When Marty Smyth was a child his father
would beat him out of his pocket money in poker, then give it back
in hopes of teaching him a lesson.
Smyth evidently did learn
something about poker, although it probably wasn't the lesson his father had
in mind. The now 32-year-old went on to drop out of college to play poker and has never worked a job since.
Smyth has a career
tournament record that boasts nearly $1.8 million in winnings,
including a first place finish in the 2007 Irish Open, yet in his four
years at the World Series of Poker had never cashed until this year when he placed
39th in Event #19 ($1,500 Pot Limit Omaha).
But on Tuesday night the Belfast-based poker player claimed his richest and most coveted prize to date, beating a pro-heavy 381 player field in Event #50 ($10,000 Pot Limit Omaha World Championship) to claim his first WSOP bracelet and $859,532.
Smyth arrived in 4th place at a final table led by Michael Mizrachi, two-time World Poker Tour champion whose brother Robert claimed the top prize in this very same event in 2007. Robert, who was in the stands to cheer for his brother, lent his bracelet to Michael and it sat atop his chip stack throughout the final table.
Whether it was for good luck or motivation, it seemed to work as Mizrachi busted Greg Hurst, Brandon Moran, Tom Hanlon and Kido Pham in the early stages of the final table.
Mizrachi's first major setback came when Smyth got his money in with a straight flush draw with a pair and hit a trips on the river to double through Mizrachi. The pot brought Smyth up to 1.4 million chips and not longer after he doubled through Mizrachi again when he turned two pair against Mizrachi's worse two pair.
The final table broke for dinner with Smyth firmly in the lead, followed by Mizrachi, Australian Billy Argyros, Peter Jetten and Richard Harroch.
Harroch, a venture capitalist and co-author of 'Poker for Dummies', was eliminated by Smyth a few hands after play resumed and Argyros headed to the rail shortly after at the hands of Mizrachi.
The table was down to three players: Smyth, Mizrachi and Jetten, who had come into the final table as one of the shorter stacks but small-balled his way up the ladder without once risking his tournament life.
"[Jetten] seemed to be playing the best poker at the final table," Smyth later said. "He was the one guy I didn't want to be left heads-up with."
But that's how it turned out, as Jetten eliminated Mizrachi after the two got all-in before the flop, Mizrachi's A-K-5-3 double-suited trailing Jetten's A-A-Q-8 with one suit. Mizrachi paired his five on the flop, but the rest of the board ran out dry and Jetten won the pot with a pair of aces, eliminating Mizrachi in third place and ending his bid to defend his brother's championship title.
Jetten, a 23-year-old poker pro from Toronto, is considered by many to be a Pot Limit Omaha specialist and was playing with the added motivation of trying to one-up the accomplishment of his best friend, Max Greenwood, who last week won his first bracelet and $693,392 in Event #44 ($1,000 No Limit Hold 'em w/rebuys).
Jetten and Smyth both had a huge crowd of supporters cheering them on and the two sides traded chants back and forth as Smyth began the match with the slight chip lead.
"Even when I got heads-up with the chip lead, if I was a betting man I still probably would have bet on Peter." Smyth said. "I thought Peter maybe had an edge over me, so I wanted to get plenty of money in before the flop and start gambling."
Jetten took the chip lead within the first few hands of heads-up action before Smyth, true to his word, decided to gamble. From the official WSOP updates:
"Marty Smyth has the button in Seat 8. He makes it 240,000 to go. Peter Jetten pauses for thirty seconds, then reraises pot to 720,000. Smyth makes the call inside of twenty seconds. A huge pot is brewing. The flop is 6s-9d-Kh. Peter Jetten comes out swinging, betting pot - 1,440,000. Smyth is in the tank. His elbows are on the rail, hands in front of his mouth. He just puffed out his cheeks as he let out a big sigh. He seems to be stuck with a decision he doesn't want to make in a big pot. After a minute in the tank, Smyth moves all in. Jetten wastes no time in calling. Is this it?
Incredibly, nobody has a pair. Smyth has a full wrap draw, Jetten not much of anything. The turn comes to fill Smyth's wrap and make him a straight. "You'll never beat the Irish" chants break out from Smyth's cheering section before the river comes down. Jetten needs a jack, and doesn't get it when the river falls. Smyth will double up and take a commanding chip lead."
The pot knocked Jetten down to more than a 2:1 deficit but the young Canadian battled back and regained the chip lead with a huge bluff in which he forced Smyth to fold top two pair on a A-9-10-J board. After Smyth mucked A-10 face-up, Jetten showed Q-J-7-6.
"I just thought he had to have me beat," Smyth said. "If I had lost the tournament because of that it would have taken me a long time to get over."
Smyth drew the chip count back to even and the final hand took place when both players flopped the nuts on a Qc-9h-10c board. Both had K-J for the straight, but Smyth had a club redraw and was freerolling for the bracelet. As Smyth's supporters chanted for a club, Jetten's side chanted "red, red, red," and the noise at the ESPN final table was as overwhelming as it's been at the 2008 WSOP. The turn was the seven of diamonds and Jetten's fans roared with approval. Then, with Smyth standing with his back to the table, the river came the six of clubs, giving Smyth the flush and the World Championship.
Smyth's fans exploded in applause and Smyth shot a quick glance at the board before raising his arms in the air in triumph.
The two players shook hands and shared a few words before Jetten walked to the rail to join Greenwood and the rest of his supporters. Jetten receives $528,257 for his runner-up finish.
Smyth had a light-hearted interview with ESPN's Norman Chad before WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack officially presented the World Championship bracelet. Smyth thanked his friends and cheering squad for being there to support him and ended with "let's go to the bar."
Full payouts from Event #50 are available at the WSOP results page.