Wednesday, June 29, 2016 1:04 PM Local Time
Mitchell Towner Wins the Monster Stack
Mitchell Towner has just won a million-dollar, monster-sized victory at 2016 World Series of Poker.
Four days ago, the University of Arizona college professor and self-admitted novice poker player would have seemed like the least likely candidate to wind up as the only player left sitting at a poker table where nearly 7,000 others hoped to be victorious, and the ultimate beneficiary of one of the largest cash prizes of the summer series. He was one of the players many pros and veterans mentally target as “not standing a chance.”
Well, strange things happen sometimes in poker and even stranger things take place when the cards are dealt at the World Series of Poker. Dreams do come true. Even miracles happen.
Incredibly, this was the first time Towner had ever cashed in a poker tournament of any kind. To say this was a stunning debut woul be an understatement.
“I’ve only played in like two events that were buy-ins of more than $100,” Towner confided afterward to a group of reporters who were stunned by the admission that someone with so little experience could outmaneuver such a huge field size. “I want to give a shout out to some of the podcast guys, and the television coverage I saw on EPT events and others where they talk about hands. I’m like a casual fan who invests maybe an hour a week in this....I really don’t play poker.”
The 29-year-old graduate of the University of Texas at Austin who earned his PhD in finance, appropriately enough, just a year earlier, won the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em “Monster Stack” tournament. The competition was played over four days and three nights and just concluded on the ESPN main stage at the Rio in Las Vegas.
Towner collected a whopping $1,120,196 in prize money, making this the biggest win of his career. It was his first time to cash at the WSOP, where he’d entered only one previous tournament.
Towner claimed his victory by coming out on top at a final table which included a highly-determined lineup with but one common goal – winning what would be a first gold bracelet. Only David “the Dragon” Pham has previously won a WSOP title. However, just by making it as far as the last table on Day Four provided each of the top nine finishers with a guaranteed six-figure payout. In a sense, they were all winners already, freerolling for what could be a life-changing score.
“I played it pretty straightforward; I didn’t want to get into any marginal spots,” Towner said. “Each time I would sit down, I would have some young wizard on my left. I was like, play tight and then wait for a spot. It seemed like some people would blast off occasionally, and of course I got hit with the deck at the right time and it all worked out.”
When the final two players had been established following several hours of play on the final day, Towner enjoyed about a 6 to 5 chip lead over a tough player named Dorian Rios in a heads-up match that could have gone either way. With both players so deep and so many chips in play, a long marathon match was expected.
It didn’t happen that way. Head’s up play lasted only a few minutes, with Towner applying constant pressure.
The ultimate moment of triumph came when Towner scooped the final pot of the tournament, holding A-7 against Rios’ 3-3. After a 7 fell on board, Towner was declared the winner and Rios finished as the runner up. Yet even the second-place finisher collected quite a consolation prize, amounting to $692,029.
“I came here for a conference and planned to play just one event. I might play the Main Event, too,” Towner said. “But after this, for me, it’s head back to work. I’m kinda’ young for a college professor, at age 29. I even have some graduate students who are a bit older than me. Maybe when I get back (to the University of Arizona), they might look at me a little different now.”
Monster Stack tournaments were first introduced at the WSOP three years ago. The unique deep-stack format gave players far more chips than normal, which then resulted in a longer tournament with far more hands played.
This tourney attracted 6,927 entrants which created a prize pool totaling $9,351,450. The top 1,040 finishers collected prize money.
Aside from the winner, here’s a brief report of the other top finishers who made the final table:
Second Place: Dorian Rios (Anquo, Venezuela) -- $692,029
Third Place: Stephen Nussrallah (Alpharetta, GA) -- $513,902
Fourth Place: Daniel DiPasquale (Derry, NH) -- $384,338
Fifth Place: David Pham (Cerritos, CA) -- $289,497
Sixth Place: Andrew Moreno (Las Vegas, NV) -- $219,632
Seventh Place: David Valcourt (Sept-Iles, QC – Canada) -- $167,838
Eighth Place: Marshall White (Garner, NC) -- $129,197
Ninth Place: Cody Pack (Cartersville, GA) -- $100,185
This was the 41st official event on this year’s schedule. This still leaves 28 gold bracelet events still to be played at the 2016 WSOP.