Few poker players are as beloved as Englishman Barny Boatman.

He's been coming to the World Series of Poker for 14 years.  He's never missed attending a WSOP since 2000.  Back in the U.K., he's been as good an ambassador as has ever spread the poker gospel.  Win or lose, Boatman always appeared upbeat and confident.  Moreover, he was often the first player on the rail to rush up to his fellow countrymen in their moments of triumph.

And yet, as years passed by, and as poker changed, becoming considerably more challenging – some would say unbearably tougher – Boatman had to sense that his window of opportunity as a possible WSOP gold bracelet winner was slowly closing.  Detractors might have even feared the window on Boatman was nailed shut.  It wasn't the pre-poker boom years anymore.  This was a new age.

The 58-year-old London-based writer and poker player came close to victory several times, most notably finishing second in a gold bracelet event back in 2002.  He made it to another final table in 2009, finishing in sixth place.  Despite 25 cashes and nearly a half million in WSOP earnings over nearly a decade and a half, Boatman had to sense growing frustration that he might not ever the chance to raise his arms high in the air, hoisting the coveted gold bracelet.

However, on an electric Saturday night on the ESPN Main Stage in front of a boisterous, even adoring crowd of well-wishers, Boatman buckled down and played what was undoubtedly the best poker of his life.  He ultimately outlasted and outfoxed each of the tournament finalists in the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em event, winning a whopping $546,080 in prize money.  Yet never once in the wild post-tournament celebration that ensued was there any mention of money.  All that seemed to matter to Boatman was the golden amulet of excellence, it's sparkle glistening the in the eye of a proud and determined man who had waited his whole life for this wondrous moment.

The final table was the last stage of a far greater challenge, comprised of 2,247 players who entered the three-day tournament.    Boatman undoubtedly took some confidence from back-to-back cashes in the WSOP-Europe Main Event, held 2010 and 2011.  However, those deep runs happened in London.  Other than that, Boatman hadn't achieved anything bigger than a $20,000 score in nine long years.

Boatman's story is one of persistence peppered with grace.  He was a pioneer on the English poker scene, becoming one of the first players to be sponsored.  He was one-fourth of the most famous quartet in poker, called The Hendon Mob.  Comprised up of a small group of grizzly East Londoners who beat the dickens out of those in the underground and private clubs, The Hendon Mob were really the first group of rock stars to emerge from the game.  What had previously been decades of granite-faced embodying the spirit of rough individualism was transformed by a communal approach both in marketing and strategy by the fearsome poker foursome.

Boatman stands as a poker pioneer, a master marketer, a beloved competitor....and now a WSOP gold bracelet winner.

MEET GOLD BRACELET WINNER – BARNY BOATMAN

Name:  Barny Boatman
 
Current Residence:  London (U.K.)
 
Birthplace:  London (U.K.)
 
Age:  58
 
Marital Status:  Single (longtime girlfriend)
 
Children:  None
 
Occupation:  Professional Poker Player / Writer
 
WSOP Cashes (including this event):  25
 
First WSOP Cash (year):  2000
 
WSOP Final Table Appearances:  4
 
WSOP Wins (with this victory):  1
 
WSOP Career Earnings:  $956,125

INTERVIEW WITH THE CHAMPION

WSOP:  How does it feel to win your first WSOP gold bracelet?
 
Boatman:  I had no idea how much this would mean until it happened.  Even when I was sitting there, I was like, "wouldn't it be great to win?"  I was thinking, "I had a good time."  But the feeling when I won it, because of all the wonderful people here around me, it's something that really made me realize how special the moment is.  I've been coming here for quite a few years now.  I must have played over a hundred gold bracelet events.  I even got heads-up once.  I came second.  I had no idea it would feel this good, honestly.

WSOP:  What did it mean to you having not only your brother Ross Boatman in the crowd, but also dozens of other English players cheering for you?
 
Boatman:  It wouldn't mean a thing unless they were all here.  We all got into poker together.  We traveled the world together.  We come here every year.  Ross is a great player.  He's my best friend.  Now, the only thing that could top this off would be to see him get his day because he really deserves it.  They all won it for me.  They made me feel so good.  

WSOP:  The heads-up match went for hours.  What was the key this time to winning versus what you did when you finished second ten years ago?
 
Boatman:  It was attrition in the end.  I was raising 99 percent of the time and he was giving way.  That kind of pressure was telling over time.  When we first went heads-up, things went bad for me, but I came to realize I had to be careful because he's a very good player, a very smart player.  He didn't get out of line much.  After a while, I think I kind of felt like I knew where he was all the time.  I never let the pots get that big.  It was attrition really.

WSOP:  Do you think some of your rowdy friends might take you out for a drink tonight?
 
Boatman:  I'll take them out for a drink.  They helped me win this.

WSOP:  Any final thoughts about what this moment means?
 
Boatman:    Until the moment I won the WSOP bracelet, I never knew how great it would feel.  It's just a game, right?  It's only money, right?  It's only a piece of jewelry, right?  But wow, it's the most amazing feeling in the world.  I think especially because so many of my friends were here and my brother was here.  All the people in poker that I would have liked to be here, were.  And that's what made it special.