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World Poker Tour Marrakech: Christophe Savary is Crowned Champion

Christophe Savary

The final 17 players returned to the Casino de Marrakech this afternoon to slug it out for the World Poker Tour Marrakech title, the first ever on the African continent. At the end of a marathon day, Christophe Savary of France emerged victorious, earning himself the trophy and 4,305,600 Dirhams (or € 377,262 if you prefer). (100 Morocco Dirhams equal about $13 U.S.) Ludovic Lacay was in control for much of the day, but he ultimately fell just short. In the end, it was his fellow-countryman who emerged victorious after nearly 12 hours of play.

Just about 15 minutes into the first level, Azziz Abdelmalki got it all in with {9-Clubs}{9-Diamonds} against the {Q-Spades}{Q-Clubs} of Benjamin Pollak. Abdelmalki flopped an open-ended straight draw that never materialized, and his 17th place exit was good for €13,136. Pocket queens struck again just a few hands later as Kerem Kiyak's (16th place) {A-Clubs}{6-Clubs} was no match for the {Q-Hearts}{Q-Clubs} of Ludovic Lacay.

The final table of nine was reached in fairly short order with the eliminations of Stephane Dahan (15th), Tsan Sadnhi (14th), Yury Kerzhapkin (13th), Stefan Hansen (12th), and Pollak (11th). Day 2 chip leader Guillaume de la Gorce was the final-table bubble boy, his knockout coming courtesy of a bad beat at the hands of the eventual champion. After a flop of {10-Clubs}{9-Diamonds}{4-Spades}, Savary made a large overbet to cover his opponent, and de la Gorce instantly called with {A-Hearts}{A-Spades}. He was up against {Q-Diamonds}{Q-Spades}, and the queens sealed his fate as well. The turn and river fell the {J-Diamonds} and the {8-Diamonds} to make Savary the runner-runner straight and send de la Gorce walking slowly toward the door in 10th place (€23,025).

The remaining nine bagged their chips and headed upstairs to the Epicurien Bar to play it out in their lavish ballroom. About an hour after the move, Hicham Ben Halima and Eoghan O'Dea tangled up in an enormous pot, Ben Halima's {A-Hearts}{K-Diamonds} in trouble against the Irishman's {K-Spades}{K-Hearts}. A board full of blanks crippled Ben Halima down under three big blinds, and he exited in ninth place (€27,959) just a few hands later. Balazs Botond was sent off right behind him in eighth place (€34,517), and Patrick Meurisse was next to go in seventh (€42,741).

When the remaining six players returned from their evening meal, there was no sign of the dreaded “dinner coma.” Within a few minutes, Benny Spindler was sent off in sixth place (€55,828), and Adrian Marin followed him out in fifth (€72,240).

The four remaining players traded jabs for nearly two hours before the largest pot of the tournament unfolded from a seemingly innocuous board. Lacay opened the pot to 110,000, and Savary came along from the small blind. On a flop of {Q-Clubs}{9-Clubs}{2-Spades}, Savary check-called a bet of 125,000, and both men checked the {5-Spades} on the turn. When the {9-Spades} hit the river, Savary led into the pot with 450,000 chips and Lacay moved all-in with the covering stack. Savary snap-called with {2-Clubs}{2-Diamonds}, his full house topping the {10-Spades}{4-Spades} that had given Lacay the backdoor flush.

That pot put Lacay's stack in danger for the first time in nearly three days, but he scratched and clawed and soon notched another knockout. Julien Arneodo got his short stack in with {A-Clubs}{6-Diamonds} against {A-Hearts} {5-Hearts}, and the flop of {K-Diamonds}{3-Hearts}{3-Diamonds} made a split pot likely. An untimely {5-Spades} on the turn was his demise, though, and Arneodo exited with €105,077 for his fourth-place showing.

That pot was relatively small, and Lacay still had a lot of ground to make up. As the shorter of the three remaining stacks, he eventually made his stand with {K-Diamonds}{J-Diamonds}, and Savary quickly called him down with {A-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}. Three more diamonds on board gave him the nuts and the knockout, and a disappointed Lacay walked away with €164,182 for third place.

When heads-up play began, Savary sat with 5.06 million chips to Arneodo's 3.26 million. It proved to be a lopsided duel as the big stack chipped away at his opponent relentlessly. In the final showdown, O'Dea three-bet before the flop and watched the first three cards come {9-Spades}{A-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds}. Savary raised O'Dea's continuation bet all in, and the Irishman got his chips in good with {A-Clubs}{3-Clubs}. Savary was drawing with {7-Clubs} {8-Clubs} and the turn dispensed with the tension quickly. The dealer peeled the {10-Clubs} off the deck to dramatically end the hand and tournament. O'Dea finished up in second place (€262,446) while the French crowd erupted in celebration of Savary's triumph.

With that, the largest tournament in the history of Africa is in the books. To go along with his bragging rights, Savary's victory earned him an oversized cardboard check, a trophy, a WPT title, and a $25,000 entry into the WPT Championship next spring.

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