Live poker is still steaming along quite well, thank you, even without the help of a major tournament circuit to back it up. Last night at the Wynn in Las Vegas, poker professional Michael Rossitto was able to outlast a tough final table to capture the Main Event championship of the Wynn Millions. In taking down the championship, Rossitto was able to snag a nice six-figure payday and put his name in the race for the different 2023 Player of the Year races.
Some Work to Do from the Middle of the Pack
Rossitto had his work cut out for him at the start of the final day of action on Saturday. With only 5.425 million in chips, Rossitto was right in the center of the nine-player field that remained from the 1314 entries received in the $3500 buy-in tournament. Rossitto was looking upwards at such players as chip leader Zachary Donovan (11.775 million), Spain’s Pedro Ingles (7.175 million), the nearly identical stacks of Andrew Esposito (6.175 million) and Jacob Powers (6.075 million), and Canada’s Mark Zajdner(5.95 million). On the other end of the spectrum, sitting beneath Rossitto were only Cliff Ziff (4.875 million), another Canadian in Zhigang Yang (3.2 million), and the short stack of Kharlin Sued (two million).
Even with such large stacks, the relative big blinds had every player pretty short. Donovan was the only player who could be viewed as comfortable with his 59BB stack. Even Rossitto was decently stacked with 27BB, and only Sued would be in the “danger zone” with only ten big blinds. Thus, when the cards hit the air, the players were settled in for a lengthy battle for the championship and the $654,637 first-place check.
Ziff naturally had to get something going and he chose the second hand of the day to make his stand. He opened the betting to 500K, surprisingly, rather than move all in, but Esposito wasn’t going to let him go without playing for stacks. Ziff made the call of that move and found himself in a race against Esposito, his pocket tens versus Esposito’s A-K off suit. The flop and turn ran innocently enough for Ziff (8-7-7-2), but the Ace on the river spelled his doom. With that one card, Ziff went from back in the tournament to out in ninth place.
Esposito would take the lead from Donovan a bit later in the opening level of the day and would add to his stack by knocking out Sued in eighth place before the first break of the day. Donovan, meanwhile, slid further back into the pack after doubling up Zajdner. Zajdner would use those chips well, mounting his charge to the lead over Esposito before taking down Donovan in fifth place.
Rossitto Begins the Charge
Down to four players, Zajdner had built a tremendous lead in nearly doubling the stack of Esposito and Rossitto. Ingles, with roughly five million in chips, needed to get into the game and he thought he found that hand against Rossitto. In a “blind versus blind” fight, Rossitto would up the bet to 700K, and Ingles responded by pushing in the remainder of his chips. That didn’t slow Rossitto down whatsoever as he immediately made the call, and the cards were up.
Rossitto (small blind): A-K
Ingles (big blind): A♥ J♥
Ingles wasn’t drawing dead, but he was significantly behind pre-flop and the board would not change the situation. Coming out Queen high with only one heart, it missed Ingles completely and sent him out of the tournament in fourth place. The newfound chips pushed Rossitto into second behind Zajdner, while Esposito was still a threat behind his eleven million plus stack.
The three men squared off for over an hour before the hand that decided the tournament came down. After an Esposito open, Zajdner three-bet the proceedings and Rossitto got out of the way. After a call from Esposito, the 10-10-2 flop came down and Zajdner fired a continuation bet of 3.3 million. Esposito pondered for a quick second before shoving his stack to the center and was just as quickly called by Zajdner.
The news wasn’t good for Zajdner, even though he wasn’t the player at risk. His pocket Kings were coolered by Esposito’s pocket Aces and, after no Cowboy came on the turn or river, he was knocked down to just over two million chips while Esposito rocketed up to 22 million (Rossitto had good reason to sit out and not risk his 27.5 million stack). Although Zajdner would survive to make the dinner break, he would eventually be knocked out by Rossitto in another race (Zajdner’s pocket Jacks versus Rossitto’s A-K when an Ace flopped) and finish in third place.
Holding nearly double the chips of his opponent, Rossitto (34.2 million) looked to be in firm control against Esposito (18.3 million). On the first hand after Zajdner’s departure, however, Esposito found a double up through Rossitto when his 10-7 connected on a 10-7-6 flop against Rossitto’s pocket Aces. After that stunner, the two remaining players decided to adjust the payouts, taking a $50,000 chunk from first place and adding it to the second-place money, to even out the payouts remaining.
Through the next three hours, Rossitto fought back after that stunning double to retake the lead and stretch beyond his original chip lead. On the final hand, Esposito got cute and limped in on the button and Rossitto checked to see a K-7-5 flop. Rossitto would then check raise a 600K bet out of Esposito to 1.6 million and Esposito called to see a four on the turn. Rossitto this time led out against Esposito for 2.8 million in chips and, after Esposito called again, the twosome saw a deuce finish off the board.
Sensing that this could be the tournament, Rossitto put the pressure on and announced all in, leaving Esposito to ponder what he could do with his roughly ten million in chips left. With a dismissive, “I just don’t believe you,” Esposito would finally make the call and Rossitto would show him the bad news – an 8-6 off suit for the turned straight, good enough to win the hand and the championship of the Wynn Millions Main Event (for the record, Esposito had a 9-7 for a pair of sevens).
1. Michael Rossitto, $604,637*
2. Andrew Esposito, $480,752*
3. Mark Zajdner, $294,540
4. Pedro Ingles, $208,598
5. Zachary Donovan, $154,279
6. Jacob Powers, $120,361
7. Zhigang Yang, $96,706
8. Kharlin Sued, $80,310
9. Cliff Ziff, $67,765
(* – indicates adjustment of payout deal between final two competitors)