Alexander Ziskin is the newest member of poker’s gold bracelet club.
The 30-year-old professional poker player from Chicago, IL won the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament, which was played over four days and three nights and just concluded on the ESPN main stage at the Rio in Las Vegas.
However, what is likely to be remembered isn’t just the first-time victory for a dedicated poker pro finally accomplishing his poker goal. Perhaps more intriguing is the way the final table and the heads up marathon match unfolded, which took on several unanticipated twists and turns and a near-comeback of epic proportions.
Down to just two players, a German poker pro named Jens Grieme staged one of the greatest heads-up comebacks in the 47-year history of the World Series of Poker.
Down to just a single big blind and his tournament life hanging in the balance, Grieme mystified Ziskin, a packed gallery of spectators, and the rest of the poker world following the action live over the Internet with a staggering comeback that was unmatched in recent memory.
Nearing the end of the third day of action, Ziskin’s victory seemed to be a foregone conclusion. He had Grieme down to so few chips that all he could post was a big blind. Ziskin’s rail began a premature celebration, believing victory was inevitable.
Then, something staggering happened. Grieme doubled up and doubled up and doubled up again and again, seemingly winning every hand of consequence and in a reverse tidal wave. Somehow, he managed to not just stay alive for another 40 minutes, but he actually seized the chip lead by night’s end. After more than 200 hands of heads-up play, Grieme and Ziskin bagged their chips at the end of the session, with the intention of resuming play the following afternoon on what would be an unscheduled fourth day of competition.
Batteries recharged, both players hunkered down for the highly anticipated showdown. Finally after 90 minutes Ziskin was able to subdue his fierce adversary, still leaving much of the poker world in awe over what had happened. Ziskin won the final hand of the tournament with K-8, which made a pair of 8’s. When the final tally was done 460 hands had been played at the final table, one of the longest sessions on record at the WSOP.
This was the second earth-shattering comeback of its kind at this year’s WSOP. In Colossus II, which took place the first week of the 2016 WSOP, Benjamin Keeline was down to less than a big blind on the first day of action and yet was able to outlast 21,612 other players in what will certainly go down as one of the most memorable overall comebacks in the history of the game. Even though Grieme’s comeback wasn’t rewarded with a gold bracelet, nonetheless, the lengthy duel and see-saw battle between the two finalists is likely to be the final legacy of this tournament.
In a well-earned victory, Ziskin collected $401,494 in prize money, making this the biggest win of his career. This marked his 11th time to cash at the WSOP. Ziskin’s best previous finish had been a 17th-place showing in the 2014 “Little One for One Drop.”
This time, Ziskin won his victory by coming out on top at a final table which included a larger than usual lineup of players with little or no experience going deep in WSOP events. However, given the sheer length of this finale, at least the finale two players can now claim they have loads of "experience."
This thrilling tourney attracted 1,796 entrants which created a prize pool totaling $2,424,600. The top 270 finishers collected prize money.
Aside from the winner, here’s a brief report of the other top finishers who made the final table:
Second Place: Jens Grieme, an air-traffic controller from Bremen, Germany pocketed $248,067 for one of the most entertaining performances of the 2016 WSOP, thus far. This marked his seventh time to cash at the series, and was by far his biggest cash amount.
Third Place: Kam Low, 55 and retired from Richmond Hill, ON (Canada) took third place in what amounted to his first time to cash at the WSOP since 2013. Low, originally from Malaysia, played marvelously throughout the tournament. He cashed for $179,187.
Fourth Place: Patrick Power, from Pflugerville, TX made his first cash ever at the WSOP really count. He earned $130,780 in his final table debut.
Fifth Place: Severin Schleser, a college student from Vienna, Austria enjoyed his deepest run at the WSOP as biggest cash with a $96,452 payout for fifth place. Schleser has done very well in big fields this year, cashing in this tournament as well as the Colossus and Millionaire Maker.
Sixth Place: Craig Mason, a former teacher from Jericho, NY took sixth place in his sixth time to cash, all of which have occurred within the last two years. Mason pocketed $71,891.
Seventh Place: Marino Mura, a real estate broker from Downham Market, UK hoped to become the second English champion at this year’s series, but fell short. He has three cashes at the WSOP, including his debut in-the-money finish which happened ten years ago. Mura received his biggest check in a WSOP ever, made out for $54,160.
Eighth Place: Davis Juenemann, from Tucson, AZ cashed for the first time ever in a WSOP with this impressive showing. Eighth place paid $41,244.
Ninth Place: Aaron Kweskin, from Los Angeles, CA owns three restaurants. He came in with five WSOP cashes dating back to 2008. Kweskin was the first player 86’ed from the final table, which resulted in a payout totaling $31,754.
This was the 29th official event on this year’s schedule. This leaves 40 gold bracelet events still to go at the 2016 WSOP.