The final six players of a 173-player field returned to the Casino di Venezia, the oldest casino in the world, on Saturday and played down to a winner in the World Poker Tour Season XI Venice Grand Prix Main Event. After four levels of play, World Series of Poker bracelet winner Rocco Palumbo emerged victorious to capture the $180,097 first-place prize and add his name to the WPT Champions Cup.
WPT Venice Grand Final Table Results
The day began with Level 23 (10,000/20,000/3,000), and that’s when the first elimination of the day occurred. It happened when 27-year-old Erion Islamay, a professional poker player from Italy, moved all in from the button, and Marcello Montagner, who began the day as chip leader, called from the small blind with the . Islamay was behind with the , and things only got worse as the flop delivered Montagner a set. The turn gave Islamay a straight draw, but the river failed to complete it. Islamay exited in sixth place and took home $31,002 for his effort — his largest career cash to date.
In Level 24 (12,000/24,000/4,000), Palumbo opened and received a call from Robert Begni in the small blind. Xia Lin then moved all in from the big, Palumbo moved all in over the top, and Begni got out of the way. Lin tabled the , but he needed help to stay alive as Palumbo was ahead with the . According to the PokerNews Odds Calculator, Palumbo was a 64.62% favorite while Lin had just a 28.26% chance of winning the hand. The flop dropped Lin’s chances of survival to 9.09%, while the turn left him drawing dead by delivering Palumbo a straight. The inconsequential was run out on the river for good measure, and then the 26-year-old Lin made his way to the payout desk in fifth place to collect $38,721, his second career WPT cash.
One level later (Level 25: 15,000/30,000/5,000), Montagner opened from the button, and a short-stacked Begni moved all in from the small blind. Montagner made a reluctant call with the , and he was drawing live against the of Begni. The flop wasn’t particularly interesting, and neither was the turn. However, the river was as it gave Montagner two pair to bounce Begni, who hails from Switzerland, in fourth place for $51,585.
Later on in the same level, the hopes of the Mike Sexton capturing a WPT title came crashing down. It happened when Sexton opened from the button, Montagner called from the small blind, and Palumbo called from the big. Two checks on the flop saw Sexton fire out 150,000, Montagner called, and Palumbo got out of the way. When the turned, Montagner checked and then snap-called when Sexton moved all in.
Sexton had flopped top pair, but he was behind as Montagner turned two pair. The river failed to help Sexton, and he was eliminated in third place for $69,723 — his best finish in 11 seasons of the WPT (his previous best was sixth in the 2011 edition of the Bay 101 Shooting Star).
The departure of the Poker Hall of Famer meant two Italians would battle for the title with 24-year-old Palumbo, who won a WSOP bracelet this past summer in Event #44: $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em, holding a chip lead of 3.095 million to 2.09 million over Montagner. He’d put it to good use by sealing the deal in Level 26 (20,000/40,000/5,000). It happened when Palumbo opened from the button only to have Montagner three-bet to 170,000. Palumbo made the call and then watched Montagner lead out for 180,000 on the flop. Palumbo responded with a raise to 480,000, Montagner called, and the turned. Montagner wasted little time in moving all in, and Palumbo snap-called.
Montagner held nines with an open-ended straight draw, but he needed to improve as Palumbo had flopped two pair. The dealer burned one last time and put out the . With that, Montagner finished as runner-up for $180,097.
Data and photos courtesy of WorldPokerTour.com.