Del Vecchio Wins MGM Grand Challenge

May 22, 2012, Chris  

By Todd Lamansky

The MGM Grand continued its foray into the tournament game by hosting the second installment of its Grand Challenge Series (April 19-May 6) in Las Vegas. With the help of famed tournament director Matt Savage, poker room manager Rob Moore made a number of improvements to the inaugural series.

“Our first series in October of last year offered only no-limit hold’em events and most of the buy-ins were $340 or higher,” Moore said. “This time around we created a schedule with a variety of tournaments and a wider range of buy-ins, starting at $150.”

Players could choose from Omaha/8, H.O.R.S.E., stud/8, PLO, even Chinese Poker, in addition to several NLHE variations, including a bounty knockout, a mix-max format, and an all-in-or-fold event.

“We had great feedback from the customers regarding the variety of the schedule and we saw about a 50 percent increase in overall attendance.”

Local pro Mike Del Vecchio, who moved to Las Vegas last year from New York, bested 106 players to win the $1,600 main event for $51,377 the day before his 24th birthday. He was on fire from the get-go, ending Days 1 and 2 as the chipleader.

“Everything went great,” Del Vecchio said. “I flopped well, just what you need to do to win tournaments. I was fortunate to run as good as I did, but I also played great.”

Though he came to the final table as chipleader, Del Vecchio entered heads-up play with 900K to runner-up John Zentner’s 1.2 million. Del Vecchio assaulted his opponent with the aggression that had served him so well, managing to chip away at an overly tight Zentner for the next two or three hours, winning 70-75 percent of all the pots, and delivered the knockout punch after gaining a 3-to-1 chip lead.

With blinds at 6K-12K, Del Vecchio made his standard raise to 28K from the button with 9-5. Zentner called then check-called Del Vecchio’s 38K c-bet on a 9-8-5 rainbow flop. The turn brought the {9-Hearts}, putting two hearts on board. Zentner checked-raised Del Vecchio’s 82K turn bet all-in for 500K with {j-Hearts}{8-Hearts}, but found himself drawing dead to Del Vecchio’s full house. “I didn’t even have to fade a river card,” the champ said.
Del Vecchio fell in love with NLHE the first time he saw it on TV in 2003, when Chris Moneymaker won the world championship.

“A friend of mine (and I) immediately ran into my room and played for one cent-two cent and I won a dollar off of him and I’ve never looked back.”

He started playing online and eventually dropped out of Penn State to pursue poker full time. He has since made the transition to live poker because he enjoys the social interaction (and is now old enough to be in a casino). You can usually find him at Bellagio playing $10-$20, though he sometimes plays $5-$10 at the Wynn.

Almost exclusively a cash-game player, he entered the Grand Challenge on a whim. It was the first tournament he’d played in four months. Will this win inspire him to play more?

“I’m going to play several WSOP events. Tournaments are where the glory’s at; I wouldn’t be talking to you if I had a good cash-game session, but cash games are still my bread and butter.”

So what’s next for MGM?

“Matt Savage and Karina Jett (MGM’s new poker ambassador) did a great job promoting the series,” Moore said. “I think once Matt and I have a chance to discuss some minor adjustments, the Grand Challenge series will be even more successful next time around.”

Grand Challenge

MGM Grand, Las Vegas, April 19-May 6
Event 1 • $230 NLHE
Entries: 305 • Pool: $58,560
Neil Tran, $9K
Event 2 • $150 NLHE
Entries: 52 • Pool: $6,240
Saint Hung, $2,309
Event 3 • $150 NLHE
Entries: 69 • Pool: $8,280
Phil Olbrechts, $2,898
Event 4 • $230 Omaha/8
Entries: 73 • Pool: $14,016
Darryl Mann, $4,976
Event 5 • $340 Bounty
Entries: 100 • Pool: $28,800
Nedelcho Karakolev, $5,640
Event 6 • $150 PLO w/rbs
Entries: 37 • Pool: $13,848
Rebecca Wagner, $4,078
Event 7 • $340 NLHE
Entries: 113 • Pool: $32,544
Michael Greco, $10,738
Event 8 • $230 Stud/8
Entries: 78 • Pool: $14,976
Tim Frazin, $5,317
Event 9 • $340 NLHE
Entries: 37 • Pool: $10,656
Daniel Dizenzo, $4,795
Event 10 • $230 H.O.R.S.E.
Entries: 97 • Pool: $18,624
Tom McEvoy, $2,892
Event 11 • $340 NLHE
Entries: 102 • Pool: $29,682
Stepan Dzhigarkhanyan, $6,897
Event 12 • $230 6-Max
Entries: 69 • Pool: $13,248
Glenn Weiner, $3,617
Event 13 • $340 NLHE
Entries: 202 • Pool: $58,176
Paul Lui, $17,300
Event 14 • $150 NLHE
Entries: 91 • Pool: $10,920
Donna Houle, $3,394
Event 15 • $150 AIOF
Entries: 63 • Pool: $7,875
Flaminio Malguti, $1,253
Event 16 • $150 PLO/8 w/rbs
Entries: 53 • Pool: $15,960
Chip Jett, $6,224
Event 17 • $550 Mix-Max
Entries: 19 • Pool: $9,215
J.J. Liu, $4,715
Event 18 • $1,090 2-7
Entries: 16 • Pool: $15,520
Steve Billirakis, $5,432
Event 19 • $550 NLHE
Entries: 41 • Pool: $19,885
Ali Fazeli, $7,358
$1,600 Main Event
Entries: 107 • Pool: $155,685
Mike Del Vecchio, $51,377
Event 21 • $230 H.O.R.S.E.
Entries: 69 • Pool: $13,248
Hani Awad, $,4901
Event 22 • $150 PLO w/rbs
Entries: 22 • Pool: $11,472
Rebecca Wagner, $3,868
Event 23 • $550 NLHE
Entries: 22 • Pool: $10,670
Jeff Blenkarn, $5,335
Event 24 • $230 Omaha/8
Entries: 36 • Pool: $6,912
Joe Weinberger, $2,558
Event 25 • $230 Ladies
Entries: 21 • Pool: $4,032
Rae Rocco, $1,900
Event 26 • $150 NLHE
Entries: 41 • Pool: $4,920
Lavonne Joyce, $1,584
Event 27 • $150 NLHE
Entries: 30 • Pool: $3,600
Daniel Smith, $1,800
Event 28 • $150 NLHE
Entries: 9 • Pool: $1,080
Mike Franco, $540
Event 29 • $150 NLHE
Entries: 35 • Pool: $4,200
Larry Lewis, $1,890
Event 30 • $150 NLHE
Entries: 39 • Pool: $4,680
Daniel Orr, $1,644