For the third time in five years, the World Poker Tour (WPT) Venice Grand Prix title remains in Italy, after Rocco Palumbo defeated fellow countryman Marcello Montagner in heads-up action at the Casino di Venezia.
Rocco Palumbo is on course to complete the coveted Triple Crown after adding a WPT title to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet that he won this summer. No doubt the state of the Italian economy had much to do with the much smaller field at this years Venice Grand Prix. Only 173-players ponied up the €3,000+€300 buy-in to take their seat in a casino that has been opening its doors since 1963.
Palumbo first grabbed our attention back on Day Two when he tangled with the American Steve Behm. The both of them were having fun with pots going one way and then the next, before Behm decided to raise the stakes. It was a board of [Kh] [Jd] [9h], in a single raised pot, that Behm moved all-in for 150,000 after Palumbo had bet just 5,500. The Italian was cruising at the time and had no need to get involved, but there is something about these top players that just makes them want to go with their gut instincts. Palumbo chose to go with his, made the call, and got it horribly wrong and ended up in the lower strata of the chip counts. And yet Palumbo picked himself back up, brushed off the dust and fought his way back to take down the title and €140,000 in prize money, after three more days where he went with his gut and got more right than he got wrong.
When the final table was set, Palumbo was one of the favorites because he was also one of the most experienced. But Palumbo’s experience pales into insignificance when you compare it to that of Mike Sexton. The Poker Hall of Famer, and institution of the WPT, swapped the commentary booth for a seat at the final table where he finished a very respectable third for €69,723. Sexton finding the door after moving all-in on a board of [Jc] [7s] [6c] [As] holding [Jh] [9h], only to be called by Marcello Montagner holding [Ac] [7d] for two-pair. The river bricked for Sexton and just to prove that he is every bit as professional as he looks, he shook off his disappointment and jumped into the commentary booth for the heads-up analysis.
Palumbo headed into the heads-up encounter with the chip advantage and the match-up only lasted 20-minutes before the cameras started flashing. Palumbo raised on the button before calling a Montagner three-bet. The flop was [Jd] [Ts] [8c] and Montagner bet 180,000, Palumbo raised to 480,000 and Montagner made the call. The turn was the [4d], Montagner open shoved and Palumbo snap called. Palumbo held [Jc] [8s] for two pair and Montagner held [9c] [9h] for the pair and the open ender. The river was the [3s] and the Palumbo rail was in exultation.