On Friday night, Matt O'Donnell won Event #47: $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em for $551,941, by far the biggest cash of his career. Not only that, he claimed his first career bracelet for beating a 1,244-player field.
In doing so, he erased the pain of last summer's second-place finish in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em Championship, where he lost a 9-1 chip lead to Alex Bilokur. This time around, O'Donnell prevailed in another long heads-up battle when he beat Israel's Timur Margolin, with the players' respective rails reportedly getting testy during the match.
“It was definitely a heated match,” the American said. “He was pretty aggressive and his rail was even more aggressive, yelling all kinds of stuff, speaking in foreign languages and all that nonsense.”
That made victory all the sweeter for O'Donnell.
“There was definitely a lot of despair when I won, I could just hear the silence and it felt great,” he said.
The tournament resumed on Day 2 with Margolin and O'Donnell the clear top dogs among the five remaining players, holding 5.85 million and 4.36 million respectively, while nobody else was above 2.01 million. In four hours, the two were heads-up, and then a five-hour battle ensued.
O'Donnell had a big lead at the start, but Margolin pulled nearly even almost immediately when his held up on a flop against O'Donnell's . From there, things seesawed back and forth with both players grabbing leads as the blinds escalated. At his apex, Margolin held almost a 6-1 chip lead, which had to give O'Donnell flashbacks to 2014.
Last year, O'Donnell looked to be a shoo-in for his first bracelet, holding a nearly 9-1 lead against Bilokur in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em Championship. O'Donnell was on his second final table of the summer and looked poised to possibly be the breakout star of the series. However, over the course of 100 hands, Bilokur turned things around and made the bracelet his, a feeling O'Donnell remembered all too well.
“It was pretty bad,” O'Donnell said of his mental state after victory slipped through his grasp in 2014. “When I had the lead heads up [this time], I walked outside on break with my friends and said, 'I've seen this before.' It was exactly what happened last year – I had a big chip lead heads up and all my friends were super excited but I ended up losing.”
This time, aided by a lucky double with the against the all in preflop, and two flips that went his way, O'Donnell reversed the momentum and came back to win, doubling his career tournament earnings.
“Hopefully, it's the first of many,” O'Donnell said of his new jewelry. “The bracelet's exciting, but the money's pretty sweet, too.”
For his remaining schedule this summer, he plans to play at least the Main Event and the $25,000 High Roller Pot-Limit Omaha. If he makes any more final tables, expect to see him clad in a blue-and-pink shirt, emblazoned with a pink llama on the front.
“It was my buddy's shirt,” O'Donnell said with a laugh. “He pulled it out one day a couple of months ago. I was like, 'If I make a final table this year, I'm going to wear it for good luck.' I'll probably never wash it again.”
Final Table Results
|1||Matt O'Donnell||Lutz, FL||$551,941|
|2||Timur Margolin||Ramla, Israel||$341,338|
|3||Brandon Wittmeyer||Las Vegas, NV||$215,964|
|4||Andy Black||Dublin, Ireland||$156,759|
|5||Andrew Dean||Feeding Hills, MA||$115,637|
|6||Jeff Gross||Ann Arbor, MI||$86,601|
|7||Rick Alvarado||Ontario, Canada||$65,799|
|8||Andre Akkari||Sao Paulo, Brazil||$50,658|