Michael Rocco wins marathon poker event to claim career best score

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
Michael Rocco wins marathon poker event to claim career best score

After a marathon 16 hours of play, Michael Rocco has been crowned the winner of the inaugural Wynn Winter Classic $5,300 buy-in Championship event.

The biggest buy-in tournament held at the venue in more than five years eclipsed its $1.5 million guarantee as 557 entrants created a prize pool in excess of $2.7 million.

Poker News reports that the win for the 30-year-old Rocco saw him beat 2018 World Series of Poker third place getter Michael Dryer in heads up play to win $540,800.

It was Rocco’s long awaited signature win and a new career high score, passing his previous best of $423,400 for finishing third at the 2014 World Poker Tour Los Angeles Poker Classic.

He also finished third in the 2017 PCA $25,000 High Roller for $409,020.

“I feel very tired and very good at the same time. It was a long day,” Rocco said after the win.

“I’ve never won a big tournament. My three biggest scores prior to this were third place. So I’ve always gotten down there but never been able to close it down. Now I feel like I’m in a pretty good place compared to where I’ve been before.”

Rocco credits a recent trip to Africa in helping hone his game.

“I’ve tried to relearn how to play poker better. I was studying every day for 8-10 hours, which I’d never done before. I was playing bad for a really long time and I just didn’t realise it. After spending the time and learning new things, I feel like I have a different approach to playing.”

He continued: “There’s so much work to do if I want to be where the best players are. I still have so many leaks compared to them. If I want to play at the highest level, I have to keep working every single day…Now, moving forward, I need to work way harder. If I want to play the high rollers, which I do, I just have to try as hard as I can.”

31 players whittled down to just two

Day three action saw 31 players return to the tables and it didn’t take long for the play to heat up.

Falling on their way to the final table were PCA champ Galen Hall, Ankush Mandavia, Kahle Burns, Shannon Shorr, two-time bracelet winner Barry Shulman, Justin Bonomo, Ryan Leng, Daniel Strelitz and Matt Glantz.

Josh Bergman was the first to fall at the final hurdle after running pocket tens into Matt Yorra’s aces, and then the short-stacked Adam Hendrix followed him out the door after his king-five went down to Joe Kuether’s king-deuce after a deuce appeared on the flop.

During three-handed play, Dyer doubled through Ben Farrell ace-jack to ace-seven, and then the latter lost the rest of it to the former a short time later busting with queen-four to ace-eight suited.

That set up a heads-up match in which Rocco held 17.675 million to Dyer’s 10.2 million.

Dyer got short, managed a double, and then the final hand developed.

Rocco had flopped two pair and jammed big on the river.

Dyer had nut no-pair with ace-queen and opted to call it off only to see his run come to an end in second place for $353,242.

The Wynn will host its next series – Wynn Signature Series – from January 15 to February 2.

The festival guarantees more than $1.3 million in prize pools.

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