Kristen Bicknell became the first female to win a gold bracelet at the 2016 World Series of Poker. After 46 completed events, the student and part-time poker player shattered the gender gap and solidified her position as someone to look out for in future tournaments.
The 29-year-old Canadian won the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Bounty tournament, which was played over four days and three nights and just concluded at the Rio in Las Vegas. With her decisive victory, Bicknell became the first female to win a gold bracelet in an open event since Carol Fuchs won the Dealers Choice tourney last year. She’s also the first Canadian champion of 2016. Fittingly, for the proud resident of Ottawa, this triumph took place on the eve of the national holiday, Canada Day.
Bicknell collected $290,768 in prize money, making this the biggest win of her career. Surprisingly, the now double-bracelet winner only plays poker recreationally. She focuses much of her time and attention as a student on nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle. That goal will be made considerably easier now with nearly $300K added to her bank account.
“The timing was really good for the cards that I got and I ran really well,” Bicknell said afterward. “When they had good hands, I had better hands and when I bluffed, I guess they didn’t have very good hands and folded.”
Her prior win in the 2013 Ladies World Poker Championship paid $173,922. This was only her third time to cash at the series. Not many players – male or female – can boast that they’ve won two out of the three tournaments in which they’ve cashed. It’s likely only Bicknell can say that.
Bicknell won her victory by coming out on top at a final table which included several tough foes. However – aside from Bicknell – Norbert Szezsi and Steve Gee were the only previous gold bracelet winners among the final nine. The finale went considerably longer than expected, due to some persistent play and numerous double-ups which prolonged the outcome an extra day. At the end of Day Three, just three players remained, with Bicknell holding a formidable lead, which she never relinquished.
After Washington, DC-area resident John Myung was eliminated in third place, the ultimate moment of triumph came when Bicknell scooped the final pot of the tournament against Szecsi, a Hungarian poker player who also won his previous title at the 2013 WSOP. He finished as the runner up. However, with this cash, Szecsi did move over the $1 million mark in career series earnings.
This tourney attracted 2,158 entrants which created a prize pool totaling $1,834,300. The top 324 finishers collected prize money.
The bounty tournament meant that players were awarded a $500 chip (good to cash) each time a player was knocked out. Several players accumulated more than a dozen “bounties,” which created a nice bonus payout at the cashier cage. One player acquired more than 20 bounty chips.
“I was surprised how many people busted out on Day One, which I think was because of the bounty,” Bicknell said. “It made the tournament a lot of fun.”
As for the winner, Bicknell counted up 17 chips at the conclusion of the tournament – worth an extra $9,000 as her bounty heist. Perhaps the most important chip of the entire stack was the one that she got to cash was the one for herself – since no one was able to knock her out and claim it.
When asked if winning an open event somehow validates her earlier victory which was not open to all players, Bicknell agreed this did include some added measure of personal satisfaction.
“I beat out a lot of good players, in both the tournaments I won,” Bicknell said. “Yes, this is still a validation. But there are a lot of great female poker players, too. There’s lots of them.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Aside from the winner, here’s a brief report of the other top finishers who made the final table:
Second Place: Norbert Szecsi (Budapest, Hungary) -- $179,625
Third Place: John Myung (Vienna, VA) -- $130,588
Fourth Place: Ryan Leng (Henderson, NV) -- $95,857
Fifth Place: Will Failla (Smithtown, NY) -- $71,049
Sixth Place: Sebastien Comel (St. Pierre Du Mont, France) -- $53,181
Seventh Place: Steve Gee (Sacramento, CA) -- $40,203
Eighth Place: Fadi Hamad (Danvers, IL) -- $30,697
Ninth Place: Jason Singleton (San Diego, CA) -- $23,678
This was the 46th official event on this year’s schedule. This leaves 23 gold bracelet events still to be played at the 2016 WSOP.