It was one of the more compelling World Poker Tour final tables in recent memory. Two former World Poker Finals champions - including defending champ Nenad Medic - taking to the Foxwoods felt under the WPT mood lighting in simultaneous attempts to become the only player to win the same WPT event twice.
The end would come a few rounds later for the online phenom, who came over the top all-in for $1.3 million after a $225,000 Schulman raise and showed A♦ K♣ when called. The Takeover had K♠ J♥ and looked primed to double his young opponent up, but after the board came T♦ 7♣ 3♥ T♠ to fourth street, the J♠ on the river meant a three-outer for Schulman and a devastating defeat for durrr. The nosebleed-stakes cash game specialist takes home $324,444 to add to the coffers.
That left the two former champions facing a tall order in Mike Vela, who held a commanding lead as the triumvirate resumed play. At first Nenad Medic seemed content to watch his counterparts shoot it out, but the former college hoops star was forced to take action sooner or later and got his last $2.9 million all-in over the top of a $450,000 raise from Vela with A♦ 7♦ to his rival's A♥ J♠.
Consensus as the players waited for the flop was that Medic was a slight favorite in this "race" scenario given how well the former champ had been running as of late, but after the board came K♥ 9♠ 8♥ J♣ J♦, Vela had rivered trip jacks, more than enough to take down "Serb" and send him packing to the tune of a consolation prize worth $486,367.
As heads-up play began Mike Vela found himself in prime position to take down the tournament. He held $13 million in chips to rival Schulman's $4 million and even with his opponent's final-table experience, it was obvious that the advantage lay with the amateur (who, speaking of experience, had finished 13th in last year's World Poker Finals).
Schulman would clearly be forced to make some moves to survive, and when he looked down at pocket fives early in the heads-up match he quickly got all of his money in the middle, garnering a quick call from Vela, who held A♦ Q♠ and only had to win one race to take down the title.
As the crowd stood and roared, the final two players watched a monster flop come A♠ Q♥ J♠, decisively turning the tides in favor of Vela. Neither the turn nor river could provide Schulman with his two-outer, and after the board finished 7♣ 8♠ Mike Vela was champion, his victory marked by the roar of the crowd and the loud keening of a hysterical woman or small hyperactive dog somewhere in the crowd.
For the victory, Vela takes home $1,704,986, an entry into the $25,000 WPT World Championship in April, a WPT chip set, a trophy of some kind and one hopes a bag with which to transport his loot. He is also given the glory of an exclusive interview with PokerListings.com, while runner-up Schulman has to make do with $864,652, no interview, no loot and no bag with which to transport his loot.
Congratulations to both finalists, and to the organizers of the World Poker Finals for finalizing world poker in so competent a manner. See you next year!