Mike Spegal weathered an extremely talented Final Table, polishing Gavin Smith heads-up to take the $1.5k PLH title. For the Iowa native residing in Southern Georgia, his first WSOP cash was one he'll always remember. (Photo courtesy of ImageMasters)
Pot limit hold-em is rarely found in the top poker rooms in the United States, although it is the most popular live cash game throughout Europe. Oddly, no European finished in the top twenty of this event.
The Final Table was a collection of rising stars in poker sprinkled with a few veterans. Jon Friedberg won his first WSOP bracelet last year along with six other WSOP cashes and three WPT cashes since 2004. Marco Traniello cashed a whopping eleven times in 2006, and this was his second Final Table appearance. Eric "Rizen" Lynch finished 3rd in this event last year as well as was 24th in the 2006 Main Event. Veteran Bruce Van Horn has cashed in ten WSOP events, reaching the Final Table in half of those. William Hill was second in chips with 332k, but everyone chased chip leader Gavin Smith (480k), the most accomplished player at the table. He has cashed in ten WSOP as well as taking the 2005 WPT Mirage Poker Showdown.
Smith had started this event very relaxed, making prop bets with Jason Strasser then weathering the tirades of Phil Hellmuth. Eric Lynch wasn't stressed but needed some help quickly to stay long at the Final Table. He started as the short stack with 91k but quickly doubled through Thomas Savitsky (77 vs AKo) to give him the ammunition he needed to make a run for the title. Other Final Tables this year have had quick exits from several players, but all nine players lasted twenty-five hands. It was Marco Traniello who lost the first race of survival. He and Gavin Smith got into a pre-flop raising war that put him all-in with vs. Smith's . The board never threatened Smith, and Marco Traniello left in 9th ($14,925).
Smith grabbed another scalp in a battle of the blinds a dozen hands later. With the blinds 10k/20k, Jeff Langdon made a raise of 50k from the small blind, and Gavin Smith called. The flop came , and Langdon loved the flop with the giving him the nut flush draw plus the overpair. He bet 80k, Smith raised, and Langdon potted again for a 280k total. Smith immediately called with for bottom set. Langdon begged for a diamond, but the case came on the turn to give Smith quads and end the day for Jeff Landgon (8th, $20,255).
Smith was on fire, and again he chased down an opponent with an inferior hand. This time, Eric Lynch came over the top of a Smith raise for all of his 205k stack. Smith thought for several minutes before he called with , the tourist hand. Lynch was way ahead with , but a huge groan went through the crowd in the stands when the flop came . gave Smith a full house, and Lynch was down to the case ace to chop the pot. It didn't come, and it was a bitter pill to swallow for Eric Lynch (7th, $27,718)
The pot pushed Smith over 1m in chips, with Mike Spegal (515k) and William Hill (340k) well back. On a short stack, Thomas Savitsky stopped the juggernaut with a desperation all-in holding for 100k vs Smith's . A few hands later, Bruce Van Horn raised to 60k and Jon Friedberg moved all-in with . Pot committed, Van Horn called all-in with . The board left Friedberg's ace high good, and Bruce Van Horn was out in 6th ($36,779).
The blinds moved up to 15k/30k, and the short stacks collided with Thomas Savitsky and William Hill mixing it up. Hill raised to 90k with Savitsky calling all-in from the button with his last 75k. Hill had a measly J9o to of Savisky, and he had to feel he just might survive a few more hands. A 9 on the flop and the turn gave Hill unbeatable trips and with it an exit for Thomas Savitsky (5th, $47,973).
It looked to be a race to move up in prize money with the chip counts as follows:
Gavin Smith: 1.1m
Mike Spegal: 595k
William Hill: 370k
Jon Friedberg: 255k
Mike Spegal went on a torrid run to get heads-up with the chip lead. First, he sent William Hill home with vs Hill's (4th, $67,162). Then he squared his sights on Jon Friedberg. Spegal limped from the small blind and Friedberg checked. The flop came , and Spegal bet 60k into the 60k pot, and Friedberg raised to 240k. Pot/pot later and Friedberg was all-in with vs Spegal's top pair. completed the board, and in a wild hand Jon Friedberg was out in 3rd ($101,276).
Spegal had jumped to 1.24m to Smith's 1.1m, and it would prove to be a lead he would never relinquish. Gavin Smith had the experience, but Mike Spegal had the heart. It was small pot poker for the first twenty hands, and Spegal stretched his chip lead to 1.6m vs 770k of Smith. Ten more hands and it stood 1.9m for Spegal and 445k for Smith.
He never got within a million chips the rest of the heads-up battle. They finally got it all-in with Smith holding pocket fives and Spegal with . Smith needed the pair to hold up, but the flop of looked too deadly for Smith to dodge all the raindrops still in the deck. sealed the hand with the nut flush and the pointless brought a Broadway straight for Spegal to boot.
Gavin Smith is a proven champion (2nd, $155,645), and his runner-up finish solidifies his place as a player to be feared. For Mike Spegal (1st, $252,290), it was lightning in a bottle to be sure, but he played a terrific Final Table to take home his first WSOP bracelet in his first tourney cash.