After a solid week of high-power poker at the Star City Casino in Sydney, the final nine players in the PokerStars.com Asia Pacific Poker Tour Grand Final took to the felt to determine the champion and new millionaire yesterday. The final table included a student, a retired engineer, several poker pros and a racehorse owner from Canada. When the last pot was pushed, it 34-year-old local player Martin Rowe, a Star City regular who bested fearsome pro Jason Gray heads up to claim the trophy and the AU$1,000,000 first prize.
Antonio Fazzolari held the chip lead going into the final table, and started the day swinging his chip stack like a club. After taking down several of the first pots of the day, he also created the first elimination when he sent Tom Rafferty to the rail in ninth place (AU$39,200). Rafferty, who started the day with one of the biggest stacks, raised preflop with . Fazzolari called, and the flop came down . Rafferty led out with his nut flush draw, and Fazzolari put out a stiff raise. Rafferty moved all in over the top without hesitation, and Fazzolari called just as quickly. Fazzolari tabled for top two, and Rafferty needed a club to stay alive. The on the turn was no help, and when the hit the river, Rafferty hit the rail. That hand left Fazzolari the massive chip leader with eight players remaining.
Hai Bo Chu came into the final table on the short stack, and the Melbourne marketing executive finished in eighth place (AU$53,200) when he ran afoul of eventual champ Martin Rowe. Rowe limped in from under the gun, and saw a three-way pot with Antonio Fazzolari and Chu from the blinds. The flop came down , and Rowe led out. Fazzolari folded, and Chu moved all in over the top with for the inside straight draw. Rowe snap-called with for the overpair, and needed to fade a nine to send Chu packing. Chu picked up additional outs when the came on the turn, but the on the river was no help and he was done.
Daniel Kowalski played tight at the final table, but still busted in seventh place (AU$72,800). In the first hand he raised all day, Kowalski found two callers in Frank Saffioti and Antonio Fazzolari. The flop came down , and Saffioti led out. Fazzolari and Kowalski both called, and the turn brought the . Action checked around to Kowalski, who fired at the pot. Saffioti check-raised all in, and Fazzolari went into the tank before folding. Kowalski quickly called with , but found himself way behind Saffioti's . Only a nine on the river would save Kowalski, and it was not to be as the landed to send him to the rail.
Fazzolari seemed destined to hold the chip lead throughout the final table until he and Martin Rowe tangled in a huge pot. Rowe and Fazzolari saw a three-way flop with Frank Saffioti of , and Fazzolari led out. Saffioti and Rowe both called, and the came on the turn. Fazzolari fired again, and this time only Rowe made the call. The river brought the , and Rowe called once again, tabling for two pair, kings and threes. Fazzolari could only muster for sevens and threes, and Rowe took over the chip lead.
Frank Saffioti lost a coin flip he didn't know he had made when he busted in sixth place (AU$100,800). Jason Gray raised preflop with pocket sevens, and Saffioti and Martin Rowe both called. Gray fired at the flop, and Saffioti moved all in over the top. Rowe called, and Gray quickly tossed his hand. Saffioti's made two pair, but Rowe had flopped a set and was firmly in the lead. The on the turn added to Saffioti's outs with a flush and full house draws, but the on the river was the end of the Day 2 chip leader. With that hand, Rowe moved into the commanding chip lead, with more than a million chips more than his nearest competitor.
Young Timothy English made a good run in his first major poker tournament, picking up AU$140,000 for his fifth-place finish. After a raise from Martin Rowe preflop, English re-raised with . Rowe called, and the flop came down 9h-. English led out again, this time for all his chips. Rowe thought briefly before making the call with for two overs and an open-ended straight draw. English was slightly ahead when the money went in, but the on the turn gave the lead to Rowe. The on the river was no help to English, and he headed to the rail as his chips added to Rowe's massive stack.
With English's elimination, the remaining four players headed off to dinner. Martin Rowe had the rest of the field covered, as the chip stacks at dinner break looked like this:
Martin Rowe - 5,580,000
Jason Gray - 1,630,000
Tony Basile - 1,095,000
Antonio Fazzolari - 1,095,000
Post-dinner play began slowly, but after more than an hour of jockeying for position, an explosion of quick eliminations thinned the field to two. Antonio Fazzolari found himself in an unfamiliar position for the final table – the short stack. He woke up to , and quickly shipped the last of his chips into the middle. Martin Rowe took one peek and his and called without hesitation. The board ran out , and Rowe's ace-king high was enough to take down the pot and send Fazzolari packing in fourth place (AU$182,000).
Before Fazzolari's chair was even cold, Tony Basile joined him at the payout table in third place (AU$266,000). Rowe raised from the button, and Basile three-bet from the big blind. Rowe moved all in without a moment's thought, and Basile went into the tank for a minute before making the call with . There are only two hands that Basile really didn't want to see, and Rowe tabled one of them – pocket kings. When the board ran out , Basile headed to the rail and Rowe was headed into a long heads-up match with the dangerous Jason Gray.
Rowe took a big chip lead into heads-up play, with the counts as follows:
Martin Rowe - 7,805,000
Jason Gray - 1,595,000
Even with a huge chip advantage, it took over two hours for Rowe to dispatch Gray and claim his first major tournament victory. After two hours of small ball, Rowe began to apply the pressure. With liberal raises and three-bets, Rowe rebuilt the big stack that Gray spent two hours chipping down, then all the money went in on a final confrontation. Gray limped in preflop with , then moved all in over the top of Rowe's preflop raise. No one knew if Rowe had been raising light earlier, but this time he certainly wasn't. Rowe quickly called with , and Gray needed help to stay alive. The flop brought plenty of excitement as it came down , giving Rowe top two against Gray's bottom pair, and even more excitement followed the on the turn, which gave Gray two pair of his own and outs to a full house. After a breathless moment, the river came down the anti-climactic , and Gray was finished in second place (AU$476,000).
Martin Rowe outlasted 477 competitors and survived a tough heads-up match to earn his first APPT title, the Grand Final trophy, entry into the APPT Tournament of Champions, and the AU$1,000,000 first prize. Join PokerNews at 1:30pm Sydney time for live coverage of the Tournament of Champions.