Josh Hart wins UKIPT Isle of Man and £57,484
The Villa Marina today hosted the final of the UKIPT Isle of Man, and it was to prove a feisty, aggressive affair - eight talented players tearing chunks out of each other in their brutal scrap for the title.
24-year old English poker pro Josh Hart was the man to emerge as the final victor, collecting £57,484 and the coveted Isle of Man UKIPT trophy as his reward - a victory that must have tasted especially sweet given the sterling opposition standing in his path.
"It feels pretty good," the focused young player told us as he posed for photos with his glistening trophy.
It was to be no smooth path to glory for Hart however. Coming into the day second in chips, many had tipped previous 2013 UKIPT Marbella champion Ludovic Geilich to surpass his rivals and pick up a second UKIPT title.
His best laid plans fell afoul of variance however - a shocking turn of events seeing the form book turned on its head as Geilich crashed out first to surprise his many fans. His eight place finish came courtesy of a bad beat - Geilich's intimidating style enticing German Marc Radgen to four-bet shove with ace-ten, only to be picked off with pocket jacks.
However, with Radgen's tournament future hanging in the balance, the young German made a serendipitous full house to grievously injure Geilich who perished soon afterward when Hart polished off the rest of his chips. £8,000 and the exit door beckoned for him, but he'll be back to entertain with his all-guns-blazing style sooner rather than later.
Thomas Ward has more UKIPT cashes on his resume than most players have Hendon Mob flags, making a record 12th cash here on Isle of Man. The shortest stack coming into the day however, Ward never found traction and was given his marching orders by Fintan Gavin - the Irishman finding a dominating ace to send Ward homeward with £11,120 in his pocket for seventh place.
Czech player Josef Snejberg had come into the day with a commanding chip lead, but he too found variance was not to be his friend today. Holding aces, he was happy to commit all his chips when Hart check-raised him heads-up, only to find he had flopped two pair. No redemption for Snejberg, he can take solace in his impressive run - sixth place and £14,900 the tangible prizes for his accomplished display of poker.
Marc Radgen and fellow final tablist Hart were actually roommates on this trip but there was to be no softplaying between the roomies, Hart constantly applying pressure on the German with three-bets.
Finally a shortstacked Radgen made a move to chip up only to frustratingly run into a bigger ace - Isle of Man local David Hill picking up a big hand at the right time to eliminate the German in 5th place for £19,300.
Hill was doing an impressive job of laddering up the money spots against the more celebrated players doing battle at the felt, and when he picked off Fintan Gavin's super-aggressive airball bluff holding just top pair, you could see the confidence begin to course through his veins.
Gavin would never recover from this near-fatal confrontation, becoming yet another victim of Hart as he departed to thunderous applause in 4th place for £24,400.
Three-handed, Hart experienced his first real downswing, losing several important pots and finding himself the shortest stack. Fortune was to smile on him once more however, winning a key flip to vault David Hill in the chip counts, before spiking a set against the same man to end hopes of a local champion - Hill finishing up 3rd for £30,200.
That left Englishman Hart battling Irishman Heaney for UKIPT glory, and once a deal had been struck to flatten the structure, they went at it tooth and nail. Heaney was the man who controlled the early exchanges, Hart flirting perilously with elimination as he dropped to one million chips.
The mercurial nature of the final table however had one more twist in it as Hart recovered to storm to a dominating chip lead, before applying the finishing touches to Heaney's campaign with A♥3♥ versus Heaney's K♥J♦, leaving the Irishman to collect £50,216 for his laudable second place finish. The pair shook hands and we had our champion!
It was Josh Hart's day and he collects £57,484 and the iconic PokerStars trophy for winning the UKIPT Isle of Man. A young pro with a bright future, he will be a man to watch out for over the coming years.
"It's great to have the support from everyone," he said of his boisterous friends on the rail.
"My strategy coming into the final was to let players like Geilich and Gavin play some splashy poker and hopefully lose some chips whilst I just wanted to play solid poker."
"Really I ran pretty good," he admitted honestly.
It's been a wonderful tournament here in Douglas, run with great aplomb by the tournament staff and dealers - and we thank the people of the Isle of Man for their generous hospitality.
Some unforgettable memories have been created, but the show must go on and the next stage on the tour is just round the corner - UKIPT London starting 8th October. Who knows, next time it could be you smiling into the lights once the tournament has run its course.
To rewind some of the key moments from the last week, click here to visit PokerStars TV.
Thanks for following our coverage and we hope to see you in London. For now though goodbye and best of luck at the tables.
Photos by Danny Maxwell.