He came into the final table essentially tied as the shortest stack and had a poker résumé as light as they come, but Zachary Smiley managed to prevail nonetheless at World Poker Tour Maryland Live! The unemployed recent medical school dropout banked $341,536 and a $15,000 seat at the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions after buying into a tourney for which he just happened to be in town for.
Prior to the win, Smiley did not have a single documented live cash.
Official Final Table Results
*Includes $15,000 WPT Tournament of Champions seat
For all of the action leading up the final table, check out PokerNews' recap here.
According to the live updates, Smiley came into the final table a bit short on chips with just 21 big blinds, but he got things started off on the right foot by winning a race with against the tens of Ben Zamani for a double just six hands in, finding a queen on the river to survive. Fellow short stack Cate Hall, seeking to become the first female WPT winner and playing at her third tour final table, also found an early double with jacks against the nines of two-time champ Darren Elias.
Smiley would later grab another double when he got short again, this time with a dominating king-jack against Elias' queen-jack for 12 big blinds.
It ended up taking 73 hands before someone went bust, and Hall was the first to go, doubtless disappointed she couldn't better her two previous fifth-place finishes that came in 2015. She got her last eight big blinds in with against the of start-of-day leader Ryan Belz and saw the board miss both players, leaving sixes the winner.
Luck smiled upon Smiley in a huge spot five-handed. At 50,000/100,000/15,000, he shoved first to act for 1,855,000. Zamani called off 1,500,000, and Belz put everyone at risk in the big blind.
An ace on the flop sent the pot to Smiley, who suddenly had a very healthy 53 big blinds while Zamani was sent to payouts, continuing an excellent two-year run in which he's racked up over $2 million in cashes along with a World Series of Poker bracelet. He's also got a big lead in the WPT Player of the Year race thanks to two previous second-place finishes just a few months into the new season.
Elias saw his run at joining the exclusive three-time champion ranks end in fourth in a clash of short stacks. He jammed only to have Mario Silvestri wake up with and turn him dead with the nut flush. Silvestri was still below 20 big blinds though, and it didn't take him long to get it in with . Smiley held though, busting Silvestri when neither player improved.
That gave Smiley the leads going to heads-up play with about 10.3 million to 6.3 million at 60,000/120,000/20,000. What followed was a match between the two amateurs that last about an hour. A decisive hand came up when the players saw a flop and both checked. Belz checked the turn and Smiley bet 575,000. Belz made it 1.2 million and Smiley called. He then called another barrel of 2.6 million on the river.
Smiley's was good for a flush and enough to beat .
Shortly thereafter, it was all over when Smiley's fives held up against ace-queen all in preflop.
Image courtesy of WPT