Leon Sturm Bests Bill Klein in Event #23: $50,000 High Roller ($1,546,024)

Leon Sturm

Five of poker's best high-stakes players battled for eight hours as Event #23: $50,000 High Roller (8-Handed) reached a conclusion at the 2023 World Series of Poker (WSOP) at the Horseshoe and Paris Las Vegas. Germany's Leon Sturm came out on top for his first bracelet and $1,546,024 as he denied American businessman Bill Klein a maiden bracelet.

The age gap between Sturm, 22, and Klein, 75, may have been the biggest ever in a heads-up bracelet battle, reminiscent of then 22-year-old Adrian Mateos' victory over 70-year-old John Smith in the 2017 $10,000 Heads-Up Championship. The audience-favorite Klein made several gutsy bluffs throughout the day but ultimately fell to the youngest player, who was making his WSOP final table debut.

“It does feel amazing," Sturm told PokerNews in a winner's interview. "The bracelet is something special; it means more than just a trophy, I guess. Before, I was thinking that trophies and bracelets don’t mean much to me. But I think a bracelet is special, so that’s pretty cool. The competition was really tough, so that makes it better.”

High roller regular Seth Davies was looking to remove his name from the "Best Without a Bracelet" list but fell in fifth place before Day 3 chip leader and 2022 $250,000 Super High Roller champion Alex Foxen went out in fourth, while Dutchman Jans Arends couldn't win his second bracelet and was eliminated in third place.

Event #23: $50,000 High Roller (8-Handed) Final Table Results

1stLeon SturmGermany$1,546,024
2ndBill KleinUnited States$955,513
3rdJans ArendsNetherlands$694,019
4thAlex FoxenUnited States$512,824
5thSeth DaviesUnited States$385,617
6thJustin BonomoUnited States$295,169
7thSam SoverelUnited States$230,066
8thSung Joo HyunSouth Korea$182,662

Riders on the Sturm

As it turns out, this wasn't Sturm's first $1.5 million poker score of the month. Just last week, the German took down a $10,000 buy-in GGPoker Super MILLION$ event for $1,518,400. To make things even sweeter, he satellited into the $50,000 High Roller for just $5,000.

“Financially, I’ve had a pretty surreal month," he said while acknowledging that he sold significant action in both events. “It adds up. It’s nice. A lot of winnings coming together.”

Sunday's five-handed final table displayed a battle between two camps: the European online grinders and the American live specialists. Sturm and Arends are primarily online crushers, while Davies, Foxen and Klein are all among the most recognizable faces on the live high roller circuit.

Leon Sturm
Leon Sturm

Though they hadn't ever spoken before the tournament, Sturm and Arends shared a bond on the felt, and Arends even stuck around on the rail and hopped in Sturm's winner's photo.

“We haven’t really met before, but we play tons online," said Sturm. "He’s one of the best online regulars there are, really and we’ve played tons of hands against each other. So we know each other.”

“In terms of the rest of the competition, of course, there was like Foxen, Davies, and all these people. I’d say in terms of their skill, because they don’t play that much online and don’t get that much hands in, I think I can do quite well against them, and maybe I’m even better theoretically. But it’s just their presence and their focus, and how they prepare for everything is just so insanely sick in a way that you have to have so much respect for them. Because it’s so hard to show up every day and have the same routines and be so consistent with all of that.”

Day 3 Action

As he entered the day with a sizable chip lead and over a hundred big blinds, it looked like Foxen could steamroll his four remaining opponents en route to a second bracelet. But Foxen stumbled early when he turned a straight against Arends only for "Graftekkel" to river a bigger straight. Foxen couldn't recover and fell in a later hand against Sturm about an hour after the German sent Davies home in fifth.

Alex Foxen
Alex Foxen

“Unfortunate runout for me," Foxen told PokerGO's Jeff Platt. "Obviously, he hit a sweet card on the turn and about the only really bad card for me on the river. But it is what it is, not much I can do about it. Just kind of had to keep moving forward and take each hand one at a time.”

Foxen's exit marked the start of a lengthy three-handed battle that saw the Sturn, Klein, and Arends exchanging chip leads and all managing to stay afloat. After several hours, Arends check-jammed his top pair as Sturm called with a better kicker before a brick runout sent the Dutchman out in third for $694,019.

Sturm and Klein were near even in chips when heads-up play began, but Sturm slowly closed out against Klein, who had social media fired up as he made several epic bluffs throughout the final table.

Klein had grown restless by the time heads-up play came around and made consecutive shoves with marginal holdings. Eventually, Sturm was able to pick off the PokerGO Studio regular as Klein jammed with middle pair and Sturm called with top pair. A brick runout confirmed another runner-up bracelet finish for Klein, who took second in 2015's $111,111 One Drop for $2,465,522.

“He played weird, of course," said Sturm. "He went all in a couple of times in spots where you don’t expect it, so that kind of threw me off ... I waited, got my top pair, and then we got it in.”

As much a philanthropist as he is a businessman and poker player, Klein vowed to donate all of his winnings to charity. Sturm, meanwhile, will surely use the seven-figure score to pad his poker bankroll as he now looks for a second bracelet.

Bill Klein
Bill Klein

That wraps up PokerNews' coverage of Event #23: $50,000 High Roller (8-Handed). Be sure to check out the WSOP live reporting portal for coverage of other events here at the 2023 WSOP in Las Vegas.

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  • Discover how Leon Sturm became a WSOP champion for the first time.

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