Raffaele Sorrentino, a 37-year-old professional poker player from Catanzaro in Italy, has lived the life of the travelling pro over the past few years. His permanent residence is officially Malta but he lives primarily out of a suitcase, like many hundreds of others on the circuit. Last week, for instance, he was in Mexico.
But at around 9pm this evening, Sorrentino was parked in Monte Carlo and claiming the biggest title of his career: the Main Event of the PokerStars Championship presented by Monte-Carlo Casino®, worth €466,714.
He didn’t go so far to claim he deserved it, but he said, “I flew 12 hours for this moment.”
Sorrentino said that all he was thinking about as he jetted across the world to play cards was being the last one standing at the end of this PokerStars Championship Main Event. “I’m really happy,” he added. “It’s just a dream come true.”
In many ways, it was a dream final for Sorrentino. Coming to the last six, he had the third biggest stack, but seemed uniquely blessed with the abilities to use it. He was by far the most active player in a tetchy final and won every significant pot. None was more relevant than when he found pocket aces at the same time as Andreas Klatt found pocket queens and every chip in the room was in the pot. (Relive all the blow-by-blow action on the live updates page.)
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By this point, we already knew it would take something special to defeat Klatt. This 30-year-old German player was on the brink of pulling off arguably the greatest single-week achievement in European poker history. Klatt entered the €1,000 National Championship at the start of the festival and four days later lifted the winner’s trophy. He beat a field of 1,252 players to do it.
After that, he hopped into the €5,300 Main Event and got all the way to heads up, beating all but one of the 727 in this field. But then he came up against Sorrentino and Klatt’s unbeatable eight-day run came to a halt.
They had struck a heads-up deal, though, so Klatt gets €402,786.
The final day’s play began at 1pm in the Salle des Etoiles with Michael Kolkowicz narrowly leading a tightly-bunched pack. Only Diego Zeiter, the outright short stack, was in any real peril, but soon Kolkowicz began to dominate leaving Zeiter even further behind.
Zeiter, a dual Argentina/Switerland national, tried to make a stand when he found A♦J♠, but true to form at that time, Kolkowicz had him covered with A♠Q♦ and Zeiter was quickly left with zilch. Not that that’s actually true, of course. He got €108,300 for sixth place, but running out of chips in a tournament of this size leaves a hole that no money can immediately fill. (Hand history.)
It’s a feeling that everybody over there on the payouts page knows too well.
The deep stages of this tournament had been characterised by their stop-start nature and, following Zeiter’s elimination, we went deep into a period of slowdown. It took another three-and-a-half hours before another player was knocked out, but arguably that was the precise period during which the tournament was won.
Sorrentino did what all champions do very effectively: he picked his spots. He also picked his opponent and turned his specific attentions to the man sitting to his left, Kolkowicz.
As Sorrentino surged past 10 million, Kolkowicz slipped down the charts. The two motions were very closely related as Sorrentino picked up almost all of his chips from Kolkowicz.
Kolkowicz then badly mis-timed a move designed to put a stop to the Sorrentino momentum, jamming with only 6♠2♥. Sorrentino made a good call with A♣5♣ and our overnight leader hit the rail in fifth. (Hand history.)
The tournament shallowed as the levels slipped by and Sorrentino’s surge meant that he had the lion’s and the tiger’s share of chips. Nobody else was safe. Maxim Panyak quickly learned how true that was.
Panyak, who had earned more than $1 million in live poker tournaments, clearly knows when to be patient and when to put his foot down, and he correctly deduced that he was probably good to jam with A♥10♥ after Sorrentino opened with K♠J♠.
But Sorrentino was priced in and hit a king and that sent Panyak out in fourth. He won €199,900, which one expects he’ll look to re-invest in Sochi later in the month. (Hand history.)
With Panyak’s elimination, chances of a first Russian champion on the PokerStars Championship circuit were cut in two. Only Andrey Bondar now carried the Hammer & Sickle in this event–and he quickly followed his countryman out the door.
Bondar had made some incredibly tight folds at the final table, apparently hoping to get a big hand to hold up. But he ended up flopping top pair with J♣8♣ and watching in despair as Sorrentino turned two pair to knock him out. (Hand history.)
Just like that, the last two Russians departed and this tournament resembled a World Cup of soccer. It was Italy vs Germany for the title.
While Sorrentino had been all-action at the final, Klatt had played an exceptionally measured game. He had laddered his short stack expertly as he tried to pull off that ridiculous double.
His next coup was to negotiate a heads-up deal with Sorrentino, despite a three-to-one chip deficit, and locked up at least €402,786. They left €15,000 to play for on the side and headed to dinner, job very well done.
When they returned, they rolled with a few punches and felt each other out. There was every chance it could have been a long heads-up battle, given the evident abilities of both of them.
But poker throws up coolers every now and then, and this was one of the chilliest. Aces versus queens heads up and the money is always going to go in. (Hand history.)
This time it was Sorrentino with the best hand and now the trophy. He joins Salvatore Bonavena and Antonio Buonnano as Italian winners at the most prestigious PokerStars events in Europe–and he is the first European to win a Main Event since the inception of the PokerStars Championships.
We’ll all be heading to Sochi next. Join us there.
|1||Raffaele Sorrentino||Italy||PokerStars qualifier||€466,714*|
|2||Andreas Klatt||Germany||PokerStars qualifers||€402,786*|
|3||Andrey Bondar||Russia||Live satellite winner||€271,500|
|4||Maxim Panyak||Russia||PokerStars qualifier||€199,900|
|6||Diego Zeiter||Argentina||PokerStars player||€108,300|
*denotes heads-up deal