A Bulgarian Poker Player Just Won A Record $3.9 Million, The Largest Online Poker Prize In History

Online Poker

iStockphoto / Rawf8

The $5,000 buy-in Main Event of the World Series of Poker international series wrapped up on Saturday night with the top 4 finishers all taking home more than $1 million in prize money. With the typical World Series of Poker in Las Vegas postponed this year the action moved online and the World Series of Poker international series Main Event had a total prize pool of $27,559,500.

There were 5,802 buy-ins into the $5,000-entry Main Event. Notable entries included PSG star and Brazilian soccer phenom Neymar Jr. and former heavyweight boxing champion Riddick Bowe.

The final heads-up pairing came down to Bulgaria’s Stoyan Madanzhiev against Wenling Gao of China. On the final hand of the Main Event, Stoyan Madanzhiev flopped a straight which took down Gao’s pocket aces which is an absolutely brutal way to get knocked out heads-up. Looking down and seeing AA you think you are absolutely money and then your opponent flops a straight and poof, you’re gone.

For his second-place finish, Wenling Gao won $2.7 million. Not bad. Stoyan Madanzhiev took home a record $3.9 million for first place, the ‘largest prize in online poker history’. American Tyler Rueger won $1.9 million for 3rd place and New Zealand’s Thomas Ward brought home $1.35 million for his 4th place finish.

‘Poker Brat’ Phil Hellmuth busted in 750th right before the money bubble. In total, 728 spots were paid out across the $27,559,500 prize pool. There were three Americans at the final table with the other two, Tyler Cornell and Sam Taylor, finishing 8th and 9th respectively for $328,305 and $230,395.

In the final hand, 2nd place finisher Wenling Gao got all his chips in with AcAd only to see her opponent (yes, her) call with 7d6h. At that moment he had his opponent completely dominated. But Bulgaria’s Stoyan Madanzhiev miraculously flopped a 7-high straight and held on to win 1st place.

According to ESPN’s Chalk, some American participants moved internationally for this event which also allowed them to buy-in multiple times in the early stages:

The international series was hosted on GGPoker.com after the coronavirus pandemic forced the traditional World Series of Poker tournament in Las Vegas to be postponed. There were 5,802 entries into the $5,000 buy-in main event, creating a $27.6 million prize pool, the largest in online poker history.

Players were allowed to buy in three times during the early rounds of the main event and were required to be physically located in a jurisdiction that allowed online poker. Tournament officials said some American participants relocated to Mexico or Canada to take part in the tournament.

The main event was narrowed to 38 players entering Saturday’s final round. American Bryan Piccioli had the chip lead entering the final round but finished 23rd.

It’s certainly a bummer not having the usual World Series of Poker footage on ESPN this year. It’s been a staple of Summer television for most of my life and watching these tournaments unfold online just doesn’t offer even a fraction of the same entertainment for me.

The official in-person 2020 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas hasn’t been rescheduled yet and with this year waning down they’re running out of time. Next year seems likely (to me) at this point.

For more on this largest win in online poker history, you can head on over to ESPN’s Chalk.

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