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In The Midst Of $1.6 Million Online Downswing, Ben Sulsky Came To Las Vegas And Is Now Close To First World Series Of Poker Bracelet

Had To Beat Rival Phil Galfond In Round Of Eight


New Hampshire native Ben “Sauce1234” Sulsky was last year’s biggest winner on the virtual felt, capturing nearly $4 million. However 2013 has been terrible for him so far, as he has dropped about $1.6 million. In an effort to step away from the online game, Sulsky made a rare trip to a live tournament series, and now he is close to a World Series of Poker bracelet.

Sulsky was in the final four on Sunday afternoon in the $10,000 buy-in heads-up championship. The buy-in, as well as the first place prize of $331,190, are miniscule in comparison to what he normally plays for in cyberspace, but for him it was about changing scenery.

“The games online are especially terrible now, and I wanted to spend some time away from the computer screen,” Sulsky said Saturday after beating Internet rival Phil Galfond in the elite eight.

Sulsky and Galfond squared off face-to-face in one of the most intense heads-up matches of the event, and arguably of the entire 2013 WSOP thus far. They battled for hours, almost as perfect equals, before the blinds became so large that essentially a coinflip decided the match.

“There were so many flips back and forth and so many tricky lines we had to navigate through. It was an especially difficult match,” an almost disoriented Sulsky said immediately after play had ended. He only had about 20 minutes until he had to play again.

Galfond is by far the more experienced live player, the winner of a bracelet in 2008. Sulsky had never cashed at the WSOP prior to Saturday, and is a virtual unknown in live card rooms. He had the jitters facing his longtime nemesis away from the computer.

“It was kind of nerve-racking because I hadn’t played live poker in over a year,” Sulsky said. “I’m still getting comfortable. For me, it takes a lot of concentration to keep a live presence.”

Sulsky said he has logged “at least 30,000” hands with Galfond on the Internet, but that it’s “probably a lot more than that.” The two have played stakes as high as $500-$1,000 together, in disciplines as volatile as pot-limit Omaha.

Despite their rivalry, the two young poker pros get along well and have a lot of respect for the other one’s game. Their relationship is a fine example of how the high-stakes world is a tight-knit group. They almost have to be in order to find action.

“We both talk poker strategy and are friendly, and we have a good idea how each other is going to play,” Sulsky said. He added that when he plays Galfond “it is more about just executing and making fine-grain decisions and competing” than simply trying to out play him.

Sulsky faced Don Nguyen at 2 p.m. local time. The winner of that match played the winner of Justin Bonomo and Mark Radoja. A winner was to be crowned on Sunday.

Update: Sulsky lost in the final four.

Online poker figures via HighstakesDB.