Hugo Pingray won a monster-sized victory at the 2014 World Series of Poker. He was crowned the champion of the inaugural $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Monster Stack tournament. The aspiring poker player and student on leave from his studies originally from France and now residing in Martigny, Switzerland topped a record-breaking field of 7,862 players on the way to not only his first cash ever at the WSOP, but his first major poker victory as well.
Pingray’s cash prize amounted to $1,327,083. Put another way, this figure represented 885 times the buy-in for this event. Up until this win, in four live tournament cashes, all in Europe, his career earnings totaled a modest $45,631. Hence, this was an astonishing success story for a player who has been playing poker for only about three years. He says he learned how to play poker on the Internet.
Despite his relative inexperience in events at this level, Pingray played like a seasoned pro from start to finish. He was in command of, or near, the chip lead just about the entire duration of the final table. When nine-handed play commenced, Pingray and another player Sean Drake combined for more than 40 percent of the chips in play. When Drake went out in third place, Pingray's victory seemed well within reach. However, the final four hours of the tournament turned out to be a wild ride of ups and downs and a see-saw of emotions for the final two players and their dozens of supporters on opposite sides of the packed gallery. At one point, Pingray had the chance to put Joseph McKeehen out rather quickly in the duel. His A-K had McKeehen all in holding a pair of tens. Yet, Pingray couldn't pair either of his overcards, giving his rival not only new life, but the chip lead. It took two more hours for the Frenchman to scratch and claw his way back into the lead. The match ended with Pingray's A-K catching an ace on the flop to win the final hand of the tournament with a pair of aces. “I’m happy. I’m exhausted. I really don’t know what to say,” a dazed Pingray said afterward. “This final table was really tough, with a lot of good players. All these guys were really, really good and I had to stay focused. I had to believe in myself every second of the final table.” Pingray is 23-years-old. He’s currently on leave from college, where he’s studying hospitality and hotel management. He’s using this time to play poker. Incredibly, this marked his first visit ever to Las Vegas. This is only the second WSOP event Pingray had played.“I took time off from my studies. I wanted to give myself a year off to play poker and see how it goes,” Pingray said. “This is a big help, I must say.”
Joseph McKeehen, from Philadelphia, PA finished as the runner-up. The 23-year-old poker pro has posted quite a few big cashes over the course of his rather brief career, which already amounted to more than $1 million in earnings prior to this event. He collected a nice consolation prize amounting to $820,663, nearly doubling his lifetime earnings up close to the $2 million mark.
A funny side note about the victory was Pingray's status at the end of Day One compared to his a friend, with whom he's sharing a rental house in Las Vegas. The close friend was near chip chip lead, while Pingray was below the average stack. The prompted some good-natured banter and perhaps even fueled added motivation.
"My roommate had a very big stack. He was near the chip lead and he was telling me -- 'you shouldn't even bother coming tomorrow," Pingray joked. "And here he was today on the rail cheering for me."The nearly 8,000-player field was the third largest live tournament in history. Only the 2006 WSOP Main Event Championship (8,773 players) and this year’s Millionaire Maker event (7,977 players) drew more entries. However, this five-day tournament not only was a single-elimination event, it also all began in a single day. Indeed, the first day of this tournament went down as the busiest day in poker history, smashing all previous starting-day records. Due to the huge turnout and massive prize pool, all nine players who made it to the final table were guaranteed a six-figure payout. In fact, the top 792 finishers in this event each earned a payday worth at least $2,759. Some of the notables who cashed include Men Nguyen (685th), Marco Johnson (605th), Amir Lehavot (590th), hockey player Phil Kessel (587th), Soi Nguyen (372nd), Jeff Madsen (278th), Dwyte Pilgrim (209th), Taylor Paur (127th), John Monnette (89th), and Jason Duval (31st).The final table featured three players who notched their first-ever WSOP cash, three players making their first-ever WSOP final table, and three players with previous final table experience. Sean Drake was the only gold bracelet winner in the bunch. His win came back in 2011 in the Casino Employees event. He collected $82,292 for his previous win, which meant that just by making the final table, Drake managed to surpass that amount as his career-high payday. Zachary Gruneberg (8th) and Thayer Rasmussen (5th) are the other final table players who came in with prior WSOP final table experience.Here are the final table results of the $1,500 buy-in Monster Stack event:1st: Hugo Pingray - $1,327,0832nd: Joseph McKeehen - $820,8633rd: Sean Drake - $619,5214th: Claas Segebrecht - $468,5945th: Thayer Rasmussen - $356,6206th: Lynne Beaumont - $273,0907th: Bobby Byram - $210,4698th: Zachary Gruneberg - $163,2389th: Joshua Hillock - $127,364