Giovanni Canali shows Italian flair to win UKIPT5 Series 2 London for £12,820
Giovanni Canali is the UKIPT5 Series 2 London champion, having defeated Otto Castle here at The Hippodrome Casino for £12,820.
It was an emotional ride for Canali, who began the day with a shortstack.
"I came in as a shortsack, but I always felt something better was round the corner, I had an inner peace," the Italian Telecoms Managing Director said following his victory.
The final day of the event began with 61 players hopeful of victory, though the swiftly augmenting blinds saw to it that this number was whittled down to a final eight in swift fashion.
There was always likely to be carnage at the felt with aggressive poker and regular confrontations meaning every player was forced to run the gauntlet of showdowns with great regularity.
Two men who had come into the day with high hopes of a deep run were Darren Murphy and Jonathan Bridges, two of the top three stacks overnight.
Murphy was to see his fortunes wane dramatically - falling prior to the cash spots whilst Bridges had a calamitous ace-king versus aces confrontation with fellow bigstack Jerome O'Shea in the middle stages - barely surviving before squeaking into the money and perishing soon after.
O'Shea however used that cooler to great effect, parlaying his fortune into a deep run to the final table.
The man no one wanted to be today was Mike Lee - reduced to a tiny stack he was forced to call his tournament life off on the bubble with 2-3 and this proved his final contribution - missing out on the cash spots by the slenderest of margins. The rail (composed primarily of interested parties) showed a combination of empathetic sympathy and self-congratulation as they secured a cash for themselves whilst recognising Lee's misery.
With the bubble burst, the relentless pace continued unabated - a slew of exits bringing about the final 8 players in the virtual blink of an eye.
Sandra Reid was the lady who ticked the box for the last standing female and the player who just missed out on the official final table.
Her elimination left the remaining 8 players lined up on the final table as follows:
Dahe Liu 1014000
Otto Castle 759000
Alexis Savvides 748000
Giovanni Canali 659000
Jerome O'Shea 572000
Kevin Belvedere 534000
Lee Hanlon 481000
Ryan Reece 241000
Given the incendiary pace of the rest of the day, it was somewhat surprising we had to wait nearly a full two levels before seeing the final table's first casualty - Kevin Belvedere suffering misfortune and poor timing to run a re-steal into Dahe Liu's pocket kings - £1,580 his reward for 8th.
Jerome O'Shea was next to go, another re-steal attempt going awry as he crashed out in 7th spot (£2,165.)
Lee Hanlon rode his luck on more than one occasion on the final - cracking Canali's pocket aces along the way. Finally, though, the dam of good fortune broke and he was submerged in 6th spot for £2,960 - Alexis Savvides doing the crucial damage.
Ryan Reece had played fast and loose with his stack - an approach that yielded great returns right up to his elimination. Liu again was the man who took his scalp - a bigger pair seeing off Reece's bold challenge in 5th spot (£3,900).
For a while Dahe Liu, formidably dressed in his white tiger jacket, looked the only man likely to win the title - his selectively aggressive approach keeping the other players off balance for the most part.
Savvides was the man most likely to stand up to Liu however and the Cypriot won several key confrontations before a now shortstacked Liu jammed pocket nines and lost out to Giovanni Canali's ace-ten. Liu will surely be back, given the qualities he showed here and £4,940 was his reward for those skills on this occasion.
Three-handed, Alexis Savvides was surprisingly the next to go - a cooler seeing him take an aggressive line with pocket sevens, only for Canali to pick him off with pocket tens.
A set on the flop for Canali consigned Savvides to 3rd place for £6,090 - an impressive run from the talented Cypriot.
The heads-up battle saw Canali take a 4-1 chip lead, Otto Castle struggling to find traction. Finally, thought it looked as though Canali may have made a misstep and Castle could make inroads into his lead.
Promising Castle action on the next hand, Canali called Castle's shove with J♥9♥ running into Castle's dominating A♠9♠.
Canali had said he was feeling it, however, and when he spiked a jack, that was the end of Castle's circumspect and profitable run in 2nd place for £8,630.
In the final anaylsis, it was Canali who was left grinning into the cameras with the trophy, having secured the victory.
"I'm ecstatic, really happy. It hasn't sunk in yet. I'll struggle to sleep tonight," he told the blog afterward.
When asked if his success here would act as a springboard for further UKIPT challenges, he explained he hoped so:
"I've got 2 teenage children who are full of activity so when I'm not being a taxi driver for them, I'd love to play some more."
Giovanni was really a model ambassador for the UKIPT Series, pleasant and genial at the felt and really humbled and happy at his win.
We hope to see him again in the future.
For now though, that was the end of this UKIPT Series event and though we are sad to go, the PokerStars Marbella festival is just round the corner from 15th-21st June, with the €1,000 + €100 main event running from the 17th-21st.
Poker in the sun - chip up and work on your tan - is there anything better than that?
We hope you'll join us there or at least follow developments on the blog. It will be a riot - don't miss out or you'll regret it!
To read updates from the final table, click here.
For the full payouts from the event, click here.
strong>PokerStars Blog reporting team at UKIPT5 Series 2 - London: Rod Stirzaker. Photos by Micky May.