Donovan overcomes passing of ailing grandfather on Friday to take down the biggest victory of his career
Coral Springs, Florida (19 February 2019) - Zachary Donovan has earned his second career Circuit ring by winning the Main Event at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, Event #11, $1,700 No-Limit Hold'em. Donovan's win in this event is worth $243,916, and it came after nearly nine hours of Day 3 action. The win marked Donovan's second career Circuit ring and was his largest poker victory to date, as well as being the second-largest cash of his poker career.
Donovan, 31, a Boston-area native, came to the final table with the largest stack and held that lead through most of the final table. His final opponent was Memphis pro Sokchheka "Chico" Pho, who faced a 3:1 deficit when the pair began heads-up play. Pho made it interesting, taking a lead at one point before Donovan reestablished control.
Pho earned $150,374 for second. Delray Beach, FL pro Jason Young took third for $110,859, while Marietta, GA's Hamid Izadi collected $82,626 for fourth. Like Donovan, Pho and Izadi were also prior Circuit ringwinners.
Donovan started in second place among 15 returning Day 3 players, not too far behind Young, but he was hot from the start. He more than doubled his 3.1 million starting stack by the time the field reached an unofficial 10-player final, he'd topped eight million in chips. The rush continued through a couple of final-table knockouts; finally, after Izadi took a medium pot off of him, Donovan joked, "It's about time I lost a pot." He wasn't being snarky, he later admitted; he was just surprised how well he'd run.
Later, though, it wasn't as easy a ride. Donovan maintained his lead down to four-handed play, only to see over three hours of battle between the last four players. Donovan was never far out of the lead, but each of his other three remaining foes enjoyed the chip lead for at least a few hands. Donovan jumped back ahead when he knocked out Izadi in a major pot, and soon after, Pho eliminated a short-stacked Young to set up the final duel.
Pho played back aggressively and moved ahead of Donovan, but then what Donovan called "something of a cooler hand" played out. Pre-flop, Donovan raised to 550,000, and Pho called. The flop came . Pho checked, Donovan bet 600,000, Pho check-raised to 1.6 million, and Donovan called. The turn was the , Pho moved all-in, and Donovan called for less. Pho had for a flopped two pair, but Donovan had and had flopped a straight. The river was no good for Pho, and he was down to barely two million.
It was over soon after. Pho moved all in pre-flop with . Donovan asked for a count, and when it was announced as 1.7 million, he said, "I call, I call," and flipped over his . The runout was all to Donovan's hand - -- giving him a full house and the Coco main event title.
Yet it was still a bittersweet moment for Donovan, as he lost his grandfather on Friday, which was Day 1A of the Main Event. As he shared with the WSOP, "I flew down here, originally just planning on visiting my grandfather, and then maybe coming to play here, because he was in the hospital. He wasn't doing too well. Then he got really sick, really fast, and a few days later was in hospice.
"Then on Friday, Day 1, he passed. He passed in the morning. It was nice I got to say my goodbyes to him. Our whole family got to say our goodbyes to him. I was going to stay with my mom and my grandfather's girlfriend and my uncle, but they said my grandfather would be mad at me if I didn't go play this tournament. Because he was a huge fan of my poker.
"I guess he was with me the whole time. We won."
1st – Zachary Donovan ($243,916)
2nd – Sokchheka Pho ($150,374)
3rd – Jason Young ($110,859)
4th – Hamid Izadi ($82,626)
5th – Warren Sheaves ($62,406)
6th – Chad Eveslage ($47,746)
7th – Jack Shea ($36,990)
8th – Jessica Dawley ($29,014)
9th – Mike Azzaro ($23,038)