Nigerian native and Florida resident Fashakin wins special event honoring 50th edition of WSOP


7 June 2019 (Las Vegas) –
Femi Fashakin has taken down the largest event in World Series of Poker history, winning the special “BIG 50” $500 No-Limit Hold'em Event #3 at the 2019 WSOP. The win was worth $1,147,449 along with Fashakin's first gold bracelet.

Fashakin triumphed after a grueling five days of play in an event that topped the WSOP's previous single-event turnout record by roughly 5,000 players. Before this event, Fashakin, a 37-year-old native of Lagos, Nigeria who now lives in Orlando, Florida, had recorded four previous WSOP and Circuit cashes for a total of $12,171. In an all-in preflop final hand, Fashakin's    held up against Cullen's   .

Fashakin's final foe turned out to be Paul Cullen, a 35-year-old native of Montreal who now lives in Las Vegas. Cullen had logged but one prior WSOP cash, for $1,398, before cashing for $709,183 here. 

Third place in the BIG 50 went to Tel Aviv, Israel's Rafi Elharar. Elharar held the lead through much of the middle stage of the final table but could not outlast Fashakin and Culler. Elharar's showing was worth $534,574.

La Cañada Flintridge, California's Nicholas Chow finished fourth, earning $405,132. Fifth-place money of $308,071 went to Hamilton Beach, California's Walter Atwood.

Fashakin arrived from Nigeria to the US in 2001, where he attended Bethune Cookman University on a full scholarship, majoring in computer science. From there, over the next decade or so, he worked for what he described as “several Fortune 500 firms,” eventually establishing himself as an independent consultant doing software engineering.

Fashakin caught the poker bug somewhat later. “I started playing in 2010 or 2011,” he told the WSOP. “But I was playing with friends and my wife; she had a cousin who was hosting a cash game, and I played with them. My background – I used to play a lot of chess; I never studied it, but I was pretty good. But by the time I was going to start studying it and play competitively, I drifted and didn't do that.

“So when I found poker, I couldn't believe it. I was like, 'This is a game I can analyze and use my mind on.' So I got a little more interest in the game and started watching WSOPs and WPTs. But then I realized that it didn't make sense. The level they were playing at – they were going all in with jack-five....

“So I started playing at local bars. Hold'em and all that. I played that about six months one year. And I thought I had graduated. So I started going to Hard Rock in Tampa,” a major Florida tourney destination, “and I had a few cashes. Then I started to go to south Florida and played some $360s [buy-in events], then some $570s.” In other words, he worked his way up the ladder.

That said, he had posted only modest results at the WSOP before the BIG 50, with two cashes in Las Vegas accompanied by two south Florida Circuit cashes, for a little over $12,000 total. Yet he wasn't deterred. “I always felt I could play poker. I had room for improvement, but I had some skills.”

Fashakin successfully navigated the largest field in WSOP history with one goal in mind in the early stages: just staying alive. With a few breaks along the way, that turned into a $1.147 million payday. It's such a large amount that he still wasn't believing it, minutes later. Yet in addition to giving him a huge poker bankroll, it also gives him more to share with his family. Fashakin is happily married with two childen, ages eight-and-a-half and two-and-a-half.

Seven players returned for streamed Day 4 action in the Big 50. Two players made the final table but were eliminated late on Day 3: Singapore's Morten Christensen finished eighth for $141,126, while Maplewood, Minnesota's David Rasmussen placed ninth, collecting $109,922.

Houston, Texas's Adrian Curry was the first to bust from the streamed finale. Curry and Elharar engaged in a preflop betting war that ended with Curry all in with    and in trouble against Elharar's   . Curry found no help on a         board, ending up with $182,192 for seventh.

Danny Ghobrial followed Curry to the rail eight hands later. Ghobrial, a native of Toronto now living in Los Angeles, was down to just three big blinds when he moved all in was called by both Elharar and Chow. Chow bet on the     flop, Elharar folded, and Chow showed his   . Ghobrial had    and couldn't connect with the   turn, which sealed the hand, or the   river. Ghobrial pocketed $236,508 for sixth.

Nearly 40 more hands elapsed before the deep run of Huntington Beach, California's Atwood in the BIG 50 ended in fifth. In this bustout hand, Chow opened for 30 million and Atwood moved all in for 136 million. Chow thought it over long enough for Atwood to call for a clock, but then Chow finally called and was ahead with    to Atwood's   . The flop came     to give Chow a pair of aces, though Atwood had outs to the Broadway straight. However, the   turn and   river were blanks for Atwood, and headed off to collect a $308,701 payday.

The marathon portion of the BIG 50 finale occurred during four-handed play, when time and again, an all-in, short-stacked player doubled through to stay alive. That string ended with Nick Chow's exit in fourth for $405,132 in his first-ever WSOP cash. Chow got his chips in ahead with    against Fashakin's   . A     flop moved Fashakin way ahead and left Chow little for outs, and the   turn and   river, which gave Fashakin a flush, sealed Chow's fate.

That left three, and just minutes later it became two, when Elfarar shoved in for his last 155 million with   . Fashakin had Elfarar well outchipped, but tanked briefly before calling with   . Fashakin moved farther ahead with the     flop, and the   turn and   river kept Fashakin's threes in front. That left Elfarar to collect his $534,374 third-place payday.

Fashakin led Cullen by a 2:1 margin when heads-up play began, but with only 45 big blinds between them, the end would come fast. That occurred when Fashakin limped in from the button and Cullen bet 140 million, nearly half his stack. Fashakin moved all in and Cullen called for the rest of his chips, but found his    well behind Fashakin's   . There was still some suspense, as the     flop paired Cullen's queen, but the   turn and   river made Fashakin's aces the winning hand.

Event #3, BIG 50 - $500 No-Limit Hold'em, drew a live-event record 28,371 entries and built a $13,509,435 prize pool. 4,150 players cashed, with this event's min-cash worth $750.

Other Notables:
Among those who ran deep in the BIG 50 were Diogo Veiga (17th, $53,714), Allen Cunningham (47th, $22,383), Lee Childs (56th, $18,244), Toto Leonidas (96th, $8,539), Michael Souza (112th, $7,169), David “Bakes” Baker (132nd, $7,169), John Richards (147th, $7,169), Alexander Ziskin (148th, $7,169), and Jeffrey Trudeau (196th, $7,169).

Click here for Full Results.
Click here for live updates from Event #3.

Final Table Payouts:

1st: Femi Fashakin, $1,147,449
2nd: Paul Cullen, $709,183
3rd: Rafi Elharar, $534,574
4th: Nicholas Chow, $405,132
5th: Walter Atwood, $308,071
6th: Danny Ghobrial, $236,508
7th: Adrian Curry, $182,192
8th: Morten Christensen, $141,126
9th: David Rasmussen, $109,922