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Stoyan Madanzhiev Wins 2020 World Series Of Poker Online Main Event For $3.9 Million

Bulgarian Pro Tops Field Of 5,802 To Win Largest Payout In Online Poker History

by Erik Fast |  Published: Oct 07, 2020


The first-ever World Series of Poker Online is officially in the books. The series will go down as a huge success, given that it was planned on short notice after the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the indefinite postponement of the live WSOP in Las Vegas.

The WSOPO saw 85 gold bracelets awarded from July 1 to Sept. 6, with events spread across two separate online poker platforms. A total of 283,983 entries were made in bracelet events during the series, resulting in more than $174.5 million in prize money paid out to players around the globe.

The largest chunk of that impressive prize money total was awarded in the marquee event of the summer: the WSOP Online $5,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event. The tournament drew 5,802 entries to blow away its $25 million guarantee, creating the largest tournament prize pool in online poker history with $27,559,500. The previous record for the biggest prize pool in an online tournament belonged to the 2018 partypoker MILLIONS Online, a $5,300 buy-in event that generated a $21,780,000 prize pool.

In the end, Stoyan Madanzhiev emerged victorious as the inaugural WSOPO main event champion. The Bulgarian poker pro was awarded his first gold bracelet as the champion, as well as the largest payout ever in online poker history: $3,904,686.

This was by far the largest victory in Madanzhiev’s career. Prior to this win, his biggest recorded live tournament cash was a 14th-place finish in the 2019 Merit Poker Western Tournament $2,200 buy-in event for $10,800. Now, he has multiple millions in earnings to his name.

Breaking The Online Prize Pool Record

This event featured a staggering 23 starting flights that ran from Aug. 16-30, with players able to enter up to a maximum of three times in the tournament, with no re-entry during the same flight. The event’s $25 million guarantee meant that the record for the largest online tournament prize pool ever would be broken regardless of the turnout. Heading into the final few flights, however, it appeared that the event might end up with an overlay. But huge turnouts down the stretch resulted in the event beating the guarantee by nearly $2.6 million.

The final record-breaking prize pool of $27,559,500 was set to be awarded to the top 728 finishers, with 1,171 players having survived the myriad starting flights to make day 2. That meant that roughly 400 players were eliminated outside of the money during early action, including all-time WSOP bracelet leader Phil Hellmuth, bracelet winners Fedor Holz, João Vieira, and Danny Tang, World Poker Tour main event winner Pavel Plesuv, Super High Roller Bowl champion Christoph Vogelsang, and many more.

The money bubble burst thanks to a preflop cooler and a post-flop bad beat. Vitaliy Pankov got all-in preflop with pocket aces and was called by the pocket kings of Diogo Veiga. The flop brought the KDiamond Suit and Veiga made kings full of tens to knock Pankov out on the stone bubble of the richest online poker tournament ever held. With his elimination, the remaining players all locked up at least $11,834.

Plenty of notables cashed in this event, including bracelet winners Igor Kurganov (705th – $11,834), Ryan Laplante (697th – $11,834) and Chris Moorman (662nd – $11,834), high roller star Manig Loeser (659th – $11,834), WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship winner Elior Sion (520th – $13,160), 2013 WSOP main event champion Ryan Riess (495th – $14,634), two-time bracelet winner Anson Tsang (378th – $16,274), three-time bracelet winner Adrian Mateos (369th – $16,274), two-time bracelet winners David Peters (353rd – $16,274) and Mark Radoja (342nd – $18,098), five-time bracelet winner Daniel Alaei (184th – $22,378), 2019 WSOP Europe main event winner Alexandros Kolonias (155th – $24,886), bracelet winner Mike Leah (128th – $24,886), and high-stakes crusher Isaac Haxton (121st – $24,886).

Among the big names to make it down inside the top 100 finishers were two-time bracelet winner Shankar Pillai (99th – $27,675), Conor Beresford (85th – $27,675), high-stakes pro Sam Greenwood (75th – $30,776), and two-time bracelet winner Kahle Burns (52nd – $39,214).

Play was ultimately halted with 38 players remaining in the early morning hours of Aug. 31, with those left given a six-day break before play resumed.

From 38 To A Champion

When cards got back in the air on Saturday, Sept. 5, it was bracelet winner and 2017 WSOP main event seventh-place finisher Bryan Piccioli with the chip lead. Piccioli ultimately finished in 23rd place. Plenty of other big names also hit the rail as the field was narrowed down to the final table, including bracelet winners Arkadiy Tsinis (37th – $39,214), Jonas Lauck (34th – $55,880), and Michael Lech (31st – $55,880). High-stakes online tournament stars Samuel ‘€urop€an’ Vousden (12th – $161,686) and Benjamin ‘bencb789’ Rolle (11th – $161,686) also saw their runs end just shy of the final table.

With the elimination of Mariano Martiradonna in 10th place ($161,686), the final table was officially set. American Tyler Rueger sat in the lead, with Stoyan Madanzhiev hot on his heels. Samuel Taylor was the first to fall when his set of nines ran into a turned set of aces for Chinese tournament regular Wenling Gao. Taylor got the last of his chips in on the river, only to see that he had been coolered out of the event in ninth place ($230,395).

American online pro Tyler Cornell was the next to go. He got the last of his short stack in with ADiamond Suit JSpade Suit and was well ahead of Rueger’s dominated QDiamond Suit JClub Suit. A queen on the flop gave Rueger the lead, though, which he was able to maintain through the river. Cornell settled for $328,305 as the eighth-place finisher.

High-stakes tournament regular Stefan Schillhabel had come into the final table as the most accomplished player remaining. The German poker pro had cashed for nearly $9.4 million in prior tournament earnings, including a win in the 2016 World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star main event for just shy of $1.3 million.

Schillhabel’s run in this event came to an end as the result of a lost coinflip, with his pocket tens failing to hold up against the A-K of Gao. The board brought four clubs which gave Gao the nut flush on the turn. Schillhabel earned $467,825 for his seventh-place showing.

The eliminations came fast and furious during short-handed action. Joao Santos three-bet jammed with AHeart Suit 2Spade Suit from the big blind, only to have initial raiser Rueger call with ADiamond Suit KHeart Suit. Neither player improved and Santos was awarded $666,636 as the sixth-place finisher.

The next key pot began with Japan’s Satoshi Isomae three-betting Madanzhiev’s cutoff open with AClub Suit QDiamond Suit out of the small blind. Madanzhiev called with JDiamond Suit 9Diamond Suit and flopped top two pair when the first three cards came down JSpade Suit 9Spade Suit 5Club Suit. Isomae bet 11,605,800 and Madanzhiev called. The turn brought the 7Heart Suit and both players checked. The 6Spade Suit river saw Isomaeo move all-in for 23,411,295, only for Madanzhiev to quickly call with his winning two pair. Isomae’s failed bluff saw him knocked out in fifth place for $949,937, while Madanzhiev took a sizable chip lead into four-handed action.

The remaining players had all locked up a seven-figure payday at this point, but there were still additional millions and a championship bracelet to play for. New Zealand’s Thomas Ward found himself all-in and at risk just a handful of minutes later. He picked up pocket sixes on the button and moved all-in for around 9.5 million, Gao had him pipped with pocket sevens and made the call. The larger pair held up through the river and Ward was eliminated in fourth place for $1,353,634.

Three-handed play was a brief affair. Gao min-raised to 1,400,000 on the button with pocket kings. Rueger picked up AHeart Suit QSpade Suit in the big blind and three-bet to 4,395,000. Gao four-bet to 9,800,000. Rueger five-bet shoved for 48,697,202, only to be snap-called by Gao. The board ran out with no aces and Rueger was eliminated in third place. He took home $1,928,887 for his strong showing in this event.

With that, heads-up play began with the final two contestants essentially tied, with Gao having just less than a single big blind lead over Madanzhiev when cards got back in the air. Madanzhiev was able to extend his lead during the early going, building his chip advantage to more than 2:1 by the time the final hand of the tournament was dealt.

Gao picked up pocket aces on the button and min-raised to 1,600,000. Madanzhiev defended his big blind with 7Diamond Suit 6Heart Suit and flopped huge, as the 5Club Suit 4Heart Suit 3Spade Suit gave him the nut straight. He bet 1,700,000 and Gao responded with a raise to 3,944,000. Madanzhiev called and the 8Heart Suit hit the turn. He checked and Gao bet 5,644,000. Madanzhiev check-raised to 15,040,000 and Gao thought it over before deciding to move all-in with her pocket aces. Madanzhiev instantly called and it was all over, as Gao was drawing dead.

Gao earned $2,748,605 as the runner-up, falling one spot short of winning her first bracelet. She now has just shy of $3.3 million in recorded tournament earnings. This huge score supplanted her fifth-place finish in the 2018 Asia Pacific Poker Tour Macau high roller event for $157,950 to become the largest of her career. Gao’s prize is the largest tournament cash in poker history for any woman, surpassing the $2,013,733 won by Annette Obrestad for taking down the 2007 WSOP Europe main event.

With this victory, Madanzhiev wrote his name in the poker history books. The WSOP Online was born out of necessity during the live tournament poker shutdown that resulted from the COVID-19 outbreak, and it remains to be seen if an official WSOP bracelet series will ever be held exclusively online again in the future. Whether this is the start of a new era for the WSOP or a singular occurrence, this record-breaking event is one that won’t soon be forgotten.

Here is a look at the payouts awarded at the final table:

Place Name Earnings
1 Stoyan Madanzhiev $3,904,686
2 Wenling Gao $2,748,605
3 Tyler Rueger $1,928,887
4 Thomas Ward $1,353,634
5 Satoshi Isomae $949,937
6 Joao Santos $666,637
7 Stefan Schillhabel $467,825
8 Tyler Cornell $328,305
9 Samuel Taylor $230,395

Christian Rudolph and Fedor Holz Win Millions As WSOP Online High Roller Champions
The German Poker Pros Won A Pair of $25,000 Buy-In Events During The Series’ Final Stretch

By Erik Fast

In addition to the massive $25 million guaranteed main event, the final weeks of the WSOP Online also played host to the conclusion of two $25,000 buy-in high roller bracelet events.

The first to crown a winner was the WSOPO $25,000 buy-in NLH Poker Players Championship. The tournament featured a $10 million guarantee, which was the second-largest of the series. The event fell just short of surpassing the guarantee, with 407 total entries made by the time that registration officially came to a close.

In the end, it was Christian Rudolph who came away with the bracelet and the top prize of $1,800,290. The 32-year-old German poker pro’s previous best finish in a bracelet event came when he finished as the runner-up in the €25,500 buy-in high roller at the 2018 WSOP Europe for $603,212. This time around he was able to come out on top heads-up to secure the massive prize and his first piece of WSOP hardware.

The first day of this event saw the field narrowed from hundreds down to just nine left with a shot at the title and the seven-figure top prize. The top 55 finishers made the money in this event, with two-time bracelet winner Michael Addamo being the last player eliminated outside of the money.

As one would expect, the list of players who cashed in this event includes many of the top players in the world. Among those to make the money were three-time bracelet winner Davidi Kitai (54th – $57,592), 2019 Super High Roller Bowl Bahamas winner Timothy Adams (39th – $70,150), two-time bracelet winner David Peters (32nd – $70,150), six-time bracelet winner Chris Ferguson (21st – $85,446), reigning Card Player Player of the Year award winner Stephen Chidwick (19th – $85,446), and three-time bracelet winner Scott Seiver (15th – $104,078).

The final table of this event was set back on Aug. 23, but play didn’t resume until nearly a week later. American tournament superstar Jason Koon came into the final table of nine as the chip leader with 39 big blinds, looking to add to his nearly $31 million in recorded tournament earnings. Two-time bracelet winner Shankar Pillai sat in second chip position, while Rudolph began final table action with the third-largest stack.

Pillai increased his stack by eliminating Aliaksei Boika in ninth place ($154,416), but Koon went the opposite direction during eight-handed play. High-stakes regular Christopher Hunichen doubled through Koon, with pocket queens holding against A-J, to see him overtake the lead. Koon fell to the middle of the pack. He outlasted Paulius Plausinaitis (8th – $210,079), but was unable to regain momentum at the final table. His run in this event came to an end when he lost a key preflop race with pocket tens against the AHeart Suit QSpade Suit of Rudolph. The board ran out ace high and Koon earned $285,808 as the seventh-place finisher, falling several spots short of securing his first WSOP bracelet.

Rudolph then reeled off three more consecutive eliminations, busting Brunno Botteon (6th – $388,837), Aram Zobian (5th – $529,005) and Aleksejs Ponakovs (4th – $719,700) to take a sizable lead into three-handed action. Pillai was the shortest stack left, and he got his last 16 big blinds in from the button with AHeart Suit 9Club Suit and received a call from Hunichen, who had been dealt a dominating AClub Suit KDiamond Suit in the big blind. Both players made a pair of aces on the flop, but Hunichen’s superior kicker was enough to send Pillai home in third place ($979,138).

With that Hunichen entered heads-up play with 10.5 million to Rudolph’s 21.2 million. Rudolph built an early lead, only to have Hunichen mount a small comeback. By the time the final hand was dealt, though, Rudolph had stretched his lead to more than a 9:1 advantage.

Hunichen ultimately got his last five or so big blinds in with KHeart Suit QSpade Suit from the button and Rudolph called with QHeart Suit 10Club Suit out of the big blind. The flop brought a ten, and Rudolph secured the pot and the title. Hunichen earned $1,332,097 as the runner-up finisher, the largest score of his career. He now has more than $10 million in recorded tournament scores.

Place Name Earnings
1 Christian Rudolph $1,800,290
2 Chris Hunichen $1,332,097
3 Shankar Pillai $979,138
4 Aleksejs Ponakovs $719,700
5 Aram Zobian $529,005
6 Brunno Botteon $388,837
7 Jason Koon $285,808
8 Paulis Plausinaitis $210,079
9 Aliaksei Boika $154,416

Fedor Holz Wins WSOP Online $25,000 Heads-Up Event For His Second Bracelet

A $25,000 buy-in heads-up no-limit hold’em shootout tournament was selected as one of the multiple ’People’s Choice’ events held in the final days of the WSOP Online series. The tournament drew a stacked field of 127 players to create a $3,110,500 prize pool, and in the end, the lion’s share of that money was awarded to none-other than Fedor Holz. The 27-year-old German high-roller earned his second WSOP gold bracelet and the top prize of $1,070,250.

With more than $34.1 million in career tournament earnings, Holz currently sits in eighth place on poker’s all-time money list. His two largest scores were both recorded in WSOP events. In 2016 he won his first bracelet by taking down the $111,111 WSOP One Drop High Roller for $4,981,775. Two years later he finished runner-up in the $1 million buy-in Big One For One Drop for another $6 million. This latest victory marked his third seven-figure score in WSOP events alone and was the eighth tournament score of a million dollars or more that he has already secured in his young career.

Holz defeated a number of tough players on his way to the final four. In order, from the round of 128 through the round of eight, he beat out: Luc Greenwood, Anton Morgenstern, Robert Flink, George Wolff, and three-time bracelet winner and current all-time money leader Justin Bonomo.

The semifinal matchups were determined on Sept. 1, but play didn’t resume until a few days later on Sept. 6. Holz was matched up against Spanish poker pro Sergi Reixach on one half of the bracket, while Brazilian poker pro Brunno Botteon battled against Oktay Kahyaoglu on the other side. Holz took an early lead and then sealed the deal by making a flush to best Reixach’s aces and kings. The Spanish pro earned $311,150 for making it down to the final four players. Kahyaoglu was awarded the same amount when he ran two pairs, tens and fours, into the aces and tens of Botteon.

With that, the final heads-up match of the event was set. Holz managed to jump out to an early lead, taking down a sizable pot without showdown in the opening minutes of the battle. He maintained nearly a 3:1 chip lead when the final hand was dealt.

With blinds of 300-600, Botteon raised to 1,500 on the button with pocket tens and Holz called holding pocket fives. The flop came down 8Heart Suit 5Diamond Suit 4Heart Suit and Holz checked. Botteon bet 2,011 and Holz check-raised to 8,100. Botteon three-bet to 19,680 and Holz shoved with his middle set. Botteon called for 25,865 more with his overpair of tens and received the bad news. The turn and river kept Holz ahead to secure the pot and the title.

Botteon earned $622,300 as the runner-up finisher. This was his 13th cash of the WSOP Online series, including a second-place showing in the $500 limit hold’em event for $41,855 and a sixth-place finish in the $25,000 no-limit hold’em high roller for $388,837. ♠