2015 World Series of Poker: Mike Gorodinsky Wins $50,000 Poker Players Championship

Every year, there is always one person who can seemingly do no wrong at the World Series of Poker. At the 2015 WSOP, that person is Mike Gorodinsky. After a number of deep runs and close calls, Gorodinsky finally broke through this summer in one of the best ways imaginable, winning the $50,000 Poker Players Championship early Friday morning. For the victory, he earned his second career gold WSOP gold bracelet, $1,270,086, and will have his name inscribed on the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy.

Going into what has become arguably the most noteworthy event next to the $10,000 Main Event (and because of the game variety and concentration of top pros, many would argue that it is THE most prestigious tournament at the WSOP), Gorodinsky had already been having a fantastic 2015 World Series of Poker. He had four previous cashes, including a ninth place finish in $10,000 Seven Card Stud, a third place finish in $5,000 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em, and a runner-up finish in $10,000 Seven Card Razz, the tournament that gave Phil Hellmuth his 14th WSOP bracelet.

$50,000 Poker Players Championship Winner Mike Gorodinsky Photo credit: Melissa Haereiti/

$50,000 Poker Players Championship Winner Mike Gorodinsky
Photo credit: Melissa Haereiti/

Gorodinsky, who could get a job as a photo double for the actor Scoot McNairy, had come close but was unable to close the deal until last night, picking the perfect tournament in which to do so. He almost didn’t even play, as he was sick and didn’t register until Day 2. “I hate playing sick, “ he said afterward. “I hate when other people do it. But I just had to make an exception for this tournament. I won’t skip it, and I’m happy I didn’t.”

He entered the six-handed final table second in chips with 2.589 million, behind the 3.227 million of David “ODB” Baker. As is usually the case in these types of tournaments, considering the quality of player and the fact that the game rotation doesn’t always feature no-limit games, it took a while for the first player to be knocked out. But about two and a half hours in, Dan Kelly, the shortest stack to start the day, was eliminated in sixth place.

Chris Klodnicki was next, but not until about another two hours had passed. He was followed by Ben Sulsky not long thereafter, leaving Gorodinsky, Baker, and Jean-Robert Bellande, the three largest stacks at the outset of the day, battling it out. It was a long three-handed match, but Baker finally bowed out in third place.

The heads-up contest between Gorodinsky and Bellande was coincidentally a rematch of Gorodinsky’s first recorded tournament win, the $5,000 Eight-Game Championship at the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. In last night’s match, Gorodinsky started with a chip lead of 7.55 million to 5.05 million. It was a back and forth match – early on, Bellande grabbed the lead, but then Gorodinsky took it back and looked like he was pulling away only to have Bellande turn the tables. Bellande had nearly a 4-to-1 lead late in the contest, only about an hour before it ended, making Gorodinsky’s win that much more impressive. The tide turned during a Seven Card Stud level when Bellande couldn’t let go of a nothing hand (the two did check on the river) only to get beaten by a lowly pair of Fives.

From there, Gorodinsky cruised. The final hand was Pot-Limit Omaha. Bellande bet 300,000 pre-flop and Gorodinsky called. On the flop of Q-9-8, Gorodinsky checked, Bellande bet pot, and then Gorodinsky raised pot, putting Bellande all-in for about 2.4 million more chips. Bellande decided to call all-in, revealing A-Q-T-9, good for two pair and a gutshot straight draw. Gorodinsky had T-8-8-3 for a set of Eights. The turn and river both produced Kings, not allowing Bellande to improve and giving Gorodinsky the title.

“I feel amazing,” Gorodinsky said at the table following the match. “This is literally something that I’ve gone to bed dreaming about, and it’s just cool to legitimately realize a dream. So it’s just an amazing day. An amazing five days.”

He added, “I’d like to think that I’m playing really great, that I’m making all the right decisions. But you know, the cards are hitting me in the face. I’m running really good. And I’ve been really focused on playing, I’ve been putting in my hours, and it’s paying off.”

With the win, combined with his other high finishes, Gorodinsky, now leads the 2015 World Series of Poker Player of the Year race with 1,771.21 points. Paul Volpe is in second with 1,631.59 points.

The $50,000 Poker Players Champioship debuted in 2006 as the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event. Though the $10,000 Main Event is the highlight of the WSOP, many of the world’s top players were clamoring for something else, a tournament that could really give the winner bragging rights for a year as being the best player in the world. The Main Event is great, but it is just No-Limit Hold’em and obviously requires a lot of luck to navigate several days and thousands of players. Thus, the new tournament was created with a higher buy-in to weed out casual players and a multi-game rotation to test the players’ poker skill. The one big gripe people had originally, though, was that the final table was strictly No-Limit Hold’em for television purposes.

Chip Reese, a man many considered the best overall poker player in the world, won the inaugural event after a marathon, seven hour heads-up match against Andy Bloch (personal note: I was actually there covering the event and as much as I wanted to stay and witness history, the heads-up portion took so long that I had to leave in the middle to catch a plane home). Reese passed away in December 2007; the tournament trophy was named after him the following year.

In 2010, the H.O.R.S.E. event was changed to the Poker Players Championship as three more poker variations were added to the rotation. This year, it was again changed to a ten-game mix featuring Fixed-Limit 2–7 Triple Draw Lowball, Fixed-Limit Hold’em, Fixed-Limit Omaha Eight-or-Better, Fixed-Limit Razz, Fixed-Limit Seven Card Stud, Fixed-Limit Seven Card Stud Eight-or-Better, No-Limit Hold’em with Antes, Pot-Limit Omaha, Badugi, and 2–7 No-Limit Draw Lowball.


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