for more with three separate trips to Vegas planned for the summer, including entries in the $50K Poker Players Championship and, of course, the main event.

STATE CHAMPIONSHIP: The Isle Casino’s biggest series of the year, the Florida State Poker Championship, returns with 16 events scheduled from July 8-30.Last year’s $5,300 buy-in main event featured a $1 million guaranteed prize pool and attracted 283 players, with Connor Drinan taking the trophy.

This year, Mike Smith, the casino’s director of poker, has decided in the face of dramatically increased competition around the state, to decrease that guarantee to $500K, but the total guarantee for all events will still top the $1 million mark.

“We still hope to host the same amount of players as last year, but we have to be realistic; we’re battling name-brand events just about every month,” Smith said.

A $330 re-entry event with three starting days will present players opportunities July 12-14 for a $250K guaranteed prize pool, while the $5,300 main event will have Day 1A on July 27 at noon and Day 1B the next day.The series will also open with a ladies event followed by a seniors tourney, and will feature a $2,200 six-handed event the day before the main.

— Big Dave Lemmon is Ante Up’s South Florida Ambassador. Email him at bigdave@pokeractionline.com.