28 June 2018 (Las Vegas) - Joey Couden won his first career World Series of Poker bracelet late Thursday night. Couden took first place in Event #53: $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha 8 or Better, earning $244,370. 

Couden bested a star-studded final tablet that included some of the biggest names in poker, including Daniel Negreanu, Mike Matusow, Eli Elezra, and Bruno Fitoussi. Couden, a relative unknown by comparison, didn't let the star power intimidate him. Rather, he enjoyed the opportunity to play with the game's best. "It was a great experience," he said. "It was just a lot of fun, getting to hang out with Matusow, and Eli, and Bruno. They’re such great personalities."

This is Couden's eighth cash of the 2018 WSOP, and he's already had some deep runs. Three of his previous finishes were in the top 18. He said that in years past, coming close to winning but falling short would have bothered him, and maybe even thrown him off his game. But now he has a different perspective. "As long as I don’t make big mistakes, I feel fine about where I bust." 

When Day 3 began on Thursday, the starting field of 935 had been reduced to 20 players, and it was still a stacked field. Nathan Gamble, who won this event last year, was not only still in contention – he started the day with the chip lead and had a rare opportunity to win the same event in back-to-back years. He was joined by one of the most recognizable players in the poker world right now in Daniel Negreanu, as well as Fitoussi, Elezra, Matusow, and Bryce Yockey.

They reached the official final table after about four hours of play. It was defending champ Gamble who busted out in tenth place, leaving nine final tablists.

Negreanu, a six-time WSOP bracelet winner, was the next to go. He was the short stack entering the final table. And although he made a valiant attempt at a comeback to stick around for nearly two more hours, he was eventually eliminated when his      ran into Eli Elezra’s     . The players got all in preflop. Negreanu had no low possibility, Elezra ended up winning the high with aces full. Negreanu earned $17,268 for his ninth-place finish.

Gregory Jamison was eliminated in eighth place about 45 minutes later. It was again Elezra who busted his opponent. Jamison called all in on the flop two pair. Elezra had a straight draw, and completed his straight on the river to send Jamison to the rail in eighth ($22,541).

They were still seven handed at dinner break, and Dustin Pattinson became the first post-dinner elimination about half an hour after play resumed. He earned $29,862 for his seventh-place finish.

After about another half hour, Kim Kallman of Finland became the next casualty. He was all in preflop against Fitoussi and Chris Conrad. Conrad won the high and half the low to take three quarters, and Fitoussi took the other half of the low. Kallman was eliminated in sixth place for $40,141.

Five-handed play lasted a while, but about 25 minutes after the next break, Chris Conrad became the next to exit. He got the last of his chips in the middle with      against Eli Elezra’s     . The board ended up missing both players completely, a rarity in Omaha. There was no possible low, and Elezra won the high with his pocket fives. Conrad finished in fifth place, earning $54,738.

Soon after, Matusow busted in fourth place ($75,708). He got all in preflop against Fitoussi, and Fitoussi got a great runout to make the nut flush and the nut low. Matusow already has several deep runs this summer – he had five cashes already, and they were all for 30th place or better. Now with this fourth-place performance, Matusow has his best finish of the 2018 WSOP.

Three-handed play also lasted a while, but with about six minutes left in Level 30, Eli Elezra was eliminated in third place ($106,183). It was Couden who sent him to the rail, and after the hand, he nearly a 3-1 chip lead over Fitoussi as heads-up play began.

Day 3 was scheduled to conclude after Level 30, but with only two players remaining, they were given the option to play one more level. They chose to keep playing. Fitoussi twice got short-stacked, but doubled up. After the second time, he doubled up again to pull himself out of danger, although Couden still held the lead. Then with just a couple minutes to go in the last level of the night, Couden finally won an all-in confrontation to secure the victory.

Here are the final table results. Click here for FULL RESULTS or for LIVE UPDATES from the event.

1 - -Joey Couden $244,370
2 - Bruno Fitoussi - $150,990
3 – Eli Elezra - $106,183
4 – Mike Matusow – $75,708
5 – Chris Conrad - $54,637
6 – Kim Kallman - $40,141
7 – Dustin Pattinson - $29,862
8 – Gregory Jamison - $22,541
9 – Daniel Negreanu - $17,268