Dario Minieri won his first World Series of Poker bracelet and $528,418 on Wednesday after his pocket queens held up to eliminate his final opponent in one of the wildest final tables of the 2008 WSOP.
The 23-year-old Italian pro, known as much for his aggression at the table as he is for the maroon and yellow AS Roma scarf that often hangs from his neck, now has over $1 million in tournament earnings in his young career.
Minieri began the final table of Event #31 ($2,500 No Limit Hold 'em/Six Handed) with the big stack and, true to his reputation, controlled the table by winning 21 of the first 50 pots, in which time Stuart Marshak, John O'Shea and WSOP bracelet owner Kevin Song were all eliminated. Minieri had opened up a massive chip lead when play reached three handed and it looked like the his two opponents, Seth Fischer and Justin Filtz, might be playing for second place.
Minieri continued to be aggressive and despite doubling up both of his opponents he still had a comfortable chip lead when the following hand took place. All three players saw a flop of Ac-2d-10d and Minieri came out betting. Fischer folded and Filtz took a few moments to think before moving all-in. Minieri quickly called and it was revealed that he was a dominant favorite with Qd-Jd to Filtz's 5d-3d. Minieri had the better flush draw, the higher the straight draw and the better hand when the money went in. Filtz needed to pair one of his hole cards or hit a non-diamond four for a straight. The turn was the 4h and Filtz's rail supporters went wild, even though Minieri had re-draws to a flush or a better a straight. The river was another non-diamond four and the crowd buzzed over what would be the first of several suck-outs of the day.
The gap in chips was closed by that hand and the three players were relatively close when the table broke for dinner. The next big pot came shorty after the break when Minieri moved all-in before the flop with pocket queens and Fischer called with A-J. Minieri's queens held up to win the biggest pot of the night and once again the baby-faced Italian had an authoritative chip lead. Minieri picked up queens again on the very next hand but his opponents got to see them for free after they gave him a walk in the big blind.
Shortly after Minieri's big double-up his chip lead was again diminished by a bad beat at the hands of Filtz. From the official WSOP coverage:
"Justin Filtz limps from the button, as does Dario Minieri from the small blind. Seth Fischer checks.
Minieri checks, Fischer checks, Filtz bets 85,000, Minieri raises to 240,000, Fischer folds. Filtz glances over at his opponent and chuckles as Minieri lifts his scarf over his face like a masked intruder. Filtz eventually decides to push all in and Minieri instantly calls, the long pause from Filtz probably suggesting that he had a genuinely tough decision.
Filtz = J-10
Minieri = Q-10
Turn = 5s
Minieri claps his hands. but are his celebrations premature?...
River = Jc
Gasps from the crowd as Filtz, showing his first signs of real emotion, leaps into the air in delight and heads off to celebrate with his following in the stands. Minieri, meanwhile, is left searching for the vomit bucket."
And the worst was still to come. With Minieri sitting on a slight lead and Filtz and Fischer tied almost to the chip, the two shorter stacks got involved in a pre-flop raising war that ended with all the chips in the middle. Fischer turned over A-K and was devastated to see Filtz's pocket aces. The flop came out 9-J-K and the crowd starting buzzing as Fischer had picked up a pair and vastly increased his chances of catching up to Filtz's aces. Another king landed on the turn and Fischer's railbirds exploded in cheers. The river did not bring the case ace and Filtz was eliminated in third place, ending his run to tie Steve Billirakis as the youngest person to win a WSOP bracelet in the US at 21 years and 11 days old.
The monster suck-out gave Fischer the lead going into heads-up play and the 25-year-old poker pro from Atlanta switched gears, holding his ground against the aggressive Minieri and winning several large pots.
Around 30 minutes into heads-up Fischer raised from the button with chip lead and Minieri moved all-in. Fischer called instantly and turned over pocket kings, while Minieri turned over 3-4 of spades, stood up and put on his coat, expecting the hand to be his last. The flop came 2-8-J with two spades, giving Minieri a flush draw and pulling the crowd to the edge of their seats. The turn was the four of diamonds, giving Minieri even more outs, and the river was another four, sending the pot to Minieri and creating pandemonium in the Milwaukees Best Light No Limit Lounge. Minieri fist pumped enthusiastically before joining his rail, which included some of Italy's best poker players - Max Pescatori, Cristiano Blanco, Robert Binelli and Luca Pagano.
Minieri picked up queens the next hand to increase his chip lead and the match was all over a few hands later when Fischer moved all-in pre-flop with K-10 and was called by Minieri, who once again held pocket queens. The ladies held and while Minieri's fans were going crazy in the stands the young Italian shook his opponents hand and went straight for the gold bracelet sitting in the middle of the table.
Fischer, attending his first WSOP, collected $330,519 for second while Minieri was awarded $528,418 and his first WSOP bracelet.
"[Winning a bracelet] is one of my dreams," Minieri said. "I'm very happy."
For results from Event #31 visit the WSOP results page.