Monday, March 21, 2016 6:04 PM Local Time
Kalid Ali Wins Event #5 ($31,216)
Kalid Ali is the champion of Event #5 at Harrah’s Atlantic City, defeating a field of 484 entries to win his first gold ring. In addition to the jewelry, Ali earned the top prize of $31,216 and 50 points toward the race for seats in the WSOP Global Casino Championship.
The champ is a 42-year-old professional poker player. He’s originally from Ethiopia, but he’s been a resident of Washington D.C. for the past 13 years. Ali gave up his coffee business six years ago to focus on the game more seriously, and he’s been playing full time for the past year or so. This tournament result is his largest on record.
Ali seemed destined for the winner’s circle for a long while down the stretch run. He was already the chip leader late on Day 2 when he dragged the tournament’s largest pot, culminating in a crucial double knockout. With ten players left, Ali was dealt pocket aces in the cutoff, Daniel Buzgon pocket queens on the button, and Vinny Pahuja pocket jacks in the big blind. Both of Ali’s opponents got it all in preflop, and Ali put them at risk with his overpair. “That was exciting,” he smiled as he thought back to the pivotal pot. “My hand held up. I mean, that was beautiful.”
With two dangerous opponents out of the way, the path to victory became a bit more clear. If anyone else was going to beat Ali, it was likely going to be Aditya Prasetyo. The two-time ring winner picked his spots carefully as the final table shrank, and he had taken over the chip lead by the time they were three handed. Ali denied him in the end, though, retaking the lead prior to the heads-up match and sealing the victory after some brief back-and-forth.
When asked about his plan entering heads-up play, Ali emphasized the need for aggression against a tough opponent. “He’s a beast,” he said. “I knew I had to play my ‘A’ game. I just tried to show him that he didn’t intimidate me.”
Ali was indeed the more aggressive of the two in the duel, putting in big reraises and showing down bluffs on several occasions. Prasetyo had a chance to square the match on the final hand, but fate was on Ali’s side. The two got it all on on a ten-high flop, and Ali’s king-ten was in bad shape against Prasetyo’s pocket jacks. A king on the river drew an eruption of noise from Ali and his rail, though, and the dealer pushed him Prasetyo’s chips to secure the victory.
Ali was beaming as he posed for his winner’s photos. “It’s beautiful,” he said again, admiring his new ring. “Trust me. More than the money, I wanted this. I swear. You can’t play basketball with Lebron James. But you can play poker with anybody, and you have a chance to win.”