Winning the Poker Players Championship at the World Series of Poker is a dream for many players, especially those who thrive on mixed game formats.
So when Mike Gorodinsky saw the final card fall on the last hand of his long heads-up battle with Jean-Robert Bellande early Friday morning, it was the stuff dreams were made of.
Mike Gorodinsky beat out a field of 84 elite poker players to win the 2015 Poker Players Championship (PPC), claiming a $1,270,086 prize, his second career WSOP bracelet, and the right to put his name on the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy alongside some of the greatest players of the past decade.
“This is literally something that I’ve gone to bed dreaming about, and it’s just cool to legitimately realize a dream,” Gorodinsky said after his win.
Gorodinsky came into the final table in second place, behind David Baker but ahead of Bellande, who sat in third.
Those three proved to be the final survivors, and when Gorodinsky eliminated Baker in a No Limit Hold’em hand, that left him with a 3-2 chip lead over Bellande heading into heads-up play.
But it would take a long time to determine a winner. Over the next 3.5 hours, the lead changed hands several times, and it wasn’t until midnight that Gorodinsky finally started to take firm control of the match.
Finally, with nearly a 4-1 chip lead, Gorodinsky was able to finish the job in a hand of Pot Limit Omaha. Bellande’s stack went in on the flop with a pair and a straight draw against Gorodinsky’s set.
Gorodinsky dodged the queens, jacks and nines that threatened to keep Bellande alive, and finally, the title was his.
The heads-up duel was a memorable one, with both players showing their skills in the variety of games thrown at them by the PPC format.
“He played well today,” Gorodinsky said of Bellande. “Nothing but respect.”
Bellande had strong support from his rail, and did plenty to entertain the crowd during heads-up play.
At one point, he announced he had received a good luck text from Phil Hellmuth, reading it for the crowd and having Tournament Director Robbie Thompson take a photo to send back as a reply to Hellmuth.
But in the end, it was Gorodinsky’s day to shine, something that meant even more after coming so close to wins twice already at this year’s series.
In previous attempts, he had lost to Phil Hellmuth in heads-up play in the $10,000 Razz Championship and finished third in the $5,000 No Limit Hold’em Six-Handed event.
“There was a time here when I got really short, down to 3 million or whatever it was, and I was just like ‘I can’t do this again,’” he said after his win. “I lost heads up to Phil, I can’t lose heads up to JRB—I’m never going to hear the end of it, it’s just going to be so painful.”
One of the biggest talking points before the PPC was the change to a ten-game format. In recent years, the tournament had used an eight-game mix; this year, Badugi and No Limit Triple Draw were added to the lineup, a change that Gorodinsky enjoyed.
“I personally like it,” he said of the change. “Badugi is actually one of my favorite games, I think there should be a standalone Badugi event. I think it’s a really complex, good game, so I like the change. Maybe it kind of scared some people away, but I like it personally.”