The story I am about to tell you is so absurd- it’s going to sound made up. However, I can assure you it is as true as the sky is blue, as my friend has more than $517,000 in proof that this actually took place.
For all of you poker players who have played tournaments, you surely know the feeling of “getting short” in a tournament.
After reading this blog, I can promise you will have a much better attitude when things seem to not be going your way during an event.
I am going to tell you about a story that took place during a WSOP event back in 2012. Someone I know played in a poker tournament with over 2,100 entrants- and was down to less than a small blind when there were around 200 players left.
Instead of busting out for a min-cash worth around $2,900, this man went out on to stage the craziest comeback I have ever heard about in the world of tournament poker.
It isn’t special because he just won one crazy hand. Or two, or three. It is meaningful because he went from less than a single small blind with 200 players left to being the last man standing, earning over $500,000 for his efforts.
I am not going to reveal his name or the exact tournament for privacy considerations but mark my words. What I am about to tell you occurred.
I heard first-hand all about it and the story is well-documented on other platforms, such as the . For the sake of this blog, I will call him, “Player Z”.
This comeback story is unique on many levels. I am not sure if it is even possible to calculate the true odds of accomplishing this type of run, as the combination of events seems closer to impossible than improbable.
Let’s just appreciate this story for the complete absurdity and good fortune that it was.
As I mentioned above, I don’t want to give away the real identity of the player involved, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to google a few things a make some educated guesses. Here are the facts that are pertinent to the story.
When and Where
This took place during the summer of 2012. It happened at the Rio Hotel and Casino, home of the World Series of Poker.
What I will tell you is that it was a $1,500 buy-in, bracelet event at the World Series of Poker. With over 2,100 entrants, first prize was more than half a million dollars and a nice shiny bracelet.
The Player Involved
Here is my favorite part of the entire story, and what makes it so great. This fortunate string of events that ultimately led to this remarkable comeback couldn’t have happened to a nicer, and more sincere person.
People who play poker professionally are not always the most generous and authentic people you meet. I say “not always” because of course I am generalizing and there are plenty of terrific human beings that play poker for a living.
On the other hand and to be fair, there are people out there that only have their own interests at heart and live a selfish and dishonest life. Had this amazing comeback materialized for someone of that character, I surely wouldn’t be re-telling this story.
Player Z, who went from nearly out in 200th place to winning the bracelet is one of those genuinely good people you hope to encounter during your long days playing on the felt.
He is someone who looks you in the eye and will ask you questions about yourself and your hobbies, rather than tell you all about himself and his accomplishments.
You won’t catch him telling bad beats to the table, only funny jokes.
I enjoy celebrating his success by re-telling his one-of-a-kind bounce back heroics that led to a gold bracelet at the WSOP.
The Beginning of the Comeback
Rather than bore you with all the uninteresting stuff- I am going to cut right to the chase. Bear with me as what I tell you, primarily the way it went down, is going to sound like it came straight out of a movie.
This difference is this Hollywood ending actually happened in real life, although surely a movie script could be written.
The $1,500 bracelet event with over 2,000 runners had just reached the money, with around 200 players remaining in the tournament. Player Z just lost a huge pot, potentially for the chip lead.
After counting down the chips, it turned out the Player Z had his opponent covered by just a single chip. Losing the pot meant that he was severely crippled- with less than one small blind.
Typically, you think that if your chip stack is less than a small blind, you are basically out of the tournament. More than 99% of the time you will be correct.
As I came to find out, there is happens to be a MASSIVE difference between being severely crippled to under a small blind vs being out completely.
The First Crazy Survival
After losing the substantial pot, Player Z was actually forced all in the very next hand before the cards were even dealt. He had just enough for an ante, so his last chip went in and it was now up to the cards (or the poker gods to some of you).
To essentially make a long story short- an opponent had raised the action enough to get the other players out and was heads-up against Player Z, who was only eligible for winning the other antes.
Player Z revealed his cards and was holding king-ten offsuit. That wasn’t all so bad- until he received the terrible news. His opponent was holding pocket Kings, and player Z was in dire straits.
Lady luck was shining straight down on Player Z that night.
The players at the table, including the two involved in the hand, just laughed- almost in disbelief. Nobody at that time in their wildest dreams could have imagined that this was just the start of what would turn out to be a “lucky break” worth more than $500,000.
It Gets Better
To the disbelief of everyone at the table, Player Z was still alive, although as poker players would say “he was barely breathing”.
Saying what happened next was a “timely blessed situation” would be the understatement of the century. To make a long story not so long, Player Z was all-in four of the next five hands, winning all of them and rebuilding his stack to over 20 big blinds in the process.
Now think about this for a second. Not only was player Z down to less than a small blind.
For you non-math wizards, player Z had about an 8.6% chance of winning the hand, and a 1.2% chance of tying it. That means that nearly 91% of the time, player Z was packing his bags and heading to the cage for a “min-cash” of approximately $2,900.
This happened to be one of those “9 percenters”. This bizarrely lucky string of events paid off in a big, big way.
At the time, who would have thought that chopping the first pot and going all-in and winning 4 of the ensuing 5 pots would make that big of a difference? How’s this for a difference?
I am talking about more than a $514,000 swing of events here folks.
This is serious stuff I am talking about. Player Z parlayed this “newly found 20 big blind stack” to great use, as he would catapult into the top 7 on the chip count leaderboard by the time the night ended. This goes to show you- never give up in a tournament until you have no chips remaining.
Finishing It Off
As you can probably already gather from reading this blog, player Z finished this thing off in style. Clearly, he must have felt the good vibes driving back to the Rio for Day 3 of this tournament. He was thrown a “lifeline” with 200 players left and boy was he taking advantage of his “second chance”.
The day went on and players kept being eliminated. By the time there were only two players remaining, player Z found himself heads-up against one of his friends.
In fact, they had even joked about “playing heads-up for the title” while sharing pizza on the dinner break the night before. At the time there were still about 60 players left so this thought seemed fairly unlikely.
As fate would have it, the two men who shared pizza found themselves pitted against one another, playing for more than half a million bucks and a gold bracelet. The good news is the consolation prize of more than $322,000 for the “loser” wasn’t all so bad.
Player Z defeated his friend in a lengthy battle and had won the tournament- the bracelet was his. The same man who barely had enough to cover his ante and was all-in blind with 200 players remaining fought all the way back and captured the victory and the gold bracelet.
We have all heard the saying “all you need is a chip and a chair”, but many of us laugh it off and don’t put much stock into it. I hope after hearing this story you will be able to maintain a good attitude throughout an event, no matter what curveballs are thrown your way.
Poker tournaments are long and tough grinds. I don’t know anyone who plays them that hasn’t experienced some hardship and taken some bad beats along the way. Next time you get unlucky and are left with a short stack- don’t just assume “it isn’t your day” and there is nothing left to be gained.
This is where having a positive and healthy attitude and outlook on the game comes in. Player Z acts the same way at the table when he is the chip leader as he does when he is the short stack.
That is the true sign of a professional.
When he lost the huge pot to leave him with less than a small blind, he didn’t waver and feel sorry for himself thinking “why me, why am I so unlucky?” He took the hand in stride and kept a smile on his face.
It’s pretty safe to say that his smile got a little wider and bigger as he doubled up in four of the next five hands and was suddenly right back in the thick of the tournament.
I wanted to share this incredible comeback story with all of you because we all know how it feels to have a short stack in a poker tournament. This man didn’t just have a short stack- he was down to less than a small blind, with 200 players left in an event.
If this doesn’t get you fired up to create magical memories and a comeback a story of your own, I’m not sure what will.
Poker tournaments at the WSOP are a not a race, they are a marathon. People had told me before, you aren’t out of a tournament until you have ZERO chips left in front of you.
After hearing about player Z’s adventure, I know what they are talking about.