About 15 months after scoring Circuit ring, Los Angeles entrepreneur wins first bracelet
Las Vegas, NV (June 16, 2018) - About 15 months ago, Gal Yifrach won his first live tournament. It was a World Series of Poker Circuit event at the Bicycle Casino. He won the $3,250 no-limit hold’em high roller event for $90,005. It was his largest live cash by a wide margin until Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday, Yifrach added a WSOP bracelet to go with his Circuit ring. He defeated 868 entries and James Mackey heads-up in the $3,000 no-limit hold’em six-max event, earning $461,798.
“I’m feeling pretty good. I’m feeling great,” said Yifrach. “You know, coming into this event, I didn’t expect, obviously, to win. Everybody has hopes. Everybody is hoping to get very far. I was fortunate enough to get there … But you know, when you run good, you play good as well. It comes hand-in-hand.”
The 31-year-old Israeli doesn’t play full-time. He’s an entrepreneur that lives in Los Angeles and his businesses take up most of his time. When he decides to spend some time on the felt, it’s generally in the high-stakes cash games that are littered throughout the Southern California card rooms.
When he does get a chance to play a tournament, he prefers it to be a bigger buy-in and one with a smaller field.
“I’m playing mainly bigger events so it’s going to be worth my time,” said Yifrach. “Ever since the Bike, I haven’t played anything that wasn’t in the same range of field size or limits.”
In the year and change since he wont the Bike’s high roller event, he has improved his game by talking to a few poker friends. While he didn’t credit him specifically for any improvements, high-stakes pro Aditya Prasetyo was on his rail and there to celebrate with him when the final card hit the felt.
“I think I improved a little bit in my game,” said Yifrach. “I learned a lot from a lot of friends. I have a lot of friends that gives me advice and I always ask. I always want to know other people’s opinion to see different point of views from different people that have success in the game.”
As far as his skill sets go, the six-max tournament fit perfectly with Yifrach’s strength as a high-stakes cash game player.
“It was actually a good tournament for me because you get to see a lot of hands,” he said. “And a lot of cash players, they tend to play a lot of hands, which is a mistake in the tournament, but this one, it worked out for me.”
Yifrach won the bracelet on Saturday, but the final day of play was scheduled for Friday. Day 3 returned 20 players to the Rio. Cards got in the air at noon and they reached the final table just before 6 p.m. Ben Palmer, who started the day as the chip leader, bubbled the final table, finishing in seventh place for $48,823.
Mackey led the final six players at the outset of the final table with Spanish pro Ana Marquez holding up the bottom of the counts. About four orbits into the final table, Marquez was eliminated by Belgian Gary Hasson.
Hasson and Marquez clashed in a preflop battle with Marquez’s pocket sixes trailing Hasson’s pocket nines. A nine on the flop sealed Marquez’s fate and sent her home in sixth place.
Darren Rabinowitz was the next to go. About two hours after Marquez’s departure, Rabinowitz was following her to the rail. He was all in preflop against Aaron Mermelstein in a coin flip situation with his ace-king up against Mermelstein’s pocket eights. The flop was eight-high and Rabinowitz was drawing dead on the turn.
He was eliminated in fifth place and four-handed play was when Yifrach took over. Shortly after Rabinowitz’s elimination, he won a big pot off Hasson in a flush over flush cooler to take a chip lead that he would never relinquish.
With Yifrach opening up a huge lead over the other three players, and massive pay jumps, four-handed play lasted for over three hours as the shorter stacks battled to outlast one another. Eventually, it was Mermelstein who was the shortest of the four stacks and busted at the hands of Yifrach.
Mermelstein got it in jack-seven of hearts for his last few big blinds against Yifrach’s ace-queen. Yifrach turned a queen and had the Philadelphia pro drawing dead to the river. That gave Yifrach about two-thirds of the chips in play with only two players standing between him and a bracelet.
“I felt like I was going to win it that night,” said Yifrach about opening up a chip lead during four-handed play. “It didn’t happen. When the floor announced that we only have 10 minutes left and we can’t continue playing, I got a little upset because I was supposed to leave the next morning. I was supposed to be out of here.”
They played out the rest of the level before hitting the hard stop and bagging up for the night to the dismay of Yifrach. It wasn’t before both Mackey and Hasson each scored a double up from the chip leader, however.
Hasson won a race with ace-queen against Yifrach’s pocket threes and Mackey doubled up with his ace-three against Yifrach’s king-six of clubs. If either one of these hands went Yifrach’s way, they would have been allowed to play one extra level heads-up, which factored into Yifrach’s decision to gamble with them in those spots.
“I kind of like, I don’t want to say a loose call, but you know, at first glance before calling and doubling up Mackey, I was thinking about it for a second. If we had more time, I would probably fold,” said Yifrach. “But coming back and looking at how many chips that he had, I think it was a good call. Obviously, I bricked, and the same thing happened with Gary. They were both very short and I was trying to finish it that night.”
After taking a couple hits to his stack, Yifrach bagged up the chip lead and came back on Saturday to play down to a winner. Nobody was eliminated in the first level of play on the unscheduled extra day of play and Hasson busted to Yifrach in third at the start of the next level.
They got all in preflop with Yifrach’s up against Hasson’s . The runout gave each player two pair, but Yifrach’s was better and Hasson busted in third place, leaving Yifrach heads-up with Mackey with everything on the line.
Mackey pulled nearly even with Yifrach before things took a turn in Yifrach’s favor. With the board reading , Mackey moved all in and Yifrach thought for quite some time before calling. Yifrach showed and was in trouble against Mackey’s .
Yifrach covered Mackey by less than a big blind and the fell on the river to give Yifrach a full house and eliminate Mackey in second, just shy of his second career WSOP bracelet. For his second-place finish, Mackey earned $285,377.
Final Table Results:
1st: Gal Yifrach - $461,798
2nd: James Mackey - $285,377
3rd: Gary Hasson - $193,716
4th: Aaron Mermelstein - $133,731
5th: Darren Rabinowitz - $93,917
6th: Ana Marquez - $67,116
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