Brian Rast Wins 2016 WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship

The poker world was anticipating the possibility of history being made at the 2016 World Series of Poker $50,000 Poker Players Championship (PPC) yesterday as the prestigious tournament’s final table began, but as happens frequently in poker, history took a detour. It is not that something historically noteworthy didn’t happen, it is just that what actually happened was not what everybody had in mind. We have Brian Rast to thank for that, as he won the PPC for the second time, cashing in for $1,296,097.

Let’s elaborate. Here is what the final table chip counts looked like going into Wednesday’s final table:

1.    Justin Bonomo – 7,750,000
2.    Michael Mizrachi – 5,535,000
3.    Eric Wasserson – 3,800,040
4.    Brian Rast – 3,185,000
5.    Lamar Wilkinson – 2,045,000
6.    Ray Dehkharghani – 395,000

While Brian Rast is a tremendous poker player and Justin Bonomo was the chip leader, most of the attention was likely on Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi. In the ten years this tournament had been in existence prior to 2016, Mizrachi had won it twice, the only person to have done so. It is extremely impressive to win any major poker tournament more than once, especially when it has only been held ten times, but there was a realistic possibility that Mizrachi could win it a third time. That not only would have been unprecedented (obviously), but really an achievement that few would have seriously considered possible just a few years ago.

Instead, though, it was Rast who came out on top. So, instead of Mizrachi making history with his third PPC win, it was Rast who made history by tying Mizrachi’s mark with his second PPC win. Oh, did we fail to mention that Rast won this tourney in 2011? Because he did.

Brian Rast - 2016 WSOP Image credit: WSOP.com

Brian Rast – 2016 WSOP
Image credit: WSOP.com

This was Rast’s third WSOP bracelet win of his career. He won both of his other bracelets in 2011, winning, as mentioned, the Poker Players Championship, and the $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em Event. Rast has had some other huge victories, as well. In 2013, he won the $100,000 High Roller Event at the WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic for just over a million dollars. And last year, he won the $25,000 Super High Roller Q1 for half a million and the inaugural Super High Roller Bowl for $7.525 million.

So while Rast had won this event before and has plenty of other wins and final table appearances, he considers this crowning achievement.

“This final table was really tough,” Rast told the WSOP interviewer after the tournament. “I was really low on chips for a lot of it. The heads up match was a really long battle. And, it was definitely satisfying.  I would agree it was both my toughest and most satisfying win.”

He wasn’t kidding about being low on chips. If the win wasn’t impressive enough, it was even more so considering the hole from which Rast had to climb just to give himself a chance. Shortly after Rast eliminated Mizrachi to get the final table to three-handed, Bonomo took a chunk of chips from him, leaving Rast with just 1.2 million compared to Bonomo’s 16.7 million. Less than an hour later, Rast had increased his stack by 50 percent to 1.8 million, but Bonomo was up to 18.7 million and Eric Wasserson had 2.25 million. It looked like Bonomo was going to run away with the title.

But Rast is a pro, one of the best in the world, and he kept at it. When he got to heads-up with Bonomo, he was still facing a massive deficit, but least losing 14.235 million to 8.515 million left him just a double-up away from the lead. And while he didn’t double-up, he did quickly take the chip lead, moving close to Bonomo during a Seven Card Stud round and then overtaking him in Omaha Hi-Lo. Bonomo wasn’t shaken, though, and almost as quickly regained the lead, this time extending it beyond what it was to open heads-up.

Rast kept his head above water through a Pot-Limit Omaha and Limit Hold’em round before again taking the chip lead in Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo. From there, the lead tilted back and forth a number of times, just the kind of match we wanted heads-up in such an important tournament.

The tournament finally ended, as one might have guess, on a hand of No-Limit Hold’em. The two chip stacks were close with Rast holding a slight edge going into the final hand. Bonomo raised pre-flop to 400,000 and Rast called, bringing on a flop of A♠-T-5♣. Bonomo bet 350,000 and Rast check-called before the dealer put down the A♣ on the turn. Rast again checked, but this time Bonomo came strong, betting 2.2 million chips. According to WSOP.com, Rast thought about his move for about a minute and a half before flat-calling once again. This was shaping up to be a gigantic hand (clearly). Rast continued his pattern when the K♠ showed up on the river, checking to Bonomo, who moved all-in for 7.815 million. Rast knew he had it, making an instant call.

And he was right. That river did in Bonomo, as he revealed Q♣-J♠ for a Broadway straight, but Rast flipped over A-T♠, for a turned full house.

While the end was disappointing for Justin Bonomo, he has had a fantastic 2016 WSOP, with four top-three finishes and more than $1.3 million in winnings.

Afterwards, Rast said that he understands that it is easiest for people to judge poker players based on their tournament results, as there are records of that, but he prides himself on being one of the more well-rounded players out there:

For me I play so much poker, I play for really high-stakes all the time. So, I’m not always playing tournaments — I’m mostly a cash game player. But since I play the biggest cash game limits in almost every game, I think that does say something professionally. Tournament results have a lot of luck involved. I was blessed to run really good in events that were so big. There are plenty of other great players who weren’t as fortunate. While I feel I played well, that’s not all of that and I realize it.

He added that he is fully aware that he is carving out a place for himself as potentially one of the all-time greats. He is only 34-years old, so he has a ways to go, but with $17.8 million live tournament winnings already and a reputation as a great high stakes cash game player, Rast looks like he could be in the express lane to legend status.

“I don’t care what other people in the world think. But I care what other poker professionals think,” Rast said. “I take poker seriously and where my legacy is and how my peers think of me is a measure of professional respect. What I was able to do today was really special.”

2016 World Series of Poker $50,000 Poker Players Championship – Final Table Results

1.    Brian Rast – $1,296,097
2.    Justin Bonomo – $801,048
3.    Eric Wasserson – $545,772
4.    Michael Mizrachi – $380,942
5.    Wil Wilkinson – $272,558
6.    Ray Dehkharghani – $200,027

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