The $40 000 buy-in World Series of Poker Fortieth Anniverary tournament that has attracted crowds of spectators and some of the top players in the world has ended with Moscow-born Vitaly Lunkin (38) taking the honours after a tough heads up with 23-year-old American player Isaac Haxton.
Lunkin's first prize of $ 1 891 012 brings his career winnings to $2 054 051in what he described as his biggest – and hardest – tournament to date.
The rather shy but immensely talented Russian was originally a backgammon player and Renju champion until introduced to poker by friends some years ago, where he quickly became a respected ace in his own country. He is positioned fourth in the Russian All Time Money players' list and was first introduced to poker by a friend several years ago.
He achieved a record five consecutive final tables in domestic championship events between November 2007 and April 2008.
Lunkin is no stranger to the World Series either, making his first cash in 2006 in the main event, where he finished 15th. Last (2008) year he survived a field of over 2 700 entrants in the WSOP $1 500 buy-in NLHE to win his first WSOP bracelet and $630 000 (see previous InfoPowa report) and went on to play in the final table of another event. Shortly after that he was back in Vegas to play in the Bellagio Cup IV $2 000 buy-in NLHE event, finishing 5th for a $17 000 prize.
When not playing around the world as a professional, Lunkin works as a poker trainer and coach for Moscow Poker, and plays online at Full Tilt Poker.com.
Lunkin's victory came after a heads up battle that saw Haxton in the lead initially, although that changed several times before Lunkin started off on a lucky streak that, combined with his undoubted talent, enabled him to take the game. Haxton's second placing consolation reward was $1 168 566.
Veteran player and former WSOP Main Event champion Greg Raymer finished third and took home $774 927.
WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack commented on the Twitter social network: "The event is a success and we're going to look at bringing it back at $41 000, then $42 000 and so on. It doesn't do anything to the main event. Everyone can have an opinion on which event is the world championship. That's ok. I think the $50 000 HORSE has a unique place. So does the $40 000. Each bracelet event is an opportunity to walk away with the story of a lifetime and a gold bracelet, a chance to do something special. Each one is unique and has meaning."