The World Series of Poker has definitely become a hunting grounds for big name pros over the last few years, as more and more notable names are winning bracelets (and often more than one).
But there is still room for upsets and Cinderella stories at the WSOP, and that was proven on a couple of different occasions this weekend.
The $1,500 Dealers Choice event would seem like an event designed specifically for high-stakes professionals.
After all, when everyone takes turns picking a new game each round, and with 18 games on offer throughout the tournament, you’ll eventually have to play everything; have a couple of weak points or games you are unfamiliar with, and it is likely to come back to bite you before the tournament ends.
Sure enough, there were some big names at the final table. Robert Mizrachi was there, looking to win his second consecutive title in this event.
Chris Klodnicki was there too, looking to add to a resume that included over $8.2 million in career cashes by finally capturing his first gold bracelet.
But both of those luminaries would come up short in their quest.
And in their place, the most unlikely of winners emerged: Carol Fuchs, a screenwriter and film producer who is best known as one of the writers for the 2007 film No Reservations, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart.
Fuchs defeated Russia’s Ilya Krupin in heads-up play to secure her first ever WSOP bracelet and the $127,735 prize that went along with it.
It was an incredible accomplishment for the part-time poker player who had just one previous cash at the WSOP, a small score in last year’s Six-Handed Ten Game Mix event.
The win made Fuchs the first female bracelet winner of 2015, and the first in an open event since Vanessa Selbst won a bracelet in last year’s World Series.
Fuchs said that while she was just as surprised as anyone else at her win, it wasn’t exactly a fluke: she has played most of the games before, though a few, like “Big O” (five-card Omaha), were new to her. She also felt as though her status as an amateur may have given her a leg up and some points.
“When I was playing at the final table, I really felt comfortable,” Fuchs said after her win. “It’s fun for me. It’s not a payday.”
Jason Mercier went into heads-up play in the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Championship with a chip lead and dreams of winning his second bracelet of the summer.
Two hands later, he was out of the tournament, and Denmark’s Alexander Petersen had not only collected his first WSOP cash, he had won his first bracelet in one of the year’s toughest events.
Petersen doubled through Mercier on the first hand of heads-up play and eliminated his opponent on the second hand to win the title and a $927,655 prize. It was a quick end to what had been a long final table, stunning onlookers who were just settling in for a heads-up battle.
While Petersen isn’t well-known in live poker, he is a long-time online pro that specializes in Pot Limit Omaha, meaning his victory wasn’t nearly as unlikely as it may appear at first glance. Still, this was the biggest win of his career, and it came in part due to the increased focus he put into this event.
“Coming to Las Vegas was always a break for me,” Peterson told reporters, explaining his lack of World Series cashes until this point. “This is the first event I played here where I really took it seriously, and it paid off.”