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Aubin Cazals denies Joseph Cheong to win major World Series of Poker bracelet

21-year-old Frenchman cashes for nearly $500,000 in first WSOP experience

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Joseph Cheong plays in the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event at the Rio in this file photo.

Updated Tuesday, June 5, 2012 | 12:39 p.m.

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Aubin Cazals poses with his new World Series of Poker bracelet after winning the $5,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em mixed max event at the Rio.

Many professional card players dedicate their lives to the game without ever winning a World Series of Poker golden bracelet.

Aubin Cazals, a 21-year-old from France, earned poker’s top prize within his first week at the Rio. Cazals pocketed $480,564 along with his jewelry in winning the most prestigious event of the 2012 WSOP so far, the $5,000 no-limit hold’em mixed max tournament.

Cazals beat out 2010 Main Event third-place finisher Joseph Cheong in a five-hour heads-up battle Wednesday afternoon to cap off five days worth of play.

“At the end, I was very tired but he was too,” Cazals said through the WSOP. “I think my youth and endurance prevailed in the end. I used to run long-distance races and that helped my endurance at the table.”

Cheong is one of the numerous poker players who will attest to the difficulty of winning WSOP gold. The 26-year-old from Los Angeles has come painfully close twice now.

He was the chip leader for much of the Main Event final table two years ago, including when only three players remained. But Cheong infamously lost a 185-million chip pot, the biggest in WSOP history, when he tried to bluff eventual champion Jonathan Duhamel by committing all of his chips with Ace-7 off-suit.

A similar meltdown cost Cheong against Cazals. With their chip stacks nearly even, Cheong went all-in by committing a sixth bet before the flop.

Cazals called and flipped over pocket Kings. Cheong could only muster pocket 4s, and the five community cards failed to improve his hand.

After the match, Cheong explained that he thought he picked up a tell on Cazals. He sensed weakness, which influenced his decision to raise all-in.

“I wasn’t playing very aggressive,” Cazals said. “I think it was a mistake but before that hand, he was playing very well.”

The tournament tested players in different variations of no-limit hold’em. Early stages of the event were contested with nine, and then six, players per table. The final 32 participants, out of a starting field of 409, were slotted into a single-elimination bracket of heads-up matches.

It was the first event of its kind ever held at the WSOP in Las Vegas. The mixed max tournament was the eighth bracelet event completed at this year’s WSOP, but the first one that cost more than $3,000 to enter and lasted more than three days.

A week into the action at the Rio, Cazals has more bragging rights than anyone.

“It was a very tough match,” Cazals noted.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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