The final table began stacked with big names and after the dust had settled it was the biggest of them all who would emerge victorious. Gus Hansen, the Great Dane, played a superb game and despite being on the losing end of a few bad beats, was able to finish the job and take down this tournament.
Jimmy Fricke, runner-up and relative newcomer to the live tournament scene, put on quite a show at the final table and to the astonishment of spectators and players alike, had pros Gus Hansen and Andy Black on the ropes when it got down to three-handed play.
It's often contested whether luck or skill plays the bigger role in large-field tournaments but fortunately for Jimmy Fricke, he had both on his side here today. Making up for all the suck-outs that enabled him to survive to make it to the final table, Fricke was relentless and played the big stack like a seasoned veteran.
Honing his chops in the online arena, Fricke has burst onto the live scene with a solid cash at the WPT Season 5 PokerStars.com Caribbean Adventure earlier this month and a second place finish here tonight. It's not often you see pros like Andy Black and Gus Hansen being out-played, but that is the only way to describe what happened when it got down to three-handed play - the fact that Fricke is just 19 years old only makes it all the more impressive.
Showing down very few hands, Fricke's pre- and post-flop game was close to impeccable. Not only extremely aggressive, Jimmy was able to make insightful reads and smelled out a number of bluffs from his much more experienced opponents.
In the end though, it was his aggression that would be his undoing. When it got down to heads-up play Gus had his number. Prone to pushing all-in almost exclusively on draws, Hansen picked him apart during the one-on-one match.
There's no question that Fricke had luck working for him throughout this event, and in no hand was this fact more apparent than the one which by all rights should have ended the tournament.
After a flop of J♦ T♦ T♥ Fricke check-raised Hansen all-in, and with the chip lead, Gus had a tough decision to make. Having seen Fricke make similar moves all day, it was obvious that the Dane was skeptical about the strength of Jimmy's hand. Talking himself through the action, Gus attempted to understand the all-in check-raise he was faced with.
"This might be the worst call ever", exclaimed Gus as he did just that, turning over A♥ K♥ for nothing but ace-high and an inside straight draw. When he saw Fricke's K♦ Q♣ though his suspicions were confirmed; he had made a great read and was way ahead.
Jimmy was drawing thin and needed a nine to make a straight and stay alive in the match. The turn was a ten which actually helped Fricke by giving him a few more outs for the boat but unbelievably the river was the 9♣, completing Fricke's straight and giving him the chip lead once again.
The frustration was apparent on Gus Hansen's face but it seemed like his confidence was boosted as well. Fricke had clearly gotten lucky to survive and Hansen had made an amazing read to get a chance at ending the event.
After battling back and quickly regaining the chip lead, Hansen soon found himself faced with another all-in move from Fricke. Fortunately for Gus, this decision wasn't quite as hard to make as the last. On a flop of Q♦ 8♦ 6♣ Jimmy again check-raised Hansen all-in.
Gus took all of one second to make the call and turned over a hand he had obviously been itching to play - pocket aces! Similarly to the last all-in, Jimmy had pushed with a draw - this time 7♣ 9♣ for an open-ended straight draw. The turn was the 2♣ which gave him a flush draw to add to his list of outs but the river was a harmless nine and the tournament was over.
Gus Hansen takes down yet another major title and the $1.5 million prize that goes with it. As if Gus's reputation wasn't concrete enough, he was able to outlast 747 entrants as well as a tough final table to become the 2007 Aussie Millions Champion.
This past week has been a pleasure here in Melbourne and plans for next year's event are already underway. Truly one of the premier stops on the international poker circuit, the Crown Casino has done everything in its power to make this a first-class experience for everyone involved. Congratulating Gus Hansen as well as all of the players who cashed in this event, this is Matt Showell.