John Kabbaj Bags his Second Bracelet

June 19, 2014

The recent accomplishment of John Kabbaj is something that poker players dream to equal, if not better. Just a few days back, on July 14th, this determined man overcame his personal issues and won a whopping $267,327. With this winning, Kabbaj has exceeded $2,700,000, accounting for all his live tournament winnings. Those numbers alone are stunning. What makes the win even sweeter for this 40-year-old player is that it comes after a year full of personal issues.

To help other poker players who wish to earn deep at the final tables, Kabbaj says that it is advisable to take some time off and then focus on the game to achieve the best results. Over the past two years, he got divorced, sold his house and had to move to different countries. He describes this period as the worst two years of his life. However, he is now reaping the rewards of his poker skills at an Austrian mountain-top now, in a ski-resort, accompanied by his beloved companion, his dog!

Kabbaj used the World Series of Poker 2014 as a way to divert his attention from the tough times he has been facing over the past year. At a time when he was facing the “low of the low”, he went on to beat many renowned poker players to reach “the high now” to such an extent that even he is finding it a little hard to believe. The game he played was challenging with a lot of twists and turns, making his win all the more sweet.

The final day of the event

At the start of the final of this exciting game, there were 18 players around the table, all pitting their wits and talents against each other to clean the pot. Three and a half years into the play, Tyson Marks was the competitor to walk away from the table at the ninth spot, leaving top eight players at the table.

The table still had plenty of interesting players like Tom Schneider who, in a round of Omaha Hi-Lo, was raised in a middle position and was down to just over one big bet. Erik Seidel then called Schneider in the big blind and the two had to face a flop of Queen of spades, 9 of hearts, 8 of spades. Schneider then got his last share of the pot $22,000 in the middle on the flop and then Seidel called. Seidel then showed his cards – Ace of diamonds, ten of spades, 7 of spades and 5 of clubs. He had a straight and a flush draw and a backdoor low. Schneider then tabled Ace of hearts, 8 of hearts, 4 of hearts and 3 of diamonds. This gave him a better backdoor low. The game changer was the 6 of spades that helped Schneider draw half the pot by making a low. Queen of diamonds was the river due to which Schneider had to leave the game.

Mike Leah was the next to leave the table at the same game and he raised under-the-gun to 50,000. Kabbaj then called him from the big flop and they saw a flop of 5 of hearts, 3 of hearts, 3 of spades. Kabbaj earned 25,000 of Leah when he check-called him and a Queen of diamonds fell on the turn. Leah betted 50,000 after Kabbaj checked. Kabbaj doubled the bets to raise it to 100,000 which Leah topped by raising it to 150,000. Kabbaj then four-bet by which time Leah was in a bad spot, down to his last 15,000 which he committed.

At the end of the battle between Kabbaj and Leah, the latter had to leave the table with #31,115 for run.

The final game-play

The table now had 6 players when Siedel had to call it a day. Limits had not been raised and were still 25,000/50,000 but the game changed to Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo. Siedel and Keller fought it out and at the end, Keller had increased his stack to 600,000. Limits then went up to 30,000/60,000. Joe Tehan was the next to leave at the 5th place.

Terrence Hastoo was kicked out by Kabbaj in Omaha Hi-Lo when the former had just over a big bet after he turned trip fives. He manages a measly small double up through Kabbaj but that was not enough to let him play. When the players took an hour’s break for dinner, Kabbaj and Keller were the leading chip holders. Christopher McHugh was third. These were the final 3 contenders. When play resumed, McHugh started with a losing streak and lost the first 2 pots he had earned and then the chips to Kabbaj. The limits were then raised to 40,000/80,000.

Kabbaj raised 80,000 from a small bind while McHugh defended it. Kabbaj bet at the flop of Queen of spades, 7 of diamonds and 2 of spades. When McHugh called, a 7 of clubs was drawn from the pack after which each Kabbaj bet while McHigh called again. McHugh’s card fared very poorly in front of Kabbaj’s Queen of clubs, 7 of hearts, 5 of hearts and 4 of spades which allowed the latter to get a full house and the pot.

Kabbaj and Keller were the final two competitors. The former had a formidable 2-to-1 chip lead when the limits were raised to 50,000/100,000. The match was at an exciting stage where there were just 35 big bets and any pot had the power of swinging the match in favor of either player. Kabbaj here gained two pots in a heads-up play of Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo that left Keller with just 2 last bets. At this stage, Kabbaj completed to 50,000 in the game and Keller called. Kabbaj had some cards but things changed when he got a 7 of clubs on 6th street while Keller picked a 5 of spades. Kabbaj then rivered a 6 of hearts while Keller got an 8 of clubs which led to the victory of Kabbaj.


This event took place between 27th May and July 14th 2014 in Nevada. For the first time, this game had a guaranteed $10 million first prize. Kabbaj earned his second bracelet and became one of the most successful poker player of all times at this event.