In what was one of the most dominant performances in a major tournament ever, Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi made history at the 2012 World Series of Poker on Thursday night in becoming the first man to ever win the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship twice.
The eight men who came back for action on Thursday had waded through 108 of the best players in the game for this shot at the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy, the WSOP bracelet and a payday of $1,451,527. At the start of the final day of play, Mizrachi was atop the leaderboard with his 3.648 million in chips but right behind him was 2012 WSOP bracelet winner Andy Bloch (himself a runner-up in this tournament to the late Memorial Trophy namesake in 2006, the first year it was held) with 3.598 million. Other contenders included a strong contingent from Europe in Stephen Chidwick, Luke ‘FullFlush’ Schwartz and Bruno Fitoussi, along with two time WSOP bracelet winner Bill Chen, Roland Israelashvili and Chris Klodnicki.
When the players came to the felt at 2PM Thursday afternoon, it seemed as if only one of them had shown up to actually play. Continuing the same pounding style that he had employed since the start of the tournament, Mizrachi was able to drop two players from the tournament before the railbirds had even set up post in the ESPN “Mothership”.
In No Limit Hold’em, Fitoussi pushed in his final 170K in chips and found some action in Chen, who made the call. What he wasn’t counting on was Mizrachi, in the big blind, putting what appeared to be a squeeze play on so early in the contest. “The Grinder” popped it to 400K and action was back to Chen. Undaunted, Chen moved in his remaining million (or so) chips and Mizrachi called.
What many thought was a squeeze play was actually a hand for Mizrachi (the pros get them sometimes, too!). His pocket Aces were dominant over Chen’s Big Slick and Fitoussi’s 8-7 of clubs and the K-5-5 flop did nothing to change the lead, although Chen now needed a second King on the board for a boat. Just to provide a bit more excitement, an eight came on the turn to offer Fitoussi a glimmer of hope for the triple up. The four of hearts on the river ended any dreaming, however, giving Mizrachi the double knockout of Fitoussi and Chen in eighth and seventh places, respectively.
“The Grinder” kept his foot to the gas as the game moved on to Seven Card Stud and, this time, he would abuse the two British players on the felt, Chidwick and Schwartz.
After some frenetic betting on every street, Mizrachi put out a 100K bet with 3-J-4-9 (three diamonds) as his up cards, representing the flush. Schwartz wasn’t convinced of this with his J-8-10-8 up cards and heaped some abuse on Mizrachi as he deliberated. “It’s a joke that he (Mizrachi) makes every final table,” Schwartz, living up to his bad reputation, griped. For his part, Mizrachi was passionless. “I promise it’ll only hurt for a second,” he needled Schwartz and apparently that was enough to draw the call. Mizrachi tabled his 4-4-10 down cards for trip fours and an angry Schwartz hurled his cards into the muck.
All wasn’t wine and roses for Mizrachi through the entire event, however. After about three hours of play, Klodnicki had actually been able to climb up to take over the lead from Mizrachi by winning a hand of Razz against him and Bloch when they were the only players remaining. He would extend that lead by chipping again at Mizrachi in Razz, but Pot Limit Omaha would put Mizrachi back in the lead for good.
After a Mizrachi raise, a family pot developed as the flop came down K-Q-2. From the blinds, Klodnicki and Bloch checked their options and Mizrachi fired again for 200K. Klodnicki exited the fray, but Bloch wanted more and made the call. Another deuce on the turn brought a check call from Bloch of 350K and the ten on the river opened up the floodgates. Bloch fired 500K this time, only to see Mizrachi pop it to 2.5 million. After a call from Bloch, Mizrachi once again tabled a hand, K-K-9-7, for a full house and the win (Bloch was coolered with his Q-Q-8-5 for second best boat).
Mizrachi would dispatch of Bloch in third place during Limit Hold’em and enter the heads up fight with Klodnicki holding almost a 2:1 lead. Although he would fight for nearly an hour, Klodnicki could never close the gap between he and Mizrachi while “The Grinder” seemed to have the deck hit him in the face. The final hand of the night would be in Omaha Hi/Lo, where anything can happen and it did.
On that penultimate hand (and after chopping Klodnicki down to only 540K in chips), Klodnicki held a slight edge with his A-J-9-2 over Mizrachi’s Q-J-9-8. The flop and turn – as it seemingly had all night – went Mizrachi’s way, coming down 10-10-7-6 to give Mizrachi a straight and leaving Klodnicki drawing at a spade flush to take the hand or an eight to split the pot. Instead, a way-too-late Ace came on the river, ending the tournament and making Michael Mizrachi a two-time champion of the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship at a rapid, five hour final table.
1. Michael Mizrachi (Miramar, FL), $1,451,527
2. Chris Klodnicki (Philadelphia, PA), $896,935
3. Andy Bloch (Las Vegas, NV), $561,738
4. Luke Schwartz (London, the United Kingdom), $406,736
5. Roland Israelashvili (Forest Hills, NY), $317,882
6. Stephen Chadwick (Deal, the United Kingdom), $253,497
7. Bill Chen (Lafayette Hill, PA), $205,856
8. Bruno Fitoussi (Sceaux, France), $169,879
The victory by Mizrachi solidifies him as one of the best players in the game today and arguably in the history of poker. In winning his third ever WSOP bracelet – as well as his second $50K championship, to go along with his two World Poker Tour victories – Mizrachi pushed his career earnings in tournament poker to over $14 million (to be exact,$14,069,764, according to the Hendon Mob database), placing him in the fourth slot in this category behind only Erik Seidel, Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu and ahead of Phil Hellmuth (all men who either are or will be in the Poker Hall of Fame). In addition, the first place prize for the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship will probably be the largest first place check for a non-special tournament outside of the Championship Event in 2012 (the “Big One For One Drop” will probably offer at least a $10 million first place prize, but it is a special, one-time event).