In what was a truly international final table, Austria’s Max Neugebauer was able to outlast the remaining eight men from the final table (and the 817-player field) to capture the championship of the 2023 World Series of Poker Main Event on Wednesday. In front of a packed house at the King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, Neugebauer made a stunning call against Eric Tsai to earn him the title. Along with the WSOP bracelet, Neugebauer won a princely sum of €1.5 million (roughly $1,631,588) for the biggest payday of his career.
Eight Countries Make Up Final Table
To demonstrate the international appeal of the game of poker, the eight men at the final table each represented a different country. At the start of the day, it was Tsai (Taiwan) who was the massive chip leader with a stack of over 23 million chips. There were only two other players who were even in eight digits, Kasparas Klezys (Lithuania, 13.95 million) and Neugebauer (10.325 million). The rest of the pack – Nils Pudel (Germany, 9.875 million), Michael Rocco (USA, eight million), Michele Tocci (Italy, 6.525 million), Ruslan Volkov (Ukraine, six million), and a short-stacked Alf Martinsson (Sweden, 3.15 million) – had their work cut out for them if they were going to get in the mix.
With his short stack, Martinsson figured to be the player making an early move and, on the second hand, he did just that. The issue is that he ran his A-3 off suit into the pocket tens of Tocci, who caught an unnecessary ten on the river (K-6-K-Q-10) to end Martinsson’s event in eighth place. The players then settled in for about three hours of chip shuffling, until Volkov eventually ran out of chips after Klezys’ A-10 found an Ace on the turn against Volkov’s pocket tens to send him out in seventh.
After two knockouts, Tocci was the man now in control, as Tsai made some missteps to plunge to the bottom of the ladder. Tsai would slowly rebuild, however, eventually getting back to fifteen million in chips after taking a pot from Rocco. Rocco was undaunted, opening the very hand after this and, once Pudel moved all in, immediately called. Rocco’s pocket Aces dwarfed the A-5 of Pudel, and the ten-high board didn’t bring any salvation, ending Pudel’s tournament in sixth place.
From Five to a Champion
Rocco had taken over the lead, but it would be short-lived. Tsai three-bet Rocco on the button and, after Rocco moved all in, Tsai was the one making the call. This time it was Tsai with the pocket Aces, while Rocco could only muster an A-9 for battle. No miracle would come for Rocco as he sent 15 million chips to Tsai, not to mention the chip lead.
One more questionable move from Rocco would send him from the table. After watching Tocci limp in, Rocco put nearly eight million chips on the line with an all-in move. Tocci didn’t waste any time in calling the bet, tabling pocket tens against Rocco’s A-7 off suit. A seven would come on the flop, but that would be it as Tocci pocketed the remainder of Rocco’s chips and Rocco departed in fifth place.
Arguably the hand of the tournament occurred between Neugebauer and Tsai during four-handed play. On a 9-3-3-4-10 board, Neugebauer was able to get action all the way from Tsai, turning up a K-9 for a flopped two pair, which Tsai had air with his A-Q. That thirteen million chip pot thrust Neugebauer into the lead, enhanced even more when the duo clashed again and Neugebauer picked up another seven million chips. With Tocci’s generosity, Neugebauer amassed 42 million chips in a short time, holding more chips than Tocci (19.85 million), Tsai (12.25 million), and Klezys (7.35 million) combined.
Neugebauer then went on a rampage. He would eliminate Klezys in fourth and Tocci in third to move to heads-up play against Tsai with 64.1 million chips, vastly outpacing Tsai’s 17.4 million. Although Tsai tried to bring the stacks to even, Neugebauer didn’t ever let him get close. Still, the drama of the final hand had many in the King’s Casino talking.
Tsai raised the betting to 1.2 million and Neugebauer made the call to see a Q♦ 8♦ 7♥ flop, with Neugebauer check-calling another bet out of Tsai. An Ace on the turn should have slowed the action a bit, but Tsai kept the pressure up with a 6.3 million chip bet that Neugebauer called. A four came on the river and Neugebauer checked again, this time with Tsai firing with every bullet he had left.
Neugebauer was faced with a huge decision. If he called and was right, he was the WSOP-E Main Event Champion. If he was wrong, the duo would be essentially equal in chips and the battle would continue. After an eternity, Neugebauer made the call and the cards were turned up:
Tsai: J♦ 9♦ (missed flush draw, no pair)
Neugebauer: J-8 (flopped middle pair)
The stunning call sealed the win for the Austrian, earning him his first major championship and the WSOP bracelet.
1. Max Neugebauer (Austria), €1,500,000
2. Eric Tsai (Taiwan), €891,000
3. Michele Tocci (Italy), €639,000
4. Kasparas Klezys (Lithuania), €464,000
5. Michael Rocco (USA), €341,000
6. Nils Pudel (Germany), €255,000
7. Ruslan Volkov (Ukraine), €193,000
8. Alf Martinsson (Sweden), €148,000
9. Yulian Bogdanov (Bulgaria), €115,300*
(* – eliminated on Tuesday, part of official final table)