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Daniel Weinman Wins Largest WSOP Main Event Ever For $12.1 Million

Poker Engineer Tops 10,043 Entries To Earn Second Career Bracelet

by Erik Fast |  Published: Aug 23, 2023


Daniel Weinman has won the largest World Series of Poker main event in history.

One year after finishing second in the WSOP Player of the Year race, the 35-year-old software engineer from Atlanta, Georgia returned to the Paris and Horseshoe Las Vegas and defeated a record turnout of 10,043 entries in the 2023 WSOP $10,000 main event, capturing the championship gold bracelet and the massive $12.1 million first-place prize.

“It doesn’t feel real,” Weinman said after locking up the title. “I mean, there’s so much luck in a poker tournament. I thought I played very well, but there were so many hands where I was just incredibly lucky for the situations to arise.”

“You need so much luck to win any poker tournament. There have been three or four hands in this tournament where I got unbelievably lucky. And you just kind of feel like, you know, maybe it’s my time,” added a smiling Weinman. “Whether that’s because I’ve put in the time for close to 20 years now, or something else, it feels so incredible.”

The Georgia Tech grad now has more than $15.8 million in lifetime earnings to his name. The win also gave him his second career bracelet to go along with his two World Poker Tour main event titles and a WSOP Circuit main event victory. His first bracelet came last summer when he took down a $1,000 pot-limit Omaha event for $255,359.

This main event win was the first by an American since John Cynn came out on top in 2018, with recent champions being Norwegian (Espen Jorstad, 2022), German (Koray Aldemir, 2021 and Hossein Ensan, 2019), and Argentinian (Damian Salas, 2020).

After 19 cashes and three final tables in 2022, Weinman was not having the same success in 2023. He actually took a break during the middle of the summer, and almost didn’t come back for the main event.

“This is my 15th or 16th series and every year before this I’ve been here from event one to the last event. By the time the main event comes around, I’m burned out,” said Weinman. “About two weeks into the series this year, I told my girlfriend Sarah how I was feeling and she said to come home. So I did, and life went back to normal. I was honestly on the fence about even coming back and playing this tournament.”

“Shaun Deeb was pivotal in convincing me to come out. Sarah’s very new to all of this. I’m trying to explain [to her], I’m going to go, but I’m never going to win.’ I’ve cashed this tournament once out of 15 times, so most likely I’m just going to go lose $10,000 and fly home. And she was behind it. You’d never dream this [outcome] up,” he said.

Breaking The Record

With 10,043 total players, this year’s world championship drew 1,270 more entries than the previous record turnout of 8,773 in 2006, a 14.5-percent increase. The prize pool swelled to $93,399,900, which was ultimately distributed among the top 1,507 finishers, with a min-cash once again being worth $15,000.

Weinman’s $12.1 million payday narrowly surpassed the $12 million earned by 2006 world champion Jamie Gold, who was on hand at the final table to award the bracelet. Despite the extra $10.9 million in the prizepool, this year’s top prize was only $100,000 larger than 2006’s due to flatter payouts, and paying out 15 percent of the field as opposed to 10 percent.

Entries by flight:
Day 1A – 1,037
Day 1B – 1,115
Day 1C – 3,075
Day 1D – 4,113
Day 2ABC – 196
Day 2D – 507

With the main event breaking the record, Caesars made good on their promise to award one lucky participant a “main event seat for life.” The honor went to Canadian Jason Clarke, who was selected at random. Although he did not make the money this time, he will have plenty more opportunities.

“I actually missed the first phone call about me winning,” said Clarke. “Although I was skeptical, I decided to call back and to my surprise, I found out I won. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity and I am excited to see what the next 30 years has in store.”

Among the sea of players who started day 1D was Phil Hellmuth, who used the occasion to make one of his customary grand entrances. This year, the poker brat leaned fully into the spectacle of the circus, taking on the persona of ‘The Greatest Showman’ while bringing a taste of the big top to the Las Vegas Strip.

Hellmuth, who was less than a week removed from his record-extending 17th bracelet win, arrived late while dressed as P.T. Barnum. He was accompanied by 17 models, as well as Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates in a full lion costume being dragged in a cage while Katy Perry’s Roar played over the loud speakers.

Hellmuth has been entering the main event in costume for more than a decade. Some of his past characters have included Julius Caesar, a war general, a boxer, a giant baby, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, Thor from The Avengers, Darth Vader from Star Wars, and a NASCAR driver that actually got into a one-car accident in the Rio parking lot.

Although he would survive the first day of play, Hellmuth was ultimately coolered out of the main event on day 2 after flopping bottom two pair against Nick Rigby’s top two pair.

The Business End of The Tournament

The bubble burst early on day 4, with play beginning just ten knockouts away from the money. It didn’t take long for hand-to-hand play to arrive, and three eliminations occurred during a single round. Yueqi Wang ran her flopped pair of aces into quad sixes, Peter Nigh lost a flip with A-K suited versus pocket queens, and Jeppe Bisgaard found himself on the wrong end of the most brutal preflop cooler with pocket kings against pocket aces.

The three eliminated players ended up splitting the $30,000 in prize money that would have gone to the first two to bust inside the money, taking home $10,000 each. There was then a flip for a free seat into next year’s main event, which was won by Bisgaard. With that, the remaining 1,505 players locked up at least $15,000 each.

More than a thousand contenders hit the rail inside of the money before action was halted for the night. Among those to bust on day 4 were main event champion Joe Cada (1,358th), Poker Hall of Famer Barry Greenstein (1,142nd), main event champion Jamie Gold (1,082nd), five-time bracelet winner Adam Friedman (790th), main event champion Scott Blumstein (783rd), three-time bracelet winner Doug Polk (674th), former WSOP Player of the Year Ben Lamb (654th), two-time Card Player Player of the Year award winner Stephen Chidwick (606th), five-time bracelet winner Michael Mizrachi (596th), and high-stakes legend Patrik Antonius (588th). When the dust settled, 441 players moved on to day 5.

The final remaining main event winners still in contention were eliminated back to back on day 5. 2003 main event winner Chris Moneymaker finished 404th, while 2005 winner Joe Hachem placed 403rd. Other big names to bust on day 5 included all-time Triton Poker title leader Jason Koon (440th), main event runner-up Dario Sammartino (429th), the red-hot Chance Kornuth (302nd), Pro Football Hall of Famer Richard Seymour (284th), recent bracelet winners Faraz Jaka (219th) and Jesse Lonis (209th), Triple Crown winner Davidi Kitai (170th), and popular poker vlogger Andrew Neeme (164th). Just 149 players advanced to day 6.

Another full day of play saw the field whittled down even further, with only 49 players still in contention heading into day 7. Day 6 saw the final two female players in the field eliminated. Bracelet winner Nikita Luther finished 96th for $78,900 when her A-K was outrun by the A-Q of Andrew Hulme. Luther’s departure left Estelle Cohuet as the last woman in the field. She eventually finished 68th ($130,300) when her K-10 was unable to come from behind against the A-Q suited of bracelet winner Raj Vohra.

Other notable players to hit the rail on day 6 included fan favorite Nick Rigby (131st), EPT founder John Duthie (72nd), WPT commentator and bracelet winner Tony Dunst (66th), and bracelet winner John Racener (53rd), who finished runner up in 2010.

Political analyst, writer, and founder of FiveThirtyEight Nate Silver’s run in this event came to a brutal end, with all of his chips getting in after the flop with middle set of sixes up against the top set of sevens held by Henry Chan. Silver was unable to hit his one outer and was sent to the rail in 87th place ($92,600).

Day 7 ended with just 15 players left, each having locked up at least $430,200. Noteworthy knockouts from the day included bracelet winner Sam Stein (46th – $188,400), Japanese content creator Masato Yokosawa (45th – $188,400), bracelet winner Raj Vohra (36th – $229,000), 15-time WSOP Circuit ring winner Maurice Hawkins (35th – $229,000), WPT champion Matthew Wantman (29th – $280,100), bracelet winner Gabi Livshitz (26th – $345,000), WPT champ and bracelet winner Ryan Tosoc (25th – $345,000), and WPT and EPT champ Andrey Pateychuk (17th – $430,200).

It took just over five hours of day 8 play to set the official final table. With 14 remaining, Weinman played what would end up being the most crucial hand of his tournament.

Joshua Payne raised from early position with KSpade Suit KDiamond Suit and Jose Aguilera three-bet with QSpade Suit QClub Suit from the button. Weinman looked down at JSpade Suit JClub Suit and four-bet shoved for just over 36 big blinds. Both players called and the flop came down AHeart Suit 7Heart Suit 4Spade Suit. Payne had 83 percent equity after that flop, but the JHeart Suit on the turn shot Weinman from third place into a commanding lead in the hand. The 3Spade Suit on the river changed nothing and Weinman scooped the pot to knock out Payne in 14th place ($430,200). This was a breakout score for the 23-year-old engineering student who, like Weinman, is also based out of Atlanta.

“It was such a bittersweet hand because it was both the hand that propelled me to win this tournament, but also had to knock out and put a bad beat on a good friend from back home,” said Weinman. “I could just see how much it hurt him. But in the moment, there was so much excitement for me. Watching it back and seeing the pain on his face, it hurt me… you know? Not as much as it hurt him, but it was tough.”

In addition to Payne, Jack O’Neill (15th – $430,200), Sachin Joshi (13th – $535,000), Cong Pham (12th – $535,000), Alec Torelli (11th – $700,000), and Jose Aguilera (10th -$700,000) were also eliminated during playdown to the final nine.

From Nine To Three

Italy’s Daniel Holzner was the first to fall at the final table. The 30-year-old made an impressive run in his first main event ever, turning the buy-in that was a birthday gift from his family into nearly a million-dollar payday.

He lost a big chunk of his stack early when his pocket aces were outflopped by the pocket tens of Jan-Peter Jachtmann, who spiked a set and extracted plenty of value. In Holzer’s final hand, he got all-in preflop with ADiamond Suit JClub Suit flipping against the pocket tens of Jones. The tens held up and Holzner was sent to the rail with $900,000.

It had taken more than two-and-a-half hours for the first knockout. Then, just a few minutes later, Spain’s Juan Maceiras open-shoved for his last 14.5 big blinds with KHeart Suit 9Club Suit. Toby Lewis called for the majority of his stack with ADiamond Suit 10Heart Suit in the big blind. The board brought an ace and Lewis’s top pair earned him the pot. Maceiras earned a career-best $1,125,000 payday for his eighth-place showing, which nearly doubled the 39-year-old’s lifetime earnings.

About 20 minutes or so into seven-handed play, the next big showdown arrived. Steven Jones min-raised from the hijack, once again holding pocket tens. Adam Walton flat called out of the cutoff with 9Club Suit 8Club Suit and it folded to Lewis in the big blind. He thought it over before electing to three-bet shove for a bit over 21 big blinds with KSpade Suit JClub Suit. Jones called, and Walton bowed out to set up a classic race situation with Lewis’ tournament life on the line. The board ran out AHeart Suit 7Club Suit 3Spade Suit ASpade Suit 2Club Suit, missing Lewis’ holding to see him knocked out in seventh place.

The 33-year-old poker pro was awarded $1,425,000 as the seventh-place finisher, surpassing his prior top score of $1,235,204 that he earned for a third-place showing in the 2021 Wynn Millions main event. The 2009 EPT Vilamoura main event winner and 2018 Aussie Millions champion now has nearly $9.9 million in lifetime earnings, which is good for sixth place on England’s all-time money list.

Scotland’s Dean Hutchison was the next player to find himself all-in and at risk. The 36-year-old poker player from Glasgow spent much of the day folding, but eventually took a stand with pocket fives. He made a committing raise of 18.4 million off of his 22.4 million stack when it folded to him on the button. Jachtmann moved all-in from the big blind with pocket sevens and Hutchison called it off.

The board fell clean to keep Jachtmann’s sevens ahead through the river. With that, Hutchison was eliminated in fifth place, earning $1,850,000 for the runaway largest live tournament score of his career. Prior to this, his biggest payday was the $154,935 he earned for winning a 2014 UKIPT Edinburgh £1,100 event.

Ukraine’s Ruslan Prydryk was left as the short stack heading into five-handed action. He managed a double up to close that gap somewhat, but eventually had to open shove from under the gun with QClub Suit 10Club Suit. Weinman called in the cutoff with ASpade Suit JDiamond Suit. The AHeart Suit JSpade Suit 2Spade Suit QSpade Suit 8Diamond Suit runout gave Weinman aces and jacks to win the pot.

Prydryk was awarded $2,400,000 for his fifth-place finish. The 50-year-old part-time poker player now has nearly $2.8 million in career cashes under his belt.

The final four played on for a bit, with Jachtmann eventually sliding to the bottom of the chip counts thanks to coming out on the wrong side of a sizable pot against Jones, who had overtaken Weinman for the chip lead during early four-handed action.

Not long after that clash, Jachtmann attempted a squeeze play that ended up being his last move of the tournament. Action began with Jones min-raising from the cutoff with JDiamond Suit 4Diamond Suit. Walton picked up ASpade Suit ADiamond Suit on the button and smooth called. It folded to Jachtmann in the big blind, who shoved for 28 big blinds with KDiamond Suit QHeart Suit. Jones quickly got out of the way and Walton’s trap worked perfectly as his hand held through the runout.

Jachtmann, a 55-year-old marketing CEO and bracelet winner from Hamburg, Germany, took home $3,000,000 as the fourth-place finisher. He now has more than $4.2 million in total tournament scores, with his second-largest being the $661,000 he earned as the 2012 WSOP $10,000 pot-limit Omaha championship winner.

With that, play was halted for the final three, who bagged up their chips for the night with 35-year-old Scottsdale, Arizona real estate broker Steven Jones in the lead and Weinman in second place.

Closing Out The Win

“Final tables can go so many different ways. You need some cards to get chips, and there were a lot of good players left with a lot more tournament experience than me. But when we got down to three, I did feel like I was the best player,” Weinman admitted. “[With] a couple of good hands at the right time, it all came together.”

Walton was the shortest stack to begin the day, but was still far from in desperation mode with 83 big blinds to start. The 40-year-old professional poker player from Seattle, Washington had actually joined Weinman in surpassing start-of-day chip leader Steven Jones. Weinman only had Walton covered by about seven big blinds when the pivotal hand of the day arose.

With blinds of 1,250,000-2,500,000 with a big blind ante of 2,500,000, Jones raised to 6,000,000 on the button with the QDiamond Suit 6Diamond Suit and Walton flat called from the small blind with pocket eights. Weinman looked down at pocket aces and three-bet to 27,000,000 from the big blind.

Jones folded, and Walton four-bet shoved for 209,500,000. Weinman snap-called with his aces and the board came down 7Club Suit 5Heart Suit 3Club Suit 9Spade Suit KClub Suit to earn him the massive pot and the elimination.

Walton earned $4,000,000 as the third-place finisher. This was his second deep run in the main event, having placed 42nd in 2021 for $163,900. He now has more than $4.9 million in lifetime live tournament earnings to his name after this momentous result.

“It was the first hand I had really put a lot of chips in the pot and came in with the squeeze after the Steven open and the Adam flat. And I know that Adam likes to flat some big hands, so I ended up sizing up a little bit, kind of with the hopes that he would try to take advantage of all the dead money in there. And I don’t know if it was me inducing him or him just deciding that it was too good of a hand to not go with, but it all ended up working out so well,” said Weinman of the key clash.

With that, Weinman entered heads-up play with 443,000,000 to the 159,500,000 of Jones. The championship bracelet and the pile of money were set out and the final two began their battle for the honor of being this year’s world champ.

It took just 24 hands for Weinman to convert his chip lead into the title. He still had more than a 2:1 lead when the final hand arose. At the same blind level, Jones opened to 7,000,000 on the button with JClub Suit 8Diamond Suit and Weinman called with KClub Suit JDiamond Suit. The flop came down JSpade Suit 5Spade Suit 2Diamond Suit and Weinman checked. Jones bet 6,000,000 and Weinman check-raised to 18,500,000.

Jones called and the 4Club Suit rolled off on the turn. Weinman bet 38,000,000 and Jones went into the tank for a few minutes before moving all-in for 146,000,000. Weinman took almost 30 seconds before making the call with his top pair and superior kicker.

Jones needed help, but the AHeart Suit on the river did not supply any and he was eliminated in second place, earning $6,500,000. This runner-up showing surpassed his previous top score of $57,425 that he earned for a ninth-place finish in the 2018 WSOP Colossus.

“Very interesting hand,” said Weinman when asked about the final pot of the tournament. “Steven had been limping a lot of buttons, so I wasn’t really sure what to make of his large [preflop raise] sizing. I thought it would be kind of a medium to strong hand because I had raised his last few limps, so I thought if he limped he would most likely have a strong hand. So when I flopped top pair on such a wet board, I’m going to have to have a lot of check-raises with some marginal hands, like my exact hand, to balance out the straight draws and the flush draws. Given the way the stacks were, it was kind of set up perfectly to check-raise the flop, bet the turn, and shove the river for some kind of sizing that made sense.”

“When I ended up betting on the blank turn… he went into the tank for what seemed like 10 minutes. It felt like genuine uncertainty on his part. I didn’t think he was trapping with like a set or some kind of turned wheel,” Weinman continued. “It seems kind of weird to play this final hand, a 120 big-blind pot, with just one pair, but I just kind of made my decision that when he took that long and jammed, that was about where he was at.”

With the win, Weinman secured a bevy of rankings points. Even though this was his first final-table finish of the year, the 3,600 Card Player Player of the Year points he secured were enough to catapult him into 19th place in the 2023 POY standings presented by Global Poker. Weinman also locked up 2,300 PokerGO Tour points for the score, enough to move him into the lead on the high-stakes-centric PGT leaderboard.

Despite the momentous achievement, Weinman seems committed to staying grounded. He even returned to his day job just days later, working as a software engineer at RF Poker, which deals with RFID tables for livestreaming broadcasts.

“I don’t think life is going to change very much for me. I’m a very happy person. I enjoy very simple things back home,” said Weinman. “I will be at work next week, maybe play a little more golf, maybe travel a little bit more, but life is going to be very similar… with a few extra dollars in the bank.” ♠

Top 10 Biggest WSOP Main Events

Year Champion Entries Prize Pool Top Payout
2023 Daniel Weinman 10,043 $93,399,900 $12,100,000
2006 Jamie Gold 8,773 $82,512,162 $12,000,000
2022 Espen Jorstad 8,663 $80,782,475 $10,000,000
2019 Hossein Ensan 8,569 $80,548,600 $10,000,000
2018 John Cynn 7,874 $74,015,600 $8,800,000
2010 Jonathan Duhamel 7,319 $68,798,600 $8,944,310
2017 Scott Blumstein 7,221 $67,877,400 $8,150,000
2011 Pius Heinz 6,865 $64,531,000 $8,715,638
2008 Peter Eastgate 6,844 $64,333,600 $9,152,416
2016 Qui Nguyen 6,737 $63,327,800 $8,005,310

*Photo credits: PokerGO – Enrique Malfavon