Throughout much of World Poker Tour Season X, Will Failla was the Player of the Year leader, a position he held since winning the Legends of Poker event at the start of the season. It wasn't until the end of the season that Joe Serock, who made back-to-back final tables in San Jose and Fort Lauderdale, surpassed him.
The second-to-last event of the season was the BestBet Open in Jacksonville. It was uncertain whether Failla would even play. He'd flown to Monte Carlo to play in the European Poker Tour Grand Final, and if he went deep in that event, he wouldn't be available to play in Jacksonville. But Failla busted early in Monte Carlo and hopped the first flight to Florida. He finished Day 1B with over four times his starting stack, continued to accumulate chips, and entered the final table in third place.
Serock's P.O.Y. lead had lasted all of eight days.
Not only did Failla retake the lead by making the final table, but he positioned himself to become the first player to win multiple WPT events in the same season since Season Three. The opportunity for a landmark accomplishment was huge for Failla ... and I had every intention of ruining it.
I found myself sitting on Failla's immediate left at the final table with the fourth-largest stack, and he was my principal target going in because of my stack size and our history. In the day leading up to the final table, we had traded pots back and forth, but because I had position, I was able to reraise him frequently and force him to play bloated pots out of position.
Failla doesn't four-bet often, preferring to call and go to the flop. That's precisely what he did in our first major hand together at the final table. The stack sizes were still mostly unchanged, and I had around 1.1 million to Failla's 1.3 million. The blinds were 15,000-30,000, and Failla raised to 60,000 on the cutoff holding 7s 6s. I was on the button holding 10s 10d and reraised to 150,000. Failla began chattering immediately, saying, "That's what I wanted!" He called.
The flop came Ks 7c Qd. Both of us checked.
The turn was the 6d, and when Failla bet 125,000, I called because I believed there were numerous draws he could be betting with, or hands that held a pair and a draw. Above all, I believed that Failla would call me with a very wide range preflop. I couldn't fold to one small bet post-flop just because there were two overcards out.
The river was the 4d. Failla checked. I checked behind.
He had two pair but announced only a pair of sixes. I told him it was no good, tabled my tens, and he lifted his cards to give them one last look, then tossed them face down toward the muck. Had he simply flipped over his hand, the pot containing 625,000 was all his.
It was a crucial mistake, one that has since been replayed on YouTube thousands of times. At the time, neither of us realized what had happened. It wasn't until later that we realized he had the better hand.
Failla's descent continued, and he busted in sixth place. I finished fifth. Two weeks later, Joe Serock finished 10th in the final event of the year, the WPT Championship.
In doing so, he barely surpassed Failla to become Player of the Year. In all likelihood, Failla had quite literally thrown away the opportunity of a lifetime.