Day 4 began with seven survivors returning to the TV table at 2 p.m. Irish Summer Time, after technical difficulties forced the premature suspension of play before the six finalists could be determined. Leading the pack was Canadian Sorel Mizzi, a top Internet pro ("Imper1ium") who had dominated the field for parts of Day 2 and virtually all of Day 3. Mizzi hit the felt with an Isaac Haxton-like lead, boasting a stack worth $2.8 million in chips that dwarfed all of his counterparts', none of whom could muster even a million.
But like Haxton in the Caribbean Poker Adventure earlier this year, and as at many final tables we've seen, the player with the most chips (and the most attention) coming into the last day did not walk away with the biggest check at the end.
In fact, Mizzi would not even be able to parlay that incredible advantage into any heads-up exposure, eventually hitting the bricks in third place for €210,000 in the official ledger (there were, however, rumors of a deal hammered out between the top four finishers, and with Mizzi still holding the chip lead at that point the odds are he made out substantially better than his official third-place payout).
At the other end of the spectrum as play began was Roland de Wolfe, who came into the day in the peculiar position, while being the most famous rounder still in contention, of also being the player with the shortest stack, weighing in at $365,000 for barely 13% of Mizzi's stack.
The Sheep, or, as the painfully inept tournament announcer preferred, "Ronald," immediately began to make a charge at improving his position, doubling-up within a few hands of the commencement of play with A♣ J♣ against Nicky "No Cards" Power's A♥ 9♦, and continuing to build momentum after winning a race with big slick against Mizzi's pocket treys.
De Wolfe's streak - and Mizzi's somewhat loose calls - would result in the Englishman rocketing to the top of the chip leaderboard, before sloughing off a bit of his stack as the field evened out somewhat. By the start of the first break, four players could boast million-dollar stacks, with Mizzi the chip leader with $1.26 million and de Wolfe right behind with $1.25 million. It had been a slow first couple of levels, with little action save for de Wolfe's periodic charges and a number of pre-flop all-ins that never amounted to any showdowns.
After the break, however, Thomas Finneran found himself providing a little more action than he would have liked, open-shoving from under the gun with a suited ace-trey and running into de Wolfe's pocket aces. Finneran couldn't find hearts or the wheel and so hit the showers early with a seventh-place finish worth €75,000.
Following Finneran to the rail after the TV re-draw (and one of the Open's trademark long breaks) were Nicky Power (ducks against de Wolfe's A-4), Brian O'Keefe (Q-9 to Marty Smyth's A-5), and Danny McHugh (A-9 to de Wolfe's pocket fives), setting up three-handed play between Mizzi, de Wolfe and Smyth, the last of whom had really done very little to distinguish himself on Day 4, but who would soon start to make a lot of noise.
Almost immediately following McHugh's bustification, Smyth got all the chips in the middle with de Wolfe, showing A♠ T♠ to the Sheep's pocket sixes. The flop sent a roar through the pro-Irish crowd, coming A♥ A♦ 4♣, and after the board finished out with running fives, Smyth had taken the largest pot of the tournament and assumed the chip lead.
After the abolition of the antes for the remaining rounds and another marathon break, the Open lost its last dregs of Canadian content as Sorel Mizzi doubled-up de Wolfe with sevens against K-Q ("Ronald" rivered the broadway straight) and then busted a few hands later when de Wolfe and Smyth both called his all-in and de Wolfe turned the nut flush with K♠ 5♠ and the A♠ on the board.
That was it for Mizzi, and heads-up play began with de Wolfe holding a $1 million lead on his lesser-known opponent. The men seemed chatty and relaxed as they got down to business, but that apparent looseness did not translate into their play at the table, as neither player seemed very eager to see a flop and both men were playing in a very reserved and tightened fashion.
After 50 hands, however, something seemed to snap in the two remaining contestants, and observers were treated to a roller-coaster ride that resembled nothing so much as a fistfight between two drunks, as both players threw their share of haymakers in a series of five climactic hands.
The action began with de Wolfe folding to a Marty Smyth bet of $800,000 on a K♦ J♦ 6♠ board, but that fold seemed to galvanize both men into action. A few hands later, both got their money into the middle with low pocket pairs, de Wolfe with pocket threes and Smyth, playing for his tournament life, with pocket deuces. Despite being in a very bad spot, Smyth once again brought a roar from the Irish crowd as he turned another duck to take a stranglehold on the affair.
De Wolfe wasn't done, though, and both men got all-in again very quickly, this time with A-8 for Smyth and A-8 (hearts) for de Wolfe. All signs pointed to a chopped pot, but a heart on the flop gave de Wolfe a marginal advantage, and the 6♥ on the turn made things even more interesting. The river brought groans from the Irish and cheers from the English as it brought the Q♥, doubling-up de Wolfe and keeping the tournament alive.
But the rough ride wasn't over for de Wolfe. After organizers raised the blinds to a dizzying $150,000/$300,000, both men got all-in pre-flop again, with Smyth holding the advantage with Q♣ J♦ to de Wolfe's J♣ 4♦. The board could bring no more miracles, and after neither player hit much of anything on flop, turn or river, the Englishman was forced to ship most of his stack across the felt.
One hand later, the tournament was over. De Wolfe shoved for the last vestiges of his stack and showed T♥ 3♥ to Smyth's K♥ 9♥, and after the board brought both players a flush, coming A♥ 8♠ 6♥ 8♦ 2♦, Smyth had ended the affair, pulling in the last of his rival's stack to take home a tidy trophy, €650,000 and the honor of knowing his name would be immortalized on PokerListings.com.
Thus concludes Phase 2 of the PokerListings.com European Invasion, and though we'll be turning our attention back to the other side of the Atlantic for the time being, you can still catch our trademark comprehensive coverage, bad puns and all, from the WPT World Championship in Las Vegas starting Apr. 21. Take a week off to recover, and we'll see you in Sin City!