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Omar Eljach Wins Record-Setting WSOP Europe Main Event

Swedish Pro Defeats Field Of 763 For First Bracelet And $1,380,129

by Erik Fast |  Published: Dec 28, 2022

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The 2022 World Series of Poker Europe attracted a total of 10,256 tournament entries across 15 gold bracelet events. The impressive turnouts throughout the festival resulted in more than $18.1 million being paid out.

The WSOPE once again took place at the King’s Resort & Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic. This marked the fifth time the series was held at the poker hotspot near the German border, after first moving to the venue in 2017. (Note: The series was not held in 2020 due to the global live poker shutdown that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The centerpiece of the whole series was once again the €10,350 no-limit hold’em main event. The 2021 running set a record for the largest turnout in the tournament’s history with 688 entries. This year’s main event blew that number away, with 763 entries being made by the time registration officially closed. As a result, the prize pool grew to $7,248,500, with six-figure payouts or more for the final nine finishers.

In the end, the biggest payday of all was the $1,380,129 that went to eventual champion Omar Eljach, who won a marathon heads-up battle to secure his first gold bracelet.

“It’s really hard to describe,” said Eljach. “So many emotions, all of them amazing. Such a draining battle. I feel relief, I feel incredible joy. It’s an amazing feeling.”

In addition to the hardware and the money, the Stockholm, Sweden native was also awarded plenty of rankings points. This was his second title and third final-table finish of the year, including a runner-up showing in the €5,000 pot-limit Omaha event earlier at the WSOPE. The 2,280 Card Player Player of the Year points he earned for this win were enough to see him climb into 28th place in the 2022 POY race standings, which are sponsored by Global Poker.

This event played from Nov. 11-17, with two starting flights and four more days of action. The first starting flight was the larger of the two, with 514 entries on that day alone. Day 1B added another 132 entries, while 117 players also registered early on day 2. There were only 166 players remaining at the end of day 2, with 115 set to cash.

The money bubble burst on day 3, with Daewoong Song being the last to go home empty handed. Notables who cashed included the likes of 2019 champion Alexandros Kolonias (97th), bracelet winner Christopher Frank (93rd), bracelet winner and World Poker Tour champion Mike Leah (89th), two-time bracelet winner Yuval Bronshtein (84th), recent high roller bracelet winner Orpen Kisacikoglu (75th), 2018 champion Jack Sinclair (64th), four-time bracelet winner Julien Martini (61st), reigning WSOP ladies event champion Jessica Teusl (54th), and bracelet winner Timothy Adams (9th).

The final day began with Omar Eljach in the lead and just eight players still contending. Bracelet winner Alexandre Reard was the first to fall. The Frenchman from Beaubourg ran pocket queens into the pocket aces of Eljach. Top set on the flop turned into the nut flush for Eljach by the river and Reard was eliminated in eighth place ($138,702).

Two-time bracelet winner Barny Boatman’s run came to an end when his pocket aces were out-flopped by the Q-J of five-time bracelet winner Shaun Deeb. Deeb hit two pair and raised Boatman’s continuation bet. Boatman shoved and Deeb called. The turn and river were no help to Boatman and he finished seventh for $180,867. The Englishman now has more than $3.7 million in recorded scores to his name.

A classic preflop race spelled the end of Armin Rezaei’s quest for the title in this event. He shoved all-in from the button with pocket jacks and received a call from Eljach, who had picked up A-Q in the big blind. An ace-high flop saw Eljach surge into a lead that he would never relinquish and Rezaei was knocked out in sixth place. He earned $239,466 for his strong showing, the largest score of his career.

Romania’s Paul-Adrian Covaciu was on the other side of a coin flip involving pocket jacks. He held K-Q, and this time the pocket pair remained best by the river. Covaciu was awarded $321,838 for his fifth-place finish, blowing away his previous top score by nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

Four-handed play lasted roughly 90 minutes. The stalemate ended when Vladas Tamasauskas called all-in with pocket nines against bracelet winner Jonathan Pastore’s pocket eights. Tamasauskas was ahead, but an eight hit the board right away to move Pastore into the lead. The Lithuanian hit the rail with a career-best payday of $438,978.

At one point during four-handed play, Deeb had extended his advantage to half of the total chips in play, but his lead deteriorated quickly during a rough stretch of three-handed action. Shortly after making a correct laydown with trips against the rivered straight of Pastore, Deeb lost a massive hand calling with what ended up being fourth pair on the river. He was up against top and bottom pair for Eljach, who surged into the lead after dragging that pot.

Deeb continued to slide until he called a small-blind shove from Eljach with AHeart Suit JDiamond Suit from the big blind. Eljach had shoved with QClub Suit 3Club Suit, which made a pair of threes on the flop to move ahead. The turn paired the board and the river was a blank. With that, Deeb was eliminated in third place. The $607,531 he was awarded in this event grew his career earnings to more than $12 million and capped off a great series for the American pro.

This was Deeb’s sixth final-table finish of the year, and his third third-place showing at the WSOP Europe series alone. He opened the €25,000 high roller event with third place and $205,566 and added another $313,919 for third place in the €50,000 high roller.

“When I got home, [my wife] called me Mr. Bronze. She said we should have a third kid and call him Shaun the second,” Deeb joked.

Overall, he cashed in seven of the nine events he played. With the 1,520 points he earned in this event, he moved into 48th place in the POY standings.

Heads-up play began with Eljach holding a 4:3 lead over Pastore. The final two went on to battle it out for more than six hours. The lead changed hands multiple times, with the shorter stack mounting a comeback each of the first few times their opponent began to pull away.

The final hand was dealt when Pastore raised on the button with AClub Suit 8Diamond Suit. Eljach looked down at QSpade Suit QDiamond Suit in the big blind and three-bet. Pastore four-bet shoved all-in and Eljach snap-called. The board ran out 8Heart Suit 7Spade Suit 2Spade Suit JHeart Suit JClub Suit to lock up the title for Eljach.

Pastore earned $852,949 and 1,900 POY points as the runner-up. This was the largest score of the French player’s career, surpassing the $771,765 he earned as the winner of the WSOP $5,000 no-limit hold’em six-max event in Las Vegas this summer. These two huge scores were enough to move him into 26th place in the POY standings.

Main Event Final Table Results

Place Player Payout POY PGT
1 Omar Eljach $1,380,129 2,280 1,200
2 Jonathan Pastore $852,949 1,900 853
3 Shaun Deeb $607,531 1,520 608
4 Vladas Tamasauskas $438,978 1,140 439
5 Paul-Adrian Covaciu $321,838 950 322
6 Armin Rezaei $239,466 760 239
7 Barny Boatman $180,867 570 181
8 Alexandre Reard $138,702 380 139

Series Standouts

While the main event was undeniably the feature attraction of the series, there was also nearly $10.9 million in prize money awarded in the other 14 gold bracelet events held during the three-week affair.

The first winner of the festival was Fabio Peluso, who had just $14,000 in recorded tournament cashes prior to 2022 but has accumulated more than $400,000 since the new year was rung in. $95,670 of that, and a gold bracelet, came when the Italian defeated a field of 2,454 entries in the €350 no-limit hold’em event dubbed The Opener.

Helmut Phung won the €550 pot-limit Omaha event for his first bracelet and $55,132. The German later finished fourth in the €2,200 short deck event for another $15,351.

On Halloween, Ilija Savevski beat out 1,431 entries in the €1,350 no-limit hold’em Mini Main Event to earn his first piece of WSOP hardware.

Anson Tsang became just the 125th player in poker history to win three or more WSOP bracelets. The Hong Kong resident overcame a field of 221 entries in the €2,000 buy-in pot-limit Omaha event for his third title and the top prize of $95,461.

The €550 buy-in no-limit hold’em Colossus featured a €1 million guarantee. With 2,982 entries made by the time registration closed, the final prize pool swelled to €1,416,450. 36-year-old Slovakian Lubos Laska was the last player standing. The computer programmer earned $170,568 and his first gold bracelet, which accounted for his first recorded tournament victory ever.

Roman Verenko had quite the week in Rozvadov in early November. He won his first live tournament title in a €5,000 buy-in PLO side event at this series for $49,637. Then, just three days later the Ukrainian emerged victorious in the €5,000 buy-in PLO bracelet event with his official WSOP victory and the top prize of $247,288.

German professional soccer player Max Kruse has been competing at the highest levels of the sport known to much of the world as ‘football’ for more than a decade and a half. When not competing on the pitch, the current VfL Wolfsburg forward is a frequent tournament poker contender, with live results dating back as far as 2014. More than eight years after that debut, Kruse managed to close out a win in a bracelet event, defeating a field of 413 entries in the €1,650 buy-in no-limit hold’em six-max event for $134,152.

The third-place finisher in that event, Farid Jattin, was at his 12th final table of the year. Jattin earned $63,874 and 480 POY points for what was his third final table of this series. With 5,233 total points and more than $1.3 million in to-date POY earnings, Jattin now sits in third place in the POY points race.

Paul Phua came into the WSOPE as one of the most successful high-stakes tournament regulars on the circuit. The successful businessman and Triton Poker co-founder had more than $26 million in prior earnings, placing him inside the top 25 on poker’s all-time money list. One goal he had not yet achieved, though, was winning a bracelet. Phua crossed that item off his to-do list in style in the €25,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em high roller with the gold and the top prize of $482,433.

The only short deck bracelet event of the series sported a €2,200 buy-in. A total of 91 entries resulted in a prize pool of $172,900. After two days of action, Switzerland’s Emil Bise walked away with his second bracelet and the top payout of $49,521.

Three years removed from a fifth-place showing in the 2019 WSOPE €2,000 eight-game mixed event, German poker pro Thomer Pidun managed to come back and win the very same event, banking €49,245 and his first career bracelet.

Orpen Kisacikoglu is having his best year ever on the live high roller tournament circuit even after bubbling the $250,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl. The Turkish player has recorded three of his four largest career scores in 2022, with the most recent deep run seeing him defeat a field of 45 entries to come away with the title in the €50,000 no-limit hold’em high roller. Kisacikoglu was awarded $748,106 and his first bracelet for the win, and now sits inside the top 100 in the POY race with six final-table finishes so far this year.

A trio of events got underway after the main event. The first to wrap up was the €1,650 PLO/NLH mixed event, which attracted 251 contenders. Yair Ruiten of the Netherlands came out on top for $85,405 and his first bracelet.

Next up was a pair of fast-paced turbo tournaments. The €1,100 turbo bounty took just a single day to narrow a field of 436 down to a champion in Karim Maekelberg. The Belgian left with a bracelet and $62,111 from the main prize pool.

The final event was a €1,000 turbo freezeout. Again, only one day was required to determine the winner. Ukraine’s Andrey Lyubovetskiy came out on top to earn his second bracelet and $45,606. ♠