After an epic 14-hour battle in which he fought from an extremely disadvantageous position, Marti Roca De Torres was able to come back and defeat Gianluca Speranza to win the 2017 World Series of Poker Europe Championship Event bracelet.
The six players coming back on Friday to determine the championship ran the gamut of poker experience. Chip leader Maria Ho (7.83 million) was riding a hot streak as the leader for the last two days and arguably was one of the most experienced players on the felt. Roca De Torres was right behind her, however, with his 7.26 million stack but not the same wealth of experience. After them, the contenders were few as Gianluca Speranza (4.4 million), WSOP bracelet winner Niall Farrell (3.025 million), Mathijs Jonkers (2.785 million) and Robert Bickley (1.085 million) rounded out the table.
Roca De Torres came out of the stall firing and it nearly got him in trouble. He would double up Bickley on the first hand of action, but that would be a momentary setback. Roca De Torres won four consecutive hands, with the last one battling against Ho’s first action of the day, to slip into the lead by a mere 5000 chips. Roca De Torres extended that lead on Hand 76 when, with pocket Queens, he got Ho to bet on the flop and turn (he called) after he had hit a set on the flop and Ho hit top pair with her K-Q off suit.
It was the beginning of the end for Ho. After a Farrell raise to 275K, Ho asked for a chip count (3.255 million) and then moved all in with her leading stack. Farrell immediately called, tabling pocket Jacks, while Ho could only roll over pocket deuces for the fight. An Ace high board didn’t change anything and, for the first time in two days, Ho was the short stack on the table and Farrell was challenging Roca De Torres for the lead.
Down to her last 1.26 million ten hands after clashing with Farrell, Ho moved her stack into the center and Roca De Torres, in the small blind, only called her all in. Farrell asked for a count of Roca De Torres’ chips (and learning that Roca De Torres’ had more) before moving all in over the top of Ho’s all in. Roca De Torres didn’t hesitate at all in making the call, slapping his cards on the felt triumphantly:
Ho: A-J off suit
Farrell: pocket Kings
Roca De Torres: pocket Aces
With Farrell drawing thin and Ho drawing virtually to air, the nine-high board didn’t come close to giving anyone other than Roca De Torres anything. Because she started the hand with the least chips, Ho was dismissed in sixth place while Farrell was bounced in fifth place as Roca De Torres took a massive lead.
Holding more than twice the number of chips than his other three competitors combined, Roca De Torres (17.48 million) looked to be in total command over Speranza (3.45 million), Bickley (3.035 million), and Jonkers (2.47 million). As it turned out, the tournament was barely getting started as the four men battled for almost six hours before the next departure occurred.
The chip stacks were quite fluent during this time, with Roca De Torres trying to eliminate his opposition but doubling them up more than he would like. He would lose the lead to first Speranza and then Bickley, who would double on SEVEN different occasions to take over the lead. Jonkers was about the only player who didn’t hold the lead, but he was able to stay vibrant in the tournament through a judicious use of the all-in move himself. In fact, it was Jonkers who would deliver the knockout that found the fourth-place finisher.
With the blinds and antes whipping around four handed, Bickley made a move all in out of the small blind, but Jonkers wasn’t going anywhere in making the call. Bickley had been caught, sheepishly showing his 3-2, while Jonkers was dominant with his A♠ 7♠. The Q-10-9-2-9 not only didn’t help Bickley any, the three spades that were there improved Jonkers to the nut flush and sent Bickley out of the King’s Casino in fourth place.
Even after the knockout, Jonkers and Roca De Torres were still way behind Speranza. That chip discrepancy got even greater after Speranza, on Hand 194, bumped off Jonkers in third place after turning am unnecessary spade nut flush against a pair for Jonkers. As Speranza and Roca De Torres settled in for the heads-up match, Speranza held a more than 3:1 lead (19.95 million to 6.5 million).
Roca De Torres tried to come out aggressively from the start of heads up, but it almost worked against him. 15 hands into the battle, Speranza’s lead was almost 4:1 (22.05 million to 4.4 million) and it seemed that the tournament was firmly in Speranza’s hand. But just as they were sounding the last rites for Roca De Torres, he rose from the grave.
Building his stack with small victories, Roca De Torres would take over the lead on Hand 226 when he called a Speranza all-in bluff on the river. Although Speranza took the lead back only nine hands later, it seemed that bluff catch by Roca De Torres served to inspire him. He would continuously shove on the Italian and gradually grinded his way back into a competitive situation.
When the end came, it was stunningly fast. First, on Hand 269, Roca De Torres moved all in against and Speranza made the call. It was a race situation, Roca De Torres’ pocket fives up against Speranza’s A-J off suit, and the race got closer when Speranza spiked on the A-9-3 rainbow flop. That race ended, however, when a five hit on the turn to give Roca De Torres an unbeatable set and the hand. Left with only 775K after the chips were counted, Speranza sent them to the center on Hand 270 with a 10-8 off suit against Roca De Torres’ Q-5. No eight was found on the K-5-4-A-3 board, earning the title for Roca De Torres in an inspired run.
1. Marti Roca De Torres, €1,115,207
2. Gianluca Speranza, €689,246
3. Mathijs Jonkers, €476,585
4. Robert Bickley, €335,089
5. Niall Farrell, €239,639
6. Maria Ho, €174,365
7. Jack Salter, €129,121*
8. Luis Rodriguez, €97,344*
(* – eliminated on Thursday, part of official final table)