After two days of battle through 66 of the greatest champions the World Poker Tour has seen, the final table has been set in the Monster WPT Tournament of Champions at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL. Making the most out of his championship won at the Borgata in January during the Season XV schedule, Daniel Weinman will sit atop the standings when action resumes on Sunday, but several dangerous WPT Champions’ Club members – including a Poker Hall of Famer and one who may join that illustrious group – are looking to take him down.
When the tournament resumed on Saturday, 30 players remained from the 66 who started the event the previous day (an improvement of two players versus the inaugural run of the tournament in 2016). The always-dangerous Michael Mizrachi, who is building a resume that could be Hall of Fame worthy, was atop the standings at the beginning of the day’s play with 287,600 in chips. The hometown hero was joined by another popular Florida pro, James Romero (276,000), in leading the pack. Arranged behind the twosome in the Top Five were Griffin Paul (214,300), Tyler Patterson (199,300) and Poker Hall of Famer Erik Seidel (179,200).
To start the day, the defending champion of the event was bounced. Inaugural ToC victor Farid Yachou, who came into Day 2 on an extremely short stack, made an opening raise only to see Dylan Wilkerson try to bully him out of the pot with a three-bet. Yachou wasn’t going anywhere, however, making the call and revealing a pocket pair of fours for the race against Wilkerson’s Big Slick. The Q-J-9 flop wasn’t a good one for Yachou and, when a ten came on the turn, it was all over for the former champion. After a King on the river cruelly gave Yachou the second best straight on the board (Wilkerson’s Ace made him Broadway), the former champion headed to the rail to see who would be the next to hold the crown.
With only the final nine players receiving a payday from the tournament, the players actively tried to chip up to be in position for one of those slots. Mizrachi looked to continue his dominance in the event by knocking out two-time WPT champion (in Season XV alone) Sam Panzica, while Wilkerson continued his march up the leaderboard in cutting some chips from Romero when Wilkerson’s pocket Kings stood tall over Romero’s pocket Queens in a cooler. Once Marvin Rettenmaier was bumped off by Zachary Smiley in 25th place, the final three tables were set for the tournament.
The action didn’t let up at this point but increased as players looked to take on Mizrachi and Wilkerson. Stefan Schillhabel emerged as a potential contender, eliminating Scott Seiver from the festivities while climbing to 240,000 in chips, as did Paul, who quietly kept his name in the mix even while sitting to Mizrachi’s right. It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that a big hand occurred that would influence the final table.
After Seidel raised out of the cutoff, Romero three bet the action out of the big blind back to the eight-time WSOP bracelet winner. Seidel four-bet Romero (that should have warned James there) and, after Romero used a Time Bank chip (the tournament was played with a 30-second “shot clock” and players had five Time Bank chips that gave them an additional minute each to ponder complex hands), Romero decided to put his tournament life on the line. With just a few more chips than Romero, Seidel made the call and the table saw what the “big dogs” were betting.
Seidel’s hand was potentially predictable – A♣ K♣ – but Romero’s was a bit surprising. Instead of a middle pair or even a big Ace, Romero only mustered an A-9 off suit for the battle. Once the A-K-Q flop rolled, Romero was looking to draw to a Broadway straight just to be able to split the pot barring runner-runner nines. Once a deuce hit the turn, Romero was drawing dead (and hit the rail on the next hand) as Seidel thrust his name into contention for the ToC championship.
The players that walked out of the Hard Rock with nothing to show for their two days at the ToC read like a Who’s Who of poker. Former World Champion Ryan Riess (who won his way into the ToC by taking down the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Finale on Thursday), Anthony Zinno, James Mackey (running Big Slick into Daniel Santoro’s pocket Aces) and Paul were some of the victims caught in the minefield of elimination. It was also the time Weinman began his move to the top.
On two consecutive hands, Weinman would use the ladies to his advantage. All in against Wilkerson’s pocket nines, Weinman’s pocket Queens would hold strong to double up, then he would pull the trick a second time in clashing with Mizrachi’s pocket nines when, holding Big Chick (A-Q) he hit another lady in the window to top him. Those two hands catapulted him to 315,000 in chips and he would utilize those to surge into the lead.
It would be another hand with Mizrachi that put Weinman in the lead for the night. On a K-8-6-J-6 board, Mizrachi put out a bet that send Weinman into the tank. Using two Time Bank chips, eventually Weinman found the call in him and, after a tap of the table from Mizrachi that he had been bluffing, Weinman officially showed a K-Q for Kings up to take a pot that pushed him to 585,000.
Once Jonathan Little was eliminated by David Ormsby, the final 10 men looked to determine who would be the last unfortunate to not receive any of the prize pool. It would be Mizrachi who would bring the tournament into the money when he rivered a nut flush against Lee Markholdt’s pocket eights to eliminate Markholdt in tenth place ($0) and move to the nine handed unofficial final table as the chip leader with 705K in chips.
After the redraw was complete, the battle for the official WPT six-handed final table began. Mizrachi stayed active, doubling up Wilkerson, before knocking off Jonathan Jaffe in ninth place. Weinman, however, was up to the task as he moved into the lead after cutting a stack of chips from Santoro to crack the 800K mark. Seidel would eliminate Jesse Sylvia in eighth place over the course of two hands and, after another dozen hands of play, Wilkerson would end the action for the day by taking down Schillhabel in seventh place to set the final table for the WPT Tournament of Champions.
1. Daniel Weinman, 872,000
2. Michael Mizrachi, 699,000
3. Dylan Wilkerson, 641,000
4. Erik Seidel, 540,000
5. David Ormsby, 299,000
6. Daniel Santoro, 250,000
There is still plenty of time for one of these six men to catch fire and move on the leaderboard. Even the short stacks of Ormsby and Santoro (30 and 25 big blinds, each) have some working room to look for the right hand to double on, making this afternoon’s action one that shouldn’t be missed. The final table will be live streamed at WPT.com beginning at 4:30PM (a 30-minute delay) and will also be taped for the broadcast of the WPT on Fox Sports 1. All six men are guaranteed a $57,225 return on their $15,000 investment, with the eventual champion walking off with $381,500 and a boatload of other prizes (including a 2018 Audi S5) for their work.