Restaurant operator scores bracelet win in his second-ever WSOP event

July 1, 2017 (Las Vegas, NV) - Smith Sirisakorn came into the $2,500 Omaha Hi-Lo/Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo event with just one tournament cash to his name and had only played one other World Series of Poker event. His lack of tournament experience didn't stop him from taking down his first bracelet on Saturday night.

Sirisakorn defeated 405 players to win $215,902 along with the WSOP gold bracelet. The former lawyer and business owner was at a loss for words after the final card hit the felt. 

"I'm still in shock," said Sirisakorn. "I'm absolutely in shock. It's amazing."

Sirisakorn plays mostly cash games in the Los Angeles area, but the two games in the mix are the games the most. You can generally find him playing $20/$40 or $40/$80 in his local casinos, but very rarely mixes it up in the tournament world.

"I have maybe one other tournament cash years and years ago," said Sirisakorn. "But I don't play much tournament poker. This is my second World Series that I've ever played."

The soft-spoken Sirisakorn is one of the more humble players you could meet. When asked about the difference in strategy between the flop and stud versions of hi-lo, he didn't even think his opinion carried any weight.

"I don't know, you'd have to ask the pros about that," said the 34-year-old. "I'm mostly a recreational player. I play for fun. I own and operate restaurant franchises. We have a couple restaurants back in New York. I operate it for a couple friends of mine. I used to be an attorney once upon a time. Now I do this. I have a decent amount of free time on my hands. I spend it playing poker."

With 14 players returning for the tournament's final day, there were plenty of top tier pros in the field, making Sirisakorn more of a long shot to win the event. Sirisakorn navigated through a final day that featured Esther Taylor, Chad Eveslage, Mikhail Semin, Naoya Kihara, Alex Luneau, Barry Greenstein, Jared Bleznick and Jameson Painter.

Taylor, Eveslage, Semin, Kihara and the start-of-day chip leader Luneau all fell just before the final table. Greenstein finished in seventh, Bleznick in third and Sirisakorn defeated Painter heads-up for the title.

He wasn't too intimidated, though. His lack of experience in tournament poker kept him in the dark on how good some of his opponents were. Regardless, he enjoyed the experience of playing with them.

"I think being a recreational player, it's better not to know," said Sirisakorn. "I knew Barry Greenstein. I had his book 'Ace on the River." Super nice dude. It was a pleasure being around these guys - professionals who are also pretty gentlemanly about them."

The atmosphere surrounding the final table was loud and boisterous, with Bleznick and Painter both having deep rails that were continuously cheering for the player they were supporting. It was an atmosphere that is generally associated with some of the big bet games and something that was completely foreign for a mostly cash game player in Los Angeles.

Sirisakorn took it in stride and blocked it out. He knew it was all in good fun.

" I was thinking about telling them 'One player per hand please,'" joked Sirisakorn. "But loo, I mean, their buddy is heads-up for a bracelet. It's a big deal. So, you know, that kind of stuff doesn't rattle me. They were just having fun for the most part."

As far as playing against the pros themselves, Sirisakorn knew that he had to stay aggressive to kept from being run over.

"I had really good hands. That helped," he said. "But I also wanted to make sure that I was staying aggressive throughout. The pros are all super, super aggro, so I had to stay ahead of that and it worked. I hit some cards, hit some turns and hit some rivers. I got there."

When the final 14 players reached the unofficial final table, Sirisakorn was second in chips to Larry Tull. He eliminated Alex Luneau in ninth place in stud when his two pair bested the French pro's pair of aces.

However, over the course of a few hours, Sirisakorn slowly dropped in the counts as Bonnie Rossi hit the rail in eighth, Greenstein fell in seventh and John Sorgen was eliminated in sixth.

With five players left, Sirisakorn was fourth in chips. The two most experienced pros left, Bleznick and Painter, were at the top of the counts.

Five-handed play lasted for several hours, however, and as the limits got bigger the stacks got shallower. That was when Sirisakorn made his run. He won a couple hands without showdown and got back over the million chip mark. Samoeun Mon hit the rail in fifth place at the hands of Painter and a short-stacked Tull was eliminated by Bleznick.

The final three players went to dinner break with Sirisakorn and Painter the only two players over the 2 million mark and Bleznick the very short stack. In Omaha, Bleznick was eliminated by Sirisakorn when he got all in preflop against both Painter and Sirisakorn. Sirisakorn flopped top pair and bet. Painter folded and Sirisakorn was in the lead against Bleznick.

Bleznick coulnd't improve to a better hand and was left with just a pair of deuces. Sirisakorn scored his second knockout of the final table and was heasds-up against Painter for all the marbles.

Painter held a 3-to-2 chip advantage, but Sirisakorn applied constant pressure throughout the heads-up match and their fortunes were quickly reversed. Sirisakorn took the chip lead and never gave it back. He won the majority of pots and grinded Painter down to just a couple bets. 

Painter was all in a couple times for his tournament life throughout the two-hour heads-up battle, but never could get much going against Sirisakorn. Sirisakorn went running cards to made Broadway after Painter flopped trip kings in Omaha hi-lo to finish the match.

Painter took home $113,431 for his runner-up finish and came up just shy once again of his first bracelet. In a show of class, Painter's rail gave Sirisakorn a standing ovation after the match was over. Sirisakorn didn't want much of the credit, however. He gave most of it to Lady Luck.

"You guys saw my cards here," said Sirisakorn. "I was running pretty good. Better lucky than good, I guess."

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Final Table Results:

1st: Smith Sirisakorn - $215,902
2nd: Jameson Painter - $133,431
3rd: Jared Bleznick - $90,640
4th: Larry Tull - $62,796
5th: Samoeun Mon - $44,388
6th: John Sorgen - $32,026
7th: Barry Greenstein - $23,595
8th: Bonnie Rossi - $17,760