By Shari Geller
Sitting in seat one, with the third largest starting stack of 24,750,000, is Matt Giannetti. The 26-year-old cash game pro who lives in Las Vegas started playing poker after the Chris Moneymaker win in 2003, while he was still in high school. He started cashing regularly in live tournaments around 2006 and had about $500k in career cashes before the main event. In his first WSOP Main Event, back in 2006, he finished 521st for $22,266. He also has a fourth-place finish in a $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event in 2009 for $66,544. After making the final table, he went on to win the WPT Malta, for €200,000. Giannetti is poised to take down his biggest score.
Giannetti had an uneventful Day 1, the major news was just surviving, even though below the starting stack with 26,475. Day 2 he finished with 79,000 and Day 3 he had a good run, bagging 253,500. He faltered on Day 4, losing more than half his starting stack and finishing up with just 114,000, just over eleven times the big blind. But by the end of Day 5 he was in 30th place with 1,900,800.
He continued to surge on Day 6 finishing the day in third place with 7,940,000 after hitting a monster near-double up just before the end of the day. In that hand, Giannetti had opened with a raise to 110,000 from under the gun, Tom Grey reraised from the hijack seat, and Giannetti called. Heads up, they saw a flop of 9h4dQs. Giannetti checked, Grey bet 560,000 then Giannetti reraised an additional 850,000. Grey insta-shoved and Giannetti called and then showed just how much he liked the flop, turning over 9s9d for a flopped set. Grey had KsKd and saw his over pair was in dire straits. The board ran out 5dJs and Giannetti now had a mountain of chips to stack.
Day 7 started poorly for Giannetti as he doubled up J.P. Kelly after calling Kelly’s shove with AcJc only to find he was well behind Kelly’s AhKh. The board ran out 8d2hQs4cAs and Giannetti was down to 5 million. He slipped down another million, then got it back from Andrew Brokos with top pair on a dangerous-looking Js7d2d5s4d board.
He was back over 7 million after knocking out Tom Koral. In that hand, Koral had opened from early position with a raise to 180,000, he was called by Christopher Moore on the button, then Giannetti raised to 600,000 from the small blind. Koral went all in for his last 2.4 million, Moore ducked out and Giannetti called showing his out of position raise wasn’t posturing, he had KdKh. Koral was in trouble with JsJh and, thought the flop gave him a glimmer of hope coming KcAh10c, there was no miracle suck out as the board ran out Ad6d.
Giannetti’s stack skyrocketed at the expense of Hilton Laborda in a pretty sick hand. Giannetti open raised from middle position to 220,000 and only the button came along. The flop came Qc10c6c. Giannetti made a 300,000 continuation bet which Laborda called. Giannetti check-called Laborda’s 420,000 bet on the 9d turn. Giannetti checked again when the 9h came on the river. Laborda bet the pot, 2 million. Giannetti tanked then check-raised all in for 5.26 million. Laborda called and saw the bad news. Although he had flopped the second-nut flush with Kc9c, Giannetti had rivered a full boat with pocket queens. Giannetti was well over 12 million.
But Giannetti wasn’t quite done with abusing Hilton Laborda as a few hands later it was déjà vu all over again. In that hand, Laborda opened to 220,00 from middle position and Giannetti called from the big blind. It went check-check on the 8h5c7s flop and Giannetti checked again on the 2c turn. Laborda bet 280,000 and then called Giannetti’s check-raise to 675,000. When the river came the 7c, Giannetti pushed all in and Laborda called off his last 1.575 million. This time Laborda had the nut flush with Ac3c, but Giannetti had again rivered the full house with pocket deuces and was now over 16 million.
Giannetti stayed in that range for three levels of play, avoiding trouble except for one hand against Lars Bonding when Giannetti was on the wrong end of a full house, costing him nearly 2 million. But Giannetti hit a cold dose of reality in a hand against John Hewitt. Hewitt had opened to 350,000, and it folded to Matt Giannetti who made the call from the button. Giannetti called Hewit’s 430,000 bet after the 4dJcQs flop and again called Hewitt’s 680,000 bet after the 6s turn. After the Ah fell on the river, Giannetti raised Hewitt’s 1.23 million bet to 4 million straight. Hewitt seemed pained, saying it looked like king-ten and offered that he'd never seen Giannetti call on the river without the nuts. But he very reluctantly called and showed pocket sixes for a turned set and Giannetti mucked his pocket tens. That hand cost him almost 5.5 million and he was down to 10.5 million. He dropped down some more, but still ended Day 7 in good shape, 9th out of the remaining 22, bagging 8,920,000.
Day 8 started well for Giannetti, coming out of the gate firing and taking 1.665 million off of Ben Lamb, then another 2.36 off of Anton Makiievskyi. He was sailing till this hand against Ben Lamb. Pre-flop, Lamb had raised to 675,000 from the cutoff and Giannetti came along from the big blind. Giannetti check-called Lamb’s 700,000 bet after the Ah9h2d flop. They both checked the 7d on the turn, but after a 2h paired the board and put a third hard on the river, Giannetti check-called Lamb’s massive 4 million overbet (into a pot of 3.14 million) only to see Lamb turn over 3c2s (yes, Lamb had raised pre-flop with that holding)for trips. Giannetti was back down below 10 million.
He was then pushed off of two hands, one by Badih Bou-Nahra and another by Lamb, with aggressive betting and found his stack shrinking as the final table loomed. Short stacked at the unofficial final table of ten, he shoved his last 5.5 million from under the gun and was called by John Hewitt in the big blind. Giannetti showed JsJc and was ahead of Hewitt’s As10h, but at risk and probably certain an ace was coming. The flop came Kh3h8c and he was still good, though Hewitt added a back door flush draw. The 5c turn left Giannetti only having to dodge an ace, and the 6s river gave him a timely double up.
Giannetti took his new found second life, and chips, to be aggressive as others worried about making the final table and more than doubled up as they played ten-handed until Hewitt became the official bubble boy. Giannetti told ESPN.com that he had DVR’d all the televised coverage of the main event and had studied each night to prepare for the next day’s round of play. He is friends with a number of high profile poker pros and it’s likely that they are helping him prep for the final table as well. With that preparation, and with a healthy starting stack, and a fearlessness to go to war, Giannetti may be well-positioned to come out on top next week.