Alexey Rybin is the bwin sponsored World Poker Tour (WPT) Merit Cyprus Classic champion after beating the Lebanese player Albert Daher in a short heads-up match at the Merit Crystal Cove Hotel & Casino in Northern Cyprus.
Rybin became the first man since Kevin Saul, in 2008, to successfully win a WPT title after ending each subsequent day as the chip leader. Yet despite that feeling of dominance Rybin did not play his best poker at the final table, but always had the goods when it mattered most.
Perhaps, his rustiness was due to the five bottles of red wine his party consumed the night before? Or maybe he was a little distracted because he was supposed to be in Monte Carlo for an important business meeting.
“I should be there. These are important people and they are probably thinking I’m some sort of gambler,” Rybin told Jesse May in his post celebratory interview.
It wasn’t a particularly long final table. There was seven hours between the elimination of Pierre Sayegh and the shot of Rybin holding the trophy. Sayegh moving all-in with [Ac] [9c] and his compatriot Daher snapping him off with pocket sevens, to send the Lebanese player home in the first level.
Sergey Rybachenko was the next to go after a series of high profile spats with that man Daher. It was Rybachenko who drew first blood when he doubled up through Daher 66 v A9 in what seemed at the time to be a pretty loose call from Daher. Rybachenko didn’t care. When his sixes held up he was thrust into an excellent position.
That position would soon alter after he was forced to fold in a six-bet pot against Andrei Nikonov after putting a significant portion of his stack into the pot. Rybachenko was wounded and it was Daher that pounced. The big Russian was dismantled in two coolers – both against Daher. The first was KK v AK when Daher hit an ace on the river, and then Rybachenko moved in with pocket tens, and Daher woke up with pocket kings. In a blink of an eye Rybachenko was gone and Daher and Nikonov had surged to the top of the table.
So where was Rybin when all of this bashing up was going on? The Russian was saving it all for Kayhan Tugrul. The pair got it in with Rybin holding ace-king and Tugrul holding ace-ten. That hand crippled Tugrul and Rybin turned a set of treys when Tugrul was all-in with queen-jack to send the Turk out in fourth.
Nikonov and Daher were playing so well I doubt anybody thought Rybin would survive the three handed action, and yet survive he did. The Russian finding ace-queen, Nikonov finding ace-jack and five cards later Nikonov was out.
The heads up encounter swung on one crucial hand. The pot was already huge when Rybin moved all-in on a board of [Ad] [Kh] [Jh] [2d] to put Daher into the tank. After several minutes thought, Daher made the call and mucked his hand in frustration when Rybin showed him ace-king. Daher was down to just 315k and despite doubling up twice, was never going to recover. The final hand, saw the [As] [5h] of Rybin defeating the [Ks] [9c] of Daher when a juicy red ace landed on the flop.
During the post celebratory interview, Jesse May, asked Rybin how it felt to lead from start to finish? A question that was answered with a simple shrug of the shoulders.
A man of very few words, but plenty of action.