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The European contingent were out in full force to see Italian pro Dario Minieri take down event #32, the $2,500 No Limit Hold’em Six Handed tournament. The diminutive Roman is well known for his hyper-agressive style, as well as the for the maroon and yellow AC Roma (his hometown soccer team) scarf he wears at the tables.

The chances of Dario capturing his first ever bracelet seemed good all tournament. He finished second in chips after Day 1 and went from strength to strength during Day 2, taking to the chip lead into the final table. Although he has cashed in the last two WSOP main events, and reached an EPT final table, this was his first ever final table (or cash) in a WSOP preliminary event. Dario also became only the second Italian to ever win a World Series bracelet, despite only being the second Italian to win a bracelet this week – fellow countryman Max Pescatori picking up his second in the $2,500 Pot Limit Omaha event.

The action in this 6-handed tournament began at pace, and did not let up for all of day one. Starting with a respectable 1,012 players, the field slimmed down to only 73 by the end of Day 1. Such a high player turnover meant that the bubble was burst before the first day had concluded. The unlucky bubble boy this time around was Robert Williamson III – getting all-in on the flop with pocket Kings only to discover that he was way behind against a set of 9’s. The final table bubble was filled by charismatic poker pro Scotty Nguyen. The 1998 main event champ was attempting to with his first bracelet for 7 years, but fell short thanks to Seth Fischer’s rivered flush.

The final table was, in general, lacking in World Series experience. Of the final six combatants only Kevin Song had ever been to a WSOP final table before, having won a bracelet 11 years ago. Final table chip counts where:

Seat 1: Kevin Song (Rowland Heights, California) — 1,173,000
Seat 2: Justin Filtz (Stevens Point, Wisconsin) — 891,000
Seat 3: Dario Minieri (Rome, Italy) — 1,721,000
Seat 4: Stuart Marshak (Chicago, Illinois) — 183,000
Seat 5: John O’Shea (Dublin, Ireland) — 589,000
Seat 6: Seth Fischer (Palm Harbor, Florida) — 508,000

The short stack on the table was, by some margin, Stuart Marshak, and he needed only 10 hands before pushing all-in. Kevin Song opened with a raise, with Justin Filtz and Dario Minieri calling. Marshak pushed over the top and Filtz re-raised to isolate. Filtz flipped over K-K to put him way ahead of Marshak’s Q-J. The flop delivered a Q for Marshak but no more help was forthcoming and he was eliminated in 6th place.

Fans on the rail would have to wait only nine hands before the next elimination. John O’Shea found himself well behind after check raising with 2-4 on a board of A-2-5 with two spades. Fischer made the call with the A-9 of spades, holding not only top pair but the nut flush draw. And Ace on the turn and a Queen on the river sealed O’Shea’s fate and brought the final table down to 4.

Following O’Shea’s departure the play tightened up significantly, and it was not until the 50th hand that some meaningful action took place. Song opened the pre-flop play with a raise, with Minieri re-raising behind him. Song moved all his chips across the line and, after some thought, Minieri called. Song’s KJ was a slight dog to Minieri’s A8 but totally missing the board meant that he was the 3rd player to be eliminated from the final table.

By now Minieri had built up a commanding chip lead, however it was by no means plain sailing from there. A raft of double ups and suckouts made for one of the most exciting final three’s seen so far at the 2008 WSOP.

The first of these came when Filtz called from the small blind and Minieri raised behind, with Filtz making the call. The flop came Q-10-2, on which Filtz promptly check-raised all-in. Minieri didn’t think twice about making the call but found himself needing some help, his A-K behind to Filtz’s K-10 middle pair. A 9 and K on the turn and river secured the double up for Filtz.

Minieri mounted a recovery by winning the next five hands, however it was not long before he doubled up Seth Fischer. The two were all-in preflop ,with Fischer’s K-J holding up against the Italians A-K. Despite these setbacks Minieri had somehow still managed to hold on to the chip lead and it must have seemed as though his luck had finally turned after all three players saw an Ac-10d-2d flop, and Filtz moved all in with 3d-5d. Minieri gleefully tabled Qd-Jd, leaving Filtz with very few outs. However lady luck was not done with him Minieri yet, as Filtz proceeded to hit a 4 to make his gutshot. Minieri then battled back again to take the chiplead, the decisive hand being when his Q-Q triumphed over Fischers’ A-J.

By this point Filtz and Fischer had very similar stacks, and they both ended up all-in pre-flop on the 164th hand. Filtz must have felt confident of a double up when he flipped A-A, with his opponent only holding A-K. A flopped King gave Fischer hope and, sure enough, another King hit the turn to send Filtz to the rail in third place.

Fischer had had Filtz covered by a mere 10,000 chips and, as a result of eliminating him, now had a sizable chip lead. Dario Minieri, however, is clearly not one to give up when behind, making yet another fight back to regain the advantage. Perhaps re-paying him for his bad beat against Filtz earlier on the final table, Minieri and Fischer were all in pre-flop with 3s-4s and K-K respectively. Minieri was left with a number of flush outs on the 2d-8s-Js flop, but it was an unexpected duo of 4’s on the turn and river that allowed him to take down the pot with trips.

Seven hands later it was all over.  Both players committed everything pre-flop, Fischer holding K-10 whilst Minieri showed Q-Q. For the second time in the night the ladies held up for Mineri who was delighted to recieve his very first WSOP bracelet saying: “[Winning a bracelet] is one of my dreams,” Minieri said. “I’m very happy.”

Final table payouts were:

1. Dario Minieri $528,418
2. Seth Fischer $330,519
3. Justin Filtz $214,139
4. Kevin Song $141,983
5. John O’Shea $98,923
6. Stuart Marshak $73,784