A total of 361 players showed up to the 2023 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Event #36: $1,500 Nine Game Mix, generating a prize pool of $963,870 and first-place prize of $221,124. When the final hand was dealt around 1:30 a.m. local time inside the Horseshoe and Paris Las Vegas, it was already past 5 p.m. in Japan, where a poker-mad nation witnessed a new homegrown star.
Ryutaro Suzuki, just 22 years old, became just the seventh World Series of Poker bracelet winner from Japan when he defeated Walter Chambers in a short heads-up match, bringing an end to a dominating final table performance. Suzuki won an online Circuit ring in 2021 for $140,050 but his previous best live WSOP cash was for a 69th place finish in the Eight Game Mix less than a week ago for just over $3,000.
Suzuki’s magical run to the bracelet was chronicled the entire way by a large contingent of Japanese media and supporters, showing the growth of the game and its potential in a nation of more than 125 million people. After his victory, Suzuki recognized the importance of this win for the Japanese poker community.
“Now the Japanese poker community is really growing up. There were a few bracelet holders, especially in mixed games. So it’s really so special for me and the poker community,” Suzuki said through translator Tamon Nakamura, himself a rising Japanese star and fourth-place finisher in this event.
Suzuki only took up mixed games a year ago and enjoyed the experience so much that he bookmarked this year’s WSOP as the year when he would try to put everything he learned to the test against the game’s most experienced and seasoned professionals. With his fearless aggression and sharp strategy, he overpowered one of the toughest fields at the WSOP, prevailing over several past bracelet winners until he joined their ranks.
“I’m not so long experienced in mixed games. But last year I experienced mixed games and it was really fun for me. So I target this year for mixed game events. I practice a lot. [Nakamura] also told me and I prayed a lot. Luckily I won. I’m not a master. I tried and had some luck,” Suzuki said.
2023 WSOP Event #36 Final Table Results
|Place||Winner||Country||Prize (in USD)|
|2||Walter Chambers||United States||$136,667|
|3||Jason Pedigo||United States||$92,860|
|5||Ian Steinman||United States||$45,434|
Day 3 Action
Suzuki came into Day 3 in ninth place out of 22 returning players but won a massive pot with rolled up quads in Seven Card Stud to climb up the leaderboard. Day 1 chip leader Andres Korn fell in 21st place, while Jean Gaspard (20th), Chris Vitch (19th), Yueqi Zhu (16th), Philip Long (12th), Shawn Buchanan (11th), and Scott Clements (9th) missed the final table.
By the time of the final table, Suzuki had opened up a sizeable chip lead with 3,950,000. But it was his native countryman Nakamura who scored the first knockout on the first hand, making a straight in Seven Card Stud to eliminate bracelet winner Justin Liberto in eighth place.
Per Hildebrand, who began the final table in second place, fell sharply on the leaderboard before losing his last chips to Nakamura in a pot of Stud Hi-Lo. Then the final table entered a sort of stalemate as Ian Steinman, knocked down to just 30,000 at one point in the day, doubled up repeatedly and stayed alive. Renan Bruschi finally fell in sixth place when, down to just 65,000, he moved all in with king-three and lost to Jason Pedigo’s ace-queen in No-Limit Hold’em. Steinman finally had his run end in fifth place when he called all in on the turn holding top pair, but Nakamura had made a straight.
Chambers took the chip lead away from Suzuki for the first time at the final table when he made a jack-high straight in Omaha Hi-Lo. Nakamura, meanwhile, enjoyed a roller coaster-like experience at the final table. He doubled up twice, fell back down to 145,000, then quadrupled up and doubled up again. Suddenly he was back up to nearly 2,000,000.
Suzuki, Chambers, Nakamura, and Pedigo played four-handed for nearly three hours as Suzuki retook the chip lead from Chambers after showing the nut flush in Stud Hi-Lo. Suzuki began to significantly widen his lead when he made No. 3 on Pedigo in 2-7 Triple Draw, crossing 8,000,000, then won with two pair against Chambers in Stud to approach 10,000,000.
Nakamura’s luck finally ran out when he made a 9-8 in Razz, but Suzuki had an 8-7 to send his countryman out in fourth place. On the next hand, Pedigo was eliminated as Suzuki made a jack-ten. Suzuki had a nearly 10-1 chip lead over Chambers at the start of heads-up, 12,000,000 to 2,400,000, and the match wouldn’t last long.
Chambers potted the flop for 1,100,000 with straight and flush draws. Suzuki called with two aces and held on as he let out a loud yell and ran over to celebrate with his supporters on the rail, including Nakamura who stuck around to cheer him on after his elimination.
The win was Suzuki’s, but it was also for all of Japan. There’s a new Japanese star who’s just at the start of his poker journey. But Suzuki doesn’t want to stop at just being famous back home. He has much loftier goals than that.
“I want to be more famous in Japan, but also more famous in the world. A worldwide poker player like Daniel Negreanu. This is the first event for me becoming a more great player,” he said.
The celebration that began around the feature table will soon travel across the Pacific back to Suzuki's home. In a field full of poker stars and bracelet winners, he proved he belongs with the game's best.
That concludes PokerNews' coverage of the Nine Game Mix. Stay tuned for more updates throughout the 2023 WSOP.