The Final Table of Event #4, the $1500 Pot Limit Hold 'Em tournament, was perhaps the first one at this year's World Series of Poker that could honestly lay claim to having some 'star power'. There were several notable names in the event and, alongside the Omaha 8/Stud 8 split game Final Table (with many other notable poker faces there), and four other events playing out in the Amazon room (all of which can be accessed in our WSOP reporting section). For those that wanted to check out the action of Event #4, they were treated to a lineup that featured the following players:
Seat 1 - Noted online poker player Eric 'Rizen' Lynch - 91,000
Seat 2 - Newcomer William Hill - 332,000
Seat 3 - In his fifth World Series visit, Thomas Savitsky - 140,000
Seat 4 - Playing in his second World Series, Mike Spegal - 241,000
Seat 5 - Runner up to Huck Seed at the 1996 Main Event, Bruce Van Horn - 315,000
Seat 6 - With his twelfth cash at the WSOP since 2005, Marco Traniello - 277,000
Seat 7 - 2006 WSOP bracelet winner Jon Friedberg - 204,000
Seat 8 - WSOP rookie Jeff Langdon - 286,000
Seat 9 - Season 4 WPT Player of the Year Gavin Smith - 480,000
After a slight delay in the start of the event, the players ushered off the final minutes from the previous night's level. Just before the blinds went up, Eric Lynch was able to stave off elimination, doubling up through Thomas Savitsky and, after the new blind level of 8K-16K started, Savitsky turned the same trick through William Hill. With relatively small blinds and large chip stacks, the players were content with shuttling chips around the table for about the first two dozen hands of the event.
The first victim of the Final Table would be Marco Traniello, who has earned more cashes in World Series events since 2005 than any other poker player. After raising out of the cutoff for 50K, Traniello was faced with a reraise to 158K from the always entertaining Gavin Smith. Traniello wasted little time in pushing all in and Smith asked for a count to determine the math. Traniello's raise was for 111K more and Gavin called, tabling his pocket Jacks. Traniello was only able to bring Big Slick to the party and, after the board went dry, Marco Traniello left Event #4 in ninth place, earning $14,925. He also got to leave the event with his wife, professional Jennifer Harman.
The elimination of Marco Traniello extended the lead in the event for Gavin Smith. The gregarious Canadian, who promised to "party if I win the bracelet and party if I don't" had been on a tremendous stretch of excellent play during the run of the Pot Limit event. He held a nearly 2-1 lead over his closest competitor, William Hill, and it looked as if Smith wanted to start the party early on Tuesday.
Fifteen more hands would pass before there would be another elimination in the tournament. On Hand 39, Jeff Langdon decided to challenge Gavin Smith's table captain status by raising to 50K from the small blind. Smith calmly called the bet from the big blind and the two saw a monochrome flop of Q-5-4, all diamonds. Jeff moved 80K to the center and was reraised by Gavin, which prompted more raising until Langdon was all in with his pocket Aces (with a diamond) versus Smith's flopped set of fours. The turn card came as the case four, giving Smith quad fours and leaving Langdon drawing dead. After the inconsequential river card was dealt, Jeff Langdon was cruelly eliminated from the tournament in eighth place, taking home $20,255 for his three days of work.
Smith continued to decimate the table as, five hands later, he sent another player away from the Final Table. Eric Lynch battled from the short stack for all of the final table and, when he found A-K in his hand, moved the remainder of his chips (205K) in against Smith, who had raised 60K from middle position. Gavin called and could only muster an A-7 off against Eric, but the cards continued to come for Smith; an gave him two pair and the turn of the seven of spades gave Gavin the boat. The online legend known as "Rizen" was drawing dead to the case Ace in the deck, but the river ran dry with a deuce of spades; Eric "Rizen" Lynch was the victim of another Gavin Smith draw out in seventh place, taking $27,718 from the cashier's cage at the Rio.
Now over the million chip mark, Smith moved even further into attack mode. Thomas Savitsky was able to slow Gavin for a moment when he doubled up through him and, on Hand 51, we would lose our next combatant. Bruce Van Horn never seemed to get any hands through the run of the tournament and, after raising to 60K, pushed the rest of his chips to the center after Jon Friedberg reraised him. Van Horn's was no match for Friedberg's and, after an uneventful board, Dr. Bruce Van Horn was gone from the Amazon Room in sixth place with an extra $36,779 in his pockets.
Another fifteen hands later, Thomas Savitsky's run in the Pot Limit event would come to an end. William Hill raised from the cutoff and Savitsky called from the button for less than the 90K bet by Hill. Everyone else mucked and Hill showed J-9 off against Savitsky's A-3. While ahead in the hand, Savitsky received no support from the deck. A nine on the flop and another nine on the turn sealed Thomas Savitsky's fate in fifth place, worth a $47,943 payday.
Within sixteen hands, we would have our heads up match set. William Hill was eliminated in fourth place (for $67,162) when he got in with the worst of it (A-4) against Mike Spegal's A-J, then Spegal took over the chip lead when he dumped Jon Friedberg from the final table. After a raising battle over a flop of , Friedberg was all in with the bottom pair () against Spegal's top pair (). After a nine of spades on the turn, all Spegal had to do was dodge a Queen or a deuce on the river. When the Jack of hearts hit, Spegal was the new chip leader and Jon Friedberg was done for the night in third place, walking away from the Final Table with $101,276.
The two survivors played another 25 hands before taking a dinner break. As the blinds moved up to 20K/40K after dinner, the leader board looked like this:
Mike Spegal - 1,580,000
Gavin Smith - 770,000
Over the span of nearly the entire level, the players parried against each other, each flashing their cards when they had made a dominant hand. Gradually, though, Spegal eroded Smith's chip stack to the 400K mark. This didn't deter Gavin, however; he continued to joke with the crowd and Spegal throughout the heads up match. Between hands at one point, Gavin jokingly griped to Mike, "Why don't you start playing like a business owner and not like a poker player? I mean, stop it!" The crowd laughed at the levity, but Spegal kept his eyes on the goal of the bracelet.
On Hand 129 (after over fifty heads up hands), Smith raised from the button to 120K, Spegal reraised to 240K and Gavin deposited the remainder of his chips in the center. Spegal called and tabled and Smith showed his edge with pocket fives. The flop came down about as bad as Gavin could expect when the hit the table. A Queen of spades on the turn had Smith drawing dead and a new champion in Pot Limit Hold 'Em was crowned.
1st - Mike Spegal - $252,290
2nd - Gavin Smith - $155,645
3rd - Jon Friedberg - $101,276
4th - William Hill - $67,162
5th - Thomas Savitsky - $47,973
6th - Bruce Van Horn - $36,779
7th - Eric "Rizen" Lynch - $27,718
8th - Jeff Langdon - $20, 255
9th - Marco Traniello - $14,925