he Guru of Guelph

Canadian Mark Radoja Wins First WSOP Title

What a Shootout!  Poker Pro Collects $436,568

Full House at the 2011 WSOP-- Tournament Attendance Still up Double Digits over Last Year

24 Gold Bracelets Won – 34 More Still to Go


There must be something in the water in Guelph.

For those of you who have no idea what this refers to, Guelph is a small city in southern Ontario (Canada).  It’s part of what is called the tri-cities, which also includes Kitchener and Waterloo.  Guelph is known as “The Royal City.”

Guelph is also increasingly known as a place that produces great poker talent.  Consider that World Series of Poker gold bracelet winner Gavin Smith grew up in Guelph.  Steve Paul-Ambrose, with nearly $2 million in live tournament winnings, lives near Guelph.  Mike McDonald, one of the top online players in the world, is from Guelph.  Grant Pittman, one of the best online cash game players, lives nearby.  About an hour away resides Howard Goldfarb, who finished as a runner up to Dan Harrington in the 1995 WSOP Main Event Championship.  Pat Pezzin, another respected pro, lives roughly the same distance, too.  Then there’s poker superstar Daniel Negreanu, who is originally from Toronto, which is approximately 40 miles away.

On the night of July 16th, Mark Radoja added his name to the powerhouse list of poker pros that now live or have lived in the Guelph area.  The 25-year-old poker pro won the most recent WSOP event held in Las Vegas.  Radoja was the only one left standing in the $5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Shootout, earning $436,568 in prize money.  He was also presented with his first WSOP gold bracelet, which is the ultimate symbol of achievement in the game of poker.

Radoja won a successive series of tough matches en route to fame and riches.  It took three days and an 11-hour final table to determine the winner, which came when he made three tens on the final hand of the tournament, raking in the biggest poker prize of his life.

Jeffrey Gross, a 24-year-old poker pro, finished as the runner up.  He lives in Ann Arbor, MI -- which is three-hour drive from, you guessed it -- Guelph.

"Are you kidding me?  You've never heard of Guelph?" whined Gavin Smith when queried about his hometown.  "Guelph is a mecca that has created a lot of poker talent and if you use my quote in the official report, I'll give you $100."

Bad beat, Gavin.  Time to pay up.

For a comprehensive recap of Event #24, please visit HERE.


The 2011 World Series of Poker $5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Shootout is Mark Radoja, from Guelph, Ontario (Canada).

Radoja is a 25-year-old professional poker player.

Radoja describes himself as a “Sit ’n’ Go grinder.”

Radoja grew up in the Toronto suburbs.  He graduated from high school.  At 18, he entered college and quit after one day.  He decided it was not for him, at least at the time.

Radoja started playing poker when he was 16-years-old.  He played with his friends.

The notion of Radoja dropping out of school to play poker was opposed by his parents.  However, over time they changed their opinion as Radoja started winning and was actually able to support himself.  However, he is cautious about advising others to do the same.

This marks the fifth consecutive year Radoja has attended the WSOP.  He has cashed at least once every single year.

This was the first WSOP tournament Radoja played in 2011.

For his victory, Radoja collected $436,568 for first place. 

According to official records, Radoja now has 1 win, 2 final table appearances, and 9 in-the-money finishes at the WSOP. 

Radoja currently has $793,550 in career WSOP winnings.

Radoja is to be classified as a professional poker player (in WSOP records and stats), since he has been playing full-time for about six years.

Radoja becomes the second Canadian gold bracelet winner this year, following the earlier victory by Tyler Bonkowski in $3,000 buy-in Limit Hold’em.

WINNER QUOTES (Note: The winner was interviewed at tableside moments after the victory)

On his decision to play poker full-time and the initial resistance of his parents when they heard his career plans:

“It’s understandable.  Most people do not understand it.  But I knew what I was capable of.  I knew the kind of income I could make from it.  I knew I could play.  Eventually, my family came around when I started to succeed.”

On being from Guelph, Ontario – which has produced so many talented players:

“We are tight.  Canadian pride is what it is.  We feed on each other.  We share knowledge with each other.  We expand our horizons.  We are also very open as a culture.  I think you find a lot of tough Canadians out there.  We have a solid, fearless style.”

On an incredible match on Day Two, when he was involved in a brutally tough heads-up showdown:

“I would say no one has ever had a heads-up match like that before.  I had him 550,000 to 50,000.  Then, he had me 550,000 to my 50,000.  I came back and won.  At one point, he had flopped trips on an 8-8-6 board.  He had A-8 and I had A-6.  I ended up making the runner-runner flush, or I wouldn’t even be here.  There were so many incredible, mind-boggling things that happened when we were heads-up.  It was definitely the most epic heads-up ever.”

On getting emotional at the table and celebrating:

“I’d like to say something.  I really hope the WSOP takes a look at the celebration rule.  We have to bond together as poker players.  It’s absolutely unacceptable that people can’t celebrate.  This is what creates excitement and ratings on TV.  It’s so good for the sport….When someone celebrates when playing with me, they are not celebrating against me.  They are celebrating for themselves.  I think we need to embrace celebrations just like any other sport.”

On his plans coming into the 2011 WSOP:

“This is the first tournament I played this year.  It’s such a grind, that I decided to come in late.  First tournament and first win – so, now I guess I am batting 1,000 – which is fantastic.”

On the quality of competition he faced:

“You will not find a tougher $5,000 or lower buy-in field for the World Series of Poker or anywhere else in the world than this one.  This was the best field ever assembled for a tournament like this.  You can ask anyone in it….the final table was tough (too).  I was fortunate, because two of the best players went out early.  You have to catch cards at the right time.  Looking back, I have no regrets about decisions I made.  But you have to get lucky too, along the way.  I played my best, got lucky at times, and here I am.”


The official final table was comprised of the top 10 finishers.  The reason 10 players are given final table status is because of the shootout format.

The final table contained only one former gold bracelet winner – Sean Getzwiller (1 win).

Four nations were represented at the final table – Canada (1 player), Chile (1 player), Russia (1 player), and the United States (7 players). 

The heads-up battle began with Radoja holding a nearly a 3-to-1 chip advantage versus Jeffrey Gross.  However, the final adversary for Radoja proved to be tough.  Gross fought back and got to within a 3-to-2 disparity.  He also had the best hand pre-flop on what turned out to be the final hand of the tournament.

Radoja raked in the last pot of the night with three tens.

The runner up was Jeffrey Gross, from Ann Arbor, MI.  He is a 24-year-old poker pro and a graduate of the University of South Carolina.  Gross is best friends with Olympic swimmer and multi-gold medalist Michael Phelps, who also plays poker and has participated in WSOP Circuit events in the past.  In fact, Gross and Phelps share a residence, which is not used too often since both are typically traveling.  This was Gross’ second final table appearance in the last two years.  He finished fifth in an event last year. 

Nicolas Fierrogottner, from Santiago, Chile finished in third place.  The number of South Americans continues to increase every year at the WSOP.  Fierrogottner is one of the few poker players from Chile to make it to a final table.  Oddly enough, another player from Chile also made it to a final table on the same day.  Hernan Salazar, who is also from Santiago, made the final table of the Seven Card Stud game.

The fourth-place finisher was Scott Baumstein, from New York, NY.  He is an options trader.  Baumstein previously cashed twice in the WSOP Main Event Championship.

The fifth-place finisher was Adam Junglen, from Stow, OH.  One of the top young players in the game, he has a number of major cashes, both online and live, and will most certainly be a player to watch for the remainder of this year’s WSOP and beyond.

The sixth-place finisher was Nikita Lebedev, from Moscow, Russia.  He is a 24-year-old stock trader who graduated from the Moscow School of Economics.

The seventh-place finisher was Todd Terry, from Hoboken, NJ.  He previously had a second-place finish at the 2007 WSOP.  Terry has a B.A. from Harvard and a law degree from NYU.

The eighth-place finisher was Tom Marchese, from Boonton, NJ.  He was the 2010 “Player of the Year,” according to Card Player magazine.

The ninth-place finisher was Sean Getzwiller, from Las Vegas, NV.  He won the $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event played during the first week of this year’s WSOP, which earned him $611,185.

The 10th-place finisher was Daniel Smith, from Manalapan, NJ.  With this cash, Smith now has 10th, 11th, and 21st place finishes at the 2011 WSOP.

Final table play began at 2:30 pm on a Thursday afternoon.  Play ended at 2:30 am.  The finale went for about 12 hours.

The final table was played on ESPN’s main stage.  The new final table set is getting raves in terms of design and appearance.  No stage in the history of poker has ever looked as spectacular. 

Action was streamed live over  Viewers can tune in and watch most of this year’s final tables.  Although hole cards are not shown, viewers can follow an overhead camera as well as a pan-shot of the table.  The floor announcer provides an official account of the action. 


The top 40 finishers collected prize money.

Among the former gold bracelet winners who cashed in this tournament were – Sean Getzwiller (9th), Gavin Smith (16th), Erik Seidel (17th), J.P. Kelly (18th), Jason Young (28th), and James Dempsey (39th).

Erik Seidel’s cash in this tournament gives him 62 in-the-money finishes in his career at the WSOP.  This ranks in a fourth-place tie with Berry Johnston.  Seidel was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame last year.

The defending champion was Joshua Tieman, from Chicago, IL.  He did not cash in this event.

Tournament results are to be included in the WSOP official records.  Results are also to be included in the 2011 WSOP “Player of the Year” race.

“WSOP Player of the Year” standings can be found at HERE. 


Last year’s same event attracted 358 players.  This year, the total field amounted to 387 players.  The net increase amounts to 8 percent.

The average age of entrants was 31.2 years.  The average age of those who cashed was 28.5 years.  The average age of players at the final table was 26.7 years.

There were only seven females entered in the tournament, which represented 2 percent of the field.

Players from 26 different nations played in this event.

This is the 916th gold bracelet awarded in World Series of Poker history.  This figure includes every official WSOP event ever played, including tournaments during the early years when there were no actual gold bracelets awarded.  It also includes the 16 gold bracelets awarded to date at WSOP Europe (2007-2010).  Moreover for the first time ever, one gold bracelet was awarded for this year’s winner of the WSOP Circuit National Championship.

Shootouts emphasize short-handed poker skills.  This generally requires competitors to play cards out of the standard range of starting-hand requirements.  It also makes post-flop skill paramount to victory.  In a sense, each round is a “final table” for all the competitors since the objective is to accumulate chips and eliminate opponents.

A shootout tournament means players advance based on winning a series of table matches.  The shootout format is single elimination.  The number of matches depends on the number of tournament entries.  In this event, the winner was required to win each in a series of consecutive matches.  The first match included nine players.  The second match included 10 players.  The last day started with 10 players playing down to the winner.

The official WSOP gold bracelet ceremony takes place on the day following the winner’s victory (or some hours later when the tournament ends very late).  The ceremony takes place inside The Pavilion, which is the expansive main tournament room hosting all noon starts this year.  The ceremony begins at the conclusion of the first break of the noon tournament.  The ceremony usually starts around 2:20 pm.  The national anthem of the winner’s nation is played.  The entire presentation is open to the public and media.  Video and photography is permitted by both the public and members of the media.

Radoja’s gold bracelet ceremony is set to take place on Friday, June 17th.  The national anthem of Canada will be played in honor of his victory.


Shootouts debuted at the 2002 WSOP.  Both Limit and No-Limit Hold’em events have been offered every year since 2004.  There have been two No-Limit events held each year, since 2009.  The Shootout format gains popularity every year.

The first-ever WSOP Shootout champion was Joel Chaseman.

A shootout tournament means players advance based on winning a series of table matches.  The shootout format is single elimination.  The number of matches depends on the number of tournament entries.  In this event, the winner was required to win each in a series of consecutive matches – usually no more than 3 or 4.

Each match is played like a single-table satellite, with only one winner from each table.

The list of No-Limit Shootout champions now includes:

2011 – Mark Radoja ($5,000 buy-in)

2011 – Andrew Badecker ($1,500 buy-in)

2010 – Steven Kelly ($1,500 buy-in)

2010 -- Joshua Tieman ($5,000 buy-in)

2009 – Jeff Carris ($1,500 buy-in)

2009 – Peter Traply ($5,000 buy-in)

2008 – Jason Young ($1,500 buy-in)

2008 – Phil Tom ($5,000 buy-in)

2007 – Don Baruch ($1,500 buy-in)

2006 -- David “the Dragon” Pham ($1,500 buy-in)

2005 – Anthony Reategui ($1,500 buy-in)

2004 -- Phi Nguyen ($1,500 buy-in)

Limit Hold’em Shootout winners include:

2011 – Tyler Bonkowski ($3,000 buy-in)

2010 – Brendan Taylor ($1,500 buy-in)

2009 – Greg Mueller ($1,500 buy-in)

2008 – Matthew Graham ($1,500 buy-in)

2007 – Ram Vaswani ($1,500 buy-in)

2006 -- Victoriano Perches ($1,500 buy-in)

2005 -- Mark Seif ($1,500 buy-in)

2004 -- Kathy Liebert ($1,500 buy-in)

2003 – Layne Flack ($1,500 buy-in)

2002 – Joel Chaseman ($1,500 buy-in)


The tournament was played over three consecutive days.

The winner Mark Radoja had one match that was the supreme test.  During the second round, Radoja was heads up and had a 10-1 chip lead.  But he lost the lead and got to the point where the chip stacks were reversed.  Radoja then made an incredible comeback not just once, but twice and advanced to the final table.

The tournament officially began on Tuesday, June 14th at noon.  The tournament officially ended on Friday, June 17th, at 2:30 am.


Through the conclusion of Event #24, the 2011 WSOP has attracted 24,454 entries.  $43,757,335 in prize money has been awarded to winners, so far. 

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of nationality of gold bracelet winners has been:

United States (16)

Great Britain (3)

France (2)

Canada (2)

Russia (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the national origin (birthplace) of winners has been:

United States (12)

Great Britain (3)

France (2)

Canada (2)

Ukraine (1)

Israel (1)

Russia (1)

Honduras (1)

Indonesia (1)

Through the conclusion of this event, the home-states of (American) winners have been:

Nevada (3)

California (3)

Texas (2)

New York (2)

Illinois (1)

New Jersey (1)

Florida (1)

Tennessee (1)

Connecticut (1)

Indiana (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of professional poker players to semi-pros and amateurs who won gold bracelets has been:

Professional Players (20):  Jake Cody, Cheech Barbaro, Eugene Katchalov, Allen Bari, Harrison Wilder, Matt Perrins, Sean Getzwiller, Viacheslav Zhukov, David Diaz, Andrew Badecker, Tyler Bonkowski, Brian Rast, John Juanda, Aaron Steury, Darren Woods, Jason Somerville, Bertrand Grospellier, Elie Payon, John Monnette and Mark Radoja

Semi-Pros (2):  Sean R. Drake, Amir Lehavot

Amateurs (2):  Geffrey Klein, Foster Hays

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the victories of six of the 24 winners (25 percent) marked the first time the new champion had ever cashed at the WSOP.

Every WSOP held over the past 11 years has included at least one multiple gold bracelet champion (meaning two or more wins within the same year).  The last year the WSOP was comprised exclusively of single-event winners was back in 1999.  The record for most multiple gold bracelet winners within a single year was in 2009, when five players managed to win two or more titles.  So far, no player has yet won two gold bracelets (this year).

The streak of male WSOP gold bracelet winners has now reached 185 consecutive events.  Aside from the annual Ladies Championship, the last female player to win a WSOP tournament open to both sexes was Vanessa Selbst, in 2008.  The longest “cold” streak for female players occurred between years 1982 and 1996, when 221 consecutive open events passed without a female champion.

The highest finishes by any female (open events) at this year’s WSOP were by two players -- Maria Ho, who finished second ($5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em), and Kim Nguyen, who also finished as the runner up ($1,500 buy-in Six-Handed Limit Hold’em).

NEW RECORDS AT THE 2011 WSOP (to date):

  •  Biggest Heads-Up tournament prize pool in history ($3,040,000) – Event #2
  •  Largest live Omaha High-Low Split Tournament in history (925 entries) – Event #3
  •  Largest live Six-Handed tournament in poker history (1,920 entries) – Event #10
  •  Biggest Deuce-to-Seven tournament prize pool in history ($1,184,400) – Event #16
  • Largest live $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament in history with single day start (3,157 entries) – Event #18
  •  Largest live $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament in history with single day start (3,175 entries) – Event #20
  • Largest consecutive-days starting field sizes in poker history (combined 6,332 entries) – Event #18 and Event #20
  •  Largest live Pot-Limit Omaha tournament in poker history (1,071 entries) – Event #22
  •  Largest Mixed-Game (Eight-Game Mix) in poker history (489 entries) – Event #23