Gold Bracelet for the Ukraine
Kovalchuk Wins First WSOP Title
Poker Pro Collects $689,739
Players Demolish Americans at Final Table
Ionel Anton Becomes Highest Romanian Finisher in WSOP History
Full House at
the 2011 WSOP-- Tournament Attendance Still up Double Digits over Last Year
26 Gold Bracelets
Won – 32 More Still to Go
communism collapsed and the Iron Curtain disintegrated some 20 years ago, many
observers wondered about the impacts of half a billion people suddenly being
jolted by the culture shock of having to compete with the rest of the free
world for the first time.
disintegrated. Walls crumbled. Flags of freedom waved.
Suddenly millions of people living in more than two dozen countries controlled
their lives and made their own decisions – about everything.
Eastern Europeans and citizens of the former Soviet Union were allowed to
travel freely and were granted access to the influences and attractions of the
A few years
later, when poker’s tentacles began branching out into Europe, the game knew no
boundaries. Poker didn’t just stop when it reached England, France, and
Germany. Poker expanded further and continued to spread east.
who had previously grown up confined to watching mind-numbing state-run
television and playing conventional board games like chess, were suddenly
bombarded with flashy images of an exciting new game called poker. The
game began to appear on satellite network feeds beamed into cities from Prague
all the way to Moscow. Adoration of the iconic chessmasters such as
Kasparov and Karpov was displaced by Ivey envy and Negreanu worship.
Then, there was the Internet
revolution. Access to online poker games, breaking tournament news, and
strategy discussions in different languages accelerated the infancy and
inevitable maturity of poker to nations and people who likely would have never
been exposed to the game if under the same confining rules of prior
generations. Online poker sites began to attract thousands of new players
from countries with names that many of their opponents wouldn't be able to
locate on a map. Players with screen names like “Krzysztof” from
Kazakhstan began bad beating the heck out of online pros from Leeds to L.A.
The old proletariat might as
well have pawned their old hammers and sickles for cards and chips.
Hungary, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and 20 more nations once famously
referred to by one former U.S. President as "the Evil Empire" had
more young people playing poker than were once enrolled in the Marxist-driven
Young Pioneers. Inevitably, some of these players starting winning.
A few players starting winning really big.
Two poker players saw the
dynamics of a new age around them. Both got caught up in the craze. They
started playing the game everyone seemed to be talking about. One of the
players lived in the Ukraine. The other player resided in Romania.
The idea that a poker player
from Kiev and another from Bucharest would be playing heads up for a gold
bracelet at the World Series of Poker would have been unthinkable just a
generation ago. Now, it’s treated as rather ordinary. Such is the
astronomical growth of the WSOP abroad and the universal magnetism it holds for
millions of poker players.
On the night of June 18th,
Ukrainian poker pro Oleksii Kovalchuk defeated Romanian engineer Ionel Anton in
heads up play and won the $2,500 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em
championship at the 2011 WSOP. Kovalchuk collected whopping $689,739 for
first place. He was also presented with the famed WSOP gold bracelet,
which symbolizes the game’s ultimate achievement.
Kovalchuk becomes the second
player in history from the Ukraine ever to win a WSOP gold bracelet. The
first Ukrainian to win was Eugene Katchalov, who won the $1,500 buy-in
Seven-Card Stud championship just two weeks ago. The runner-up Anton had
nothing to be ashamed of either. He became the highest-finishing Romanian
player in WSOP history.
Some day, other repressive
regimes will collapse. Evil dictators will fall. People of all ages
will be liberated. Just as before, hundreds of millions of a new
generation will covet exciting new opportunities. For the first time,
they shall gain access to the most appealing activities the world over, which
will inevitably include poker.
It wasn't too long ago that a
Russian poker player first won a WSOP gold bracelet. That occurred in
2006. Now, five years later, not just one, but two Ukrainians have won
victories at the 2011 WSOP.
All this begs
the question. How long before the WSOP crowns a Chinese champion?
Or, a North Korean champion? Can a Libyan world poker champion be in our
politics or poker – more revolutions are coming.
For a comprehensive recap
of Event #26, please visit the WSOP.com tournament portal page for this event HERE.
EVENT #26 CHAMPION – OLEKSII KOVALCHUK
World Series of Poker $2,500 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em champion is Oleksii
Kovalchuk, from Kiev, Ukraine.
a 21-year-old professional poker player.
taught to play poker by his father. He
started playing in 2007. He plays about
half the time online, and the other half in live games. Kovalchuk has played in several tournaments
When he’s not
playing poker, Kovalchuk enjoys tennis, motorsports and chess.
This is the first
year Kovalchuk has attended the WSOP. He
has already cashed three times.
For his victory,
Kovalchuk collected $689,739 for first place.
official records, Kovalchuk now has 1 win, 1 final table appearance, and 3
in-the-money finishes at the WSOP.
currently has $706,633 in career WSOP winnings.
to be classified as a semi-professional poker player (in WSOP records and
stats), since he has been playing for a short time, but has been making money
at the game over the past year.
becomes the second Ukrainian poker champion in history at the WSOP. The first was Eugene Katchalov, who won the $1,500
buy-in Seven-Card Stud championship just two weeks ago. However, it’s fair to point out Katchalov now
lives in New York, NY. Accordingly, Kovalchuk
becomes the first full-time resident of the Ukraine to ever win a gold
WINNER QUOTES (Note:
The winner was interviewed at tableside moments after the victory)
On how he
was introduced to poker and the WSOP:
In 2007, my father told me the rules
and I learned the game. It was very
interesting for me and I began to play.
I am now 21-years-old. This is my
first trip to Las Vegas.
poker scene in his hometown of Kiev:
There are many cash games going. There are not too many tournaments. Most of them get about 200 people. It happens maybe once every three months.
three Europeans beating the three Americans:
All the players were strong. American or European, they all played
well. It did not matter.
On how it
felt to win a gold bracelet:
I feel very happy. I do not know what to say. I do not think about the money. The money is second to me. I wanted the gold bracelet and to win.
THE FINAL TABLE
final table was comprised of the top six finishers.
The final table
contained no former gold bracelet winner – which was only the third time so far
this has happened at the 2011 WSOP.
were represented at the final table – including Great Britain (1 player),
Romania (1 player), Ukraine (1 player) and the United States (3 players). The three Americans were eliminated first,
leaving the three Europeans to compete for the title, thereby taking the top
three money spots.
The heads-up battle
began with Oleksii Kovalchuk holding slightly more than a 2-to-1 chip advantage
over Ionel Anton. However, the Romanian
battled back and took a big chip lead, which put the Ukrainian at risk. About 90 minutes into the duel, the chip
stacks were dead even. Then, Kovalchuk
went on a roll and finished off Anton in about 20 minutes.
runner up was Ionel Anton, from Bucharest, Romania. He is a 43-year-old engineer, having
graduated from the prestigious Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest. This was his first time to play at the WSOP.
both the first- and second-place finishers, this was the first year either had
attended the WSOP.
third-place finisher was Chris Moorman, from Benfleet, UK. He is a 25-year-old poker pro who is one of
the world’s top online players. This
marked his 11th time to cash at the WSOP, all since 2008. Moorman took 12th place in this
same event held at last year’s WSOP Europe, played in London.
fourth-place finisher was Dan O’Brien, from Las Vegas, NV. He is a former Wall Street trader-turned
poker pro. His best previous finish was
a third-place showing in 2008. He is a
graduate of the University of Maryland.
fifth-place finisher was Mazin Khoury, from Durham, NC. He cashed in the previous Six-Handed
tournament held this year, finishing 38th out of 1,920 players. Khoury is a 21-year-old college student
enrolled at North Carolina State University.
sixth-place finisher was Anthony Ruberto, from Davie, FL. He is a professional pool player. Ruberto has attended the WSOP over the past
five years, this being his highest finish, to date.
Final table play
began at 8:20 on a Friday evening.
Played ended at 1 am. The finale
went for about 4 hours and 40 minutes.
This was one of the shortest finales of the year.
table was played on ESPN’s so-called secondary 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. Viewers will be able to see ESPN’s coverage
again once the WSOP Main Event begins.
streamed live over WSOP.com. 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.
OTHER IN-THE-MONEY FINISHERS
The top 126 finishers
collected prize money.
champion from 2010 was William Haydon.
He finished in 52nd place.
former gold bracelet winners who cashed in this tournament – aside from those
who made the final table – were the following: David “Bakes” Baker, Nenad Medic, Ted Lawson,
Allen Bari, Phillip Tom, Pascal LeFrancois, Ayaz Mahmood and Jake Cody.
who won the 2009 Ante Up for Africa charity event at the WSOP, finished in 111th
manager and husband of international musician Celine Dion, finished in 120th
At one point
when the tournament was down to two tables, the nation of France appeared to
have a decent chance to crown its third champion this week. But two French players, Benjamin Pollak and
Anthony Lellouch, went out ninth and 10th, respectively.
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.
of the Year” standings can be found at WSOP.com HERE.
ODDS AND ENDS
same event attracted 1,245 players. There
were 1,378 entries this year – which means attendance increased by 10.6
percent. Virtually every event and game
variant – other than Seven-Card Stud and Limit Hold’em – has attracted an
increase in attendance over 2010.
This is the 918th
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
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
bracelet ceremony is set to take place on Saturday, June 18th. The national anthem of the Ukraine will be
played in honor of his victory. This
will be the second time this has taken place in 2011.
No-Limit Hold’em started out primarily as an online poker game. Many international poker sites now offer just
as many Six-Handed games as full-ring games.
cash games and tournaments are not played at most brick and mortar
casinos. The reason is obvious. The games and tournaments require just as
many tables, dealers, and resources as a standard nine-handed set-up. But in Six-Handed play, the number of players
(and takeout) is reduced by a third. The
WSOP believes the game merits gold bracelet status since it requires a
different skill set from conventional games, and has proven to be very popular
Hold'em emphasizes short-handed poker skills.
Rather than a full table of nine players, each table is played
six-handed (or less, as players bust out).
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. The game is included on the WSOP schedule in
an effort to test as diverse a range of poker skills as possible.
No-Limit Hold'em made its WSOP debut in 2005.
Former champions from these events include Dutch Boyd, Bill Chen, Jeff
Madsen and others.
Six-Handed live tournament in poker history took place earlier at this year’s
WSOP in Event #10 when 1,920 players entered the $1,500 buy-in
competition. That figure demolished the
old record (1,663 players), which had been set at last year’s WSOP.
This was the
largest Six-Handed tournament in history at this buy-in level.
was played over three consecutive days.
officially began on Wednesday, June 15th at noon. The tournament officially ended on Saturday,
June 18th, at 1:05 am.
2011 WSOP STATISTICS
conclusion of Event #26, the 2011 WSOP has attracted 30,938 combined total entries. $47,710,385 in prize money has been awarded
conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of nationality of gold bracelet
winners has been:
conclusion of this tournament, the national origin (birthplace) of winners has
conclusion of this event, the home-states of (American) winners have been:
New York (2)
conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of professional poker players to
semi-pros and amateurs who won gold bracelets has been:
(21): 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 Payan, John Monnette, Mark Radoja, Chris Viox
Semi-Pros (3): Sean R. Drake, Amir Lehavot, Oleksii
(2): Geffrey Klein, Foster Hays
tracking of professionals/semi-pros/amateurs first started in 2005, this year
is the biggest disparity of professionals winning than any year, so far.
Through the conclusion
of this tournament, the victories of six of the 26 winners (23 percent) marked
the first time the new champion had ever cashed at the 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 187 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.
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).
finish by any defending champion at this year’s WSOP was by David Baker, who
finished in sixth place after winning the previous $10,000 buy-in No-Limit
Deuce-to-Seven Draw Lowball World Championship.
records set at the 2011 WSOP (to date):
Heads-Up tournament prize pool in history ($3,040,000) – Event #2
live Omaha High-Low Split Tournament in history (925 entries) – Event #3
live Six-Handed tournament in poker history (1,920 entries) – Event #10
Deuce-to-Seven tournament prize pool in history ($1,184,400) – Event #16
live $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament in history with single day start
(3157 entries) – Event #18
live $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament in history with single day start
(3175 entries) – Event #20
consecutive-days starting field sizes in poker history (combined 6,350 entries)
– Event #18 and Event #20
live Pot-Limit Omaha tournament in poker history (1,071 entries) – Event #22
Mixed-Game (Eight-Game Mix) in poker history (489 entries) – Event #23
records set at the 2011 WSOP (to date):
35-year span between Artie Cobb’s first cash in this event (1976) and most
recent cash in the same event (2011) represents the longest time span in WSOP
history. He accomplished this in Seven-Card
Stud High-Low Split (Event #25).
Hellmuth added to his record as the individual all-time leader in cashes (80)
and final table appearances (41), with his second-place finish in the
Deuce-to-Seven Lowball Championship (Event #16).