Michael Rocco has been coming to the World Series of Poker to play Seven Card Stud for more than a decade without much success, but on Friday night that changed when the 48-year-old poker pro won his first gold bracelet and $135,753.
Rocco came into the final day of Event #35 ($1,500 Seven Card Stud) with the chip lead, followed very closely by Al "Sugar Bear" Barbieri, professional poker player and protégé of three time WSOP bracelet winner John Bonetti.
The two pros were considerably ahead of the rest of the field and made short work of all their opponents but one, 27-year-old banker/loan officer Leo Torosyan. The young Los Angeles resident played three handed with the pros for nearly two hours, proving that his Seven Stud cashes at the '06 and '07 WSOP were no fluke. Torosyan was eventually eliminated in third place when he lost two consecutive pots to Rocco and after a short dinner break the final two returned to the table to decide who would leave with the gold bracelet.
The heads-up match lasted two hours and Rocco steadily chipped away at Barbieri's stack until he had almost a 3 to 1 lead. Barbieri decided to take a stand showing 9d-Ac-7s-9h and bet every street until the river. Rocco, showing 4c-7c-Jc-2s called all the way down and in the end raised, showing a winning seven-high-straight. The next hand it was over when the two got all-in on third street and Rocco rivered a pair of kings to beat Barbieri's threes. Barbieri was eliminated in 2nd place, good for $83,210.
Rocco wins his first WSOP bracelet and the $135,753 first place prize. Rocco had been very animated and emotional while playing the final table and he was no different when the bracelet was finally around his wrist.
"It was really exciting to win this tournament, to finally get a bracelet at the World Series of Poker," Rocco said. "I'm so excited . . . it's one of the best days of my life, other than having my little boy."
An emotional Rocco dedicated the win to his 5-year-old son Oliver, who was on a plane from Denver to Las Vegas when his father clinched the bracelet.
Rocco has been playing Seven Card Stud professionally since the 1980's and said that the popularity of Hold 'em has taken such a hold of the poker world that the Las Vegas resident now has to travel to California to find good Stud games. Rocco won his tournament entry through a live satellite at the Rio.
For full payouts from Event #35 see the WSOP results page.