The man that everyone will be watching at the final table this weekend will be Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi. If Mizrachi can win, he’ll make history. At the beginning of the 2010 WSOP, Mizrachi won the coveted $50,000 Player’s Championship title and his first gold bracelet. No one has ever even come close to winning that event and the Main Event in the same year, and Mizrachi finds himself with just eight players left in his way.
Mizrachi learned to play poker from his older brother, Robert, who showed his younger brother the ropes and helped him cut his teeth. Before long, Mizrachi was working his way through the limits becoming more and more successful. “The Grinder” got his nickname for having a solid, consistent style of play: always steadily “grinding” out profits at the table. When he realized he could make some real serious money playing, Mizrachi let his aspiration to become a doctor take the back seat, and he dropped out of college to play full time.
He made his name known in the poker community toward the end of 2004 and in the beginning of 2005. In December 2004, Mizrachi won an event at the Five-Diamond World Poker Classic II and followed that with a fifth-place finish at the WPT World Poker Open. About a month later, he ground his way to another WPT final table in the L.A. Poker Classic. This time, he won the first-place prize of over $1.8 million.
Continuing his success in 2005, Mizrachi cashed seven times at the WSOP. He then placed second at the Goldstrike World Poker Open in January of 2006 before winning the Borgata Winter Open in the same month. Combined, he took home over $1.7 million for those two finishes.
Cashes piled on year after year for Mizrachi and he won a Player of the Year award, but despite all his success, he had yet to win his first WSOP bracelet -- that was, until the 2010 WSOP rolled around.
Mizrachi came close in 2008 when he held the chip lead going into the final table of the $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha World Championship but ended up finishing third. Coming into the 2010 WSOP, Mizrachi had taken some time off from the game to refocus and prepare for what lay ahead over the summer. He was also dealing with tax issues -- the Sun Sentinel reported that he wasn’t in the good graces of the Internal Revenue Service. According to the story, Mizrachi owed $339,000 in federal taxes and was facing foreclosure. What timing, right? And now just months after he won his first gold bracelet in the midst of the most pressure-filled period of his life, Mizrachi will be going for poker glory at the WSOP Main Event final table.
When he reached the final table of the $50,000 Player’s Championship this summer, Mizrachi was fifth in chips. Leading the final table was the man who taught him how to play, his older brother Robert. Eventually, Michael was the one who sent his brother to the rail in fifth place when his beat Robert’s . From there, Mizrachi ground his way to a victory, beating Russian Vladimir Shchemelev in heads-up action.
Mizrachi followed that with three more cashes, including two final tables, both in $10,000 “Championship” events. He took sixth in the $10,000 Seven-Card Stud World Championship, then finished eighth in the $10,000 Limit Hold'em World Championship.
Mizrachi is also still alive for the 2010 WSOP Player of the Year title. By cashing in the Main Event, Frank Kassela locked up a share of the POY title. Mizrachi is still able to tie him for that title if, and only if, he can win the Main Event. If Mizrachi wins, he’ll have a WSOP POY title, a victory in the $50,000 Player’s Championship and a Main Event bracelet all in the same year! That could easily be argued as the greatest WSOP accomplishment for anyone, ever!
How He Got There
When Day 5 came to a close, Mizrachi was sitting 30th in chips out of the remaining 205 players in the field. The field was well into the money at this stage, but still a few long days away from reaching the November Nine. His older brother Robert was also still alive at the time, and Michael was asked about how he felt about that. "It's very exciting. I'm very excited and hope Rob makes the final table." He also added that he'd like to be the first player to capture both the Player's Championship and the Main Event. "I think it'd be the greatest accomplishment in poker history," he said.
Early on Day 6, Mizrachi took a nice chunk of chips off Duy Le by making a big call. After a multiway pot saw the flop come with everyone checking, the turn was the . Action checked to Getty Mattingsley who bet 196,000. Both Mizrachi and Le called.
The river was the . Mizrachi checked, and Le bet 500,000. Mattingsley got out of the way, and Mizrachi went into the tank for a good while before making the call. Mizrachi showed the for just a pair of sevens. He'd made the right decision, as Le just had the for a missed draw. That pot moved Mizrachi to approximately 3.9 million after he had begun the day with a little under 1.8 million.
Under an hour later, Mizrachi scooped another sizable pot from Le. On the flop of , Mizrachi bet before Le raised to 350,000. The Grinder made the called and the paired the board on the turn. Both players checked to see the roll off on the river. After Le had fired out 600,000, Mizrachi raised to two million. Le couldn’t stand the heat and mucked while Mizrachi improved to 5.35 million in chips.
His stack hovered between five and six million for a couple of hours after that, but once Mizrachi was moved to the main feature table, he just kept building. In one hand, Randy Dorfman opened with a raise to 105,000, and Christopher Bolt three-bet to 305,000. Mizrachi got even more aggressive with a four-bet to 805,000 and forced a fold from each of his opponents to near the eight-million chip mark. He went on to finish out Day 6 with 7.535 million in chips, second place on the overall leaderboard.
Day 7 didn’t start off too well for Mizrachi. He slowly bled about half his stack away before being moved back to the main feature table. When he got there, he wasn’t given a warm welcome. Rather, he was met by the aggressive Swede William Thorson. A few small battles between the two left Mizrachi even shorter before the two clashed in a much bigger way.
Fellow November Niner John Racener raised to 180,000. Thorson made the call after David Baker called and then action moved to Mizrachi. He was on the button and reraised all-in for 1.51 million. Racener and Baker folded, but Thorson stuck in the chips to try and eliminate Mizrachi.
Mizrachi was all-in holding the up against Thorson's . The final board read , and Mizrachi made a full house. With that pot, he doubled up to over 3.5 million in chips.
About two hours after his double-up, Mizrachi boomed his way back to 7.5 million by sending Cory Emery out the door in 33rd place. With the board reading , Mizrachi held the nuts with the . Emery held the for a set, and all the money went in. The river failed to pair the board with the and gave Mizrachi the pot.
When Day 8 began, Mizrachi was sitting 16th in chips out of the last 27 players. Not much was going his way in the first part of the day, and his stack was cut down to a little more than three million. He got down to just over two million before finally doubling up with pocket kings against Racener’s on a flop of . The kings held and Mizrachi doubled to over five million.
At that point, Mizrachi began to rally with the support of a ton of railbirds watching just a few feet away and cheering him on. A few pots here, some big bets and raises there, and before anyone knew it, Mizrachi was at the unofficial final table of ten. He doubled up the short-stack, Brandon Steven, but the damage wasn’t too bad. Steven went on to ride the short stack for a few hours longer, but eventually fell in tenth place. When all the chips were counted and bagged up, Mizrachi’s bag read 14.45 million. That put him in seventh place overall.
What to Watch For
Mizrachi is known for liking to see plenty of flops with a wide variety of hands. He’s also not one who’s going to be afraid of the bright lights and cameras that will be on him come this weekend. He’s been faced with that before, especially when he’s final tabled WPT and WSOP events. When the other players may be freezing up a bit, Mizrachi will be cutting out bets and raises trying to attack them.
He’s also seated with position on the chip leader Jonathan Duhamel and John Dolan who is second in chips. This means Mizrachi will be able to duck out of the way of their aggressiveness by acting after them. It also means he’ll be able to attack these two and play pots against them in position if they begin opening things up a bit. Joseph Cheong has been touted as one of the best players at this final table and he’s also to Mizrachi’s right.
What’s going to play to Mizrachi’s disadvantage may be his fellow Floridian, John Racener. He’s seated two spots to Mizrachi’s left and this guy’s got plenty of game. He won’t be afraid to get involved and play with Mizrachi. He is the player at the table who has played the most with Mizrachi over the years, so he’ll know him the best and this could put a few road blocks in Mizrachi's plans. He’ll also have to deal with the unpredictable Filippo Candio to his left and who knows what this guy could do at any given moment.
Don’t be surprised if you see Mizrachi raising numerous pots and doing so early on. He’ll most likely come in for very small raises and may even limp a bit to try and see some flops. He has great ability post flop and will shine in this area of the game if he is able to get in for cheap to make some things happen.
What’s also going to be favoring Mizrachi is the support he’ll be getting from friends and family. Over the next couple days of play in the summer, his close-nit family and plenty of friends heavily supported him on the rail. If you happened to be in the Rio during those last couple of days, you know how loud and supportive they were. Imagine that multiplied by 25. There’s been a couple of months of downtime for Mizrachi, but he hasn’t taken any rest. He’s been out traveling the world to events and getting his face everywhere he can. Even though he’s only seventh in chips, everyone knows Mizrachi is the man to beat at this final table. Much like Phil Ivey last year, it’s Mizrachi’s tournament to win in order to further cement himself in poker history.