Denying the chance at history for a former World Champion, the United Kingdom’s Jack Sinclair wrote his own chapter in poker’s annals by becoming the second ever British champion by winning the 2018 World Series of Poker Europe Championship Event on Friday night.
Possibilities at History from the Start
At the start of action from the King’s Casino in Rozvadov, there was the chance for some player to make history. In the third slot on the leaderboard was 2013 WSOP Championship Event winner Ryan Riess, who was looking to become only the second person to ever win both the WSOP Championship Events in both the U. S. and Europe. In front of him were two relative newcomers to casual fans, chip leader Laszlo Bujtas of Hungary and Milos Skrbic of Serbia, but both players were well known as strong players to those well versed in the game. Behind Riess was Sinclair, who was looking to become the first British champion since James Bord in 2010, along with Bulgaria’s first ever Main Event final tablist in Krasimir Yankov and Ukraine’s Ihor Yerofieiev, who was that country’s second ever Main Event final tablist.
With more than a million Euros on top for the eventual champion, the players wasted little time getting to business. Particularly active was Yerofieiev, who was looking to build his short stack into one that could contend. He was able to shove a couple of times and pick up the blinds and antes, but that move works all but the last time. After moving in again, Yerofieiev saw Skrbic look him up and the duo flipped their cards:
Yerofieiev: pocket sixes
Skrbic: A-Q off suit
The classic race was done almost from the start. The K-A-Q flop hit Skrbic HARD, but there was still a chance for Yerofieiev to find one of the two remaining sixes in the deck. A trey on the turn and a five on the river weren’t what he needed, however, as Yerofieiev headed to the rail in sixth place.
With his newfound chips, Skrbic decided it was time to get a bit aggressive and that would turn out to be an unfortunate move. Skrbic, sitting on over 18 million in chips and in first place, first doubled up Yankov after his A-J missed against Yankov’s K-10 on a K-4-2-2-K board. Then Skrbic would hit a real cooler, calling Sinclair’s all in for over eight million chips with pocket Queens. There was one problem, however; Sinclair had pocket Aces, which rivered an unnecessary Ace for a set to put Sinclair into the lead and send Skrbic to the basement. Skrbic would depart soon after that in fifth place.
Riess’ Chance at History Goes Awry
Riess was arguably the one with the most pressure on him on Friday night. Having won “The Big One” in 2013, plenty of people had tapped him as the favorite to ride to the title in the King’s Casino. If he were to win in Rozvadov, Riess was ready to enter the rarefied air with (who else?) Phil Hellmuth as the only people to have won the WSOP Championship Event in Las Vegas and the Main Event in Europe.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. Riess could never find any traction on Friday and, when he did get the cards, someone had him outpipped. On his final hand, Riess was up against Bujtas and Yankov after limping from the button. Yankov, in the big blind, upped the stakes to a million chips and Riess pushed all in. Bujtas got out of the way, but Yankov immediately called and Riess’ facial expression said he knew what that meant.
Unfortunately for Riess, he was exactly right. Riess’ pocket sevens were crushed by Yankov’s pocket Aces and the nine-high board did nothing to change the fortunes for either player. As a deuce fell on the river, Riess rose from the table and headed off to collect his fourth-place money.
Sinclair Heats Up
Holding the chip lead after the double through Skrbic, Sinclair seemed to have a fire lit under him. He didn’t make a misstep the remainder of the way, but it could have been completely different if a three-way pot that resulted in a knockout didn’t fall the way it did.
Yankov made a button raise with pocket fives and Sinclair simply called off the small blind with pocket sevens. Bujtas, sitting with pocket deuces, didn’t want to miss out on the party and he called as well to see an improbable K-7-5 flop. Everybody checked to Yankov, who pushed out a bet only to see Sinclair raise the betting to two million chips with his set of sevens. That was enough for Bujtas to fold, but Yankov came along with a call.
Another King on the turn lit the wick. Sinclair checked his option and Yankov, in position, popped a 2.3 million chip bet in the center. Sinclair pondered for a short time before announcing all in and Yankov nearly beat him into the pot by calling off the remainder of his stack. He was stunned to see Sinclair’s better set as he turned up his pocket fives for a lesser set and, after a six came on the river, Yankov was out in third.
Sinclair never looked back from that point. Although Bujtas would take the first hand to slide out to an early lead, the cards dried up for the Hungarian as Sinclair continually pounded bets in the center. After an hour of play, Sinclair picked off a bluff from Bujtas to move out to a 2:1 lead and, after another hour, stretched it out to more than a 6:1 advantage.
Bujtas was a formidable opponent, but he just didn’t get the cards when he needed them. On the final hand, Bujtas moved all in and Sinclair made the call. Bujtas’ J-7 was live against Sinclair’s Q-9, but that disappeared on the K-Q-3 flop. A six on the turn ended it for Bujtas, rendering the seven on the river moot as he was drawing dead to the new WSOP Europe Main Event champion Jack Sinclair.
1. Jack Sinclair, €1,122,239
2. Laszlo Bujtas, €693,573
3. Krasimir Yankov, €480,028
4. Ryan Riess, €337,778
5. Milos Skrbic, €241,718
6. Ihor Yerofieiev, €175,965
With that, the 2018 World Series of Poker has concluded. Before you know it, however, the clarion call will once again ring out around the poker world. In just about seven months, the next great poker champions will convene in Las Vegas for the 50th anniversary of poker’s most celebrated event (in 1969, the “Texas Gambling Reunion” took place in Reno, NV; a year later, the event was renamed the “World Series of Poker” under the auspices of Benny Binion). And, in 2019, Jack Sinclair will be able to attend as a WSOP Europe champion.