June 21, 2017 (Las Vegas, NV) - Rifat Palevic earned a few World Series of Poker cashes between 2009-2011, but then took a few years off from leaving his home country of Sweden, so that he could take care of his growing daughter.
He came back to Las Vegas with a vengeance and won the $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em Super Turbo Bounty event in one of his first tournaments outside Europe in quite some time. He defeated a massive field of 1,868 players to win his first WSOP bracelet, $183,903 and however many bounties he picked up along the way.
"Everything is going through my mind right now," said Palevic after his win. "I actually wasn't even planning on playing this, but I met one guy from Houston, Texas and we played heads-up for a long session in London and he told me that it was not good cash games. And he said 'Let's play this. It's a good tournament.' So, my friends also told me it was a good tournament. I went into it and everything was good. I'm very happy to get a bracelet."
Palevic had a similar situation to the only double bracelet winner of the summer, David Bach. In order to spend more time with his family, he spent most of his time locally, playing whatever games he could find. Now that his daughter is getting older, he hopes to make more trips to the U.S.
"I have a daughter and she is becoming 12 now in September," said Palevic. "I was playing a lot outside Europe and Sweden, but now I'm playing more now home in Sweden and local games in Europe. It's like when my wife and family have vacation, it's the World Series. That's why I didn't come every year, but I should do it because it's very nice over here. I like the atmosphere, I like the food, I like Vegas, I like everything."
With the super turbo structure, levels were only 20 minutes long and Palevic's route to a bracelet only took 15 hours, giving him an hourly rate of at least $12,260/hour, not including however many bounties he picked up along the way, which were worth $300 each.
Palevic loved the structure of the entire event. It was perfect for his style.
"It was a perfect mix," said Palevic. "It couldn't be better. It was born for me. I like turbo tournaments. I also like normal tournaments, but I really liked this tournament. It was nice with the bounties. Everything was nice. I like to play tournaments over here in the U.S."
The final table featured several players with very rowdy rails of support, Palevic included. It was an atmosphere that was foreign to Palevic, but in the end, it gave him the energy he needed to take it down.
"I'm not used to having a crowd," he said. "So, it gave me a lot of energy. I'm very thankful to the guys who came over to rail me and gave me some good energy. I lost my stack and I was very short and then they talked me into it again and then I get it back, so I'm very happy."
Palevic came into the final table as the short stack, but was able to double up several times, stay alive and survive all the way to heads-up action against Ryan Olisar. Olisar, a professional poker player from Illinois, started out the match with a two-to-one chip lead, but squandered that lead in just the third hand of their heads-up battle.
Palevic doubled up with against Olisar's . He flopped a nine to take the lead and double up. Six hands later, Palevic picked up pocket kings and got it all in preflop against Olisar's . Palevic had Olisar drawing dead on the turn.
The final table only lasted two hours and 54 hands, but the swings were massive. Gavin O'Rourke and George Dolofan started the final table at the top of the chip counts, but were two of the first players to hit the rail.
Victor Kim was eliminated in ninth before Dolofan and O'Rourke followed him to the cashier's cage in eighth and seventh place, respectively.
Dolofan's elimination was the spark that started a string of busts. Over the next three hands, three players were sent packing. Joe Montervino finished in sixth, Rick Hollman hit the rail in fifth and Robert Heidorn fell in fourth before the final three players battled for 10 hands.
Olisar was the biggest of the two stacks and maintained his chip position throughout three-handed play. Palevic scored a massive double up through Dean Blatt with pocket kings against Blatt's pocket fours. Palevic's kings held up and Blatt was left with just one ante.
He was eliminated on the next hand, leaving Palevic heads-up with the eventual runner-up. Olisar was the only other player with a six-figure payday, taking home $113,581 for his second place finish.
Palevic wouldn't make any bold predictions for the rest of the series, but he hinted at another bracelet win before heading back to Sweden.
"I won't say anything right now, but I hope that we get to talk again this year," said Palevic.
Relive the action with the live updates
Final Table Results:
1st: Rifat Palevic - $183,903
2nd: Ryan Olisar - $113,581
3rd: Dean Blatt - $82,227
4th: Robert Heidorn - $60,132
5th: Rick Hollman - $44,424
6th: Joe Montervino - $33,160
7th: Gavin O'Rourke - $25,010
8th: George Dolofan - $19,063
9th: Victor Kim - $14,685