Giovanni Canali Wins UKIPT Series At First Attempt

UKIPTmini_London_May2015_MickeyMay_66514-thumb-450x300-263544Giovanni Canali, an Italian MD working in telecommunications has become the latest UK and Ireland Poker Tour Series champion in his first ever appearance on the tour. He saw off tough final table competition from the likes of UKIPT regular Dahe Liu, two PokerStars qualifiers – Lee Hanlon and Kevin Belvedere – and of course his resilient heads up opponent Otto Castle, on the way to winning the trophy and £12,820 first prize.

The second UKIPT Series of Season 5 has run from the 29th-31st May, attracting 250 total entrants from 30 countries into the £250 + £25 event at The Hippodrome Casino.

Two starting flights had left just 61 players in contention for a share of the £60,625 prizepool on Day 2, and today’s action continued unabated as chips flew between the big stacks.

A pivotal early hand saw Day 1a’s overnight chip leader Jerome O’Shea battle Day 1b’s leader Jonathan Bridges for a 700,000 chip pot. Preflop war was declared between Bridges (with A-K) and O’Shea, whose well-timed aces saw him recapture a comfortable chip lead which he held through the bubble period and on to the final table, while Bridges had to settle for 26th place and £595.

The bubble burst when sole surviving PokerStars LIVE! at The Hippodrome Casino-sponsored player Mike Lee found his stack so short that it was do or die with 2-3 offsuit. Unfortunately for him, it was the latter and the 31 remaining players had locked up at least £535 for their efforts over the weekend.

As usual at the UKIPT Series, the level following the bubble saw a swift fall in player numbers, and the final table was set in just over three hours, with the 9th place finish of Sandra “Jaz” Reid (£1,310).

The final table line-up:

Seat 1: Otto Castle, United Kingdom – 709,000
Seat 2: Jerome O’Shea, United Kingdom – 572,000
Seat 3: Dahe Liu, China – 1,014,000
Seat 4: Kevin Belvedere, Italy (PokerStars Qualifier) – 534,000
Seat 5: Giovanni Canali, Italy – 659,000
Seat 6: Ryan Reece, United Kingdom – 241,000
Seat 7: Alexis Savvides, Cyprus – 748,000
Seat 8: Lee Hanlon, United Kingdom – 481,000

Final table action was unpredictable. From the initial spot of poor luck for physics student Kevin Belvedere (his pocket eights failing to eliminate Ryan Reece who’d shoved with K-5 suited), to the cracking of Canali’s aces by Lee Hanlon with pocket fours, the chips moved where the deck told them. Belvedere finished 8th for £1,580, while semi-pro (but new to the live game) Hanlon wasn’t far off (6th for £2,960).

Between them finished Jerome O’Shea, possibly a little disappointed after that dominating Day 1a and early chip boost. Sales coordinator O’Shea originally took up poker as a smoking-cessation aid, but has added £2,165 to his $70,000 in live winnings here at The Hippodrome Casino.

As play became short-handed, London-based Cypriot Alexis Savvides became a thorn in the side of the remaining contenders. In taking the last of O’Shea’s stack, he took the chip lead from Liu and left the start-of-final leader in dire shape after making the most of a highly disguised two-pair.

Liu busted in 4th place (£4,940), after first seeing off short-stacked Ryan Reece in 5th (£3,900), his cash one of several on the UKIPT in the last few years. Reece, on the other hand, is another recent convert to live tournaments, playing his first UKIPT Series this weekend to profitable effect.

Three-handed, the chip lead had switched yet again, this time to Canali, who was to maintain it to the end. Savvides fell to the now-dominant Italian, with a trademark giggle and bit of table chat. He asked Canali if he had anything, was told, “Huge – I never lie,” and then moved in with pocket sevens only to find himself up against tens. These held, and Savvides had to content himself with 3rd place and £6,090.

Heads up, Canali held more than a 3:1 chip lead, although it took him most of a level to finally get Castle all-in. Canali wasn’t ahead when it happened, though, his suited J-9 taking on Castle’s dominating A-9 of spades. A jack on the flop spelled the end of Castle’s run (he picked up the runner-up prize of £8,630) and handed the win, and £12,820 to his opponent.

Canali had taken his bad and good luck with equanimity throughout, saying “I’m easy going – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. They are called flip-coins for a reason.”

“I’m ecstatic, really happy,” he said of his win. “It hasn’t sunk in yet – I’ll struggle to sleep tonight!”

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