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September 18, 2014

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WORLD SERIES OF POKER:

Mizrachi brothers power their way to Player’s Championship final table

Michael and Robert Mizrachi are two of the eight players who will return to the Rio

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Case Keefer / LAS VEGAS SUN

Robert Mizrachi, left, watches on as his brother Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, right, plays a hand in the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship Monday at the Rio. The brothers will play together for a shot at $1.56 million and a gold bracelet tonight at the final table.

Final Table Chip Count

  • Robert Mizrachi— 3,125,000
  • David Baker— 3,095,000
  • John Juanda— 2,620,000
  • Mikael Thuritz— 2,300,000
  • Michael Mizrachi— 2,175,000
  • Victor Schmelev— 1,925,000
  • Daniel Alaei— 1,705,000
  • David Oppenheim— 460,000

Every year before the start of the World Series of Poker, poker fans and publications make lists and talk about the best players who have never won a bracelet.

Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi is a constant in those discussions. Mizrachi — whose accomplishments include winning Card Player Magazine's Player of the Year award in 2006 and compiling career earnings of more than $7 million — has cashed in 19 World Series events but never won a title.

That could change when he takes 2.1 million chips into the final table of the $50,000 buy-in Poker Player's Championship at 3 p.m. today at the Rio.

"My mindset is totally focused on this tournament," Mizrachi said.

It would be quite the way to break out of his curse, as this championship is the most prestigious among professionals and first place pays $1.56 million.

That's not even the best part. When "The Grinder" takes his seat at the ESPN televised final table, he will be sitting across from his older brother, Robert Mizrachi.

"It's a great thing," Michael Mizrachi said. "I hope we can play heads-up."

Robert Mizrachi will have the chip lead with 3.1 million and will be trying to win his second World Series of Poker bracelet at the eight-handed final table.

As decorated as both of the brothers' careers are, they never have faced off against each other at a major tournament final table. The odds were stacked against the brothers, who originally are from Miami but now split their time between South Florida and Southern Nevada.

One hundred and sixteen of the best poker players in the world bought into the tournament, which features an eight-game mix and runs five days. The Mizrachis outplayed almost all of them Monday and steamrolled into the top 16, the money bubble.

"It's very special," Robert Mizrachi said. "It makes me feel very good that we are both playing well in the same tournament. Things are going our way. We are rocking it."

Michael Mizrachi was involved in the most talked-about hand of the day Monday when he eliminated Las Vegas pro Lyle Berman in 13th place. In a pot-limit Omaha hand, Mizrachi flopped three Aces against Berman's three 6s.

Berman miraculously hit the last 6 in the deck on the turn to improve to four-of-a-kind. But Michael Mizrachi rivered the only card that could save him, the Ace of spades, to make a better four-of-a-kind.

"The Grinder" found most of his success Monday during the rounds of pot-limit Omaha, a game he won't be able to rely on Tuesday. The final table will be fully composed of no-limit hold'em because that's the only way ESPN would agree to air it.

But neither Mizrachi is too worried about it. In fact, they saw the switch to only one game as a positive.

"Me and my brother's edge will be bigger in no-limit," Robert Mizrachi said. "The other players aren't as good at no-limit. I mean, they are amazing players and play mixed games amazingly well but when it comes to no-limit, it's a different game."

The competition will be formidable. John Juanda and Daniel Alaei, two of the most feared pros in the game, enter with 2.6 million and 1.7 million chips, respectively. Two other American pros, David Baker and David Oppenheim, Swedish pro Mikael Thuritz and Russian bank owner Vladimir Schmelev make up the rest of the table.

All eight players are guaranteed $182,463 for making the final table. Second place pays $963,375. If the Mizrachis' dream continues and they face each other heads-up, don't expect either of them to take it easy.

"I guess we are going to have to pound each other," Michael Mizrachi said. "What are you going to do? It's part of the game."

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