Kranich Salutes At Bellagio; Aussie John Caridad Fourth

Posted at 21:54 2010-07-16

While the majority of the world watched the World Series field being whittled down at the Rio, Australians were focussed across the road at the Bellagio. Not on the fountains out front, but on the felt inside where Sydney’s John “JCSydney” Caridad was contesting the final table of the WPT Bellagio Cup.

Caridad would enter the televised final table as the chip lead against a loaded field that will surely prove popular among the viewers when it goes to TV. The Sydneysider would be pitted against the player widely regarded as the best in contemporary poker – Phi Ivey. He would also have to face off with highly rated online player Justin “BoostedJ” Smith, who was making a second consecutive appearance on the Bellagio Cup final table and Moritz Kranich a regular on the European circuit with an impressive resume of success.

After seeing off the challenge of 347 other players just five men stood between Caridad and the first prize of $875,150.

The Seat Allocations and Chip Counts to begin the final table were as follows:

Seat 1: Phil Ivey - 1,595,000

Seat 2: Justin Smith - 2,100,000

Seat 3: Rob Akery - 1,980,000

Seat 4: Eric Afriat - 620,000

Seat 5: Moritz Kranich - 2,715,000

Seat 6: John Caridad - 5,120,000

With the blinds and antes reasonably high on the final table the eventual champion was going to have to ride some luck or at least fade some bad luck. Caridad would find himself on the wrong side of some early jousts with Ivey and on the back of his aggressive style the world’s number one player would join the Australian out in front of the pack in the early exchanges.

It would be 46 hands before the first player would depart the final table. In the end it would be Eric Afriat, who started the day with the shortest stack, to take home $118,950 for sixth place. With an {As} exposed on a dealer error, Afriat moved all in with {5c}{5d} and ran into Justin Smith’s {jh}{js}. He wouldn’t be able to catch any of his outs and became the first elimination. The hand would make it a three way battle for the chip lead between Smith, Ivey and Caridad.

Shortly after the elimination of Afriat, Ivey took the bull by the horns, eliminating Rob Akery in the process. Akery moved in with {Ah}{js} and found himself dominated by Ivey’s {Ad}{Qh}. The board blanked off to send Akery home with $169,930.

Four handed the battle raged between Ivey and Caridad, until Moritz Kranich gatecrashed the party, taking a chunk of Caridad’s stack with him. In the hand Caridad opened to 270,000 with Ivey and Kranich coming along from the button and big blind respectively. All three players checked the {Qs}{qh}{4h} flop, proceeding to the {js} turn. Kranich led 525,000 and Caridad called, with the {3c} hitting the river. This time Kranich fired 770,000 and after some Caridad made the call, only to muck upon seeing Kranich’s {ks}{qd} trip Queens. Kranich chipped up to 5.7 million chips sending Caridad back to three million in the process.

It would then be Phil Ivey’s turn to feast on Caridad’s stack, with the American opening under the gun to 300,000 and Caridad calling from the big blind. Caridad check-called a 400,000 chip continuation bet from Ivey on the {4h}{2h}{ts} flop, moving to the {2c} turn. Both players checked and the river was the {6d}. After Caridad checked again, Ivey went into the tank, after pondering his bet for almost a minute he led out 500,000 which Caridad called. Ivey showed {Ac}{6c} for a rivered two pair and Caridad mucked again and was now down to around two million chips.

The Aussie was far from finished though, as he manoeuvred all the way back from shortest stack to the chip lead again, accumulating around three million chips in the process and playing some great poker under the circumstances of the blind pressure.

In the end the only thing to stop Caridad’s charge would be bad luck. Mortiz Kranich had moved into push or fold mode, and had shoved for the second consecutive hand from under the gun with {ah}{9c}. Caridad whipped off the almost three million chip call in a dominating position tabling {As}{Qh}. The flop blanked, but the Australians in the televised crowd groaned with the turn {9d}. There would be no river miracle for Caridad who would have been in a winning position in the tournament had his hand been able to hold up.

Caridad went to work with the short stack, but it was in vain. He found himself all in with {js}{6d} against Justin Smith’s {Qh}{qs}. Again there was no luck for the Australian who hit the rail in fourth place for $237,902.

The next big action would see Ivey and Kranich face off for the chip lead in a do-or-die pot. It would be the marquee name of the final table that would come off second best leaving him in dire straits. Ivey limped up from the button and they took a flop of {Ac}{jc}{4h}.  Ivey would minimum bet the flop for 200,000 with Kranich check-calling. The turn card {Ad} paired the board and Ivey bet out 500,000 with a check-call again from Kranich. The {3d} river saw Kranich check-call 700,000 on a prayer showing down {qx}{jx} to have Ivey’s {jx}{9x} outkicked.

The last of Ivey’s chips went in with {Qs}{4c} and Justin Smith would play executioner with {kd}{8h}. Smith made two pair to set a heads up battle between himself and Moritz Kranich. Ivey would exit in third for $363,650.

Kranich would take in a chip lead of over two-to-one, but quickly increased this dominating the first eight hands of heads up before Smith dragged a pot. The theme continued for the next 40 minutes until the chips went in with Kranich on the brink of winning the title.

Kranich had {As}{4s} against the {kh}{th} of Smith and the flop came {8h}{7c}{2s}. The {6d} hit the turn and Kranich would only need to fade a handful of outs to take the championship. It wasn’t to be, the miracle {9c} found the river, gifting Smith with a runner-runner inside straight to get back to around 5.7 million chips to Kranich’s 8.3 million.

All the luck went Smith’s way as he found another double up with his {Ac}{3s} pairing up against Kranich’s {ad}{5h}. With the stacks relatively even, it was going to come down to who had the stones or luck on their side. Kranich proved he had both, running a huge bluff to re-gain a strangle-hold on the title. The pivotal pot opened with Kranich raising to 700,000 and Smith making the call. On a flop of {Ac}{qc}{4d} Kranich continuation bet 925,000 with Smith making the check-call. Both players checked off the {3d} turn and Kranich went on the front foot betting 1.5 million chips at the river {8h}. After tanking for an eternity Smith laid down, what was almost certainly the best hand, leaving Kranich to show the air-ball {7x}{6x} bluff. It will certainly be a high drama hand for Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten to comment on for the World Poker Tour episode.

After re-seizing the chip lead it would be Kranich’s turn to come-from-behind in a hand, this time for the win. With all of Smith’s chips in the middle preflop, he showed {jc}{jd} to Kranich’s {kh}{td}. A king would spike the turn, and with no river assistance for Smith, Kranich would take out the WPT Bellagio Cup VI title and the $875,150.

Justin Smith would need to console himself with $594,755, after yet another near miss. Last year it was a third place finish, this year second place, next year he’ll obviously be hoping to go one better again, and move up to the top spot.

The final table positions and pay outs were as follows:
1st Moritz Kranich - $875,150
2nd Justin Smith - $594,755
3rd Phil Ivey - $363,650
4th John Caridad - $237,902
5th Rob Akery - $169,930
6th Eric Afriat - $118,950

With Matthew Pearson’s run at the World Series coming to an end today as well, Aussie attention will be on former Melbournian Tony Dunst, as he continues as one of just 78 players left in the world’s biggest annual tournament.


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WPT Bellagio Cup VI Champion Moritz Kranich WPT Bellagio Cup VI Champion Moritz Kranich

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