Almost five years ago to the day, Mukul Pahuja got the jumpstart he needed to jump into poker as a full time profession by finishing fourth in the World Series of Poker Circuit Harrah’s Atlantic City $5,000 Main Event and following that up with a ring in a $2,000 postliminary event. They were his first significant scores and about a year later, he turned pro.
On Monday afternoon, with his brother on the rail, Pahuja earned his second ring at the same venue by winning the 2014 WSOP Circuit Harrah’s Atlantic City Main Event. Pahuja took home $148,345 by topping a field of 460 players and defeating Jake Toole heads-up, earning a seat to the 2015 WSOP National Championship in the process.
“It was my first major buy-in,” said Pahuja of his fourth place finish in 2009. “It was a $5,000 buy-in and before everything was standardized as $1,675’s across the board. I remember winning a satellite into that tournament and it was a big jump for me. My prior biggest cash was some small buy-in tournament and I ended up taking fourth for like $70,000 or so. It was an amazing week and kind of introduced me more so into tournament poker. That week here at Harrah’s was a catalyst for me.”
The win gives Pahuja just shy of $3.4 million in career live tournament earnings and fresh off a third place finish at WPT Montreal in November, but winning the $148,345 wasn’t going to be an easy task.
When the final table began, Pahuja was one of the shortest stacks and was at a very talented final table that featured chip leader Mike Dentale, Joseph Liberta and Adam Teasdale, who won this exact event in 2012.
“I’ve been feeling great about everything I’ve been doing lately,” said Pahuja. “But a lot of things have to go well as you saw today. A lot of guys got it in really good today and it didn’t work out. There were a lot of good players at this final table, a lot of high-level play and there were some crazy swings.”
When play began on Monday, there were 15 minute left in level 25 and then the levels were increased to 75 minute in length. David Matthews was eliminated in ninth place during level 26 and it would stay eight-handed until the beginning of level 28.
Joseph Liberta lost a flip to Toole to be eliminated in eighth place and over the next two hours, the tournament went from eight players down to just Pahuja. Those two hours saw the crazy swings and bad beats that Pahuja alluded to and in the end, Pahuja was the last man standing.
Pahuja earned most of the knockouts along the way, sending home Jesse Cohen in seventh, Teasdale in sixth, Dentale in fourth, Jeganathan in third and Toole in a heads-up battle that lasted only a few hands.
“There were three or four major flips [that I won], one three-handed and one to close it out. You just got to keep putting yourself in a position to win those big showdowns. I put myself in a position to get lucky and I did.”
The field as a whole was littered with pros. Bracelet winners Greg Kolo and Brian Lemke finished 24th and 33rd respectively, while Jake Schwartz, Joseph Wertz, Julie Cornelius, Paul Sokoloff, Ralph Massey and Tim West all earned a cash in the event as well.
Final table results:
1st: Mukul Pahuja – $148,345
2nd: Jake Toole – $91,722
3rd: Gajan Jeganathan – $67,006
4th: Mike Dentale – $49,673
5th: Jim Petolicchio – $37,357
6th: Adam Teasdale – $28,497
7th: Jesse Cohen – $22,046
8th: Joseph Liberta – $17,298
9th: David Matthews – $13,766