A former online poker heads-up specialist, whom many poker insiders pegged as the next big thing, lived up to all the lofty expectations at the 2016 World Series of Poker on Wednesday night.
Detroit native and University of Georgia economics grad Ankush Mandavia won Event #48: $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Turbo, collecting a career-best $548,139 in first-place prize money and his first WSOP bracelet.
Final Table Results
|1||Ankush Mandavia||Kennesaw, GA||$548,139|
|2||Daniel Strelitz||Torrance, CA||$338,774|
|4||Thiago Macedo||Ponta Grossa, Brazil||$162,924|
|6||Sean Getzwiller||Las Vegas, NV||$84,004|
|7||Sergey Lebedev||Troitsk, Russia||$61,964|
|8||Phil Hellmuth||Palo Alto, CA||$46,553|
|9||Kyle Julius||Naperville, IL||$35,636|
"I've had a lot of live deep runs and this kind of thing, but I never really closed the deal, and never got it done until now, so it's really gratifying," Mandavia said. "It feels really good."
Mandavia built his reputation in the poker world competing in some of the highest stakes heads-up games online, taking on fierce competition and posting winning results.
Despite a couple of deep runs in heads-up events at the WSOP, decent scores on the tournament trail, and a recent penchant for turning up in high-roller events around the globe, Mandavia hasn't exactly created a household name for himself in the poker world.
Then, in January of this year, during the inaugural Global Poker League Draft, Daniel Negreanu pegged him as a one of his top prospects for the fledgling league.
Mandavia wasn't drafted, but that kind of praise from a Poker Hall of Fame member like Negreanu instantly made him a player to watch going forward. Mandavia, who started playing the game in college and maintains a very close relationship with his family, also counts a ton of top young pros as good friends, and has been humbled by all the support and kind words he's heard from the community as a whole.
"It feels amazing to have people supporting you and people believing in you," he said. "It's a great feeling."
Even with the whole poker world expecting him to have a breakout win, Mandavia, who said he switched his focus from heads-up online play to live tournaments three years ago, maintained a deep focus on playing his own game, and letting the chips fall where they may.
"I just gave it my best and whatever the results were I was going to live with them," he said. "It just happened to be a bracelet this time, which is amazing, so I'm happy."
Trying on his WSOP bracelet for the very first time, Mandavia looked back on the road he traveled to get here with a sense of pride, and an understanding that even in a skill game where luck plays a major role, hard work can pay off.
"I ran unbelievably to get here and I'm kind of thankful for that," Mandavia said. "It took a long time to figure out a lot of things live. Jumping in from the beginning I kind of thought I knew what I was doing, but I realized I really didn't. I had to make a lot of adjustments, and it took a long time to adjust, but I think I've got the hang of this now and hopefully more results will come my way going forward."
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