California's Alvarado triumphs in fast paced “Crazy Eights” finale

3 July 2019 (Las Vegas) – Ontario, California's Rick Alvarado has claimed the first gold WSOP bracelet of his career by winning Event #64 at the 2019 World Series of Poker, $1,500 Limit Hold'em.

The 30-year-old Alvarado triumphed over a huge 10,185-entry field and emerged from four days of fast-paced action with this event's $888,888 winner's payday. Prior to this event, WSOP veteran Alvarado had earned $386,807 in 26 previous WSOP cashes,

Alvarado claimed the win by closing out Guelph, Ontario, Canada's Mark Radoja. Radoja, a two-time bracelet winner himself, earned $548,888 with the big finish here.

Las Vegas pro and prior WSOP Circuit ring winner Thomas Drivas placed third in this event. Drivas earned $409,888 in what was also a WSOP career best effort.

Sao Paulo, Brazil's Vivian Saliba finished in fourth for a $308,888 score. Fifth place and $233,888 went to Lithuania's Aleksandras Rusinovas.

Asking Alvarado about this giant-field event's fast-paced structure led to a different sort of tale, that about how his mother flew in from LA and arrived just in time to see her son claim this huge win.

“I told my mom not to worry about coming when I made the final ten because I was short-stacked,” he explained. “Then when I doubled up, she was like, 'Should I come?' I said, 'It's up to to you,' and then she talked to one of my friends and he said she should come. So she booked the flight this afternoon.

“She said she was running through the airport to catch it, and then my friend went and picked her up from [McCarran], not more than 20 or 30 minutes before I won the bracelet. She got here with five minutes to spare. She saw maybe three hands. I'm really happy that she was here in time.”

Alvarado also mentioned that he didn't give up despite faring very poorly early on in this multi-entry event. He set a personal record of firing seven bullets in this event. “I almost bagged on one of them,” he said about his first six bustouts in Event #64.

Alvarado mentioned “In-n-Out Burger!” as what he did before becoming a full-time poker pro. But there's more to the story. As he explained, “I worked there for about six years, on and off. And I quit twice. Once I quit to pursue poker; that was pre-Black Friday,” referring to the 2011 DOJ crackdown targeting several offshore, US-facing poker sites.

“Then I had to go back to In-n-Out after Black Friday. Yeah, we're a long ways from that but I'm sure all my friends from In-n-Out” – a couple of whom were monitoring Alvarado's progress in the event and will be pleased to hear him say – “You guys listen to this: We did it!”

Virtually any winner's story features a moment or two of good fortune. One of those occurred during three-handed action, when Alvarado got it in with the worst of it against Drivas (hand details below) but came out of the clash with the lion's share of the chips in play.

“Oh, my God!” exclaimed Alvarado. “I'm not going to live that one down. It was quite a misstep that turned out to be a great suckout. It was a big misstep; I just thought [Drivas] was tired of me bullying him around because four-handed and three-handed, I was playing a majority of the pots.

“I was really showing some aggression, so I thought this was his way of standing up, without a real hand. I was wrong! But that's how you win tournaments!”

Ten players returned for the Day 4 finale of this year's Crazy Eights event, though a short-stacked Kevin Kwak busted early to set an unofficial nine-player final, and that soon became an official eight when Uselis Gediminas exited in ninth. Kwak and Gediminas both collected $82,130 for their efforts.

Eighth and $105,888 went to Manomet, Massachusetts' Mario Hofler, who busted soon after Gediminas's exit. Hofler's last hand found him moving the last of his stack in with   , only to have Vlad Darie move all in himself for not too much more. Darie had   , and that held up as the board ran out        .

However, Romania's Darie busted as well about an hour, collecting a $136,888 seventh-place payout. Darie departed in a three-way hand also including Patrick Clarke and Alvarado where Alvarado opened for 4.2 million and the other two called. The flop was    , Darie checked, Alvarado bet 6.4 milion, and Clarke and Alvarado both called.

The turn was the   and Darie moved all in for a little over 20 million. Alvarado called after a moment, while Clarke folded. Darie showed his    for two pair, but Alvarado opened    for the flush. The   river kept Alvarado's flush on top for the knockout.

Ardee, Ireland's Clarke hit the rail in sixth for a $177,888 cash. In his bustout hand, Clarke moved all in from the button with Vivian Saliba and Alvarado both calling. The other two players checked a     flop, but Saliba led out on the   turn, with Alvarado then folding. Saliba opened her    for two pair, while Clarke had    for outs to the straight. The   turn was a blank, however, leaving five players in the running.

Fifth-place winnings of $233,888 went to Lithuania's Rusinovas, who was down to about 24 million in chips when he committed the last of his stack from the button with   . Drivas called from the big blind with    and picked up the knockout when the board ran out        .

Brazil's Saliba crashed out of the final in fourth place ($308,888) after a huge pre-flop collision against Drivas. Saliba jammed all in for over 79 million after Drivas re-raised over an open from Radoja, but Drivas quickly called the shove and showed   . Saliba had    and found no help on a         runout.

Drivas appeared set to take a commanding lead when he got his 140-million stack in before the flop with    against Alvarado, who moved all in with    while having Drivas slightly covered. Instead, an         runout left Drivas on the rail in third ($409,888) and gave Alvarado a healthy lead entering heads-up play against Radoja. Alvarado began grinding down Radoja's already shortish stack, and Radoja made his last stand, for about 45 million in chips, with   . Alvarado called with    and trailed all the way to the river, as the board offered a     flop, a   turn, and then a   river for the win, along with joyous shouts from Alvarado's rail.

Event #64, $888 Crazy Eights No-Limit Hold'em, built a massive 10,185-entry field of entrants and offered a $8,139,852 prize pool. 1,223 players made the money and a min-cash was worth $1,500.

Event #64 cashers also included Ryan Leng (17th, $32,189), Martijn Gerrits (37th, $21,018), Leo Margets (38th, $21,018), Allyn Shulman (56th, $14,121), Andrew Brokos (60th, $11,701), Matt Matros (69th, $9,767), TJ Shulman (74th, $8,213), and Jesse Sylvia (84th, $6,957).

Click here for Full Results.
Click here for live updates from Event #64.

Final-Table Payouts:

1st: Rick Alvarado, $888,888
2nd: Mark Radoja, $548,888
3rd: Thomas Drivas, $409,888
4th: Vivian Saliba, $308,888
5th: Aleksandras Rusinovas, $233,888
6th: Patrick Clarke, $177,888
7th: Vlad Darie, $136,888
8th: Mario Hofler, $105,888