Dominik Nitsche made World Series of Poker history on Tuesday by capturing the third gold bracelet of his brief but bright career. The German pro bested an enormous field to win Event #21: $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em for a $335,659 score.
Nitsche outlasted 2,042 competitors on his way to the winner's circle, including a stacked final table lineup which included poker luminaries like Jeff Gross (6th), Thayer Rasmussen (5th), and 2011 November Niner Bob Bounahra (3rd).
In the end it was Nitsche and Dave D'Alesandro who decided the contest during a lengthy heads-up duel, but fate seemed to sit squarely in the German's corner during much of the contest. Nitsche's win was remarkable for a number of reasons, including his tender age, the size of the field, and the variant he seems to have taken firm control of in just a few years of professional play.
Strangle Hold'em: In an era defined by the professional community's increased mastery of No-Limit Texas Hold'em — one in which none other than Phil Hellmuth claims to have developed a "winning blueprint" for the game — Nitsche's trio of NLHE bracelets stands as both a testament to that trend, and as a telltale sign of his tremendous prowess while playing two down cards. Simply put, the game has become much more difficult with every passing year, with online wizards working their way through hundreds of thousands of hands while attempting to crack the NLHE code.
To put Nitsche's NLHE dominance into perspective, one must remember that the "Poker Brat" himself has earned eight bracelets in the discipline during the last 25 years — or longer than Nitsche has even been alive. Furthermore, he now trails a pair of poker legends in Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan by just one in that regard, and he has already eclipsed Erik Seidel's count (2), while Phil Ivey and Men Nguyen have never won a bracelet in poker's most popular game.
The Wunderkind: The 23-year-old Nitsche became the youngest player in WSOP history to win three bracelets, an honor which previously belonged to Ivey — who was 26 when he wore gold for the third time. Nitsche's first WSOP triumph came in 2012, when he won a $1,000 NLHE event for $654,797, and less than two months ago he took down the 2014 World Series of Poker National Championship for $352,800.
Sprechen Sie Deutsch?: Just one day after his countryman George Danzer got Germany on the WSOP scoreboard by winning Event #18: $10,000 Seven-Card Razz Championship, Nitsche made the Fatherland proud once again. German-born pros have long since become a force to be reckoned with on the global tournament trail, a fact confirmed by Ole Schemion, Philipp Gruissem, Marvin Rettenmaier, Fabian Quoss, Tobias Reinkemeier and the rest collectively crushing the European circuit, but Nitsche is the first bring multiple bracelets back to Berlin.
Master of the Minefield: Winning any poker tournament is test of endurance which can try a lesser man's patience and poker savvy, but navigating through a field comprised of a thousand or more hopefuls adds an element of unpredictability to the affair. After all, huge fields are littered with loose amateurs who can submerge one's stack with sudden suckouts, while poker's usual suspects invariably lie in wait toward the latter stages. All of which is to say Nitsche's first and third bracelet wins were rarities to say the least, as he defeated a field of 4,620 last year before conquering a 2,043-runner field this time around.
November Reign: Bounahra proved that his run to the 2011 Main Event final table was no fluke, recording his first WSOP cash since reaching the November Nine three years ago. By making cash another final table run rather than simply sliding into the money, the Belize-born Bounahra showed that he is capable of playing with the big boys on poker's premier stage.
Grossed Out: Gross made his third career WSOP final table on Tuesday, and while his early exit in sixth place was no doubt disappointing, he now has six finishes in the top-15 in the last six years. In fact, out of Gross' 15 WSOP cashes he has placed in the top-50 an impressive nine times, which means he is knocking on the doorstep of his first gold bracelet.