There are a handful of players who are in a club they do not want to be in. That club would be “Best Without a Bracelet,” players who have a stellar tournament poker career without having a World Series of Poker bracelet touch their wrist. On Saturday night, that club was reduced by one member as Dan Smith was able to vanquish Christoph Vogelsang to capture that elusive prize in the $25,000 Heads Up No Limit Hold’em Championship at the 2022 World Series of Poker.
From Four to Two
Sixty-four players started the high roller heads up tournament on Thursday, but they were down to the Final Four on Saturday. Each of the men in contention were in similar positions as none had ever won a WSOP bracelet. The semifinals went off simultaneously, with Smith taking on Dario Sammartino and Vogelsang battling the surprising Kevin Rabichow. The Smith/Sammartino war saw Smith fall below the starting stack early, but Smith would be the beneficiary of a cooler – his pocket eights over Sammartino’s pocket fives – to take a lead he would never relinquish. Meanwhile, Vogelsang put Rabichow down early and kept him there, winning that semifinal matchup going away.
The Championship Match would see Smith and Vogelsang start out the heads up match with the same amount of chips, 4.8 million, and the WSOP bracelet and $509,717 awaiting the victor. Vogelsang got off to a good early start, with his pocket fives flopping an open-ended straight draw. Smith would come along to the river and would not catch anything, thus giving Vogelsang first blood and an early lead.
Despite the deficit, Smith would slowly chip his way back into the tournament. On an A-K-9-4-5 board, Vogelsang would fire three bullets, pre-flop, flop and turn, that saw Smith simply call the action. By the river, Vogelsang slowed down after the Smith check, passing on his option also, to see Smith turn up a K-9 for a flopped two pair. Vogelsang mucked his cards as Smith climbed back into the fight.
The tables would turn on what looked like an innocent hand. Vogelsang raised the preflop betting to 180K and Smith called to see a 7-6-3 flop. Dual checks followed but, after an eight on the turn, Smith woke up with a 200K bet. A deuce on the river completed a rather innocuous board, but Smith liked it enough to fire off 760K. Vogelsang considered the situation, flipped in a solo chip for the call, and was dismayed to see Smith once again table 8-6 for a turned two pair to take the hand and the lead.
From Two to One
Vogelsang would not let Smith enjoy the lead in the heads up match for long. He saw Smith bluff off a huge amount of chips to take a massive lead in the tournament. In that hand, Vogelsang flopped a four-flush and turned the key fifth card, but he allowed Smith to fire away, including an all-in on the river. Once the hand was over, Vogelsang had snatched the lead back with 7.2 million chips to Smith’s 2.4 million.
The German pro could not close the deal, however. As the blinds increased to 60K/120K, Smith came off the canvas to earn a double in a race situation with Vogelsang. Smith’s pocket sixes were up against the A-5 of Vogelsang, and they held up through the Q-10-4-8-3 board.
That hand essentially ended the event. On the very next hand, Smith would limp in and Vogelsang popped him up to 550K. Smith aggressively moved all in and, after a snap-call from Vogelsang, the cards went on their backs:
Vogelsang was in prime position to get back in the lead, but the fates were not with him. A 4-8-2 matched up with Smith’s lesser kicker to give him a tenuous lead. A seven on the turn didn’t change the situation and neither did the river trey. The hand gave Smith the tournament and his long-awaited first WSOP bracelet.
1. Dan Smith, $509,717
2. Christoph Vogelsang, $315,029
3. Dario Sammartino, $193,537
(tie) Kevin Rabichow, $193,537