Dominating play once it reached the unofficial final table, Zach Gruneberg will hold a dominant lead when the final six players meet this afternoon to determine the champion of the 2018 World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Poker Open in Atlantic City.
Day 4 action began on Thursday with 27 hopefuls remaining in the chase for the championship. Steven Greenberg was the dominant player through the Day 3 festivities and his 3.753 million chip stack showed it. But it wasn’t a runaway for Greenberg, however, as Chase Bianchi was on his heels with a 3.698 million chip stack. In addition to these two men, four former WPT champions were still in the mix, with Champions’ Club members David Paredes, Eric Afriat, Jonathan Little and Kevin Saul all with viable stacks.
The exits to the tournament arena at the Borgata needed to be a revolving door for as fast as the players departed the tournament on Thursday. In less than an hour, two players were out the door. Within the first two levels of play, the field was down to 17 players as notables such as Little and Shankar Pillai found their ways to the rail. As this was going on, Greenberg was still in good shape but had given up the chip lead to Stephen Song as the field tightened up.
After Casey Yontz was bounced out in 17th place following the second break of the day, the field was redrawn for two tables. Greenberg and Song ended up on the same table as former World Champion Joseph McKeehen and Kane Kalas, while Saul, Paredes and Afriat had to deal with Gruneberg and Bianchi. With the field bunched together, it was still a battle to see who would make the final table.
Although Gruneberg would make a slight misstep after the redraw in doubling up Saul, that would be the last mistake he would make for the night. With 1.7 million in chips, Gruneberg first picked up a double up from Bianchi to crack the three million chip mark. He would eclipse the four million chip mark in eliminating Adam Hendrix in 12th place, his A-K hitting the world against Hendrix’s K-10 on an unbelievable A-K-10 flop. Even after the unofficial final table was determined with the elimination of Daniel Aharoni in 10th place (by Song), Gruneberg kept his arrow pointing upwards.
Within the first 20 hands of final table action, Gruneberg had cracked the seven million mark in chips and had taken over the chip lead. That lead expanded when Gruneberg eliminated Day 3 chip leader Greenberg, his A-K playing where Greenberg’s A-8 didn’t on a 10-4-4-A-2 board, in ninth place. Now on 10 million-plus chips, Greenberg began to play a bullying “power poker” style that left everyone breathless in his wake.
Then there was the battle that truly pushed Gruneberg firmly to the fore. Gruneberg raised preflop and McKeehen called, but Song wanted to enrich the pot. He three bet the action to 675K and, after both Gruneberg and McKeehen called, saw a Q-Q-10-3 flop and turn. On that turn trey, Song bet out 850K and only Gruneberg came along to see a river nine complete the board. With a myriad of options on the table, Song fired again, this time for 1.4 million, but he was unable to shake Gruneberg, who immediately called. All Song could show was Big Slick for a missed straight draw, while Gruneberg showed pocket Jacks to take the more than six million chip pot with two pair. That pot pushed Gruneberg over 14 million chips and left the field chasing him.
Although he would give some back to Zaki in doubling him up, Gruneberg continued to storm through the remainder of the field. Gruneberg worked over the 16 million mark when down to the television table bubble and, after McKeehen eliminated Bianchi to set that television table, was over 17 million to have almost half the chips in play:
1. Zach Gruneberg, 17.6 million
2. Joseph McKeehen, 5.955 million
3. Justin Zaki, 5.565 million
4. Michael Marder, 3.08 million
5. Stephen Song, 2.74 million
6. Eric Afriat, 2.28 million
From all appearance, this is Gruneberg’s tournament to lose. Any one of the other five men will have a tough road to hoe in knocking out such tough pros as McKeehen, Zaki, Song or Afriat, and Marder didn’t get to his position because of his charm. Gruneberg, meanwhile, can either sit back and wait for someone to rise to his level or use the power of the big stack to crush his opposition. What approach he takes – and it will be seen from the start of final table play – will have a huge amount to do with how the final table plays out.
The final table will resume at 2PM (Eastern Time) and will be streamed as a part of PokerGO’s programming. It will NOT be taped for broadcast during the Season XVI schedule on Fox Sports. The eventual champion of the tournament will walk off with a $651,928 payday and their seat in this year’s WPT Tournament of Champions.