Mike Del Vecchio Rides Chip Lead to Championship at WPT Rolling Thunder
After seizing the lead during the previous night’s action, Mike Del Vecchio refused to be denied. Taking the sizeable chip lead he had earned, Del Vecchio would never look back as he rumbled through the remaining five men to capture his first major championship at the World Poker Tour’s Rolling Thunder at Thunder Valley Casino outside of Sacramento on Wednesday night.
Del Vecchio (4.27 million) held a healthy advantage over two difficult players, John Hadley (2.978 million) and Sorel Mizzi (2.283 million), when the cards hit the air on Wednesday afternoon outside the Golden State’s state capitol. In the bottom half of the ladder, Connor Drinan (1.349 million) and Steven Tabb (1.075 million) were looking to draw themselves back into the fight while WPT Champions’ Club member Olivier Busquet sat on the short stack (676,000) to start the day’s action. Just after High Noon, the sextet of poker warriors headed into the fray to determine the next champion on the circuit.
The combatants would shuffle chips around for two dozen hands before the first significant action of the final table. After a raise from Drinan, Hadley three bet the action only to see Drinan go for it with an all in four bet. Pondering his position, Hadley finally came up with a call and the race was on, Hadley’s A-J off suit against Drinan’s pocket tens. In the window of the flop came an Ace to push Hadley into the lead and, when neither of the remaining tens in the deck came out on the turn or river, Hadley had secured his double up while Drinan fell to just over a million chips.
The situation would get even worse for Drinan on Hand 27. After Busquet moved all in from the button, Drinan moved all in “over the top” from the small blind and Hadley, in the big blind, called both bets to put Busquet and Drinan in danger of elimination. Hadley had the goods as the cards were turned up:
Hadley – pocket Jacks
Drinan – K-J off suit
Busquet – Q-10 off suit
But the flop didn’t cooperate with either Hadley. Coming down Q-10-3, Busquet went from the “outhouse to the penthouse” in flopping Queens up, but Drinan also was in good shape with his open-ended straight draw as Hadley’s Jacks shriveled. A six on the turn and an unnecessary Queen on the river kept Busquet in the lead and gave him a massive triple up while eliminating Drinan in sixth place.
While the battling lower on the leaderboard raged onward, Del Vecchio quietly moved further into the lead. He cracked the five million chip mark by Hand 31 and kept it at that point for the next 20 hands before doubling up Hadley. On Hand 57, Tabb would take over the chip lead from Del Vecchio, but only ten hands later Del Vecchio would retake the lead from Tabb.
Although Tabb would momentarily take the lead back when he eliminated a short-stacked Busquet in fifth place on Hand 76, Del Vecchio would fight back. Del Vecchio would take down Hadley in fourth place to put some distance between him and Tabb but, just as quickly, Tabb reemerged as the chip leader on Hand 84. The duo fought back and forth, but they were also keenly aware of the dangerous Mizzi in their midst, who was staying viable with a mixture of timely all ins for doubles against his well-stacked opponents.
Mizzi’s patience paid off as, over the course of the next 70-plus hands, he found himself in second place and it was Tabb who was in the basement. On Hand 157, Del Vecchio kicked up the action in a “blind versus blind” battle and Tabb made his stand with an all-in. Del Vecchio made the call, turning over an A-8 off suit, while Tabb chose the Royal Court (K-Q) to stake his tournament life. When the nine-high board came with no paint, he was out in third place and Del Vecchio moved to heads up play against Mizzi with slightly less than a 2:1 lead.
Try as he might, Mizzi could never seem to wrest the lead from Del Vecchio. He came close on Hand 167, when he pulled within 120,000 chips of Del Vecchio, but Del Vecchio would reestablish his advantage (and then some) in winning a nearly 3.4 million pot on Hand 172. It would take another ten hands of action, but the end was nigh.
On Hand 182, Mizzi called a Del Vecchio bet to see an innocent 7-4-2 flop and called another bet to head to the turn. Another four didn’t seem to change things, but Mizzi’s check-raise to 1.75 million of Del Vecchio’s 600K turn bet seemed to indicate differently. Del Vecchio didn’t back down, going all in and putting Mizzi to the test, which Mizzi would respond by calling off his chips. With a 6♠ 5♠ for the open-ended straight flush draw, Mizzi would need at least another spade to complete his flush or a card to complete his straight, but Del Vecchio was asking for a red card as his 5-4 hit trips on the turn to have the lead. The final card would come down in favor of Del Vecchio as the J♥ helped nobody, sending the chips and the championship of the WPT Rolling Thunder to Mike Del Vecchio.
Mike Del Vecchio, $284,638
Sorel Mizzi, $190,105
Steve Tabb, $122,296
John Hadley, $81,930
Olivier Busquet, $63,013
Connor Drinan, $52,222
With the completion of the WPT Rolling Thunder, the WPT staff and players can take a bit of a break. The next stop on the Season XV schedule is the season ending three tournament swing at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL. The WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown begins on March 31, while the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Finale begins on April 2 and the WPT Tournament of Champions begins on April 7. This trio of events will close out the Season XV schedule and Mike Del Vecchio will be a part of it as the champion of the WPT Rolling Thunder.
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