If you ever needed evidence to support your theory that poker is a combination of both luck and skill, then you need look no further than the final chapters of the World Poker Tour (WPT) stop in Baden, Austria.
Until a few days ago, nobody had heard of the name Vladimir Bozinovic, and yet this morning that name is splattered across the headlines of every poker magazine on the Internet. On Day Four the Serbian used skill, guile and just plain natural aggression to flatten opponents like an uncontrollable steamroller. On the final table that same man was covered in magical luck dust from the Poker Gods, as he came from behind on three separate occasions, to eliminate the final three-players and be crowned a WPT Champion.
The €3,300 WPT Main Event (re-entry) event attracted 254-players; not bad for an event that coincided with the WPT L.A. Poker Classic on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean (an event that dragged in 517-players), and was also a last minute switch from its original venue at the Montesino Casino in Vienna. It seems that live tournament poker may be dragging itself from the premature deathbed where it lay during the declining attendances of 2012?
The first day saw Finland’s Kimmo Kurko finishing Day 1A with the chip lead. Kurko would take that momentum all the way to the final table for a fourth place finish worth $81,034, proving the importance of generating a big stack early doors. On the flip side you also saw how easy it is to have a big stack dismantled in front of your very eyes, after the Day 1B chip leader Senadin Cosic evaporated in the first few levels of Day Two.
Day Two belonged to the PartyPoker Team Pro Bodo Sbrzesny. The German was suffering from a cold, but was buoyed by the determination to avenge his third place finish at WPT Prague back in December. Sbrzesny entered that final table with all of the experience, and the chip lead, but had to settle for third place. But alas, Sbrzesny would eventually tumble out in 11th place.
Then the intimidating Serb grabbed this event by the scruff of its neck. Bozinovic bulldozed his way through the competition, and at one point on Day Four it seemed like he was running away with the title. Despite his lack of experience, Bozinovic was proving that winning pots was the best tonic for growing confidence. He shone, he stared, he subjugated and we saluted.
When the final table of six was put under the microscope there was one man who stood out amongst the rest. Marvin Rettenmaier was attempting the seemingly impossible. The Global Poker Index (GPI) 2012 European Player of the Year was attempting to become the first person to win three WPT Main Events in one year after his successes at the WPT Championships and WPT Merit Cyprus Classic. Bozinovic may have had the chips, but the man christened ‘The Mad One’ had all of the experience and the fire of a heater raging in the stove of his belly.
The first player eliminated at the final table was the PartyPoker online qualifier Grzegorz Wyraz, once again solid proof of the value that can be extracted from the online satellite programme. Wyraz was the shortest stack at the table and he ran his pocket fives into the pocket sixes of the Austrian Oswin Ziegelbecker to finish in sixth place for $47,820.
The WPT Champions Club member, Marvin Rettenmaier, was then ejected in fifth. The dreams of a triple success trampled on by Kimmo Kurko when he moved all-in holding [Kh] [Qs] only to be called by the dominating [Ac] [Qc] in the hand of the Flying Fin – Rettenmaier ever graceful in his defeat and with $59,496 in his back pocket.
Then came the turn of lady luck to shine brightly onto the life of Bozinovic, and the glare was deadly – three players all turning into dust within an hour of play. In the first instance he turned a Flying Fin into a Frying Fin as the [Ks] [9c] found the [Kh] on the flop to send Kurko and his [Ah] [Js] out of the competition in fourth for $81,034. The luck continued with the elimination of the young Austrian Ziegelbecker. It was [As] [Kh] for the Austrian, and [Ac] [Tc] for the Serbian, this time the [Ts] on the turn doing the damage. Ziegelbecker was out in third for $111,587.
So Bozinovic took the chip lead in the heads-up encounter against the sturdy Dutchman Paul Berende. But that lead was overturned in the first hand of heads up play, the seasoned veteran taking the chip lead, before coming within one card of being the next WPT Champion. With the cards on their backs and Berende in the dominating position of AQ v QJ it seemed for the entire world that Berende would be our champion. But the run down of [Ts] [9d] [2h] [5c] [8h] handed Bozinovic a straight, the larger majority of chips, the confidence and all of the momentum. It was all over just a few orbits later, (A9 v A8), but Berende was as graceful in defeat as I have ever seen. The man smiled and shook his opponents hand when the final hand had played out. Berende taking second place for $172,695 and a whole night of dreaming about what might have been.
So congratulations to Vladimir Bozinovic, who takes $271,258 for his win, a $25,000 seat at the WPT Championships at the Bellagio and a place in the coveted WPT Champions Club.