3 June 2018 (Las Vegas) – Julien Martini won his first World Series of Poker bracelet Sunday afternoon, earning $239,771 after finishing in first place in Event #4: $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better.
For the 26-year old Martini, this victory is the culmination of many years of work and dedication. "When I was 14 and I started poker, I was like, ‘Whoa, what kind of guy can win a $1,500 tournament or a $10,000?’ I was dreaming about this for seven years. It’s one of the best things in my life. I’m super proud and very happy."
Even when the dream of a bracelet was seemingly within his grasp, Martini faced one final obstacle - his heads-up opponent, Kate Hoang. The two players battled back and forth for about four hours before Martini earned his first WSOP victory, and he attributed his success to patience and a positive attitude. "I took my time on every decision and always tried to do my best." When he was short-stacked, he says he just told himself "‘I will win it.’ I always believed in victory."
The positive attitude was important. He recognized even before they got heads-up that Hoang would be a tough opponent to beat. "I played with her a lot on Day 2 and Day 3. She’s playing great! Very unconventional. I’m not used to playing that kind of player. She was very deft and very hard to play."
Martini has five previous WSOP cashes, and before today the biggest live tournament score of his career was for about $72,000.
The last French player to earn a bracelet was Theodore McQuilkin, who won an event at WSOP Europe in Rozvadov last fall. But the last time a French player won a bracelet in Las Vegas was 2014. "I’m very proud for my country and for my region. It was a long time. Too long. We have a lot of good players, but unfortunately we didn’t win any bracelets. Maybe in the next years will win a couple."
This event was originally scheduled to end Saturday, but with a strong turnout of 911 entries, it extended to an unscheduled fourth day. Four players returned for the final day on Sunday. Martini led the way with 3,720,000 in chips. Kate Hoang was next with 2,255,000. They were both well ahead of William Kopp and Mack Lee, both of whom had a little more than 400,000.
Kopp was the first player to bust out on Day 4. He was eliminated just about five minutes after play resumed. He got the last of his chips in the middle against Hoang with an overpair and a straight draw. Hoang had only a pair, but turned a second pair to win the pot and send Kopp to the payout desk.
Mack Lee made a valiant run to try to avoid being the next elimination. At one point he got up to 1,000,000 in chips, nearly pulling even with Hoang. But that was his high point on Day 4, and about 40 minutes after Kopp was eliminated, Lee finished in third place for $104,016.
Heads-up play was a marathon, lasting more than four hours. When Martini and Hoang started playing heads-up, Martinit held a slight chip lead, roughly 3,700,000 to 3,000,000. But Hoang quickly pulled ahead. Her lead wouldn't last, though. Martini scooped a couple big pots, and Hoang was soon short-stacked. After winning several small pots, she nearly pulled back to even. Several hours and a few lead changes later, Martini eventually collected the last of Hoang's chips to secure his first bracelet victory.
Day 3 was scheduled to be the final day, but with 36 players returning there was sure to be a full day's worth of action. A flurry of early knockouts quickly thinned the field to about 20, but from there the pace of eliminations slowed, with another four hours elapsing before a unofficial final table of ten was reached. Rafael Concepcion's 1,771,000 in chips led those final ten.
The official final table of nine formed following Errol Massey's ouster. Massey came to the unofficial 10-player final table with the fewest chips, and he was soon eliminated in 10th place, his last chips going in behind . Brandon Ageloff was in the hand as well, and Ageloff's claimed a high-only pot as the complete board showed . Massey earned $13,091 for his three days of work.
Ageloff picked up the next knockout as well, this time of Tammer Ilcaffas. Ilcaffas' last 65,000 chips went in pre-flop, with Kate Hoang raising, only to see Hoang fold to an Ageloff reraise. Ilcaffas's run ended when his couldn't catch Ageloff's on another high-only board, this time showing to give Ageloff the winning straight.
Next to depart was Denny “Dax” Axel. Axel, a former part owner of the early Cardplayer Magazine, exited in another high-only hand. This time William Kopp delivered the last blow, Kopp's never in trouble against Axel's on a runout of . Axel's trip to the cashier for a $21,977 score left seven players in the hunt.
Some two hours elapsed before seven became six, and this time it was early final-table leader Concepcion hitting the rail. Concepcion suffered a couple of tough beats that helped trim his large stack to crumbs. Concepcion exited after moving in his last 90,000 in chips, while Ageloff and Julien Martino checked down the board. Concepcion had , but Ageloff showed for a better low and Martino opened to take the high.
Just moments later, Chad Eveslage's run ended in sixth. Hoang notched this knockout, scooping Eveslage's last chips when her connected for a wheel on a board, bettering Eveslage's both ways. Eveslage collected $39,182 for sixth.
Ageloff's own tourney ended next. Trimmed to a tiny stack after scoops by Hoang and Martini, Ageloff staved off elimination through a couple of all-ins, but was done to just one big blind when he squared off against Hoang. Both players had high holdings, Ageloff with against Hoang's . The board ran low, , but the turn ace gave Hoang the better one-pair hand. Ageloff earned $53,482 for his effort here.
That left four players to return for Day 4, with Martini leading the way.
Event #4 drew 911 total entries, building a total prizepool of $1,229,850. The final 137 players cashed in this event, with a min-cash worth $2,252.
Among those cashing in Event #4 were Jeff Shulman (12th, $13,091), Danny Wong (13th, $10,340), Chris Bjorin (17th, $8,296), Mike Wattel (21st, $6,764), Jason Lester (28th, $56,05), Mike Leah (30th, $5,605), Victor Ramdin (38th, $4,723), Peter Eichhardt (39th, $4,723), Shaun Deeb (44th, $4,723), Perry Friedman (54th, $4,046), Roland Israelashvili (58th, $3,526), Todd Witteles (59th, $3,526), Benny Glaser (63rd, $3,526), John Monnette (67th, $3,127), Allen Kessler (75th, $2,823), Brett Jungblut (78th, $2,823), John Racener (86th, $2,595), and Robert Mizrachi (90th, $2,595).
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Final Table Payouts (POY points in parentheses):
1st: Julien Martini - $239,771 (1039.8)
2nd: Kate Hoang - $148,150 (519.90)
3rd: Mack Lee - $104,016 (467.91)
4th: William Kopp - $74,058 (415.92)
5th: Brandon Ageloff - 53,482 (389.93)
6th: Chad Eveslage - $39,182 (363.93)
7th: Rafael Concepcion - $29,128 (311.94)
8th: Denny Axel - $21,977 (285.95)
9th: Tammer Ilcaffas - $16,832 (259.95)