After a lengthy heads up battle which saw the combatants each hold the lead with the potential to end the tournament, Spain’s Javier Gomez was finally able to outlast Moldova’s Pavel Plesuv to take down the championship of the World Poker Tour’s stop in Prague, the Czech Republic Sunday evening.
Saturday’s action saw 18 men come back to try for the honor of being one of the six players on Sunday and, of the twelve men that departed, some of them were fairly prominent names. Steve O’Dwyer, who was looking to add points to his 2015 resume for Player of the Year, was eliminated in 14th place for a small payday and Sergio Aido was knocked off in eighth place. Of the notables who came into Saturday’s action, only Denmark’s Henrik Hecklen would see the official WPT final table and he was on the short stack with 256,000 in chips.
There was a long look to the top of the leaderboard for Hecklen before the cards flew on Sunday. Leading the way for the final six was Bulgaria’s Fahredin Mustafov, who dominated the final table at the start of the day with his 2.84 million in chips. Portugal’s Pedro Marques, who unbagged 1.756 million in chips for play on Sunday, was in a distant second place (more than a million chips back) and even further in the rearview mirror was Algeria’s Abdelkader Benhalima, holding third place to start the day with his 1.271 million chips. Plesuv (895K) and Gomez (665K) weren’t exactly looking like champions at the start of the day, but they would soon show their mettle.
Gomez was actually responsible for the first knockout of the final table, running his K-Q against Hecklen’s A-4. The Dane’s slim lead pre-flop disappeared on the K-8-6 flop and didn’t improve any with a trey on the turn. Once a measly seven came on the river, Hecklen was gone from the tournament in roughly the first hour of play and Gomez was off to the races.
After a break following Hecklen’s departure, Gomez continued to fire away. He doubled through Benhalima, his pocket Queens outlasting Benhalima’s K-Q, to climb out of the basement in the tournament and take over second place in the process. That wasn’t enough for Gomez, however, as he returned to clash with Benhalima again only a couple of hands later. This time around, Benhalima mustered an A-9 for the fight this time, but pocket tens were sitting up for Gomez; once the Queen high board ran out, Gomez had knocked out his second player in Benhalima fifth place and seized control of the tournament.
Gomez wasn’t done yet, eyeing his remaining opponents for who would be his next victim. Although Mustafov tried to draw Gomez into a battle, he stayed away. After raising in the cutoff against Marques – and seeing Marques drop his stack in the center – Gomez made the call and led once again with his pocket sixes against Marques’ A♦ J♦. An Ace would come on the flop, but it was joined by a 6♦ to propel Gomez into a set. A second diamond would come with the 7♦, opening the door to a nut flush draw for Marques and a red five on the river sent titters through the audience. Alas, it was the 5♥, ending the tournament for Marques in fourth place.
On the very next hand, heads up play was set. Gomez continued to draw action as Mustafov pushed his stack to the center with pocket sevens against Gomez’s A-9. The 6-8-Q-Q flop and turn was good for Mustafov but, just as he was ringing up the chips in his mind, a nine came on the river to once again give Gomez the best hand. After starting the day as the chip leader, Mustafov had to be disappointed with the third place finish.
Going to heads up play, Gomez held more than a 4.5:1 lead over Plesuv, but the battle would not be a short one. After an hour of play, Plesuv had fought back to take over the chip lead and, a few hands later, had Gomez all in. Plesuv’s pocket fours, however, were dominated by Gomez’s pocket Kings, and after the board brought no surprises, the men were virtually back to even after almost three hours of play.
On the first hand after the break, Plesuv suddenly sprung to life. He doubled up through Gomez, his A-9 in power over Gomez’s A-7, to take his own 4.5:1 lead in the event. Now it was Gomez’s turn to fight back and, over the next 15 minutes, he would flip the tables back to his advantage. On the final hand, Plesuv pushed his stack while holding an A-3 and Gomez, sitting on an A-10, took little time in calling. After the 6-5-K-5-2 board ran out, Gomez’s railbirds roared their approval and celebrated as the championship was decided.
1. Javier Gomez, €175,000
2. Pavel Plesuv, €120,000
3. Fahredin Mustafov, €77,500
4. Pedro Marques, €57,400
5. Abdelkader Benhalima, €43,000
6. Henrik Hecklen, €34,100
With the close of the WPT Prague, the tour now treks almost half the world to its next stop. The Bellagio in Las Vegas will play host to the Five Diamond World Poker Classic from December 14-19, an event that usually draws one of the more pro-laden fields of the year. The WPT event will be held in coordination with the first WPT Alpha8 event of its third season, with its $100,000 buy in a lock to have a few tables of the biggest names in the game. Following the conclusion of these events, the 2015 calendar will be complete but Season XIV will continue in January 2016.