After battling through 529 players, the final six competitors have been determined for the 2017 World Series of Poker Europe Main Event final table. Looking to make history (as she has already done in this event), Maria Ho will look to carry on the lead she’s held for the past two days and turn it into a championship.
12 players started the day at the King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, with several stories looking to unfold. While all eyes would have normally been on the historic run of Ho, there was another bit of history evident in the appearance of defending WSOP-E champion Kevin MacPhee. MacPhee was looking to do something that hadn’t been done since Johnny Chan in 1987/88 – win back-to-back WSOP Main Event titles – but he had his work cut out for him on the short stack (1.06 million). Add in two strong Brits – Jack Salter and Niall Farrell – among the last dozen and it was setting up to be a stirring run to the final six.
MacPhee was active in the early going, getting his chips moving in the first three hands to add about 100K in chips to his stack, while Ho was maintaining her place atop the mountain. Farrell would eke out a slight lead about an hour in as Andrei Boghean and Marc MacDonnell would depart the festivities, but that lead would be short-lived. On a 10♠ 6♦ 3♠ J♣ A♠ board, Ho was able to get Farrell to lay his hand down after she fired a 500K bet on the river, chips she would use to continue to batter her opposition.
Only a couple of hands after clashing with Farrell, Ho would remove one of her biggest threats from the tourney. From under the gun, MacPhee put out an opener as Ho simply called in the cutoff. Farrell and Marti Roca De Torres defended their blinds and the Q♥ 7♣ 4♥ flop hit the felt. The blinds checked and dutifully folded after MacPhee fired another bet of 210K and Ho made the call. A 9♦ came on the turn and MacPhee powered out another bet, this time of 430K. Ho, after some quick calculations and an examination of MacPhee’s stack, moved all in and MacPhee made the call. Ho’s J♥ 10♥ (open ended straight and flush draw) was actually in pretty good position against MacPhee’s pocket Kings. That “pretty good” position turned into a “winning” one when another King came on the river to give Ho the straight and the knockout of the defending champion in tenth place.
The unofficial final table redrew at this point with Ho (6.635 million) holding a 2.5 million chip lead over Mathijs Jonkers (4.015 million). Farrell, for all his activity, was still in third (3.075 million) after the redraw while the rest of the field was under three million chips each. With only one more elimination to the “official” final table, the players settled in for what would become a drawn-out fight.
Over the next seven hours, the players jousted to get in position for the penultimate day of the WSOP-E Main Event. Above it all was Ho, who attracted chips like a magnet in maintaining her lead. After De Torres was able to quash the dreams of Stepan Osinovski in eliminating him in ninth place, the official table was set with Ho still reigning supreme.
With more time to spare, WSOP officials decided that action would continue and two more players would meet their demise. On Hand 52, Luis Rodriguez would push all in from under the gun only to run into Farrell’s pocket Aces. Rodriguez’s K-6 off suit would find no help as he exited in eighth place. About 10 hands later, Salter would suffer a back-to-back beating. First, Speranza’s Big Slick beat Salter’s Jacks to bring the British champion into the danger zone. Then, on the very next hand, Salter would depart the tournament in seventh place when his K-J failed to catch up to De Torres’ A-7.
Here is how the final six will line up for tomorrow’s action:
1. Maria Ho, 7.83 million
2. Marti Roca De Torres, 7.26 million
3. Gianluca Speranza, 4.4 million
4. Niall Farrell, 3.025 million
5. Mathijs Jonkers, 2.785 million
6. Robert Bickley, 1.085 million
Ho has been in control of this event for the last two days and it wouldn’t be surprising to see her take it down, considering her experience in the game. If she were able to win the championship, she would become the first woman to win the WSOP Main Event of any of the three competitions (Las Vegas, Europe, or Asia/Pacific, which will be contested next year). It is conceivable that she will eclipse the previous best for a female at a WSOP Main Event, which is the fifth-place finish by Barbara Enright in the 1995 WSOP Main Event.
There are some very talented players in pursuit of Ho, however. Speranza is a veteran of the European poker wars and Farrell has a wealth of big match experience. De Torres, Jonkers and Bickley are wild cards in the mix, but Bickley and Jonkers might not have enough chips to make a difference.
The final table will continue at noon Friday (6AM East Coast Time) in the King’s Casino. The proceedings will be live streamed at WSOP.com on a half-hour delay. At stake is the €1,115,207 first place money, the WSOP-Europe Championship Event bracelet and, for Maria Ho, the chance to etch her name into history.