The 2014 $3 Million Guaranteed WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open Main Event came to a close Friday night. In the end it was Anthony Merulla who came up victorious, besting a massive field of 1,229 runners to pocket the $842,379 in first-place prize money.
Merulla began the day fifth out of the final six in chips but managed to overcome the chip disadvantage, build his stack up, and lay claim to the championship after defeating David Paredes during heads up play. Merulla's name will now be etched on the WPT Champions Cup and his place among the Champions Club will be forever solidified.
Final Table Payouts
On the 11th hand of the final table, the action exploded and Merulla's path to victory became clear. Jared Jaffee made a raise before the flop to 225,000 and Merulla three-bet to 595,000 from the button. Farid Jattin was in the big blind and announced a four-bet to 1.125 million total. Action came back to Jaffee who had both of his opponents covered. He announced a five-bet all in and both Merulla and Jattin called for their tournament lives.
All three players had large pocket pairs but Jattin's black kings were out in the lead heading to the community cards. The flop came down , keeping Jattin's kings in the lead heading to fourth street. The rail exploded, however when the rolled off on the turn, giving Jaffee a set of tens and the sudden upper hand. Jaffee's tens were then the best hand he was looking to score the double elimination early in the day.
Alas for Jaffee and Jattin, the peeled off on the river, putting four diamonds on the board and giving Merulla the best hand with a diamond flush. Jattin was eliminated in sixth place for $174,352 and Jaffee was left to push a solid portion of his stack across the table to Merulla.
Two hands later, Merulla opened with a raise to 250,000. Paredes called and Vladislav Mzheritsky moved all in over the top. Merulla let his hand go and Paredes called, rolling over . Mzheritsky tabled and was racing for his tournament life. Unfortunately for Mzheritsky, the board ran out , giving Paredes a set of jacks and the best hand. Mzheritsky pocketed $214,650 for his fifth place finish.
The action continued at a rapid pace, as Jaffee saw his final hand of the tournament just two hands after Mzheritsky's elimination. He moved his last 14 big blinds in before the flop and Merulla tank-called. Jaffee showed and was up against Merulla's . The flop came out clean with , but Merulla was able to seal the deal with the on the turn. This left Jaffee drawing dead as he watched the complete the board. Jaffee, who was searching for his second WPT title in just over three months, fell just short with a fourth-place finish for $258,590.
Anthony Maio was the next player to hit the rail as yet another victim of Merulla's domination. On the 76th hand, Maio opened for 325,000 from the button and Merulla called from the small blind. The two took a flop of and Maio led out for 25,000. Merulla called and the dropped down on fourth street. Maio fired once again, this time making it 425,000 to go. Merulla announced a raise all in and Maio called for his tournament life.
Maio showed but was dejected to find that he was drawing dead against Merulla's for the nut flush. The meaningless finished off the board and Maio was sent packing. This left Merulla and Paredes to play for the title.
The heads-up match lasted for almost 100 hands with both Merulla and Paredes holding the chip lead and having the chance to bust the opposing player. In the end, however, the match came to a close when Paredes opened with a raise to 1.2 million and Merulla called. The flop fell and Merulla came out swinging for 900,000. Paredes came right over the top with a raise to 2.3 million but found that Merulla would not be swayed. He made it 4.3 million to go and Paredes replied with an all in announcement. Merulla snapped him off and the hands were shown.
Merulla flopped two pair and was two cards away from being awarded the championship. Paredes found no help on the turn () or the river () and was forced to settle for a runner-up finish and $499,549 in prize money. Merulla, on the other hand, was all smiles as he was presented with his money and trophy.
"I thought David was the best player at the final table and it wasn't close," Merulla said to Mike Sexton after the tournament. "I thought I played well and hit some cards at the right time."
For a complete look at the final table, check out the hand-for-hand updates at the PokerNews Live Reporting blog.