Russian pro Vitaly Lunkin wins the star-studded $ 40k NLHE event
When the WSOP announced that they would be celebrating their 40th birthday with a special, one-off $ 40,000 No-limit hold’em tournament it instantly became one of the most anticipated events on this year’s calendar.
Players and journalists were divided on the issue with some thinking that the large buy-in would detract from the WSOP Main Event’s prestige, end up busting some players as the WSOP begins or even attract a disappointingly small field due to the economic climate.
On the other hand, just as many people were excited about the prospect of a star-studded field that was sure to climax in a thrilling final table full of big names and quality poker.
The reality of what we got was somewhere in the middle. A healthy 201 players entered, swelling the prizepool to a huge $ 7,718,400, the largest for any non-WSOP Main Event tournament.
However, the only problem was that the majority of big stars such as Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth and Doyle Brunson all hit the rail before the money bubble burst. The UK’s Neil Channing finished a creditable 19th for a +$ 71,858 start to his Series with other popular players like Vanessa Rousso, Brian Townsend and Andy Black making a small profit.
The final table itself was a curious lineup, with an interesting mix of iconic figures such as 2003 champ Greg Raymer and Ted Forrest alongside internet phenoms Isaac Haxton, Dani ‘Ansky’ Stern and Justin Bonomo.
In the end though it was Russian pro Vitaly Lunkin who outlasted the field, defeating Haxton heads-up to take home the $ 1,891,018 top prize. Lunkin may not be a big name to most fans but this was his second bracelet after winning a $ 1,500 NLHE event in 2008. With the breakout success of PokerPlayer cover star Ivan Demidov in 2008 Lunkin’s victory here merely confirms that the Russians are indeed coming.
1. Vitaly Lunkin, Russia, $ 1,891,018
2. Isaac Haxton, USA, $ 1,168,565
3. Greg Raymer, USA, $ 774,927
4. Daniel Stern, USA, $ 548,315
5. Justin Bonomo, USA, $ 413,165
6. Alec Torelli, USA, $ 329,730
7. Lex Veldhuis, USA, $ 277,939
8. Noah Schwartz, USA, $ 246,834
9. Ted Forrest, USA, $ 230,317