It was a short Day Six for the World Poker Tour Championship at the Bellagio in Las Vegas on Thursday as the nine remaining men worked their way down to the official WPT six-handed final table in expedient fashion.
At High Noon yesterday, the competitors gathered for the showdown, with Marvin Rettenmaier holding a slight lead over Michael Mizrachi. Those two gentlemen were the class of the field, with both holding more than three million in chips, while their opponents massed behind them looking to rise up the leaderboard. Steve O’Dwyer, Nick Schulman, Hafiz Khan and Moon Kim (looking to snatch the WPT Player of the Year title away from Joe Serock) all were stacked with more than a million chips, while Wil Wilkinson, Trevor Pope and Philippe Ktorza were looking to survive as the short stacks.
With a seven figure payday on the line for the eventual champion, you would think that the pace of play would be glacial, but the players immediately set about flinging their chips around the table. Rettenmaier would extend his already good lead when he knocked out Khan in ninth place after his pocket Jacks stood up to Khan’s Big Slick. Although a three heart flop and turn caused some consternation for the recently signed Team PartyPoker pro, a blank on the river would give Rettenmaier all of Khan’s chips and push him close to six million.
With the POY award on the line, Kim was looking to make it to the final table and finish better than third place, which was the only way he could pass Serock for the title. Kim was deliberate in his actions, mixing it up on rare occasions as he tried to survive. Meanwhile, Rettenmaier would give a few chips away in doubling up Pope while Mizrachi attempted to keep pace with Rettenmaier by knocking out a short stacked Wilkinson in eighth place.
Only an hour into play, the final seven men sat one elimination away from the WPT Championship final table. Rettenmaier’s lead had grown to nearly a million chips over Mizrachi and everyone else was stacked fairly well with over a million in chips each. Mizrachi, however, had other things on his mind as the play continued.
Also in action on Thursday was Day One of the WPT’s $100,000 Super High Roller event, which was being played to the side of the battle for the WPT Championship. Mizrachi eyed the other tables and considered doing what some would consider insane – playing both tournaments at the same time. Schulman was amazed by this, stating to “The Grinder,” “You’re a real sick guy…I love it!” In the end, however, sanity prevailed and Mizrachi continued with “just” the $25,000 WPT Championship battle.
Over the span of the next hour, the players shuffled chips back and forth as they sought one of the precious six seats to the WPT Championship final table. The end would eventually come when Kim made a raise and was called by Mizrachi in the small blind. Rettenmaier, however, wasn’t going to let his closest rival try to close the gap and pushed the action up to 630K. Kim moved all in immediately and, after a pause, Mizrachi released his hand. Rettenmaier made the call and the duo were off to the races.
Rettenmaier’s pocket nines were in the lead over Kim’s suited Big Chick (A-Q) and the Jack-high board never brought any threats. Once the river card blanked off for Kim, he was eliminated in seventh place, crowning Serock as the WPT Player of the Year winner and sending the final six players to the official WPT Championship final table.
1. Marvin Rettenmaier, 6.715 million
2. Michael Mizrachi, 2.56 million
3. Steve O’Dwyer, 2.035 million
4. Nick Schulman, 1.555 million
5. Trevor Pope, 1.48 million
6. Philippe Ktorza, 895,000
With such a monstrous lead, it would be hard to bet on anyone other than Rettenmaier to take the WPT Championship crown. If there’s a player who could do it, however, it would be Mizrachi, the proud owner of two WPT titles and two World Series of Poker bracelets. O’Dwyer is arguably one of the hottest players in the world over the last year-plus (making him a dark horse contender), while Schulman (also a WPT/WSOP titleholder), Pope (being railed by friend Annette Obrestad) and Ktorza have some work to do to get into contention.
That little factor of playing the final table will have to wait, however. The WPT scheduled the Super High Roller final table for action this afternoon at 4PM (Pacific Time), meaning that the six contenders will have one day to relax and prepare for their battle on Saturday. It should be interesting to see if Rettenmaier can continue to storm his way through the field, whether Mizrachi or O’Dwyer can mount a challenge, or whether one of the players in the rear of the pack can stun the poker world and win the WPT Championship.