There was no place more appropriate to kick off another season of the World Poker Tour than the Bellagio, one of the most common stops on the tour and one of the original believers in the company. Season 9 launched with its WPT Bellagio Cup VI, a $10K buy-in tournament set to run in Las Vegas just as the World Series of Poker wound down its summer tournaments.
Action kicked off with many of the new features of the season and its new owners at PartyPoker overseeing it all. One of the highlights of the opening day on July 11 was the awarding of the previous season’s Player of the Year award to Faraz Jaka, and commentators Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten welcomed everyone to the tournament. And a new feature, at least for this particular event, was the fact that players could buy in through the end of the first level of Day 3, making it tough for reporters but easy for many players to decide to play at any time.
Day 1 started with 243 players in the field, though only a portion of that number made it through until the next day. Some of the early casualties included players like Jennifer Tilly, Jeff Madsen, Carlos Mortensen, Sorel Mizzi, Scott Montgomery, Jonathan Little, and the aforementioned Jaka. And end-of-the-day chip counts showed that Guillaume Darcourt was the chip leader with 252,300, but others with solid counts included Billy Baxter and Vivek Rajkumar.
Day 2 found more players registering, but no exact numbers were given as to the number of new players or the actual size of the field. Some of the casualties of that day did include Prahlad Friedman, Dario Minieri, Haralabos Voulgaris, and Chino Rheem. Of the approximately 112 players who remained when chips were bagged, Joseph Miceli was reported as the chip leader with 440K, and others with significant stacks included Jordan Morgan, Guillaume Darcourt, and Paola Martin.
Day 3 was the last chance for players to get in on the action, and some of the players who bought in during the first level of play that day were Andy Bloch, Daniel Negreanu, Kathy Liebert, Chris Ferguson, Jimmy Fricke, John Hennigan, Phil Hellmuth and Tom Dwan. Play ended with only 31 players still seated, and Eric Panayiotou was the leader with 1,225,000 chips. Ravi Rahgaven was second in line with 959K, and others in the top five included Moritz Kranich, John Caridad, and Paola Martin.
Day 4 was going to be a long one, as the field had to be reduced from 31 players to the official final table of six. Some of the early eliminations that day included Vadim Trincher in 29th place, Joe Hachem in 24th, Cory Carroll in 23rd, Jeff Lisandro in 15th, Paola Martin in 11th, Maria Ho in tenth, Rick Salomon in ninth, and Eric Panayiotou in eighth. And finally, in the wee hours of the next morning, it was Zach Hyman who committed all of his 910K chips from the big blind with against the of Rob Akery. The board came for the pair of threes, and Hyman was forced out in seventh place with $84,965.
That left the final table set for July 15 as follows:
|Seat 1: ||Phil Ivey ||1,595,000 |
|Seat 2: ||Justin Smith ||2,100,000 |
|Seat 3: ||Rob Akery ||1,980,000 |
|Seat 4: ||Eric Afriat ||620,000 |
|Seat 5: ||Moritz Kranich ||2,715,000 |
|Seat 6: ||John Caridad ||5,120,000 |
Action began with blinds at 30K/60K and a 5K ante, and the players wasted no time getting involved from the start. Caridad began on a high note by taking a sizable pot from Kranich, but it was the Ivey show after that, as he took a 2.4 million-chip pot from Caridad and continued to climb until he found himself in the chip lead. Meanwhile, Afriat tripled up and took some smaller pots to stay alive.
Afriat was able to hang in there until the 46th hand of the final table, at which point he put his last 1,095,000 chips at risk with . Smith called from the big blind with , and the board blanked with . The jacks held up to eliminate Eric Afriat in sixth place, which was worth a payout of $118,950.
Only four hands later, Akery made his move with for his stack of 1,285,000. Ivey called from the big blind with . The board brought nothing to save Akery when it came , and the queen was good. Rob Akery was sent out in fifth place with $169,930.
It would be nearly a hundred hands before another bustout occurred, and through it all, Caridad rode a troubling roller coaster. He started by taking the lead on the 53rd hand of the night, but Ivey soon took it back. Kranich took a pot worth 3.52 million chips from Caridad, and Ivey took one worth 2.5 million from him as well. On the 135th hand of the evening, Kranich doubled through Caridad, and that was the final straw.
Caridad was relegated to a stack of just over 1 million chips after the Kranich double-up, and he pushed it four hands later with . Smith called from the big blind with , and the two watched the board produce . John Caridad, the chip leader coming into play, was dispatched in fourth place with $237,902 for his efforts.
The final three players started their battle with Kranich in the lead with 6.35 million, Smith in second with 4.43 million, and Ivey holding on to 3.35 million. As Ivey began to climb, Kranich put a stop to it by taking a massive pot of over 3 million chips from him.
Ivey was then sitting with just over 1 million chips and pushed all-in with . Smith was the caller holding and improved even more when the flop came . The on the turn couldn’t help Ivey, nor could the on the river. Phil Ivey finished his ninth WPT final table in third place, which was worth a payout of $363,650.
Heads-up action then began in Level 31, with blinds at 100K/200K and a 20K ante, with the following chip counts:
|Moritz Kranich ||9,215,000 |
|Justin Smith ||4,915,000 |
Kranich used his stack to stay aggressive during the match, initially staying in control and reducing Smith to little more than 2 million chips. Smith didn’t win his first pot until several rounds into the action.
Smith then put his life on the line with K-10 suited against the A-4 of Kranich and found a board of 8-7-2-6-9 for the straight. He doubled to just less than 5.75 million. And seven hands later, after being chipped down again, he went to bat with A-3 against the A-5 of Kranich and found a three on the flop. That double-up put him at 6.7 million to the 7.425 million of Kranich.
But Kranich subsequently took a 3.3 million-chip pot from Kranich, and only five hands later, all of the chips went in again. It was the 186th hand of the night when Smith tried to limp into the pot but found Kranich moving all-in. Smith didn’t hesitate to call with , and Kranich showed . The flop came to give Kranich quite a few outs. The on the turn gave Kranich the pair of kings but Smith the flush draw. But the on the river was enough for Kranich to scoop the pot. Justin “BoostedJ” Smith, at his second WPT Bellagio Cup tournament in two years, was eliminated in second place with $594,755.
Moritz Kranich, who emerged on to the poker scene in 2009 with a PokerStars.net European Poker Tour victory in Deauville, France, claimed his first World Poker Tour title by winning the Bellagio Cup VI. For the accomplishment, he was awarded a WPT bracelet, watch trophy, and $594,755 in prize money.