American Athanasios Polychronopoulos transferred his undoubted online poker skills to the live game with his first World Series of Poker (WSOP) victory in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event on Friday in Las Vegas.
Having accumulated over $2 million in online poker winnings, the 27-year-old from New York State added $650,223 to his earnings from his defeat of Canada’s Simon Charette in heads-up play at event #48 in the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
This event attracted 2,712 competitors, but it was the man who possesses the longest name in the 42 years of the WSOP that outlasted everyone over four days’ play to secure a memorable victory in just his second trip to Sin City for the series.
Polychronopoulos, whose family owns a Greek restaurant, started playing poker seriously in 2003, but had won just $5,207 at the WSOP before his big breakthrough on Friday.
However, the six-year pro from The Springs – which is near Hamptons on Long Island – now has $655,430 in WSOP winnings from his single win and two money finishes in Vegas.
Polychronopoulos had primarily been an online poker player, until the events of ‘Black Friday’ on April 15, when the US Department of Justice (DoJ) closed down several poker websites, but has now made a very successful switch to live events
While admitting that “there are a few gamblers in the family” because “it’s definitely in the blood”, Polychronopoulos found it tough to discuss how his relatives will react to his WSOP victory and was suddenly overcome by his emotions and unable to talk for a few minutes.
However, he did regain his composure soon after to chat about the final table, which was made up of four Americans, three Germans, a Canadian and a Ukrainian.
Polychronopoulos, who entered the final table fourth in chips, reckons that “every single player played solid” poker – particularly the Germans – and, after failing when trying “to pull a pretty big bluff on the first hand”, he found the table much “easier” to play and then picked his “spots after that”.
But he is certainly an emotional man and wanted to tell his “enormous” family that he “loves them all so much”. We reckon it’s a safe bet he’ll be welcomed home to a massive party that will go on long into the night.
As has happened with great regularity throughout this WSOP, no former bracelet winners made the final table of an event that held a prize pool of $3,662,550.
Still, Polychronopoulos had to outlast Charette – who picked up $404,235 for his runner-up spot – New York State’s Peter Ippolito (third for $286,118), Ukrainian Yevgeniy Timoshenko (fourth for $206,348) and New Jersey’s Matt Stout – who has now recorded 18 WSOP money finishes with his eighth-place exit late on day three for $63,032 – to get his hands on the gold bracelet and $650,223.
Every one of the last five held the chip lead at some point, with Germany’s Sebastian Winkler ($150,677) becoming the final player eliminated during the third day after having remained close to the top of the leaderboard from day one.
Charette, meanwhile, enjoyed something of a rollercoaster final day, going from chip leader to under one million and then back to chip leader within just 40 minutes.
A few double-ups from Ippolito gave Charette some momentum as we got down to heads-up play, but that was as good as it got for the Canadian as Polychronopoulos took complete control.
In fact, Polychronopoulos almost claimed the title in a hand where he flopped trip fours against Charette’s Ac-9d.
Charette, on the button, made it 400,000, only for big blind Polychronopoulos to go all-in. Charette appeared perturbed, muttering: “Wow, wow, wow”, but still called to show his Ac-9d.
Polychronopoulos held 4s-4h and, as the board ran Jh-4d-10s-2h-3s, the eventual winner moved to almost 10 million in chips compared to Charette’s 395,000, which was less than two big blinds.
Charette recovered to a little over 1.4 million in chips before moving all-in with 9d-2s – to be faced by Polychronopoulos’ Js-8d. The board fell As-Jh-6d-Qd-9h to give Polychronopoulos top pair and the title, while Charette was eliminated in second place for $404,235.
In total, 270 entrants made the money, including Brooklyn’s Alex Bolotin – who won the Ante Up For Africa event two years ago and donated 50% of his winnings to the charity – finished in 42nd for $12,379, while California’s Howard ‘Tahoe’ Andrew – a two-time gold bracelet winner – cashed in 151st for $3,662.
Incredibly, Andrew’s first WSOP cashes came way back in 1976 with success in the $2,500 No-Limit Hold’em and $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em events – for just $28,000 and $23,600 respectively – and he holds the record for the most successive WSOP appearances at 38 years.
Top 10 placings and payouts from the WSOP 2011 $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event
1. Athanasios Polychronopoulos (USA) – $650,223
2. Simon Charette (Canada) – $404,235
3. Peter Ippolito (USA) – $286,118
4. Yevgeniy Timoshenko (Ukraine) – $206,348
5. Sebastian Winkler (Germany) – $150,677
6. Alexander Queen (USA) – $111,341
7. Heinz Pius (Germany) – $83,286
8. Matt Stout (USA) – $63,032
9. Niklas Heinecker (Germany) – $48,272
10. Corey Burbick (USA) – $37,394