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Radoja wins WSOP heads-up title, $336,190

10 June 2013

On Sunday night at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Mark Radoja ran across the ESPN television stage and shouted “I don't believe it!” just as he was mobbed by a cheering rail of supporters who included several fellow poker pros.

Seconds earlier, he'd been locked into a death stare against his lone opponent, a tough up-and-coming player named Don Nguyen. The final two combatants in the $10,000 World Series of Poker Heads Up Championship were at the tail end of a long three-day journey, where there would ultimately be only one winner.

The transition from a stoic poker-faced Radoja into an athlete running around the poker table celebrating victory reveals that behind the mask of emotional and financial detachment are real people, who love to win and hate to lose.

“Last year when I finished second, it was tough,” Radoja said. “It was like a dagger. It's true that the deeper you go, the worse you feel right after you get eliminated. … Coming back in this one was very exciting for me.”

Indeed, perhaps it was that painful memory of coming so close to winning a gold bracelet last year that made this win extra special. With this victory, Radoja now has two wins and one second place showing over the past three years – a mark exceeded only by Matt Matros, the limit Hold'em specialist from New York City who has wins in three consecutive years.

Two years ago, Radoja won his first gold bracelet in the $5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em Shootout. Last year, Radoja came in second place in a $1,500 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em event. And now, he has a win in this tournament. Since 2007, he has 18 cashes, four final table appearances and two gold bracelet victories at the WSOP. And with the $336,190 first-place prize, his total WSOP earnings now total nearly $1.5 million.

Radoja is a 27-year-old poker pro from Guelph, Ont. He became the fifth Canadian winner at this year's series, so far. Remarkably, the five-win mark matches the total number of wins achieved by Canadians during the entire 61-tournament series in 2012. Canadians have now won one-third of all gold bracelets awarded, so far.

"Canadians are good poker players," said Radoja. "Guts, determination, we talk all the time, we share hands, we get better and better – so it's not coincidence we thrive here every year and get better."

The tournament attracted 162 entries, up from 152 entries last year. The top 16 finishers collected prize money.

Nguyen won $204,648 for second place, while semifinalists Justin Bonomo and Ben Sulsky both collected $110,485. Phil Hellmuth, Randy Lew, Sean Winter and Russell Rosenblum advanced to the quarterfinals.

This marked Hellmuth's first cash of this series and his 97th in-the-money finish for his storied career at the WSOP – the most of any player in history.

Tournament summary modified from a report by WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla, reprinted by permission.

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