Martin Kozlov is the newest member of poker’s gold bracelet club.
The professional poker player from Melbourne, Australia won the $10,000 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em tournament, which was played over three days and nights and just concluded on the ESPN main stage at the Rio in Las Vegas.
This was arguably the most electrifying finale of any championship event played thus far at the 2016 World Series of Poker. Moreover, the final hand made for a riveting finale.
Kozlov collected $665,709 in prize money, making this the biggest win of his career. This marked his fifth time to cash at this year’s series, including one previous final table appearance when he finished fifth ($3,000 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em).
The Aussie poker pro won his victory by coming out on top at a final table which included a tough lineup – including four former gold bracelet winners – Davidi Kitai (3 wins), Justin Bonomo (1 win), Chris Ferguson (5 wins), and Nick Petrangelo (1 win).
“Winning this tournament is very satisfying,” Kozlov said. “It’s tough. It’s prestigious. It’s some of the best players out there.”
In the fourth hour of play when three-handed, the ultimate moment of triumph came when Kozlov scooped the final pot of the tournament against KItai and Bonomo, who were both all in and more than covered by Kozlov’s chip lead.
The final hand pitted Bonomo with 9-9 against Kitai, holding 6-6. But the real power belonged to Kozlov, who tabled Q-Q. The packed crowd, mostly partisan, rose and watched in shock as Kozlov flopped Q-Q-7, which was good for quad-Queens. It wasn’t just an exclamation point. It was a double knockout punch.
“The crowd didn’t really affect me all that much,” Kozlov replied when asked about the electrifying energy in the crowd, the largest of any final table played so far. “When you are playing, you get into a zone and tune that out. You just focus on the cards. You don’t think about what’s going on beyond the felt.”
With this victory, Kozlov became the 12th Australian national in history to win a WSOP gold bracelet. The country down under has accounted for 21 WSOP titles in all (multiple players have more than one win).
Kozlov started playing poker in college in Australia. He played for very low stakes initially. Then, as he gradually improved, Kozlov realized he might be able to make a living at the game. He’s now been playing for ten years. That dedication was finally awarded on this evening by a gold bracelet victory.
This tourney attracted 294 entrants which created a prize pool totaling $2,763,600. The top 45 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: Davidi Kitai, from Brussels, Belgium was only a day removed from having his record matched by Michael Gathy as the all-time leader in WSOP victories, with three. Kitai nearly won a fourth title, but came up short on the final all-in hand. Still the Belgian who held the chip lead part of the way on Day Three of the competition, ended up cashing from the 28th time at the WSOP. He pocketed a nice consolation prize amounting to $411,441.
Third Place: Justin Bonomo, from Glendale, CO came in third place. He was short on chips much of the finale, but still managed to make a decent run. For his effort, Bonomo earned $271,856. The 2014 gold bracelet winner ($1,500 by-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em) now has 37 WSOP cashes and more than $2.6 in WSOP career earnings.
Fourth Place: Chris Ferguson attracted much of the focus of this finale, particularly in light of his five-year layoff from the game. His last final table appearance took place in 2010. The five-time gold bracelet winner and 2000 world poker champion has enjoyed a strong series, thus far, with six cashes. He was low on chips during his three-hour stay under the lights, and ended up coming in fourth place, which paid $183,989.
Fifth Place: Nick Petrangelo, from Feeding Hills, MA came in fifth place. He lost a critical hand late with pocket aces, which were out-flopped by Martin Kozlov’s pocket queens (a queen came). Petrangelo had to settle for a payout totaling $127,622. He now has 14 WSOP cashes, including a gold bracelet victory in last year’s NLHE Shootout.
Sixth Place: Jack Salter took a tough beat in a three-way pot on what turned out to be his final hand. The player from London, UK cashed for the ninth time at the series, including a second-place showing at the 2014 Asia-Pacific WSOP Main Event Championship. Salter received $90,783 for this deep run.
Seventh Place: Eric Worre, from Eden Prairie, MN rounded out the unofficial final table, coming in seventh place. This was his first final table appearance and second time to cash at the WSOP. Worre collected $66,270.