WSOP Event #84: $50,000 High Roller

The Bulgarian player Alex Kulev won a thrilling WSOP High Roller Event #84 as he triumphed to win his first-ever gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker. Making it to the final five in command is one thing, but Kulev’s mastery of the chip lead and domination of the top-quality opponents he face marks him out as a special talent in a game that is so hard to dictate.

WSOP 2023 Event #84 $50,000 NLHE High Roller Results:
1stAlex KulevBulgaria$2,087,073
2ndGergely KulcsarHungary$1,289,909
3rdJake SchindlerUnited States$957,491
4thDaniel SmiljkovicGermany$713,413
5thKoray AldemirGermany$533,561
6thJohannes StraverNetherlands$400,562
7thBrandon WittmeyerUnited States$301,859
8thMoshe RefaelowitzIsrael$228,347

Legends Miss Out on the Final Table

The competition was so fierce in this $50,000 High Roller event that some of the world’s best players could barely scrape into the money places. After the American player David Peters busted for $90,920 in 27th place, PokerStars Global Ambassador Alejandro Lococo cashed for the same amount in 25th. Popular poker professional Jeremy Ausmus crashed out in 21st place for $88,506 before Jason Koon exited in 15th and Daniel ‘Kid Poker’ Negreanu busted in 14th for the same amount of $101,149.

Some incredible players didn’t even reach the money places, with the 2022 High Roller champion Joao Vieira, 10-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Ivey, record 17-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth and 2022 Main Event world champion Espen Jørstad all crashing out without making a profit.

The final table was eight-handed and beginning on Day 2, three players needed to bust to bring around the final five that would survive to Day 3. The first of the eight to rule themselves out of contention was Moshe Refaelowitz, whose ace-queen lost a flip to Kulev’s pocket tens, with a flop of K-J-8 blocked off from Broadway by Kulev’s pair, which rode out the seven on the turn and king on the river to crush the Israel player’s dreams.

After Brandon Wittmeyer ran into Gergely Kulcsar’s pocket aces to bust in seventh for $301,859, it wasn’t long before play ended on Day 2, as Dutch player Johannes Straver busted with queen-seven to Jake Schindler’s king-queen. Straver’s cash was worth $400,562, but Schindler’s pot put him in second place as the controversial player – alleged to have cheated by members of the poker community – looked to use his momentum to alter the course of poker history on the final day.

World Champion Departs First on Final Day

Alex Kulev staring a player down at the poker table

With two German players in the final five places, the country’s recent historical dominance of high roller events was turned on its head as both of them missed out on the podium places. This was not totally unexpected, purely down to the chip spread at the final table. While Kulev came into play with a chip leading stack of 19.8 million (40 big blinds), Koray Aldemir (8BB) and Daniel Smiljkovic (6BB) both had huge work to do to upset the odds. Neither of them would manage it.

Out first was the 2021 world champion Koray Aldemir, as Hungarian player Gergely Kulcsar held king-nine on a board of J-9-9-A, with Aldemir failing to catch anything to help his king-jack on the river. Aldemir crashed out, albeit for a summer-saving score of $533,561 in fifth place.

Soon after, his countryman Daniel Smiljkovic joined him on the rail. All-in with ace-jack, Smiljkovic was way ahead of Kulcsar’s ace-ten before the community cards fell, but the dealer brought only pain for the at-risk player with a board of 6-5-3-T-Q breaking the German’s heart on the turn and failing to mend it on the river, sending him home with $713,413.

Schindler’s Listless, Kulcsar Crushed

Kulev Celebrates with his family and friends after winning WSOP bracelet

Three-handed play saw a long stretch without any elimination, but eventually Jake Schindler fell to short stack, and he was vanquished for a score of $957,491. All-in with ace-eight, the last American in the event was hoping for a miracle or a chop against Alex Kulev’s ace-nine but got neither as the board fell K-9-2-3-5.

That pot gave Kulev a crucial pot too, with his heads-up lead after the hand being 36.5 million to Kulcsar’s 17.1 million. Trip deuces for Kulev soon after vaulted him into a better than 4:1 lead, and when Kulcsar looked down at ace-five, he was only ever going to shove. Kulev made a quick call with ace-nine and he was instantly rewarded as the first out of the dealer’s deck was a nine.

The flop of 9-2-2 looked safe enough to lock up the win for the Bulgarian, but there was to be one last sweat. A three on the turn meant that Kulev needed to fade fours on the river to be pronounced the champion. That he did at a seven arrived on fifth street and while the talented Hungarian player Gergely Kulcsar won his biggest-ever live prize of 1,289,909, it was Kulev’s day.

The Bulgarian, who would later become emotional at his bracelet ceremony when his national anthem played around the Horseshoe Las Vegas casino room, took home a top prize of $2,087,073 and the first WSOP bracelet of what is sure to be a glittering career.

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Paul seaton

Paul Seaton, a poker luminary with over a decade of experience, has reported live from iconic poker events, including the World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour, and World Poker Tour. He's not just a spectator; he's been the Editor of BLUFF Europe Magazine and Head of Media for partypoker. Paul's poker insights have graced publications like PokerNews, 888poker, and PokerStake, where he's interviewed poker legends such as Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, Phil Hellmuth, and The Hendon Mob’s, entire lineup. His exceptional work even earned him a Global Poker Award nomination for Best Written Content. In the poker world, Paul Seaton's expertise is a force to be reckoned with, captivating enthusiasts worldwide.
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