Moroccan Mohamed Ali Houssam outlasted players such as Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier and Jonathan Duhamel to claim the top prize for winning the World Poker Tour (WPT) Marrakech main event.
The fourth and final day at Casino De Marrakech Hivernage saw Houssam emerge victorious in the €2700+€300 (approximately $3,576/£2,308+$397/£256) buy-in main event after seeing off fellow home player Toufik Ourini to secure a cheque for €199,825.
Having seen off 273 other players, Houssam also earned a seat for the $25,000 WPT World Championship at The Bellagio in Las Vegas next May.
Last year’s main event entry was set at €5,000, but the drop of €2,000 did the trick in attracting an increased field to easily top the 222 who signed up in 2010.
Houssam stayed in contention throughout the four days, leading the 149 survivors from Day 1 and, with just 50 remaining after Day 2, he was still close to the top of the leaderboard.
Team PokerStars pro Grospellier and last year’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event champ Duhamel, meanwhile, were also still in with a great chance of victory after ending the second day inside the top five behind chip leader Ian Marmion, of Ireland.
The field was further reduced on Saturday to leave just nine players with Houssam back on top at 1.33 million chips, to be followed by Canadian Duhamel (1,126,000), Hassan Fares (1,110,000) and Ourini (1,054,000). Arnaud Mattern and Triple Crown winner Grospellier were also still in touch with over 900,000 chips each.
Mattern took over the lead early on Day 4 as fellow Frenchman Sebastien Ta was eliminated in ninth for €23,178, while London-based Grospellier – as the only former WPT champ from his Al Lago Classic win in 2008 for $1,411,015 – crashed out in eighth for €25,400, and Duhamel hit the rail in seventh for €27,975 from his first WPT main event cash.
That gave us the official final table of six, with Maxsims Martinovs having taken the chip lead from Mattern.
The Latvian pushed further ahead of his five opponents when securing a good-sized pot against Houssam, although the Moroccan did regain some chips soon after when beating Rodney Assous to a pot.
Small blind Houssam opened before the Frenchman shoved all-in when holding A♥ K♠. Houssam showed J♥ J♦ when calling and had eliminated Assous in sixth place for €34,192 when the board showed 10-high.
Another Frenchman, Hassan Fares, was out in fifth spot for €42,185 not long after when his fives were beaten by the K♦ 10♥ of Ourini, who paired up when a 10 arrived on the turn.
The action was really hotting up now, and Houssam grabbed another huge pot as he doubed-up through Martinovs when his A♠ A♦ beat the Latvian’s 9♦ 9♣.
However, Mattern was struggling as the short stack and went all-in against Martinovs.
The third Frenchman at the final table showed A♠ 8♦ to face Martinovs’ 7♣ 7♠. A flop of K♠ J♠ 10♠ arrived to provide Mattern with many possibilities. However, the 5d on the turn and K♦ on the river could not save him and Mattern was out in fourth place for €57,727
Now down to just three players, Houssam was again the short stack, but doubled-up twice – once each against Martinovs and Ourini – to take the lead chip.
It wasn’t long before heads-up play began when an enthralling hand saw Martinovs hit the rail in third place for €88,811.
The Latvian, on the button, opened and small blind Ourini big blind and Houssam called. The flop showed 6♠ 5♣ 3♠ and Ourini led out with a 300,000 – or about two-thirds of the pot. Houssam quickly folded, but Martinovs went all-in with his remaining 950,000 chips.
Ourini considered his options for some time before making the call with just two overcards in J♥ 9♣. Martinovs, on the other hand, held 6♣ 3♣ for two pair and looked sure to double-up.
However, the 5♠ on the turn paired the board and the 9♥ on the river supplied Ourini with a better two pair to eliminate Martinovs.
The battle of the Moroccans began with Ourini just 114,000 chips ahead of Houssam on 4,167,000.
The former increased his lead for a short while, but Houssam moved over three million ahead when he found a 10 on the river to give him trips.
Strangely, for such an exciting final table, the last hand started of quietly as Houssam limped in from the button and Ourini checked.
There was still no sign of either player going wild as both checked a K♣ 8♦ 3♠ flop. However, when the Q♦ arrived on the turn, all that changed as Ourini led out with 370,000.
But Houssam made it 800,000 to go, only for Ourini to push all-in. Houssam called and showed 8♣ 8♠ for trip eights, while Ourini held K♠ J♥ for top pair.
Ourini needed something big on the river, but the 6♥ was not it – and Houssam was champion.
Ourini played a hard and skilful game, but could not quite cope with Houssam’s aggression and had to be satisfied with €137,657 as runner-up.
WPT Marrakech Top 10 Placings and Payouts
1. Mohamed Ali Houssam (Morocco) – €199,825 ($267,362/£171,630)
2. Toufik Ourini (Morocco) – €137,657 ($184,226/£118,201)
3. Maxsims Martinovs (Latvia) – €88,811 ($118,856/£76,252)
4. Arnaud Mattern (France) – €57,727 ($77,247/£49,564)
5. Hassan Fares (France) – €42,185 ($56,449/£36,229)
6. Rodney Assous (France) – €34,192 ($45,752/£29,364)
7. Jonathan Duhamel (Canada) – €27,975 ($37,433/£24,024)
8. Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier (France) – €25,400 ($33,990/£21,812)
9. Sebastien Ta (France) – €23,178 ($31,016/£19,908)
10. Said El Yousfi (Morocco) – $24,911 ($33,333/£21,393)