Thursday, November 16, 2023 2:23 AM Local Time
The Giant of Rozvadov: Former Pro Basketball Player Max Neugebauer Wins the WSOP Europe Main Event
Max Neugebauer is a hard man to miss in a crowd. Standing six-foot, eight inches tall, he towers over the competition in any poker tournament. And tonight, at the final table of the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event, he was left looking down on everyone as he hoisted the gold bracelet in the air.
The 26-year-old Austrian is the newest WSOP Europe Main Event champion, prevailing over a record-setting field of 817 players to earn the title and €1,500,000 top prize. He did it in spectacular fashion, with a hero call against Eric Tsai on the final hand of the tournament that ensured his name will forever be etched in WSOP lore.
"It means a lot. I mean, the bracelet itself means a lot. And then it's actually the WSOP Main Event means even a bit more," he said, surrounded by a crowd of supporters that cheered every pot won and held up a sign that read "Max" throughout the final table. "What means most to me, honestly, is my friends being here and cheering me on. It was really wonderful. I don't know what the experience would've been without them."
Neugebauer is a poker world champion, but his first career aspirations were in a different game. He was a professional basketball player before turning to poker, playing for BC Vienna in the Austrian first division. He also represented the Austrian Under-18 team. When his athletic career came to a premature end, poker seemed like a perfect avenue to funnel his competitive fire.
"I had huge knee problems. When I stopped playing basketball, I started playing poker as well. Just the competition part and the part of improving and working on your game was really important to me and I felt like there was some void that needed to be filled. Poker was that for me," he said.
Neugebauer's previous best tournament cash was for $27,000 in a tournament in Las Vegas last June. He also cashed twice at the WSOP this summer. His total live earnings stood at just $84,000 before the Main Event, the first prize he earned today dwarfing anything on his poker resume just as he stands over his fellow players. Neugebauer attempted to satellite into the Main Event this week but couldn't win a seat and instead directly paid the €10,350 entry. It was an investment that paid off in a big way.
Final Table results
Final Table action
The eight-handed final table began at 2 p.m. local time here at King's Resort in Rozvadov with Tsai holding a big chip lead with 23,650,000. Neugebauer started out in third place with 10,325,000.
Alf Martinsson, a Swedish high-stakes cash game pro, began the day as the short stack and quickly moved all in for 2,500,000 with ace-three. Michele Tocci called with pocket tens and finished with a full house to eliminate Martinsson in eighth place.
The Italian continued his hot start to the final table when he made two pair on the river to beat Michael Rocco's pair of aces, then flopped trips with king-jack to crack the queens of Kasparas Klezys. The deck was certainly in Tocci's favor as he flopped a set of jacks and shoved on Tsai to move into the chip lead.
Rocco, the most accomplished player at the final table with more than $4 million in live earnings, was involved in a three-way pot against Tsai and Nils Pudel. Rocco flopped a set of nines and raised the flop. Tsai called with top pair and a flush draw, while Pudel got away from his pocket aces as Rocco and Tsai got the rest of Rocco's 4,600,000 in the middle on the turn. Rocco held on to double up and knock the start-of-day chip leader down to a short stack.
Ruslan Volkov was the next player to fall, Klezys spiking an ace on the turn to beat Volkov's two tens and eliminate him in seventh place.
Neugebauer was down to 7,000,000 when he moved all in from the small blind with ace-eight. Tocci called with king-queen and, seemingly for the first time at the final table, failed to connect with the board as Neugebauer doubled up. Klezys also doubled when he flopped a set of tens against Tocci to take the chip lead over the remaining six players.
Tocci got those chips back, making the nut flush to beat Klezys' flopped trips. Pudel then shoved for 6,600,000 with ace-five on the button. Rocco, though, woke up with aces and snapped him off to send Pudel out in fifth place.
Rocco moved up to 23,000,000 and his long-awaited first WSOP bracelet was firmly in his sights. It took all of one hand to end that hope. On the next hand after busting Pudel, Rocco ran into Tsai's aces as the Taiwan poker ambassador doubled up. Rocco was knocked down to less than 8,000,000 and was eliminated shortly after against Tocci's tens.
Neugebauer began his charge up the leaderboard when he bet 5,000,000 on the river with a pair of nines and Tsai called with just ace-high. Neugebauer also eliminated Klezys in fourth place with king-jack against queen-eight, hitting two pair by the turn.
It looked like it would be a heads-up battle between Neugebauer and Tocci as Tsai got his last 7,800,000 in the middle with deuces but Tocci had him at risk with sixes. A lucky deuce spiked on the turn to crush Tocci's hopes, and he picked up jacks the next hand and called off his last 2,600,000 when Neugebauer shoved with king-four. Tocci remained in front until the river, but Neugebauer hit a king as Tocci suffered a two-outer and a three-outer on consecutive hands to hit the rail in third place.
Neugebauer led 64,100,000 to 17,400,000 at the start of heads-up, but most sizeable pots at the start of the match went to Tsai. He won the first when he turned two pair and raised to 6,000,000 on the river as Neugebauer gave up a flopped pair of queens. Tsai then rivered a Broadway straight and Neugebauer paid him off on the river this time.
Then came the hand that will be talked about for years to come. Tsai raised to 1,200,000 on the button and Neugebauer called. The flop came queen-eight high with two diamonds and Tsai bet 1,000,000. Neugebauer called and an ace fell on the turn. Tsai then overbet the pot for 6,300,000 and Neugebauer again called to the river, which came a seemingly unhelpful four of spades. Tsai then moved all in for 16,000,000, sending Neugebauer into the tank for several minutes.
Last night, Neugebauer set the final table when he hero-called Andrea Radicchi with jack-eight. He now did it again, eventually calling with third pair on the board and Tsai could only show a busted draw with jack-nine of diamonds. The title, in a flash, belonged to Neugebauer. Tsai, a popualar YouTube vlogger back home in Taiwan with more than 125,000 subscribers, had to settle for second place.
After the hand, Neugebauer explained how he used Tsai's aggressiveness against him. "I just thought, he wouldn't c-bet from how he played before. He wouldn't c-bet his range. I think he would've checked a lot of ace-x. So I discounted a lot of ace-x," he said.
"I thought it was very, very easy to overbluff this spot because he has all the bluffs. He doesn't have all the ace-x. Also, it seems like a very good card for him to bluff, and with those wide ranges I felt like it's just a very decent call because he was playing somewhat aggressive. I felt like he wanted to push it and overtake the chip lead. With those wide ranges in that spot I felt like it was a good call, and I called."
Neugebauer survived a grueling five days of long nights and tough opponents on his way to his crowning achievement. He has the bracelet, he has the money, and now it's time for a little break. "Next for me is a few days off. Actually, I already planned going to the spa with my mother and my sisters in a week. Just taking a bit of vacation," he said.
The battle between Neugebauer and Tsai, with the significant difference in stature between them, seemed like a David versus Goliath matchup. Only this time, the giant won.
That concludes PokerNews' coverage of the WSOP Europe Main Event. Stay tuned for more coverage of events around the world.
Thursday, November 16, 2023 12:15 AM Local Time
Eric Tsai Eliminated in 2nd Place (€891,000)
Eric Tsai raised to 1,200,000 from the button and Max Neugebauer defended with .
Neugebauer paired up on the flop but Tsai had plenty of outs with his straight flush draw. Neugebauer check-called for 1,000,000.
The kept Neugebauer ahead. He checked for a second time and Tsai bet big, sizing up to 6,300,000 into a pot of 5,000,000. Neugebauer stuck around.
The completed the board and Neugebauer checked. Tsai emptied the clip and shoved for his last 16,000,000. Neugebauer went deep into the tank and asked for a count.
Neugebauer removed his sunglasses and continued to replay the hand over in his head.
The Austrian ended up calling and the cards went on their backs.
Neugebauer pulled off an incredible hero call with just a pair of eights and caught Tsai bluffing with jack-high, to seal the victory.
His rail went wild before Tsai and Neugebauer shook hands.
That's a hand-of-the-year candidate right there!
Thursday, November 16, 2023 12:07 AM Local Time
Tsai Gets There on the River, Neugebauer Pays Him Off
Max Neugebauer limped in on the button with , Eric Tsai raised to 2,500,000 with , and Neugebauer called.
Both players checked the flop before Neugebauer led out for 2,000,000 on the turn with his pair of aces. Tsai called with his queens and straight draw as the fell on the river.
Tsai completed his straight and bet 3,200,000 after Neugebauer called. The Austrian lifted up his sunglasses to get a good look at the board and spent a few minutes shuffling his chips before calling as Tsai took the big pot to close the gap in their heads-up match.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 11:56 PM Local Time
Neugebauer Wins a Pot
Max Neugebauer opened to 1,200,000 from the button with and Eric Tsai called with .
Both players missed the flop and action checked through to the turn. Tsai then folded to a bet of 4,000,000.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 11:51 PM Local Time
Tsai Raises the River
Eric Tsai raised to 1,200,000 on the button with and Max Neugebauer defended .
The flop gave both players a pair and Tsai bet 900,000. Neugebauer then raised to 2,500,000 with his queens and Tsai called with deuces.
Tsai took the lead on the turn with two pair and Neugebauer slowed down and checked. Tsai also checked and the fell on the river.
Neugebauer led out for another 2,500,000 and Tsai finally sprung his trap and raised to 6,000,000. Neugebauer took off his sunglasses as he considered the decision for a minute but ultimately mucked.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 11:44 PM Local Time
Tsai and Neugebauer Bluff Each Other
In a limped pot to the flop, Max Neugebauer check-called from the big blind for 600,000 and then folded to a bet on the turn.
With , Tsai folded out the best hand once again as Neugebauer held .
Neugebauer limped in from the button with and Tsai checked his .
Tsai flopped two pair as the dealer put out the . He bet 600,000 and was called. The turn checked through to the river. Tsai sized up to 2,000,000 before Neugebauer made it 7,000,000. Tsai then conceded the pot.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 11:33 PM Local Time
Tsai Draws First Blood
Max Neugebauer limped in with from the button, and Eric Tsai checked his option with .
On the flop, Tsai check-called for 600,000, which brought in the turn, keeping Neugebauer ahead. Action checked through to the river.
Tsai bet 2,000,000 and folded out the better hand.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 11:29 PM Local Time
David vs. Goliath II - Heads Up Play Begins
The two players have returned to their seats and are now battling it out for the title, bracelet and €1,500,000 up top.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 11:17 PM Local Time
Eric Tsai and Max Neugebauer are taking a short break while heads-up play gets prepared.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 11:11 PM Local Time
Michele Tocci Eliminated in 3rd Place (€639,000)
Michele Tocci limped in from the button and called when Eric Tsai moved all in for 7,800,000 from the small blind.
The flop brought in some chop-outs, but Tsai filled up dramatically thanks to the turn. Tsai left Tocci with crumbs after the river.
Tocci was then all in for his last 2,600,000 and at risk the very next hand. He was up against Max Neugebauer.
The jacks remained ahead on the flop and turn, but the river saw Tocci take two sick consecutive beats to mark the end of his deep run.
Tocci was the last qualifier standing and turned €230 into €639,000.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 10:57 PM Local Time
Kasparas Klezys Eliminated in 4th Place (€464,000)
Kasparas Klezys moved all in for 5,900,000 from the small blind and Max Neugebauer looked him up from the big.
Both players paired up on the flop, but Klezys was still behind. The turn saw the at-risk player drawing to two outs, which he was unable to find as the board completed with the .
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 10:51 PM Local Time
Neugebauer Keeps the Pressure On
Max Neugebauer has been relentless since taking over the chip lead and just opened another pot, making it 1,200,000 on the button with . He found a caller in Michele Tocci with in the small blind.
The flop came and Neugebauer bet 1,000,000. Tocci called to the turn, where Neugebauer fired out another 4,000,000.
Tocci gave up his pocket pair this time as Neugebauer continued to widen his lead.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 10:44 PM Local Time
Neugebauer Makes a Flush
Eric Tsai raised to 1,200,000 on the button with and Max Neugebauer defended .
The flop came and Tsai continued for 900,000 with a pair of tens. Neugebauer picked up a flush draw and called.
Neugebauer completed his flush on the turn and checked again. Tsai checked back and the river brought a fourth heart. Both players again checked and Neugebauer took the pot.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 10:40 PM Local Time
Level 34 started
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 10:33 PM Local Time
Another ten minute is taking place so the four players can stretch their legs
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 10:32 PM Local Time
Tocci Outflops Neugebauer
Max Neugebauer opened to 1,000,000 with from under the gun and Michele Tocci called with from the button.
The Italian found an ace on the flop and action checked through to the turn. Tocci won the hand after his opponent folded to a bet of 2,000,000.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 10:28 PM Local Time
Tsai Pays Off Neugebauer Again
Eric Tsai raised 1,000,000 under the gun with and Max Neugebauer called in the small blind holding .
Both players checked the flop before Neugebauer led out for 1,000,000 on the turn with a pair of queens.
Tsai called with his sixes as the fell on the river. Neugebauer then bet another 3,800,000 and Tsai again called before surrendering another pot to the tall Austrian.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 10:23 PM Local Time
Neugebauer's Big River Bet Gets Paid by Ace-High
Eric Tsai raised to 650,000 on the button with and Max Neugebauer defended .
The flop gave Neugebauer two pair and he checked over to Tsai, who continued for 650,000. Neugebauer then raised to 1,600,000 and Tsai called.
The fell on the turn and Neugebauer led out for 1,800,000. Tsai again called and the came on the river.
Neugebauer fired out another 5,000,000 and Tsai flicked in a chip to call with just ace-high as Neugebauer took down the massive pot to take the chip lead.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 10:03 PM Local Time
Michael Rocco Eliminated in 5th Place (€341,000)
Michele Tocci limped in from the small blind and snap-called Michael Rocco's 7,900,000 all in from the big blind.
Rocco was unable to connect on the runout and Tocci secured another final table elimination.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023 9:59 PM Local Time
Aces Giveth, Aces Taketh Away For Rocco
On the hand after busting Nils Pudel with pocket aces, Michael Rocco opened to 1,000,000 in the cutoff, Eric Tsai three-bet to 2,600,000 on the button, Rocco moved all in, and Tsai snap-called for 14,000,000.
It was Rocco's turn to run right into an opponent's aces as Tsai was poised for a double up to retake the chip lead. The board ran out and Rocco handed over most of his newfound chips.