Niall Farrell won his first bracelet and €745,287 in prize money for topping a field of 113 entries in Event #9: €25,000 No-Limit Hold'em High Roller at the World Series of Poker Europe.
It's the biggest cash in a wildly successful young career for "Firaldo," who now boasts over $4.4 million in live tournament winnings. It's also sweet redemption after two previous near misses.
"Feel fantastic," he said. "It’s so nice to finally get over the line especially after losing heads-up twice. Especially in a field like this, it’s pretty prestigious."
The Scotsman had previously finished runner-up to Sandeep Pulusani in Event #44: $3,000 No Limit Hold'em in 2013 and then to Safiya Umerova in Event #50: $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Shootout in 2016.
While both of those players certainly earned the pieces of WSOP gold they strapped around their wrists, neither would be mistaken for the players in the ultra-tough field Farrell fought through to win this one. Any high roller will typically bring out the big guns, but one set in Central Europe sits in particularly shark-infested waters.
Germany, which boasts arguably the world's strongest collection of players, sent a strong contingent and dominated Day 1. Ole Schemion, Claas Segebrecht and Stefan Schillhabel would all advance to the streamed final table.
France also showed out with Sylvain Loosli joining 2017 WSOP Main Event final tablists Antoine Saout and Benjamin Pollak.
Ryan Riess and Andrew Leathem rounded out the bunch.
Given the incredible level of competition, Farrell had to be at his best. He's been known to imbibe his share of beers at the felt, but he decided to keep the drinks on ice until celebration time.
"For the higher stuff you have to engage your brain," he said. "You don’t want to give these guys any more of an edge than they already have. I had to keep a clear mind for sure."
Farrell and the rest of the players had to do a different sort of thinking than the mental calculations they're used to running. While WSOP events are typical known for their slow, methodical structures that lead to deep stacks and plenty of play, this one featured 40-minute levels and none of the action timers that have become standard at high roller events.
That led to a unique dynamic with short stacks. Perhaps nobody had to adjust more than Farrell, who toted fewer than eight big blinds as the tournament headed to 200,000/400,000/50,000. He just seemed to time his shoves for when his outs were at the top of the deck, winning two key all-in pots with live cards against weak ace-highs and another one when he was on the other side.
"Poker players always think they’re the best player in the field, but to be honest I would say I’m in the top third, because it’s quite tough," he said. "A lot of it was just good fortune."
Farrell dispatched Segebrecht in third to get heads up with Pollak, who has been on a tear this year with third place in the WSOP Main Event and another third at a major final table accounting for over $4 million in cashes.
Farrell executed a daring three-barrel bluff for almost all of the chips when he missed a straight draw on a wet board and two bricks ran out. Pollak spent forever in the tank but couldn't find the call button with a pair of kings he hit on the river after twice calling with king-high on the ace-high board.
"He was in the tank for eight minutes," Farrell said of the sweat. "With the lights and everything. He’s a very strong player so once you get heads-up it was kind of like, 'Well, I hope I get ace-jack and he gets ace-nine!'"
Farrell proved he could win without the help of the deck in that pot, which he called "pivotal." However, almost that very scenario played out moments later when Pollak jammed ace-seven over Farrell's open and the Scotsman called with ace-jack and held.
Not only did Farrell claim WSOP gold for the first time, but he completed the live triple crown as he already counted EPT and WPT titles among his wins. Each one has a special place in Farrell's heart, so he refused to elevate one over the others, even one against competition he acknowledged to be so challenging.
"It's impossible to separate them all," he said. "I’m going to be diplomatic and say they’re all equal at the moment, but this one is freshest so I’m loving this one."
Reporting from Will Shillibier contributed to this story.
Official Final Table Results
|1||Niall Farrell||United Kingdom||€ 745,287|
|2||Benjamin Pollak||France||€ 460,622|
|3||Claas Segebrecht||Germany||€ 321,863|
|4||Ryan Riess||United States||€ 230,071|
|5||Sylvain Loosli||France||€ 168,323|
|6||Andrew Leathem||United Kingdom||€ 126,113|
|7||Stefan Schillhabel||Germany||€ 96,819|
|8||Antoine Saout||France||€ 76,209|