Ukrainian poker pro collects $689,739, WSOP title

18 June 2011

Ukrainian poker pro Oleksii Kovalchuk defeated Romanian Ionel Anton in heads up play to win the $2,500 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em championship at the World Series of Poker, claiming a WSOP bracelet and $689,739.

The idea that a poker player from Kiev and another from Bucharest would be playing heads up for a gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker would have been unthinkable just a generation ago. Now, it’s treated as rather ordinary. Such is the astronomical growth of the WSOP abroad and the universal magnetism it holds for millions of poker players.

Kovalchuk becomes the second player in history from the Ukraine ever to win a WSOP gold bracelet. The first Ukrainian to win was Eugene Katchalov, who won the $1,500 buy-in Seven-Card Stud championship just two weeks ago. However, Katchalov now lives in New York, N.Y. Accordingly, Kovalchuk becomes the first full-time resident of the Ukraine to ever win a gold bracelet.

The runner-up Anton had nothing to be ashamed of either. He became the highest-finishing Romanian player in WSOP history. Anton, a 43-year-old engineer, won $28,140 as a consolation prize.

It wasn't too long ago that a Russian poker player first won a WSOP gold bracelet. That occurred in 2006. Now, five years later, not just one, but two Ukrainians have won victories at the 2011 WSOP.

All this begs the question. How long before the WSOP crowns a Chinese champion? Or, a North Korean champion? Can a Libyan world poker champion be in our future? Whether it’s politics or poker – more revolutions are coming.

Chris Moorman, a 25-year-old poker pro from Benfleet, U.K., finished third for $271.800, while Dan O'Brien of Las Vegas finished fourth for $179,162, Mazin Khoury of Durham, N.C., was fifth for $121,416, and Anthony Ruberto, a professional pool player from Davie, Fla., was sixth.

The top 126 finishers collected prize money. The defending champion from 2010 was William Haydon, who finished in 52nd place. Former gold bracelet winners who cashed in this tournament in addition to Haydon were: David “Bakes” Baker (24th), Nenad Medic (49th), Ted Lawson (64th), Allen Bari (83rd), Philip Tom (85th), Pascal LeFrancois (96th), Ayaz Mahmood (109th) and Jake Cody (125th).

Tournament summary provided by Nolan Dalla, WSOP Media Director, reprinted by permission.

Related Links
Romanian Gambling
Nevada Gambling
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