Illinois-born pro Pekarek claims first gold bracelet after outlasting 6,150-entry field
5 June 2019 (Las Vegas) – Jeremy Pekarek has overcome a mammoth 6,150-entry field to take down Event #9 at the 2019 World Series of Poker, $600 No-Limit Hold'em Deepstack. Pekarek, a native of Illinois who now plays professionally in Las Vegas, collected $398,281 and his first career WSOP gold bracelet.
Pekarek, 30, surged late to win at a final table full of shallow-stacked players jockeying for spots on the payout ladder, which meant tight play early, followed by a rapid series of all-in collisions. Each of the nine finalists in this event posted what was by far his best-ever WSOP cash.
Pekarek worked through the bustout frenzy on his way to the title, surviving a couple of all-in moments himself. He sealed the victory by eliminating another Illinois native, Dan Kuntzman. Kuntzman's near miss in Event #9 was still worth a $245,881 payday in what was his first-ever WSOP cash..
Tabasco, Mexico's Juan Magana finished in third for his first recorded live poker tournament cash, earning $182,173.
Canada's Benjamin Underwood finished in fourth place to earn $135,959. Colorado's Noomis Jones finished fifth for $55,869.
“I feel like this is the culmination of the past five years of me learning more about myself,” he said, shortly after the win. “Self-awareness is everything in this game. Knowing when to be aggressive, when to hold back... there were a lot of lessons I had to learn when I came out here.”
The former Air Force jet mechanic and dropout from UNLV relocated permanently from the Chicago seven years ago, and he went through some hard poker times before turning the corner. “It's been an up-and-down journey, but this was always the goal.
“Two years ago I was broke and taking the bus to work, and I was trying to fight just to stay and play poker. This is what I really wanted to do, but I wasn't able to admit that I wasn't really good enough to do it. Being able to accept that and take on the challenge, take responsibility for my own skill and move forward was key, I feel like, to getting here.”
Pekarek plans to play a fuller schedule for the rest of the series, something he believes he also wasn't ready for in earlier years.
Nine players returned at 3 pm on Wednesday for Event #9's finale, led by Paul Jain's 41.7 million chip stack. The first player eliminated from the final was one of the early short stacks, David Elet, who was down to eight million when he moved all in with , only to run into Juan Magana's . The board ran out , no help to Elet, who collected $35,183 for ninth.
John Skrovan was down to just a handful of big blinds when he moved all in over a Tan Nguyen open with , and Nguyen called for not much more with . Nguyen spiked a king on an runout to send Skrovan to the rail in eighth.
Seventh place went to the day's early chip leader, North Dakota's Jain, who suffered a couple of early hits that left him with just five big blinds. Jain tried to steal a pot from the button with , but Magana called and showed . Jain found no help on the board, exiting with a $59,075 payday.
Georgia's Tan Nguyen busted just moments later, when his couldn't hold up against Kuntzman's . The flop brought a jack and nothing else higher than a seven appeared, leaving Nguyen to collect his $77,418 sixth-place cash.
A flurry of bustouts continued with the departure of Colorado's Noomis Jones in fifth. Jones lost a race for his tourney life when his went down to Kuntzman's . The board ran out , sending Jones to the cashier for his first six-figure payday.
Jones was quickly followed to the rail by Canada's Benjamin Underwood, who collided with Pekarek. The chips went in after a flop, with Underwood shoving for 17 million and Pekarek calling. Underwood was on a draw with , while Pekarek had a near lock with his . The turn and river were no help to Underwood, ending his deep run in fourth position.
Three-way action found each player taking at least one turn in the lead, though it was Mexico's Juan Horacio Hernandez Magaña who busted next. Magana lost two big pots to slip from over 100 million to 24 million, and he moved those chips in behind . Pekarek told his rail it was time to gamble and called, and his was dominated, but he spiked a six on the flop to move ahead. The flop was and the turn gave Magaña extra outs to the straight, but the river was the blank that ended his run.
The heads-up duel between the two Illinois natives didn't last long. Pekarek began the duel with a huge lead, and in just the second hand of the duel, he bet enough to cover Kuntzman's remaining 33 million stack. Kuntzman called it off and showed , while Pekarek opened his . The  flop left Kuntzman ahead, but the turn paired Pekarek's ace while opening up a flush redraw for Kuntzman. The suspense ended, however, with a dry river, finishing off Pekarek's win.
Event #9, $600 No-Limit Hold'em Deepstack, attracted 6,150 entries and generated a $3,228,750 prize pool. 923 players cashed, with the min-cash worth $874.
Among those cashing in Event #9 were James Mackey (10th, $27,463), Stephen Song (12th, $27,463), Sean Yu (36th, $11,016), Joey Weissman (70th, $5,016), Ryan van Sanford (73rd, $4,205), Matt Stout (87th, $3,554), and Leif Force (93rd, $3,029).
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Final Table Payouts:
1st: Jeremy Pekarek, $398,281
2nd: Dan Kuntzman, $245,881
3rd: Juan Magana, $182,173
4th: Benjamin Underwood, $135,959
5th: Noomis Jones, $102,216
6th: Tan Nguyen, $77,418
7th: Paul Jain, $59,075
8th: John Skrovan, $45,418
9th: David Elet, $35,483