Michael Spegal won $252,290 for first place. He overcame a decisive chip advantage. He was arrived sixth in the chip count going into the final table, versus several top pros. He overcame the odds and won his first gold bracelet in what was his first-ever cash at the WSOP. This is his third year to play at the WSOP.
On this night of his victory, Michael Spegal was celebrating his ninth wedding anniversary. His wife Jeanne sat at ringside and celebrated their win. “She can have the prize money. I’ll take the bracelet,” Spegal joked. ESPN commentator Norman Chad ribbed Spegal during the post-tournament interview, noting “You are the only married man I know of who gets to play poker on his anniversary.”
Spegal is 39-year-old former United States Marine. He was born in Newton, IA. He owns an equipment rental and UPS store in southeast Georgia.
Spegal’s poker nickname is “Bob Cat Spegal.”
The final table lasted approximately five hours. The star-studded field guaranteed a full house, which was packed inside the ESPN poker arena at the Rio.
Among the players who came up short were former WSOP gold bracelet winner Jon Freidberg and tournament pro Gavin Smith.
Gavin Smith was the runner up. He battled with Spegal for the win, but ended up with a frustrating second-place showing. Smith is widely considered to be one of the best tournament players NOT to have yet won a WSOP gold bracelet. During the heads-up battle with Spegal, Smith delivered the line of the night when he said to his opponent, “Why don’t you start playing like a business man and not like a poker player. Stop it!”
The ninth-place finisher Marco Traniello has the somewhat shadowy status of being married to one of the best poker players in the world, wife Jennifer Harman. However, it is Traniello who has outperformed just about everyone at WSOP over the past two years. Traniello cashed a whopping seven times at the 2005 World Series. He cashed four times in 2006. Now with a cash in this event, Traniello has a combined total of 12 WSOP cashes dating back to the start of the 2005 WSOP. No other poker player has more in this time frame.
The sixth-place finisher Dr. Bruce Van Horn is a physician (pathologist) from Ada, Oklahoma. He is most famous for being the runner-up in the 1996 main event to Huck Seed. Dr. Van Horn’s son also played in this event, and cashed. Archie Van Horn took 48th place – good for $4,365.
The most popular area inside the tournament room appears to be the Milwaukee’s Best Light beer garden set up over the poker arena. Spectators can visit the elevated deck and see action on both sides of the room. With tables and chairs for spectators, it may be the only vantage spot in the room to actually watch six tournaments going on all at once, which is what was taking place on this day – two final tables, two Day Twos, and two start-up events.
This was the third WSOP poker event this year to be recorded for broadcast by ESPN. The show is expected to debut sometime in July.