Young father Ben Ponzio made news Sunday. The WBBM-FM advertising sales manager took down the Father's Day Final Table for $599,109.
153 players cashed from the field of 1,613. This event, like many of the smaller buy-in events, brought first-time WSOP cashes for most of the field. In fact, Danny Noam (two cashes), Ben Ponzio (one cash), and Evan Schwartz (one cash) were the only players who had carried money away from the World Series of Poker. The combined WSOP earnings for the Final Table was a whopping $30,790. These nine men played for a share of $1,719,002. The starting chip counts for the Final Table:
Travis Rice (1.28m)
Ken Einiger (1.04m)
Evan Schwartz (792k)
Justin Rollo (772k)
Darryl Ronconi (662k)
David Hewitt (600k)
Danny Noam (563k)
Ben Ponzio (415k)
Adam Ross (346k)
It was a day set for very deliberate play, with such significant payday jumps with each place. Ben Ponzio slipped to the short stack then Darry Ronconi and Travis Rice tangled. Ronconi raised to 100k, and Rice re-raised to 560k from the big blind. Ronconi moved all-in, and Rice called with . Ronconi had the dreaded , the jacks being a kiss of death for so many Final Tablists. Rice spiked a queen on the flop, and Darryl Ronconi was the first casualty (9th $34,748).
Ponzio shoved with and doubled through Danny Noam with pocket threes, a key hand of survival for him.
Day 1 chip leader Ken Einiger had slipped into second in chips when he raised UTG. Even Schwartz then re-raised 235k, and the two chip leaders were at war. Einiger called, and the flop came . Einiger led out with 300k, and Schwartz deliberated several minutes before moving all-in. Einiger instaclled with , well ahead of Schwartz with . on the turn brought a flush draw, and Schwartz spiked the winner with . It was a brutal way to go out, and Ken Einiger was gone in 8th ($45,672).
Schwartz was up over 2m with only Travis Rice anywhere close at 1.3m. This was a table of massive swings, though, as players looked like they'd forgotten that they were supposed to play tight. Justin Rollo took the chip lead after he doubled through Schwartz. He shoved on the turn with second pair and made his flush on the river. Travis Rice knocked out the short-stack all-in of Adam Ross (7th $61,878), and his caught two-pair on the flop to send Ross home.
Ponzio doubled through Schwartz with vs Schwartz , then Hewitt used to triple up through Noam and Rollo. That left Noam the shortie, and Rice's flopped a ten to best the pocket eights of Danny Noam (6th $82,504).
With five players left, it was a fairly even horse race.
Ben Ponzio (1.75m)
Travis Rice (1.54m)
Justin Rollo (1.35m)
Evan Schwartz (1.24m)
David Hewitt (600k)
A one-two punch from Justin Rollo and David Hewitt meant 5th place for Travis Rice. Rollo three-bet all-in with , and Rice called with . Rollo turned his queen with a board of to double up, then Hewitt with called Rice's all-in with . Both players paired the seven, but outkicked meant the curb for David Hewitt ($111,970).
The quartet waltzed for quite awhile. Rollo got up to 3.3m until Schwartz doubled through him with a set of sixes to pull even at 2.1m. Ponzio then doubled through Schwartz on a sick hand. He moved all-in with on a board of , and Schwartz called with . came on the turn, then brought the runner-runner flush for Ponzio's survival and the chip lead.
Rollo then used pocket sixes to bust out Evan Schwartz (4th $165,008). The three remaining players each held 2.1m, so it was literally anyone's bracelet to win. One player left before the button made a second cycle.
After three hands of inconsequential action, Rollo made a standard raise on the button. Ponzio then re-raised from the small blind, and maybe Rollo thought he was making a move because he then moved all-in. Ponzio quickly called with , and he was strong against . brought hope to Rollo, but rolled the pot to Ponzio. Hewitt took Justin Rollo out on the next hand (3rd $244,566).
Ponzio sat at 4.2m and went on a nice run to build up to 5.2m to Hewitt's 1.2m He showed pocket queens twice along the way, which made it even tougher for Hewitt to play back. Hewitt showed a lot of patience, but Ponzio was too much. He never doubled up and eventually went out with . It a great payday for runner-up David Hewitt ($374,216).
Ben Ponzio sat back, all smiles with his victory ($599,467). He heads back to WBBM-FM to get back to work for the Chicago hip-hop station. "I didn't want to take an extra vacation day until I knew I would get this far," Ponzio said. "I'm going back to work. $600,000 is a lot of money, but it's not enough to live on the rest of my life." True, but it is a nice Father's Day surprise.