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Stars shine at Florida poker championship

By Craig Bradshaw

Jason Mercier, Ryan Riess and Daniel Weinman were the stars of a riveting week in Florida as they each won an event at the WPT Hard Rock Poker Showdown. Tony Sinishtaj also furthered his own credentials by taking down the $3,500 event.

First, it was Mercier who made headlines, defeating fellow pro Justin Bonomo heads-up to win the $25,000 event. The large buy in ensured a high quality field numbering 116, with every player at the final table being a professional. Well known players such as Bryn Kenney and Olivier Busquet managed to cash in this event, finishing 7th and 5th respectively, with Juston Bonomo and Jason Mercier being joined by Loni Harwood in the final three players.

Despite Bonomo and Mercier providing illustrious company for Loni Harwood, she certainly brought tournament pedigree to the table, having three World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit victories and a WSOP bracelet to her name. Had things unfolded a little differently, she could also have added this title to her collection, but her challenge was ended by a crazy hand in which Jason Mercier hit one of two cards left in the deck to eliminate her. Once he had gained the upper hand, Mercier never looked back, slowly grinding Bonomo down before eliminating him. Hometown hero and five-time WSOP bracelet winner Jason Mercier took home the trophy, along with $794,600 in prize money.

The $3,500 event belonged to Tony Sinishtaj, although it could easily have gone the way of enigmatic young pro Daniel Colman. Colman burst onto the poker scene in 2015 by winning the Big One for One Drop, netting the 1st prize of $15.3 million, only to then refuse to smile for photos or do any interviews. Colman was among the final four players in $3,500 event, and played a huge pot against Sinishtaj where he made the right call and was a strong favourite to win the pot, only for his opponent to get extremely fortunate to end Colman’s tournament and take the chip-lead. Sinishtaj went on to win the event, taking home $661,283 as he bested the field of 1,207 players.

The $10,000 event saw the big stars of the poker world shine once more, as 2012 WSOP Main Event champion Ryan Riess added a WPT title to his world champion’s crown. Riess ovrcame a field of 349 players to get his name on the WPT trophy for the first time. He won $716,088 for his 1st place finish.

The Hard Rock Poker Showdown was rounded off by the special $15,000 invitational event – the Tournament of Champions. Only those with their name on the trophy could participate, and sponsors ensured that a car and a $100,000 bonus cash were added to the prize pool. The event saw a total of 66 players buy in.

For quite some time it seemed that fan favourites Michael Mizrachi and Erik Seidel could take the top prize. Three-time WSOP bracelet winner Michael Mizrachi built up a strong chip stack at the end of the second day, and eight-time WSOP bracelet winner Erik Seidel was an ever present threat throughout the event.

Seidel would eventually fall in 5th place for $73,575 while Mizrachi was one of the final two players standing, facing off against Daniel Weinman for the title. In the early stages of heads-up play it appeared that Mizrachi had the measure of his opponent, and had soon overturned the chip defecit he began with, drawing almost level in the chip counts. Then came an ourageous bluff from Weinman, in which he forced Mizrachi to fold a flush before showing him he had been bluffed. The match was over moments later when Weinman’s ace-eight managed to spike an eight on the turn to outdraw the pocket fives of Mizrachi, who had moved his remaining chips in pre-flop. Mizrachi took home $218,000 for his runner-up finish, while Weinman claimed the $381,500 1st prize.

The World Poker Tour now moves on to Beijing, where the next festival will take place between 18 and 19 April.

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