Las Vegas, NV (June 1, 2012) – “First the ring, then the bracelet.” The motto, effectively parroted the past few years on the World Series of Poker Circuit, encouraged poker players to compete in various events around the country, which are spread out over the nine months when the WSOP "big one" is dormant. The National Circuit is potential stair ladder to greater success for many poker players, who may not quite have the bankrolls or skills necessary to come and play with the best of the world, at the WSOP.
Nick Jivkov, a 34-year-old semi-pro poker player and business owner from Des Plaines, IL took the slogan literally. He cashed ten times in various WSOP Circuit events around the country during the last few years, ultimately winning a gold ring in 2010 at the IP in Biloxi. Until this year. Jivkov had yet to cash in any WSOP event in Las Vegas.
All that changed this evening when Jivkov not only final tabled the Pot-Limit Hold’em event, which took place at the Rio Las Vegas. He went on to win a dramatic victory, rubber stamping his arrival on the tournament poker scene as a champion. Jivkov collected $189,818 in prize money to go along with his first WSOP gold bracelet.
Jivkov was born in Bulgaria. He owns a transportation company in the Chicago area. He is the father to two girls – ages 6 and 2. No doubt, he made the entire Jivkov family proud on this day.
Jivkov’s victory was as dominant a performance as has been seen in some time. He seized the chip lead about midway into the final playing session, which attracted a big crowd to the ESPN Main Stage – mainly to watch and see if poker superstar Daniel Negreanu might pick up a fifth gold bracelet. Like Negreanu, they departed eventually in disappointment, much to the benefit of Jivkov who essentially took over the tournament at that point. When play was at four-handed, Jivkov had 60 percent of the chips in play. He was the cat toying with mice.
Runner up Bryan Pellegrino put up a noble fight. He drew about even in chips with Jivkov at one point. But Pelligrino had to accept a consolation prize, worth $117,199.
Jivkov’s victory gives him his very first WSOP title, to go along with ten cashes on the WSOP Circuit, and $136,000 in previous earnings. Indeed, Jivkov got the ring, and then the bracelet.
Among the more notable names that finishes in the top twenty were -- Tommy Vedes (4th), Daniel Negreanu (5th), Thom Werthman (10th), Steve Brecher (12th), Nam Le (16th) and John Juanda (18th).
A list of all players that cashed in Event #5 can be seen here.
Nick Jivkov hereby becomes the fifth player to win a gold bracelet at this year’s WSOP.
WINNER QUOTES (POST-TOURNAMENT INTERVIEW)
On running a business full time and playing poker: We do semi-truck deliveries all over the country. I started off with one truck, then I got a couple more, and before you knew it I had 40 trucks. I had a pretty big transportation company. It was a good business, but that’s not where my heart was. My heart was playing cards. It was just way, way, way too stressful for me. I didn’t enjoy myself. So probably, around 2008, I decided to size down my company and now I only operate about four or five trucks. Just enough for me to make a good living for myself. The rest of the time I’m just traveling the Circuit and just getting better at this game.
On his game plan entering this year’s WSOP: Well, I had a really bad WSOP last year. I was here for 50 days straight. I could not cash in anything. I was running terrible. I left here feeling pretty devastated and so now when I came the second time, I told myself I am not staying for the whole duration. I’m going to stay here for ten days. I had a plan. I decided to play my very first event was going to be the $235 Deep Stack Tournament you guys have here at the Rio and that was going to be my little warm-up event. And the second event was going to be this event that I just won. And then a couple of other $1,500 events.
On winning both tournaments he’s enter so far at this WSOP: As soon as I landed from the plane, I played the $235 and I ended up winning that. I ended up taking home about $14,000. I was feeling good and I couldn’t decide whether I was going to play another event or the WSOP $1,500 Pot Limit Hold ‘em. Thing is, Pot Limit Hold ‘em is kind of a slow game. I was just on the fence, but I’m like ‘You know what? I did end up winning this one, maybe I’m on a heater and I think I’m going to do good.’ I just felt good this summer and I said ‘I’m going to go play that.’ I asked my friend, ‘What would you have me play?’ and he said, ‘Just go play the bracelet event. It’s a bracelet, right?’ I found myself in the $1,500 and now here we are. I won the bracelet! It’s pretty amazing!
On what it felt like to play at a WSOP final table for the first time: To be honest with you, I found myself much more composed and much more patient and not nervous than what I was expecting. I woke up after three hours of sleep, the adrenaline was just pumping and this is my first WSOP cash. I’ve cashed a bunch in the WSOP Circuit events, I have a circuit ring in multiple events, multiple main event final tables. And my best so far was a fifth-place final table in the Chicago Circuit, for $62,000 or so. I expected to be a lot more nervous standing here in the main stage of WSOP playing for a bracelet. As the game started off maybe I was a tad bit nervous, I wasn’t getting any hands and then as I started building up a chip stack and I started busting people one by one. I started getting a lot more confident. I got a lot more calm and towards the end when the heads up play began I had a lot of confidence in myself, a lot of confidence in my game. So, I felt confident, I felt this thing was mine. I just knew it. I believe at that point I had a 4 to 1 chip lead. I did not underestimate my opponent, Pellegrino. I did some research on him. I know he’s one of the toughest heads up players. He’s a heads up professional online. He’s got over $2 million in earnings. I knew this was going to be a very tough match. When we were down three-handed, I secretly was hoping that he was the one that got knocked out. He was very tough, I had him in multiple times as you guys witnessed and he came back and I kept on doubling him up, I believe three or four times. But then I just kept chipping away and I knew this thing was mine. I think I played pretty well.
On having a big star like Daniel Negreanu at the final table and possible distractions: I think overall it’s a good thing. Any time you have a superstar at a final table, it brings more learners to the game, it brings more fans, it brings more exposure. Not only to him, but also to everybody else that’s playing the final table. Could he distract from you getting a lot of attention? Definitely. But when you end up winning the thing you still end up getting the attention. So, you know, it’s not a bad thing. I think it’s a very good thing. Speaking of that, as I told PokerNews earlier, on the first day I was reading PokerNews about Table #6 which was the killer’s row. There was Phil Ivey, Gavin Smith, Shannon Shorr, just a bunch of aces. They had a total combined of nine bracelets and $36 million of earnings on that table. I’m like ‘Wow. How do you get a $1,500 event and match up that table randomly? That’s crazy. Who’s the unlucky dude that’s going to end up sitting at that table?’ And that unlucky dude was ME! Three levels into it and they break my table and I look at my seat number and I’m 6-6 and at that point, I had 4400 in chips, the average was about 7,000-8,000. I went into that table, I was like, ‘I’m going to play my game. These guys are the best of the best but I’m going to hold my own, I have a lot of confidence in my game.’ Within two levels I had over 40,000 in chips. The night was over, all those guys were out and I was still standing, so I felt great. I think it boosted my confidence up. I think I can play with the best.
On what does the gold bracelet means: Oh my God. That’s a tough question, because there’s only a few people in my personal life to know how I hard I work at this game. My wife, my soul mate, my number one supporter has always been behind me. She has always had my back through thick and thin and always believed in me, that I can do something in this game. My father and my mom have always had my back. This has been 15 years in the making. I started playing poker way before money making or way before the blow up. There wasn’t even any No Limit. I probably started playing poker in the casinos when I was 18 years old -- and I’m 34 years old now. I’ve been working really, really hard on my game and to finally win a bracelet, and my first one by the way, because I think there’s more to come and maybe some even this summer. It’s just surreal. I can’t explain it. It’s an amazing feeling.
MEET NEW WSOP GOLD BRACELET CHAMPION – NICK JIVKOV
Name: Nick Jivkov
Childhood: Immigrated to the U.S. as the age of 12
Current Residence: Des Plaines, Illinois (USA)
Marital Status: Married
Children: 2 (two daughters ages 6 and 2)
Education: Attended Devry Technical Institute (computer science)
Profession: Semi-Pro Poker Player and Business Owner (Transportation Company)
Number of WSOP Cashes: 1 (10 WSOP Circuit cashes – 1 gold ring)
Number of WSOP final table appearances: 1
Number of WSOP gold bracelet victory (with this tournament): 1
Best Previous WSOP finish: None (winner of a WSOP Circuit gold ring in 2010, at IP Biloxi)
Total WSOP Earnings: $189,181 ($326,222 with WSOP Circuit earnings included)
Amazing Fact: Jivkov experienced what he calls a terrible WSOP in 2011. This year, just hours after landing in Las Vegas, Jivkov came to the Rio and entered a $235 Deep-Stack tournament. He won about $14,000. The next day, he entered gold bracelet Event #5, and won that, as well.
The official report of this tournament, with much more news and official data, will be posted soon to WSOP.com.
-- by Nolan Dalla