Belgian wins WSOP title, $440,829

18 June 2012

Walking into the World Series of Poker's $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em tournament that began last Sunday was like taking the first step in what everyone knew would be a lengthy marathon. The odds against winning were overwhelming, indeed. Like, thousands to one.

Not only that, the test would prove to be grueling both physically and mentally. Playing tournament poker at the highest level over a 36-hour period during which the objective was to accumulate every single chip initially dispersed amongst 300 or so poker tables seemed like an impossibility.

For Michael Gathy, it was no problem whatsoever.

The 23-year-old professional poker player from Brussels, Belgium rose high above the second-largest tournament field of the year (to date). He was the last player sitting at the conclusion of a very long game, the man with every single chip from that first day comfortably nestled in neat rows, stacked like chocolate bars, beaming with pride at the realization he had just etched his name into the annals of poker history.

Gathy's victory is all the more impressive and defiant of the odds when you consider that midway through the final table, he doubled up poker pro Eric Baldwin in a pivotal hand and was left with just a handful of chips. Armed with almost no ammunition at a final table with some tough competition, Gathy still managed to pull off the come from behind win.

Gathy won his first WSOP gold bracelet), collecting $440,829 in the process. Nearly half a million dollars for three days trapped inside the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino tournament room -- or 440 times his original investment. Not a bad deal, at all. He topped a massive field totaling 2,799 entrants, ultimately winning late on the third and final day of competition.

The final hand was a breeze for Gathy. He was dealt pocket tens against the ultimate runner-up, Jamie Armstrong, holding pocket nines. The higher pocket pair held up and a Belgian was suddenly the latest poker champion. Armstrong won $273,776.

Noah Vaillancourt of Cowichan Bay, B.C., was third for $193,089, former WSOP bracelet winner John Esposito was fourth for $139,457, and Baldwin was fifth for $101,948.

Other final table finishers included: Eric Davis (sixth), Jean-Louis Santoni (seventh), Jason Manggunio (eighth) and Joshua Field (ninth).

The top 297 finishers collected prize money. Other notable players to finish in the money included: Maria Ho (24th), Christian Harder (27th), Joe Tehan (71st), Martin Staszko (116th), Alex Jacob (182nd), John Duthie (195th), Jonathan Little (210th), and Josh Brikis (261st).

Gathy’s victory gives him his first WSOP title in what was his first time ever to cash at the WSOP. He also becomes only the second champion ever from the nation of Belgium. The first Belgian winner was Davidi Katai, who won the $2,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Hold'em event in 2008.

Alas, many people know Belgium for beer and chocolates. After tonight, it shall also be known for producing multiple WSOP gold bracelet winners.

Modified from tournament notes provided by WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla.

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