Dimitar Danchev, a 27-year-old one-time European Poker Tour Sanremo runner-up, is the newest champion of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Danchev won his seat to the tenth annual PCA in a $700 qualifier, and after six days of play has turned his investment into $1,859,000. It is his native Bulgaria’s first EPT and PCA title, one won against a field of 987 players competing for a total prize pool of $ 9,573,900.
Primarily a cash game player, Danchev has still managed to win more than $1 million in live tournaments and sits atop the all-time Bulgarian winnings leaderboard.
“It feels amazing, really,” he said.
Bulgarians around the world and here at Atlantis held their breaths as Danchev climbed from the bottom of the final table leaderboard to the champion’s podium.
“I really felt the support,” Danchev said. “This is for them, too.”
Danchev finished Day 4 of the main event with the chip lead two nights ago. Today, he began in second-to-last place in chips. He persevered and found himself again heads-up for a title. It was a position he no doubt remembered with no small amount of disgust.
In Season 8 of the EPT, Danchev sat in Sanremo as 95% favorite to win the title with one card to come. His hand didn’t hold, and he had to be satisfied with a runner-up finish. Tonight, his fortunes were a bit different.
Heads up, Danchev won two massive coin-flips, one with deuces versus Joel Micka’s ace-king and then with ace-queen against’s Micka’s fours for the win. The result was Danchev and Bulgaria’s biggest-ever tournament victory.
To understand how we got to a champion, we must go back to how this day started. Here’s how the players stacked up against each other.
Seat 1: Joao Nogueira — 2,890,000
Seat 2. Dimitar Danchev — 1,995,000
Seat 3: Andrey Shatilov — 3,220,000
Seat 4: Owen Crowe — 2,900,000
Seat 5: Jerry Wong — 7,400,000
Seat 6: Jonathan Roy — 1,525,000
Seat 7: Joel Micka — 6,475,000
Seat 8: Yann Dion — 2,535,000
Joao Nogueira was one of the PCA’s most endearing stories. A 21-year-old air conditioning system installer from Portugal, Nogueira won a seat to the main event for less than $2 on PokerStars. This was his first live tournament. He managed to parlay the cost of a soda into $165,900. Although he started strong today, he lost a big hand in early action with pocket nines versus Owen Crowe’s kings.
Though Nogueuria managed to chip up some after that, he eventually got his short-stack in with A♦6♣ versus Joel’s Micka’s queens. Although he caught a six on the flop, he didn’t further improve and went out in eighth place.
From there, the final table seemed to evaporate in front of our eyes. It began when Yann Dion’s A♥9♣ fell to A♣K♣. The 29-year-old from Québec, Canada made his name online with more than $2 million in winnings. Here, he couldn’t outrun his fellow Canadian and went out in seventh place for $230,000.
The quick bust-outs continued when the active Andrey Shatilov made the mistake of four-bet shoving from the button with A♠5♠ against Jerry Wong’s A♠K♥. Wong–sore from some early and unfortunate beats–called in a snap. Shatilov missed and was left with just a few big blinds.
What happened next changed Wong’s fortunes dramatically. It was a three-way all-in. Shatilov shoved for 750,000 from the button. Owen Crowe moved-in from the small blind. Wong was waiting on both of them. The hands looked liked this:
The board ran out 2♥4♦Q♦4♣7♣, leaving Shatilov (a Supernova who bought in with his FPPs) with a sixth place finish for $325,000. Crowe took fifth for $435,000.
Wong’s renewed good fortune continued just a few hands later when he won a big flip against Jonathan Roy. Wong held A♥J♠ to Roy’s 7♥7♦. The board ran out 5♥8♣J♣Q♣2♠. With only 82 hands played at the final table, it was three handed. Wong had the chip lead again and Roy was out in fourth.
Next to go was perhaps both the most and least surprising. Jerry Wong had been all over the leaderboard all day long. But in 30 minutes, he lost several key hands to go from having 2/3 of the chips on the table to having none. After falling from 17 million down to five million, Wong went out after three-betting Joel Micka’s raise, getting a call, and seeing a flop of A♥K♣5♥. Wong led at it, Micka shoved, and Wong called in an instant. Wong held A♦Q♦. Micka had 8♥6♥. Though Micka might have been looking for the flush, he ended up running out two pair and eliminating Wong in third place for $725,000.
And that took us down to the heads-up battle, one that Micka began with the lead but slowly gave up over the course of the next hour.
Micka’s rowdy rail (one of whom couldn’t keep his pants up) started to get quiet, and nothing went right. It began with the flip mentioned above, it came down to one last race, Danchev’s A♦Q♥ up against Micka’s 4♥4♦.
Neither player looked happy. Micka, who had looked primed for the win for most of the last hour, frowned. But there was nothing he could do. It was all-in.The board ran out 6♠A♠2♣10♣7♠ and it was over. Danchev walked to his rail, high-fived each fan one-by-one, and then waved the Bulgarian flag over the table, the first time a champion has ever done so on the EPT or at the PCA.
Danchev looked as relieved as a man could. He’d managed to come back from a huge chip deficit, shake off the runner-up finish in Sanremo, and turn it into his country’s biggest poker moment.
“Bulgaria poker is developing really good and will be top level very soon,” he said.
Now, with ten PCAs behind us, we offer our sincere congratulations to Dimitar Dachev for his $1,859,000 win, the newest main event champion and Bulgaria’s biggest poker star.
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging