After pulling a stunning one-outer out of the fire near the final table, Bulgaria’s Stoyan Madanzhiev battled back to capture the championship of the 2020 online WSOP. In defeating the 5082 entries that were compiled over a two-week period, Madanzhiev earned his biggest payday in his career – and in the history of online poker – and will wear the Main Event bracelet for 2020.
38 Came Back…Only One Would Stand
38 players originally came back on Saturday with the dreams of the Main Event title dancing in their heads. Leading the way was the U. S.’s Bryan Piccioli, who had racked up a decent stack of 18.4 million chips (roughly) to lead the pack. There were some other notable names in the field, including Benjamin Rolle, Stefan Schillhabel and the last lady in the tournament, Wenling Gao, but they were quite a distance behind as the virtual cards hit the air on GGPoker.
Gao would get into the action by flopping a set against Xuming Qi, catapulting her to within less than three million chips of Piccioli, and would take the lead away when Piccioli had Maicon Gasperin all in but couldn’t best Gasperin’s flopped set of eights and turned full house. Another player, however, would take the opposite path. In a three-hand span, Jonas Lauck would go from the penthouse to the outhouse, leaving the tournament in 34th place after being in the Top Ten to start the day.
Although Piccioli would fight back and take over the lead before a break, it was a close battle between him, Satoshi Isomae and Gao. Madanzhiev, for his part, was quietly stalking his way up the board. That stalking became a charge right before the final table was determined.
With 12 players remaining, Samuel Vousden moved in his final 5.5 million chips and Madanzhiev looked him up. The two had tussled on several occasions through the afternoon, but this time it seemed that Vousden had the upper hand. Holding an A-9, Vousden was dominating Madanzhiev’s A-3 and the A-10-7 flop gave Vousden an even bigger grip on the hand. The trey on the turn changed everything, however, suddenly shooting Madanzhiev into the lead. Needing a nine on the river, Vousden instead saw an innocuous four come, sending him out of the tournament in 12th place and putting Madanzhiev firmly in the lead with more than 56 million in chips.
Still No Easy Road to the Title
Madanzhiev would still have a fight to get to the title, however. Tyler Rueger quickly took the lead after Vousden’s elimination, taking down Rolle in 11th place to eclipse 69 million chips. Madanzhiev continued the fight, coming back and eliminating Italy’s Mariano Martiradonna on the final table bubble to hold the second place slot on the leaderboard going to the final table.
Rueger and Madanzhiev were the only players over the 65 million chip mark, and they used their ammunition to “sheriff” the final table. Gao got into the mix as well, pushing to the lead after Samuel Taylor was eliminated in ninth place. After Madanzhiev took out Tyler Cornell in eighth place to push his stack over 93 million, however, the tournament looked to be his to lose.
It came down to the three likely suspects – Madanzhiev, Rueger and Gao – to determine the champion. After Gao eliminated Rueger in third place, she went to heads up play roughly six million chips behind Madanzhiev. But he would never let her get any thoughts of actually winning the tournament. Over the final 20 minutes of the tournament, Madanzhiev whittled away at Gao’s stack until an unlikely final hand (and a lucky break) earned Madanzhiev the title.
On that final hand, Gao popped the pot to 1.6 million chips and Madanzhiev called to see a 3-4-5 rainbow flop. Madanzhiev led out on the hand for 1.7 chips and, after Gao took it up to roughly four million chips, Madanzhiev made the call. An eight on the turn put two hearts in action and Madanzhiev checked. Gao smelled weakness and powered out a 5.6 million chip bet, but Madanzhiev wasn’t done yet.
Madanzhiev raised the action to 15 million and Gao immediately pushed all-in. Madanzhiev pondered his situation and made the call of what was, on his part, a well-played hand. Gao had pocket Aces with a chance to redraw at a wheel straight, but Madanzhiev had her completely crushed. His 7-6 had flopped the nut straight and the eight on the turn had only made his straight even better, leaving Gao drawing dead. Once the formality of the final card was dealt, Madanzhiev scooped all the chips and the championship of the 2020 online WSOP Main Event.
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