Home favourite Miha Travnik might have started Day 4 in second place at the Slovenian stop on the World Poker Tour (WPT) Season X calendar, but he left the Grand Casino Portorož as the winner – and richer by $144,399 (£88,520/€100,148).
Travnik was in a distant second place, behind Sweden’s Johannes Korsar, at the start of the final day of the €3,000+€300 (£2,645/$4,252+£264.50/$425.20) main event, but eventually had to overcome Vincenzo Natale in a heads-up battle that left the Italian with $99,481 (£60,983/€68,989) for his runner-up spot.
Travnik outlasted 140 other players to take the title, as well as a buy-in to the WPT Championship at The Bellagio in Las Vegas valued at €25,000 (£22,057/$35,463), but only had to better eight others on the final day of the second stop on the WPT schedule following May’s WPT Spanish Championship in Barcelona.
The fourth day began with a nine-strong unofficial final table, but this was quickly reduced to eight when Austrian Manuel Blaschke, in early position, pushed his jacks into the queens of Travnik, who was on the button. Blaschke left in ninth place with $20,544 (£12,605/€14,294) for his troubles.
Just half-an-hour later and shorts stacks Johan Patrik Hirvonen and Hugh Cohen were out in eighth and seventh place respectively.
Finland’s Hirvonen seemed to enjoy a gamble, but was made to pay after three-betting all-in for about 280,000 when the action had folded around to Travnik in the cut-off and he had raised to 40,000.
The action then folded back to Travnik, who quickly called to show 10♥ 10♦ against Hirvonen’s As-Js. It was a coinflip, but the board showed 6♦ 3♥ 8♥ 7♠ Q♦ and Hirvonen was out in eighth for $23,090 (£14,168/€16,066).
Australian Cohen had been the short stack all day, before moving all-in with A♥ 10♥ to find a caller in Natale, who showed K♠ 10♣.
The flop fell K♥ 8♥ K♦ to give Natale trip kings, although Cohen still had outs to the nut flush. But the turn came the 2c and the river was the Q♣, so Cohen was eliminated in sixth for $27,030 (£16,586/€18,806).
Cohen’s exit left us with the official six-player final table – and it was Italian Marcello Marigliano who exited first when his Ac-10h failed to improve against Korsar’s J♣ J♥ on a board that showed Q♣ 8♥ 4♦ 3♣ 6♣. Marigliano left with a rather handy $32,926 (£20,202/€22,909) in sixth place.
Thirty minutes on and we were down to four survivors when Gaetano Fortugno’s A♥ J♣ failed to best Travnik’s A♦ K♣. The board showed 9♥ 10♦ K♠ 5♥ 2♣ and the Italian was gone in fifth place for $40,524 (£24,862/€28,191).
Ferdi Ciorabai, of Romania, struggled throughout the final day. However, he at long last picked up a good hand in pocket 10s to move all-in for his last eight big blinds and was called by Natale, who held Q-8 offsuit.
But Ciorabai had no luck as the flop came Q-8-Q to give the Italian a full house and send the Romanian out in fourth place for $51,077 (£31,337/€35,539).
Three-handed play pretty much became the Korsar-Natale show as they clashed in several pots.
However, Natale eventually picked up a huge pot against Korsar to leave the Swede crippled. With the board showing 4♥ 4♣ 2♦ Q♦ 3♥, Natale moved all-in to be snap-called by Korsar. The Italian showed 4♦ 3♦ for a full house to easily beat Korsar’s 6♦ 5♥ for a straight.
Korsar couldn’t recover from that slap in the face and was watching from the sidelines about 60 minutes later, when his 4d-4s were out-flopped by the K♣ J♣ of Natale.
The flop showed 3♥ K♦ 2♣ to put Natale well ahead. The turn came Q♣ to leave Korsar drawing to only one out. The river was the 9d and the Swede was gone in third for $68,244 (£41,836/€47,323).
We were now heads-up, with Natale holding 3,105,000 chips to Travnik’s 1,204,000. However, the next two hours saw the chip lead swing one way then the other on numerous occasions.
But that all changed when the Italian became frustrated as Travnik kept picking up small pots.
Natale four-bet all-in when holding just 9♦ 8♦ and was quickly called by the Slovenian with J♥ J♦. The board showed 2♠ 2♣ 6♠ 3♥ 8♥ to give Travik a huge chip lead of 3,950,000 to 350,000.
Natale was obviously on tilt now – and all Travnik had to do was bide his time as the Italian constantly made all-in bets.
That is exactly what transpired when Natale pushed his stack in once more with K♣ 8♦ to be snap-called by Travnik, who showed A♣ J♦.
The board ran 7♦ J♣ 5♦ 2♦ 10♦ to give the home favourite two aces and Natale was out in second place for $99,481 (£60,983/€68,989) as the Slovenian celebrated his triumph.
The next WPT stop is the Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, California, from August 25-30, with a $3,500+$200 (£2,145/€2,437+£123/€139) main event and $3,700 (£2,268/€2,576) Re-entry on Day 1B.
However, the next European stop arrives with the WPT Grand Prix de Paris on September 5-10.
Final placings and payouts from the WPT Slovenia 2011
1. Miha Travnik (Slovenia) – $144,399 (£88,520/€100,148)
2. Vincenzo Natale (Italy) – $99,481 (£60,983/€68,989)
3. Johannes Korsar (Sweden) – $68,244 (£41,836/€47,323)
4. Ferdi Ciorabai (Romania) – $51,077 (£31,337/€35,539)
5. Gaetano Fortugno (Italy) – $40,524 (£24,862/€28,191)
6. Marcello Marigliano (Italy) – $32,926 (£20,202/€22,909)
7. Hugh Cohen (Australia) – $27,030 (£16,586/€18,806)
8. Johan Patrik Hirvonen (Finland) – $23,090 (£14,168/€16,066)
9. Manuel Blaschke (Austria) – $20,544 (£12,605/€14,294)
10. Ionut Florin Pandilica (Romania) – $17,307 (£10,695/€12,150)
11. Ilya Nikiforov (Russia) – $15,900 (£9,825/€11,166)
12. Valetin Stroiescu (Romania) – $13,930 (£8,607/€9,782)
13. Dan Hila (Romania) – $12,242 (£7,565/€8,597)
14. Thomas Macdonald (UK) – $10,553 (£6,520/€7,411)