It’s been 18 years since PokerStars conceived the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP), and a lot has changed in the poker landscape. But despite the game’s evolution, the $5,200 WCOOP Main Event remains the most prestigious prize in online poker.
This year’s contest attracted 1,977 total entries (including 541 re-entries) who then battled it out over four days to win a share of the $10 million prize pool.
In the end, it was Portugal’s Andre “PTFisherman23” Marques who came out on top. Marques–who was playing WCOOP from the Netherlands–won $1,047,270.86 following a three-way chop with Austria’s Tonio “prrrak4783” Röder (2nd – $1,082,522.50) and the Netherlands’ Teun “tinnoemulder” Mulder (3rd – $1,101,527.64).
What makes these final tables so special isn’t just the seven-figure prizes up for grabs, but the stories behind the players who make it so far.
This year we had a qualifier who booked his seat in the $5,200 event from a $22 Spin & Go and turned that into $140K.
We had a Twitch streamer out of Ukraine who broadcast his entire run to a riveted audience.
We had an experienced pro who climbed his way out of a big downswing to bank $387K.
And, of course, we had the champion.
Here’s the story of how the WCOOP Main Event was won, as told by the players themselves.
The least-recognisable screen name heading into the final table belonged to “77atlant77”, a 30-year-old Russian player who had recently left his job as a landscape designer to pursue the poker dream.
“Occasionally I was playing poker at work,” 77atlant77 tells us. “I hope my employer forgives me! I just realised that I was going to have the same future as everyone else: home, work, mortgage, budget vacation etc. I’m not saying that is a bad life, but I wanted more.”
With a belief that if he put in the hard work he would succeed in poker, he started playing Sit & Gos of up to $15 buy-ins. Things went well, and 77atlant77 soon found himself earning enough to make a living alongside his wife’s income (“I am very grateful to my wife,” he says. “She supported and accepted my decision to leave my job.”)
He then started dabbling in multi-table tournaments via satellites for big events, as well as some Spin & Gos. He’d hit big in a $22 version of the latter, winning his entry to the WCOOP Main Event.
“I was so happy,” he says. “The first day I played relaxed and bluffed a lot, but the regulars were reading me like a book. At some point, I realized that I would make more money if I focus on playing with strong hands.”
77atlant77 did just that and booked his way to Day 2. Even a min-cash worth would be his biggest score to date. Once in the money, he focused on laddering up the pay jumps and even folded ace-king with nine big blinds when they were two away from a jump.
“You could call me a master of sitting out to make pay jumps,” he jokes. “This cunning strategy led me to the final table. By the time we’d reached Day 4 and the final table, my hair had turned grey. Just kidding, but my heart was pounding.”
To calm himself down he grabbed a set of dumbbells and began to pump some iron. Ultimately he’d muscle his way to eighth place and his first six-figure score: $140,280.
That’s quite a spin.
Denys “SantaZzz” Chufarin is a 36-year-old lawyer from Kyiv who has also been playing poker for a living for more than a decade.
From his first $65 deposit back in 2009 he soon found himself a regular at the $100 Sit & Gos and became a Supernova Elite in 2010. He’d go on to become Supernova Elite for the next five years in a row.
These days he mostly plays 6+ Hold’em cash games with a few MTT sessions now and then. The WCOOP Main Event turned out to be one of them.
“I’d had some deep runs prior to the Main Event,” he says. “I finished 10th in a $530 4-Max, but I didn’t really play a lot this series.”
It seems he saved up all his run good for the Main. After losing a huge pot to Robin “robinho” Ylitalo on the direct bubble, Chufarin managed to spin up his 13-big-blind stack and went on the become chip leader after this huge pot.
“I lost a big flip with AQ < 77 and then I made some mistakes and got a bit tilted,” he admits. “But as I was streaming the whole tournament on Twitch I believe my chat saved me.”
Chufarin’s viewers were in for a treat as he made it all the way to the final table.
“It was amazing,” he says. “First of all, I did it all on stream. I didn’t feel money pressure on the final table. Instead, I felt happiness from my chat.
“I just wanted to put on a good show for everyone, show them what my profession means and how it looks. My viewers know that I am a professional player but no one knows how it looks and what pressure I can be under and how much you can win in poker.”
Alas, Chufarin’s incredible run came to an end in sixth place when his ace-jack lost to Ylitalo’s pocket eights on the river. He banked $276,069 for his efforts.
“I’m on the right road,” he says. “The money doesn’t change my life, but it will change my poker career.”
The screen name “Andre_Hansen”, which belongs to Ukrainian pro Andriy Lyubovetskiy, is one we’d seen before.
Having discovered poker at 16, Lyubovetskiy began playing with play money online before being invited to a live poker club. He won the third tournament he’d ever played: a $10 re-buy for $800. “That was sick money for a student back then.”
He’s been battling ever since, switching from live cash games to online and working his way up from $2/$4 to the $25/$50 5-card PLO games.
“The only bad thing about 5-card PLO is that there is not much action,” he says. “The lobby is often empty. I hope more people will find interest in this game, because it’s really fun.”
There has never been a lack of interest in tournaments, however, and Lyubovetskiy has had plenty of success in those.
“2018 was a turning point for me,” he says. “I was lucky to win a SCOOP and then I finished second in a WCOOP. I’m a PLO cash player so tournament success has always come as a surprise for me. I don’t really know how to explain it.”
His run good ran out in 2019, however, and Lyubovetskiy found himself going on a six-figure downswing which continued into early 2020. In a hope of turning everything around, he set his eyes on winning a big title.
“I was really looking forward to winning a title this year in WCOOP. Mostly of course in PLO tournaments. I had some deep runs, but no final tables.”
That all changed in the $5,200 Main Event. His Day 1 goal was to survive on one bullet. He did. His Day 2 goal was to make the money. He did.
“At the beginning of Day 3 I lost some momentum,” he says. “But then I won a flip with QQ vs AK. Aside from the last hand when I busted, that was the only time during the tournament when I was all in preflop for all of my chips.”
Lyubovetskiy entered the final table with the fourth-largest stack.
“When you are at the final table there is a lot of pressure,” he says. “First of all, everyone is watching. All your friends and peers can see your cards.
“I tried to play my best and make no mistakes. It’s tough to realize how much money is at stake. Every decision is worth so much money.”
Lyubovetskiy would end up busting in fifth for $387,284 when his king-jack failed to catch up to Tonio “prrrak4783” Röder‘s ace-jack.
“Reaching the final table of the WCOOP Main Event was the moment I was anticipating for all my life,” he says. “A dream come true.
“If someone told me prior to the tournament that I would make the final table I wouldn’t believe this could happen. I’m really happy with my achievement and I’m proud that there were two Ukrainians at the final table of such a prestigious event.”
With his bankroll well and truly revived, Lyubovetskiy is excited about the future.
“It’s a sick result!” he says. “I still can’t believe it happened to me. I hope it’s going to be just a step on the road to even bigger wins. I’m looking forward to the time when everything will be back to normal in the world and we will be able to play live like in the good old days.”
When he’s not casting his line down at the docks, Andre “PTFisherman23” Marques is a Portuguese poker pro based in the Netherlands. “It’s just a nickname that someone gave me,” he said when asked about his screen name.
Marques plays as part of team Polarize Poker, a coaching and staking platform co-founded by well-known countrymen Rui “RuiNF” Ferreira and Filipe “Zagazaur” Oliveira.
“I just took the WCOOP Main Event hour by hour and break by break,” he says. “I tried to focus on what I wanted to do in the next hour and then tried to do it. Not every play was good, I had some spews.”
Marques’ confidence was riding high heading into the event as one week before he had won his largest poker score of $140K. With this WCOOP victory, however, he has smashed that personal best out of the water.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with the money,” he says. “I’m going to rest now and then think about it. I still have a lot of work to do in the future.”
He now joins the likes of Fedor Holz, Jonas Lauck, and Steven van Zadelhoff as WCOOP Main Event champions.
“This isn’t just my score,” Marques says. “It’s a score for my friends, the team that I play with at Polarize Poker, and for my country.”
Congratulations to all of the Main Event final table players.
WCOOP-72-H: $5,200 NLHE Main Event
Dates: September 20-23, 2020
Entries: 1,977 (inc. 541 re-entries)
Prize pool: $10,000,000
Final table results:
1st: Andre “PTFisherman23” Marques (Netherlands) $1,147,270.86*
2nd: Tonio “prrrak4783” Röder (Austria) $1,082,522.50*
3rd: Teun “tinnoemulder” Mulder (Netherlands) $1,101,527.64*
4th: Robin “robinho” Ylitalo (Sweden) $543,301.00
5th: “Andre_Hansen” (Ukraine) $387,284.00
6th: Denys “SantaZzz” Chufarin (Ukraine) $276,069.00
7th: Mike “munchenHB” Telker (Costa Rica) $196,792.00
8th: 77atlant77 (Russia) $140,280.00
9th: Cecilia “princes chu” Cafaro (Uruguay) $99,997.00
*denotes three-way deal
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