June 29, 2017 (Las Vegas, NV) - Chris Bolek already accomplished a ton in his poker career. Over seven figures in earnings, won a World Series of Poker Circuit ring and earned enough playing the game to rely on it for his sole source of income. On Thursday afternoon, however, Bolek added a WSOP bracelet to his collection of accomplishments.
The 28-year-old poker pro from Florida took bested a field of 1,927 players to win $266,646 in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Bounty event.
"It feels really surreal," said Bolek after the tournament. "I came in pretty short to the final table, so I just wanted to give myself a shot to win. People talk about visualizing stuff a lot, so I tried to do that this morning just to get myself in the right mindset and then just hope I ran good. And it all kind of came together, perfectly"
Most of Bolek's results came from non-WSOP events, but nearly all of Bolek's prior results came in his home state of Florida. Bolek feels this is merely just a coincidence.
"It just so happens that I've had big scores in Florida," said Bolek. "Maybe it's a comfortability thing of being at home, but I think it's just a coincidence that I've had big scores while being at home. But maybe I'll travel a little more now for the other ones."
The event was scheduled to end in three days, but when the field hit the hard stop on Wednesday night, the final five players came back on Thursday at 1 p.m. to play down to a winner live streamed on PokerGO. One of Bolek's biggest scores came from a second place finish in a $5,000 buy-in event in Jacksonville, which was also live streamed and broadcast on TV.
His experience being in front of the cameras helped him prepare for arguably the biggest moment in his poker career.
"When I played in Jacksonville, I was pretty nervous for the live stream and the television version. So, that helped a bit. I was happy that we didn't have a stream yesterday just because it allows you to concentrate on what is going on. I just felt super comfortable this time around and that helped a lot."
Bolek came into the day as one of the shorter stacks remaining. He had his roommate watching the live stream to feed him information on the breaks and in between hands, but in the back of his mind, his short stack was weighing on him.
"I was just hoping to last long enough to get the value of having somebody watching and not bust first," said Bolek. "But luckily, it worked out."
Up until Thursday, the Boca Raton, FL native was able to accomplish so much in the poker world without raising many eyebrows. A bracelet win might give him something Bolek doesn't necessarily want, attention.
"I think there was a time when I was kind of hoping for some sort of win, so that I could get some recognition or something like that," said Bolek. "I think lately and since I've had decent scores and I've done well for where I want to be in poker, for me, it's more about the personal achievement. I don't want the attention of it. I just want it for myself to prove to myself that I can compete and do it at a high level."
When cards got in the air on Thursday, it was Bryan Emory who held most of the chips, but it quickly became Bolek's final table. Zhaoxing Wang was eliminated in fifth place by James Gilbert and then Bolek started his run.
He doubled through Gilbert after getting all in with against Gilbert's . He flopped a gutshot straight draw and made Broadway on the river. He then eliminated Tobias Peters in third place after turning quads with his pocket jacks against Peters' .
Almost immediately after that, Bolek scored another double, this time through Emory when he moved all in on the river with the nut straight and was called by Emory. That gave him the chip lead that he never relinquished.
"That was just such a rush of cards, man," said Bolek. "From the double up with queen-ten vs. ace-jack, where I rivered a jack. That just felt unbelievable. If I win that hand, I just felt like I was going to play well and not lose. Then, I just hit a rush of cards. I just had a good hand in every spot where I played a big pot."
Bolek eliminated Gilbert in third place with his pocket queens all in preflop against Gilbert's queen-jack. Bolek faded a bad beat story and took a 6-to-1 chip lead into heads-up play against Emory. It didn't take long for Emory to finish second.
He got all in preflop with against Bolek's . Bolek's pair held up to win the pot and the title. He immediately headed to his rail full of fellow Florida professionals to celebrate.
"It's a small poker world in Florida," said Bolek. "So, everybody kind of knows each other. And there's, everyone is generally cool to be around. Very positive people, so it's nice."
Govert Metaal, Thomas Lutz, Richard Dubini and former November Niner Dan Sindelar rounded out the final table, but were eliminated before the end of the day on Wednesday.
Relive the action with the live updates
Final Table Results:
1st: Chris Bolek - $266,646
2nd: Bryan Emory - $164,735
3rd: James Gilbert - $119,479
4th: Tobias Peters - $87,516
5th: Zhaoxing Wang - $64,746
6th: Govert Metaal - $48,386
7th: Thomas Lutz - $36,530
8th: Richard Dubini - $27,865
9th: Dan Sindelar - $21,477