Thursday, June 9, 2016 7:58 PM PST
Alan Percal Wins the $10k NLHE Heads Up Championship
It’s astounding to think
that a first-time cash at the World Series of Poker would be in one of
the most grueling and highly-competitive tournament events on the entire
heads-up matches, against many of the toughest players with the deepest
bankrolls in the game would be like knocking out multiple heavyweight
boxing champions or whipping a Grand Slam winner on the tennis court.
Those things aren’t supposed to happen.
But it did, at least for one time here at the 2016 World Series of Poker.
Alan Percal, a
23-year-old actuary from Westin, FL with the Humana health care
provider, won the $10,000 buy-in Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em tournament.
The competition was played over three days and nights and concluded on
the ESPN main stage at the Rio in Las Vegas. Percal collected $320,574
in prize money in what was – incredibly – his very first time to cash in
a WSOP event after two previous in-the-money finishes on the WSOP
In fact, coming into this
tournament, which was only the second heads-up event Percal had ever
entered, he’d suffered a disastrous run over the last year and a half in
“We came out here last
year and like went zero for 20,” Percal said. “It was a total
disaster. But I came back and stuck with it, and now here I am,”
Percal achieved his
stunning victory by winning seven consecutive heads-up matches,
following drawing a first round bye. The final moment of triumph came
when the young poker player scooped the final pot of the tournament
ending up with a pair of eights against John Smith, a 69-year-old former
Vietnam War veteran from Lahabra Heights, CA who finished as the runner
Percal defeated a
succession of tough opponents, starting with Brian Rast, Jeff Gross,
Alan Wehbi, Konstantin Ramazanov, and Benjamin Geisman on the first two
days, which finally ended on the third day with a victory over Olivier
Busquet in the semifinals and finally, John Smith.
“I was excited to get the
bye in the first round – everyone wants the bye,” Percal said. “Then, I
ended up drawing Brian Rast in the second round. When I saw that, I
just started laughing. There were like 100 players I would have rather
drawn than Rast. But after I defeated him, that gave me a lot of
confidence, and he even complimented me afterward that I played well.
That was definitely the most nerve-racking, since it’s only the second
Heads-Up tournament I’ve played. After that win, I felt much more
As for his future plans,
Percal joked with his boss at Humana that if he won this tournament he
might not go back to work. Then again, the analyst with a deep
background in statistics knows the odds of making it full time as a
“I’m playing some more events for sure,” Percal confided. “But after that, I’m going back to work.”
This tourney which has
been a staple at the WSOP over the past ten years, attracted 153
entries, which created a prize pool totaling $1,188,200. The top 16
finishers collected prize money.
Here’s a brief report of the other top finishers who made to at least the quarterfinals:
Second Place: John
Smith, from La Hambra Heights, CA surprised the competition by coming
in second. The military veteran who has been playing poker for 50
years, collected $198,192 in prize money. Much like the winner, Smith
wasn’t expected to go deep, but ended up advancing in 6 of 7 rounds with
what was described as an “unorthodox” style. Prior to this impressive
showing, Smith had cashed in only one other event, which just so
happened to be the $10,000 Heads-Up championship two years ago, when he
made it to fifth round.
Alex Luneau, from Paris hoped to become the first French gold bracelet
winner of this year’s series. But ended up falling just short of the
finals, losing to John Smith. Nevertheless, he still ended up with a
$123,929 payout. This marked Luneau’s sixth time to cash and third deep
run, following two previous final table appearances at the WSOP.
Olivier Busquet, from Katonah, NY was looked upon as a favorite to win
this event, particularly as the tournament played down to a smaller
number. The short-handed and heads-up specialist who crafted his skills
by playing high-stakes heads-up matches made one of his deepest runs
ever at the WSOP, ending up as a semi-finalist, which paid out
$123,929. Busquet lost to the eventual winner, Alan Percal.
Matthew Diehl, from Flemington, NJ cashed for just the second time in a
WSOP event with his deep run in this tourney. He collected $56,202.
Nick Yunis, a poker pro from Chile, had previously posted 11 cashes,
but no final table appearances. His achievement in this tournament
marked his biggest cash since a 126th-place showing in the 2014 WSOP
Main Event. Yunis added $56,202 to his poker bankroll.
Benjamin Geisman, from San Diego, CA made his first WSOP cash really
count with a nice run in this tournament. He pocketed $56,202 for
winning his first five matches.
Orlando Romero, from Amarillo, TX cashed for the second time at this
year’s series and eighth occasion overall with his run into late on the
second day of this tournament. He added $56,202 in winnings to go along
with $134,000 in WSOP Circuit earnings, to date.