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It was late December and 32-year-old Florida-based grinder Jake Ferro was making his presence felt at the World Poker Tour Five Diamond Main Event at the Bellagio. He was deep his second WPT Main Tour event in as many months, having just come off a runner-up finish at the WPT Seminole Rock ’N’ Roll Poker Open in November for a career-high score of $573,605. Things were looking good, he had made the final three tables and was hoping to continue to ride on his recent wave of good fortune. However, when Ferro clashed in a hand against WPT champ Pat Lyons, Ferro ended up hitting the rail in 14th place for more than $80,000. Fourteenth place was good, but not the result Ferro was looking for. He was hoping to punch his ticket into the WPT Champions Club. But what he didn't know at the time was that his 14th place finish was just what he needed to put him over the top in order to clinch the WPT Season XIX Player of the Year. Originally from New York, Ferro first started playing poker when he was 15. Back then it was just small-time cash games with his friends, maybe the occasional $5 tournament. When he turned 18, he started to make trips to Turning Stone Casino in Syracuse. That was when he started taking the game more seriously. He took a break from working at his father’s trucking business to give playing full-time a shot, but the first time around “things didn’t go so well” and Ferro went back to work in the family business. When COVID hit in early 2020, it was an eye-opening moment for Ferro. He knew he didn’t want a nine-to-five. So years after taking his first shot at going pro, he decided to try playing professionally once again. That was two years ago and since that time he’s been on a steep upswing. He finished 2021 with 35 recorded cashes, three six-figure scores, a WPT and PokerGO Tour final table, and the WPT Player of the Year title. We tracked Ferro down to talk about what the POY title means to him, his grinder mentality, and how he plans on elevating his game in 2022. —— First off, you’ve got to be on cloud nine, yea? Yeah, man. It's pretty wild. I never really even thought this. I've always had dreams of making a run like this, but so on cloud nine, really. Still hasn't hit me almost. The story is that it was a bit of a surprise for you to find out that you were the World Poker Tour Season XIX Player of the Year. How did that go down? After the Five Diamond at the Bellagio, my buddy, Jeremy - he plays in Tampa a lot, really good tournament player - was out in Vegas with me. He was like, “Bro, you’re the Player of the Year. They're announcing it on the PokerGO stream.” I'm like, "No way. I think it's just for the beginning of the year, like 2021 to 2022, I think there's another whole year left." He said, "No way, bro… you're the Player of the Year. They're tweeting it. It's everywhere." I'm like - "No way, man." Then [the WPT] called me out of the blue and said, "Yeah, you won World Poker Tour Player of the Year.” It was just really a shock to me, I don't get emotional much, but it was pretty wild to hear that. Speaking of Five Diamond, when you went to the Five Diamond in December, was Player of the Year on your mind? At any point during the year, was that a goal for you? Not at all. I didn't even think it was possible. That's why it's just been kind of a shock. If I knew it was possible, I would've definitely been looking to see if I needed to beat anyone in the Five Diamond, and what I had to do in order to actually win the Player of the Year. It might've even played a little differently. You never know. So it's just really a surprise. What kind of confidence comes along with joining the ranks of players like Negreanu, Altman, and Zinno in being named a WPT Player of the Year? I'm telling everyone - I'm more hungry than ever now. I have to back up what I just did. I can't just be a bum. I can't be a chump. I have to back up my stuff, and it's pretty wild. I looked at all the names of everyone who won World Poker Tour Player of the Year and I was just floored. As you said, all those names you just mentioned…wild, wild. And Altman, I play with all the time. Really amazing tournament player. I played with Negreanu, Faraz…played with all those guys, Really, just unreal players. And for me to be mentioned with them, it floors me. "I'm more hungry than ever now. I have to back up what I just did. I can't just be a bum. I can't be a chump. I have to back up my stuff, and it's pretty wild." For players who win a major award or title sometimes it drives them to want even more. The desire to do it again, or even improve upon that achievement creeps in. Are you having thoughts of investing even more time, more travel in the WPT, or do you have your sights set on anything else now that you've arrived at this point? Yeah. I want to back-to-back this thing. I want to go back-to-back. I will be at every World Poker Tour stop, grinding away, and trying to repeat here. After your 14th place finish in the Five Diamond, you made the final table of the $50K Poker Go Tour championship, which is crazy. But what's even crazier is, just one month prior to that, you cashed for $550 playing in the Hard Rock Weekly $180. What’s the mindset of going from a $180 daily to a $50K? So I played at Hard Rock probably four, five times a week. I played their nightly tournament, and I've done this for the past year or so. They have a good nightly. It's $180 and the winner usually takes home around $4,000. The player field is...not the best. So it's fun to mix it up with more recreational-type players. So yeah, I was playing that. Then I ended up going down to Hollywood, took 20th in their opening event for about $7,000 [$7,361], I think it was. I was going to play the [WPT Rock ’N’ Roll Poker Open Main Event] regardless, but I'm like...you know what, I'm running pretty good right now and so I decided to play the Main. I basically hit that for the $570K, and then took that out to Vegas and played the Five Diamond - hit that. At that point, my buddy, who I went out there with, is just telling me, "Yo, there's a $50K on Monday!” I'm like, there's no way I would ever play a $50,000 buy-in tournament. But I actually talked with a couple of my buddies who invest in some of my tournaments here and there. They're like, "Bro, whatever you need, we'll throw you some cash. We want a piece of it. You better go play that thing." I was still up in the air about it, but I ended up waking up that morning, feeling really good, been playing my best game, so I decided I want to play with the best in the world. It was a hell of an experience, for sure. What’s the difference in your mentality when you play in a $50K? Do you make adjustments? For sure. With these guys, these guys are world-class. I do my share of studying with the game, and I talk with really good players about the game, but these guys, it's almost like they're on another level. Like Ali [Imsirovic], I sat at his table for the last two tournaments I played, and he is just unreal with what he does at the table. I can't even really even explain it. Just be able to watch a guy like him play, and learn a little bit just by watching him. Just a really, really insane player. But yeah, the mentality in that one was, hey, I'm taking a shot, just go basically balls to the wall. If you go out, you go out, at least you took the shot. It was a fun ride for sure. I'm crazy that I made the final table. Would've liked to take that one down, but you know, it was really fun playing with those guys. You're now the reigning WPT Player of the Year. You said you want to go back-to-back, but what else are you looking forward to in 2022, when it comes to poker? You know what? I've always wanted to go to Australia, ever since I was in little kid watching Steve Irwin on Animal Planet. I've always had a thing with the animals and the wildlife out there. Always wanted to go there. I saw that the World Poker Tour has a series going out there this year. So I think that's what I'm most excited about for this year. Going out there, just having fun playing poker, and experiencing a new place that I've wanted to go to since I was a young kid.
Taylor Black started the final table of the 2021 World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic Main Event with more than half the chips in play, and, in the end, topped the 716-entry field to claim his first WPT title and a career-high $1,241,430 score. With Black holding such a massive chip advantage, the Five Diamond Main Event had the makings of a rather quick final table. But instead, the deep structure allowed for plenty of play and, by the time the table became four-handed, the chip stacks nearly evened out and Black’s intimidating lead had disappeared. However, Black quickly bounced back into the chip lead, eliminated three of his last five opponents, and survived the tense, drama-filled final table that brought the World Poker Tour’s Season XIX to a close. It took over an hour for the first elimination of the night. David Kim started the final table fourth in chips but never really was able to get much going. After short stack Lorenzo Lavis doubled through Kim when Lavis’ moved all -n with [poker card="9s"][poker card="9h"] and held against Kim’s [poker card="ks"][poker card="qc"] on a [poker card="ac"][poker card="5d"][poker card="3s"][poker card="6c"][poker card="tc"] board, Kim was left with just two big blinds. Two hands later, Kim made his last stand. Black, from late position, raised to 200,000 with his [poker card="5h"][poker card="5c"] and Kim called for the rest of his chips with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="kd"] and Gianluca Speranza defended his big blind. The flop came [poker card="6d"][poker card="5s"][poker card="3s"] and after Speranza checked, Black put out a bet of 250,000 and Speranza called to create a side pot. The turn was the [poker card="ks"] and Speranza checked again to Black who fired another 500,000. After a short tank, Speranza folded and the cards were turned up, showing Kim that he was drawing dead to the [poker card="2c"] river. Kim made his exit in sixth place for $261,235. Moshin Charania was navigating the short stack, doubling not once but twice trying to get back into the thick of the final table. But soon after, it was Charania who was being doubled through by Vik Shegal leaving Charania with just five big blinds. With the blinds at 75,000/125,000 (125,000 bb ante) Charania moved all-in from under the gun holding the [poker card="th"][poker card="3h"] and Black called from the small blind with the [poker card="8d"][poker card="6d"]. The flop came [poker card="kc"][poker card="9d"][poker card="5d"] keeping Charania’s ten-high ahead in the hand but Black had straight, flush, and pair outs. The turn was the [poker card="3d"], bringing in the flush for Black and sending Charania home in fifth place for $342,645 before the [poker card="3s"] completed the board. Nearly three hours of four-handed play took place with chips being passed back and forth and the chip lead being claimed by a number of players. Eventually, the blinds climbed to 125,000, 250,000 (250,000 ante), and Lavis was sitting on fewer than 20 big blinds. Folded to Lavis in the small blind, he completed holding the [poker card="kc"][poker card="4c"] and, in the big blind, Black raised to 650,000 with his [poker card="ah"][poker card="td"] and Lavis called. The flop came [poker card="as"][poker card="qc"][poker card="3c"], giving Black top pair and Lavis a king-high flush draw. Lavis checked the action to Black who bet 600,000, and Lavis check-raised for the rest of his stack, some 3.8 million. With top pair, Black made the call putting Lavis at risk. The turn came the [poker card="7d"], changing nothing, and the river was the [poker card="2d"] ending Lavis’ run in fourth place for $454,590. After all that time between the eliminations of fifth and fourth place, it was unexpected that the next would take place just two hands later. After Black folded the button, Vik Shegal shoved his 7 million chip stack from the small blind with [poker card="8d"][poker card="8c"] into the small stack of Gianluca Speranza. Speranza, with less than 10 big blinds, called the shove and put his tournament life on the line with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="3d"]. The board ran out [poker card="th"][poker card="9c"][poker card="5h"][poker card="kh"][poker card="7h"] keeping Shegal’s pocket eights ahead the entire time and sending Speranza out in third place for $609,960. At the start of heads-up play, Black held roughly a two-to-one chip advantage over Shegal which he quickly extended to three-to-one. It took just 11 hands between Black and Shegal to decide the tournament as on Hand 195, it all came to an end. On the final hand, Black raised to 500,000 with the [poker card="ah"][poker card="ks"] and Shegal three-bet shoved his final 7.5 million in chips with the [poker card="as"][poker card="8d"]. Black called and the pair watched as the board ran out [poker card="kc"][poker card="tc"][poker card="6h"][poker card="qd"][poker card="9s"], allowing Black’s top pair to take the hand and the trophy. Shegal ended up as the runner-up and took home a healthy $827,620. Black ended up with a new top line to his poker resume, the second million-dollar score of his career, and a date in the future to have his name added to the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup. With the conclusion of the Five Diamond Main Event, the World Poker Tour’s season comes to a conclusion with the tour’s 20th Anniversary season kicking off on January 21 with the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. WPT Five Diamond Final Table Results Taylor Black - $1,241,430 Vic Shegal - $827,620 Gianlucj Speranza - $609,960 Lorenzo Lavis - $454,590 Moshin Charania - $342,645 David Kim - $261,235
The World Poker Tour returns to the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas this month to bring Season XIX to a close with the $10,400 buy-in WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic Main Event. The WPT mainstay tournament will run from December 15-19 with the final table taking place at the HyperX Esports Arena located inside the Luxor Hotel & Casino. The final table will be recorded for future WPT programming to be aired on Bally Sports network. “The Bellagio holds a special significance for the World Poker Tour,” said Adam Pliska, WPT President and CEO. “The Five Diamond World Poker Classic was the first World Poker Tour event, and it seems fitting to finish our current season there before launching our historic 20th season in January.” The WPT Five Diamond has been the most consistent tour location in WPT history with the event being run every season dating back to Season I in 2002 when Gus Hansen defeated John Juanda heads-up to take home the $556,460 first-place prize and his first of three WPT titles. Since that time, the tournament has emerged as one of the most popular poker events of the calendar year. Notable players including Daniel Negreanu, Joe Hachem, Chino Rheem, Dan Smith, and Antonio Esfandiari are among those who have walked away with a Five Diamond Main Event victory. It's also been one of the WPT's more lucrative tournaments with 15 of the 18 Five Diamond Main Events awarding a seven-figure score. The last time the WPT was at the Bellagio for the event was at the end of 2019 when Alex Foxen outlasted the event’s record-high field of 1,035 runners to win his way into the Champions Club and take home a $1.69 million first-place prize. The event didn’t run in 2020 due to postponements brought about by COVID-19. This also marks an end of an era for the World Poker Tour. After 20 years, the WPT is adjusting its seasons to coincide with the calendar year. Traditionally, the WPT had started seasons in the spring and allowed them to carry straight through each New Year, well into the following months. Now, it will be easy to follow along with WPT seasons, knowing that the Five Diamond will likely mark the end of their season and a Player of the Year will be crowned before year’s end. The change kicks in immediately and the Season XIX Player of the Year race will be decided this month. Currently, there is a three-way tie at the top as three-time WPT Champion Brian Altman is playing for back-to-back Player of the Year titles. Altman is matched at the top of the leaderboard by both Rok Gostisa and Chad Eveslage, and all three players are closely followed by recent WPT Seminole Rock ’N’ Roll champion Gediminas Uselis. The tight race adds an extra layer of drama to the event as the WPT will be keeping a spotlight on the race to see who emerges at this year's POY. “We are thrilled to be able to finish our season with a showcase event with one of our longest-running partners,” said Angelica Hael, WPT VP of Global Tour Management. “From there, we are ready to head into Season XX and put an even bigger spotlight on our partners, our champions, and our tour.” Looking to get in on the action for the WPT Five Diamond but unable to play yourself? PocketFives Staking will be offering shares of some of the players in the field to help give fans an end-of-the-year sweat to follow along. Not signed up yet? Get to it right here. Past Winners of WPT Five Diamond Main Event [table id=279 /]