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German and Indian pro score first WSOP bracelet

2 July 2018

Team Pantaleo

Team Pantaleo (photo by WSOP)

Name: Giuseppe Pantaleo
Nationality: German
Birthplace: Bielefeld, Germany
Current Residence: Germany
Age: 29
Profession: Poker pro
Number of WSOP Cashes: 26
Number of WSOP Final Table Appearances: 3
Number of WSOP Gold Bracelet Victories (with this tournament): 1
Best Previous WSOP Finish: 6th in the 2017 $1,111 Little One for One Drop for $101,041
Total WSOP Earnings: $429,992

Name: Nikita Luther
Nationality: Indian
Birthplace: India
Current Residence: Delhi, India
Age: 27
Profession: Professional poker player
Number of WSOP Cashes: 6
Number of WSOP Final Table Appearances: 1
Number of WSOP Gold Bracelet Victories (with this tournament): 1
Best Previous WSOP Finish: 17th in 2018 $3,000 Big Blind Ante No-Limit Hold’em for $18,495
Total WSOP Earnings: $120,468

Last year, the $1,000 Tag Team event produced the first-ever Indian-born bracelet winners with Nipun Java and Aditya Sushant. This year’s event produced another Indian winner, with Nikita Luther and Giuseppe Pantaleo taking down this year’s iteration of the event.

Luther, who is a team pro for one of India’s biggest online sites, and Pantaleo, a German professional, defeated a field comprised of 1,032 teams, ranging from two to four players on each, to win $175,805 in the early hours of Saturday morning. It was their first World Series of Poker bracelet.

While many teams were made up of couples or groups of friends, Luther and Pantaleo had no type of relationship before the event started three days ago.

“I randomly hit him up and said, ‘We should play the team event.’ We don’t know each other,” said Luther. “We met once last year. Now we know each other really well. “

Luther and Pantaleo met playing in an event from last year’s WSOP. Luther played well enough to stick out in Pantaleo’s memory and make the offer to play the event together too good to refuse.

“I met her last year playing the $3K,” said Pantaleo. “I just liked how she was playing. But we never had contact after that.”

What made Luther reach out to him? Just a good feeling.

“Intuition,” said Luther with a laugh. “I was coming to the WSOP and I randomly remembered him and playing with him. I don’t know. I randomly messaged him on twitter saying, ‘Let’s do this’ and he said okay.”

Besides a good blend of skill, the two teammates meshed their schedule perfectly. Luther finished 17th in the $3,000 big blind ante event and Pantaleo fired the $5,000 no-limit hold’em six-max event, all while the tag team event was underway.

“She was on Day 2 on the $3K with like 10 blinds,” said Pantaleo.

“He had to play all day with like no breaks,” said Luther about Pantaleo while she was still in the other event. “Every break, I would run and multi-table for him, so he could take a break. And then I would run back to the $3K and he would play through the day. Then, the next day, he played the $5K and I played.”

On the tournaments final day, it was mostly Pantaleo sitting at the final table. They didn’t have a set strategy as to who was going to play when. It was more about keeping the chips flowing in their direction.

“Today, we were switching more to give each other little breaks and when she starts playing and does well, there was no point to not let her continue playing,” said Pantaleo. “Mostly when we felt that the momentum could swift away, maybe then we would switch each other in or out.”

In nearly every other poker tournament on the planet, poker is an individual game. Your outcome depends on a little bit of luck and your ability to play the cards in front of you. This event creates a bit of a different dynamic, however.

The player at the table is responsible for not only his own results, but the other members of his or her team.

“When it’s a closer spot, you don’t really want to spew the chips away,” said Pantaleo. “You’re going to feel guilty to your teammates. I also think you can put it on the other teams that they are mostly not going to bluff. Maybe on the flop or the turn they will bluff, but on the river with a heavy bet, only a few people were really going for it. It really makes it different because people maybe bluff a little less.”

As far as which spot is more comfortable to be in, Pantaleo feels the same either way.

“I’m just anxious at all time,” he said. “Even at the rail or when I’m playing. Both spots are not very great, you know?”

Coming into the final day of the tournament, there were 28 teams remaining in the field when cards got in the air at noon. With this being a tag team event, there were no breaks and they hit the unofficial final table about four and a half hours into the day.

The team of Thomas Moore and Norman Straughn busted in 10th, giving the final nine teams a seat the final table.

Kazuki Ikeuchi scored the deciding blow that left the table with just nine players, which put them near the top of the chip counts for the start of the final table.

After nearly a full two levels of play, Team Harwood hit the rail in ninth. On the last hand of the level, Loni Harwood moved her short stack into the middle preflop and was called by Gabriel Neto and Ikeuchi. Action was checked all the way down on the board.

Less than an orbit later, Team Koo busted in eighth. Bienvenido Caballero was all in preflop against Hiroki Iwata of Team Ikeuchi. It was a cold deck for Caballero wit his pocket kings against Iwata’s pocket aces.

There was a king in the window, but an ace behind it. Caballero celebrated momentarily but was much more subdued after seeing that instead of vaulting him into the lead, the flop left him with just one out. He didn’t hit a miracle on the turn or river, sending him and his partner, Bon Koo, home in eighth-place for $16,565.

That gave Team Ikeuchi two of the first three knockouts and a sizable chip lead with seven teams left. Seven-handed poker saw chips fly back and forth for over an hour before Team Levy was eliminated.

Cord Garcia moved all in on the button for about 16 big blinds and got action from Alex Rocha in the small blind. It was a classic race situation with Garcia’s pocket nines up against Rocha’s ace-king.

An ace came on the flop and Garcia was eliminated. Garcia was paired with Salah Levy and Frank Mariano and they chopped up $21,910 for their finish.

On the very next hand, Team Ikeuchi scored another knockout. Adam Lamphere got all in out of the big blind against Ikeuchi on the button. Lamphere showed and needed help against Ikeuchi’s hand.

The board ran out and Team Lamphere was out in sixth for $29,380. Lamphere was a part of a three-person team that included Ao Chen and Yijie Zhang.

The lone Brazilian team busted in fifth when Gabriel Neto’s queen-jack couldn’t best Manig Loeser’s ace-three. Neto was one half of the team that included himself and Carlos Caputo.

Loeser’s team, comprised of himself, Joelle Parenteau and Daniel Weinand moved into second in chips after eliminating the Brazilians with Team Ikeuchi still leading the way and Team Milburn Magic pulling up the bottom.

The short stack was the next to go when Rocha moved all in from the small blind and was snapped off by Pantaleo’s hand. Rocha, who was playing with his girlfriend, Megan Milburn, and her mother, Joanne, couldn’t hit a three-outer and busted in fourth. Rocha is an established professional poker player on the east coast, but for Megan and Joanne, this is their sixth and second WSOP cash, respectively.

Three-handed play saw Pantaleo and Luther win most pots and move into the chip, jumping over Team Ikeuchi. Ikeuchi doubled through Loeser, to move back into a small lead, but Loeser busted in third to Pantaleo to give Pantaleo and Luther a slight chip lead over Team Ikeuchi at the outset of heads-up play.

Loeser, Parenteau and Weinand earned $76,797 for their efforts.

Pantaleo dominated heads-up play. What started as a small chip lead quickly developed into an 8-to-1 advantage.

The match was ended in dramatic fashion. Iwata and Pantaleo got all in preflop with Pantaleo’s pocket deuces flipping against Iwata’s ace-nine of diamonds. The flop brought an ace, putting Iwata in the lead, but the two of spades came on the river to send the pot and the tournament to Pantaleo and Luther.

“All of her friends were screaming for the deuce of spades and it really came,” said Pantaleo after the win. “I don’t know. The Indian people have a sick vibe.”

Final table results
1st: Giuseppe Pantaleo - Nikita Luther - $175,805
2nd: Kazuki Ikeuchi - Hiroki Iwata - Sho Mori - $108,608
3rd: Manig Loeser - Peter Weinand - Joelle Parenteau - $76,797
4th: Alex Rocha - Megan Milburn - Joanne Milburn - $55,016
5th: Gabriel Neto - Carlos Caputo - $39,936
6th: Adam Lamphere - Ao Chen - Yijie Zhang - $29,380
7th: Salah Levy - Frank Mariani - Cord Garcia - $21,910
8th: Bon Koo - Bienvenido Caballero - $16,565
9th: Loni Harwood - Kelly Minkin - Haixa Zhang - $12,700

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker)

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