The Grand Final of the PartyPoker Premier League saw big hands, big draws and a big payday for Andy Black, as he came from behind during heads-up play to claim the $250,000 first-place prize. Black overcame five of the top players in the world on his way to the title.
With Tony "G" Guoga, Black, Marcel Luske and Alex Kravchenko already having secured their spots in the Grand Final, four others played heads-up matches in best-of-five formats to win the final two seats. Eddy Scharf and Roland de Wolfe squared off in the first match, which de Wolfe secured in overwhelming fashion by winning three straight with a fortunate run of cards.
In Match #1, de Wolfe won a big race with against Scharf's to take a 1-0 lead. De Wolfe raised preflop, Scharf moved all in over the top, and de Wolfe made the call to see a flop of . De Wolfe's flopped bottom set left Scharf drawing thin. The turn gave Scharf outs to a straight or a chop with a diamond, but the river gave de Wolfe a full house and his first victory.
Match #2 lasted only eight hands before de Wolfe moved all in over the top of Scharf's preflop raise with . Scharf echoed earlier de Wolfe sentiments from the final hand of Match #1, saying "I can't fold a pair," before making the call with . De Wolfe spiked an ace on the board to go up 2-0 in match play and leave Scharf with a big deficit. The final blow for Scharf came 22 hands into Match #3, when he moved all in with and de Wolfe called with . De Wolfe picked up a flush draw on the flop of , but the turn made two pair for Scharf. The river made de Wolfe's flush and put him into the Grand Final.
Annie Duke squared off against Dave 'The Devilfish' Ulliott in the second playoff match, and Duke would need all five matches to put away the tenacious Ulliott. Duke took an early 2-0 lead, picking up the first match when she pushed all in with to Ulliott's and picking up a pair on the flop. Ulliott couldn't catch another heart or a pair, and Duke led 1-0. Match #2 saw Ulliott move all in preflop with , only to run into Duke's . The board ran out , and Ulliott, the aggressor in early play, was quickly in a 2-0 hole.
Match #3 saw Ulliott begin a comeback, ending when Duke moved all in preflop with . Ulliott called with , and the board ran out to give Ulliott his first win of the day and make it 2-1 in Duke's favor. Match #4 came down to a kicker as Ulliott limped in with , and Duke checked her option with . The flop came down , and Duke moved all in. Ulliott went into the tank for a moment before making the call, and the turn and river came down . Ulliott's eight kicker played to tie the match 2-2 and force a fifth and deciding battle for the last Grand Final seat.
Ending the final match, Ulliott raised preflop with , and Duke, ahead in chips, made the call with . The flop came down , and Ulliott moved all in. Duke called with two pair, nines and fours, and her hand held up as the board ran out to give her the match 3-2 and lock up the final spot in the Grand Final.
With Duke picking up the sixth and final seat, the seating assignments for the Grand Final were drawn as follows:
Seat 1 - Annie Duke
Seat 2 - Andy Black
Seat 3 - Marcel Luske
Seat 4 - Roland de Wolfe
Seat 5 - Tony G
Seat 6 - Alex Kravchenko
Play started off fast, with big bets flying and big pots captured, but it took 49 hands for Duke to become the first casualty of the Grand Final. Alex Kravchenko raised preflop with , and Duke re-raised all in with . Kravchenko went into the tank for a while before calling, and the board ran out to give Kravchenko two pair and send Duke to the rail in sixth for $20,000.
Marcel Luske was next to fall when he moved all in preflop with , and was called by Roland de Wolfe with . Luske found no help on the board, and he exited in fifth ($30,000). Kravchenko then busted in fourth when Black cracked his queens. Kravchenko raised preflop, then moved all in once Black re-raised. Black made the call with K-x, and Kravchenko tabled . The board ran out , and the turned king meant Kravchenko's day was done, for $40,000.
Tony G started the final table with the biggest chip stack due to his top points finish in the preliminary heats, but he couldn't parlay those additional chips into the victory. Instead, he busted in third when he ran into de Wolfe's slow-played kings. De Wolfe limped from the button with , and Tony G called from the small blind with . Black checked his option with , and the flop came down . De Wolfe led out at the flop with his overpair, and Tony G moved all in with his inside straight-flush draw. Black folded and de Wolfe made the call. Tony G had plenty of outs, but the turn and river both missed, and he collected $60,000 for his third-place finish.
De Wolfe took a 3:2 chip lead into heads-up play, but Black came back to claim the $250,000 winner's check. In the final hand, Black limped in with , and de Wolfe checked his option with . The flop came down , and de Wolfe check-raised all in. Black insta-called, and de Wolfe was drawing thin. The turn meant that only a six could save de Wolfe, and the river gave the 2008 PartyPoker Premier League Championship to Black. The emotional Irishman remarked later, "I've been waiting 20 years for this," referring to his first major tournament victory.
The final standings and payouts were as follows:
1st: Andy Black — $250,000
2nd: Roland de Wolfe — $120,000
3rd: Tony "G" Guoga — $60,000
4th: Alex Kravchenko — $40,000
5th: Marcel Luske — $30,000
6th: Annie Duke — $20,000