It wouldn't be exactly appropriate to call John Dibella an unlikely champion. But if the sports book here at the Atlantis had been taking wagers on this final table, he would have been a prohibitive underdog. Despite everything stacked against him today — a below-average starting stack, amateur status, an impossible seat draw — despite all of that, Dibella has found a way today. The 43-year-old stock trader from Westchester, New York has just climbed his way to the top of the tallest anthill on Paradise Island, winning the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event and adding $1.775 million to his career earnings. We feel comfortable calling that a remarkable win considering Dibella's previous tournament cashes totaled just $42,405.
Dibella's largest cash up to this point came in 2008 right here at the PCA when he took 60th place for $16,000. You could say he's done just a bit better for himself this time around. To make the story just that much more captivating, Dibella was in the Main Event for just $1,000 after winning a live satellite here last week.
Dibella started the final table with 3.465 million chips of the ~32 million in play, and his early trend was slowly and steadily upwards. He was still hovering around the 5-million chip mark with seven players left when he found pocket aces and all-in action from David Bernstein. The latter had a dominated pair of , and the board gave Dibella a knockout and a chip boost up to about twice the count at which he started the day. He was in second place and nipping at the heels of Faraz Jaka by that point, but that would be his high pont over the course of the next few hours as he laddered through the eliminations.
Dibella had a three-bet-shoving stack for much of the middle stages of the day, but he finally caught a big break with four players left. It was Jaka who opened with a raise and , and Dibella shoved in with . No problem. The shone right in the window, a life-saving third of a kind. The board ended up reading , and that big Dibella double brought him to within striking distance of the chip leader, Kyle Julius.
Jaka did rebound from that crushing two-outer to re-take the chip lead a short while later, but Dibella wasn't done flopping sets just yet. In one of the biggest pots of the day, all three remaining players were dealt pocket pairs — Jaka had pocket sixes, Dibella pocket sevens, and Julius pocket aces! Jaka had the good sense to get out of the way after opening with a raise, and Julius flatted Dibella's three-bet to go heads-up to the flop. To make a long story short, all the money got in on the turn of an board, and Julius' aces could not overcome the full house. That monster gave Dibella the chip lead, and he would not relinquish that spot for the remainder of the night.
On the final hand, and facing a huge chip deficit, Kyle Julius bluff-shoved the river of a with the airball . It may have worked if not for the fact that Dibella rivered the flush with . Nine hours after he sat down to play with the big boys, the dream has come true for the elder statesman of the table, and his name has been etched into PCA history!
So then, we send our congratulations to the newest member of the PCA Winners' Club, Main Event Champion John Dibella! For his work this week, he'll take home $1.775 million and the priceless PCA Main Event trophy that now bears an inscription of his name.