For an online poker legend like Doug "WCGRider" Polk, the shift from eight-tabling heads-up matches against fellow wizards Viktor “Isildur1” Blom, Ben “Sauce1234” Sulsky, and Dan “jungleman12” Cates to grinding live play against a single table of opponents can be jarring to say the least. Like a high-powered sports car driver pulling off the Autobahn and exiting onto a side street for a leisurely trip around town, the game's most talented players on the virtual felt can often find a traditional tournament to be a bit bland and boring.
So when Polk announced his intention to play an expanded World Series of Poker schedule this year, his crew of card playing comrades in arms remained understandably wary of his ability to follow through and focus given the decelerated pace of live play. Friend and fellow "Evil Empire" comrade Jason Mo even went so far as to make a hefty wager against Polk winning a bracelet this summer, laying 5-1 odds against him grabbing the gold. But as the preeminent poet of our generation (Lil' Wayne) once said, "money is the motive," and Polk proved that maxim to be true by storming through a 1,473-runner field to enter the final table of Event #23: $1,000 Turbo No-Limit Hold'em as chip leader. With Mo on the rail futilely attempting to anti-sweat his pal, Polk proceeded to put on a clinic during Tuesday's final table en route to winning his first WSOP bracelet in his first appearance on the Mothership stage, with the tournament's turbo format undoubtedly lending itself to his preferred mode of hyper-aggressive play.
Darth Vader Sheds the Mask: Although this was not his first major splash in the live tournament arena, as Polk earned an astounding AU$860,000 for his fourth-place finish in the 2014 Aussie Millions $100,000 High Roller Challenge, winning a WSOP bracelet is a meaningful accomplishment for anybody who has ever tossed in an ante chip. For an online superstar like Polk though, the win offered a different sort of validation, as he explained during an interview shortly after accomplishing the feat.
"I'm tired of being WCGRider. I want to be Doug Polk," he said. "I want to get out there and I want to try to establish myself in poker. My goals long term are to get a sponsor and to work with other people in the industry and I need to not be 'hiding behind a computer screen' to do that."
One-Man Gang: Polk managed to eliminate four of his eight final table opponents on Tuesday, displaying the relentless aggression and lack of fear that one must possess to take on the best online players in poker on a daily basis. First, he dispatched Gianluca Cedolia in seventh place after flopping a queen to down ace-high, before sending Liam Alcock home in fifth place when big slick materialized into Broadway on the river. Next, Polk clipped Chad Cox in fourth place by flopping a jack to run down another ace-high hand, and obviously he was able to prevail over Andy Philachack in heads-up play to cinch the win.
A Little Extra Mo-tivation: The aforementioned bracelet bet with Mo provided Polk with a bit of added incentive as the final table progressed, especially with his friend turned nemesis vocally rooting against him throughout the day. After getting it all in against a short-stacked Philachack holding against , Polk found himself fading just three aces for the win, a fact which Mo as not shy about in the slightest.
"Ace from space!," shouted Mo as the flop rolled out, obviously sweating the possibility of a six-figure dent to his bankroll. "Come on ace!"
Polk dodged the dreaded bullet from beyond through four board cards, but in a flash fifth street delivered the to send a key double Philachack's way. In the end though, Polk was able to finish things off, making Mo put his money where his mouth is in the process.
It's a Skill Game... Sometimes: Those courageous souls who compete in the nosebleed stakes online have long since accepted the fact that, while poker is ultimately a game of exploiting minuscule edges in skill over an extended duration, luck will invariably rear its ugly head in the short-term.
"This is a very luck-based tournament," Polk told the media scrum which assembled after his win. "And I am fortunate for how I ran throughout the duration of it. Somewhere around Level 16 or 17, I just went on the sickest heater I have ever gone through in a one-table, full ring live tournament."
Polk benefited from a few key runouts rolling out his way of course, but he was also bold enough to put himself in advantageous spots throughout the tournament, giving himself the chance to catch a card when need be.
Close, But No Cigar: Tuesday's runner-up finish marked the third time Philachack came agonizingly close to capturing a first gold bracelet of his own. Back in 2007 the good doctor (yes, Philachack's official title is Dr. Andy Philachack) became a footnote in poker history, falling to none other than Phil Hellmuth when the "Poker Brat" won his record-breaking 11th bracelet in a $1,500 NLHE event. And in 2011 Philachack registered a third-place finish in another $1,500 NLHE event, earning $345,698 for the deep run but falling just short of the finish line once again.
Bowser Bounced: Tony Gregg has earned the nickname "End Boss" by virtue of his uncanny knack for reaching the final table in elite events — and positioning himself as a dreaded foe his competitors must conquer if they hope to beat the game. Gregg turned the trick yet again on Tuesday, taking his seat at yet another final table with his sights set on a second gold bracelet in as many years. And although his run ended with a sixth-place finish, Gregg continued to prove that his moniker is well-deserved.