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Daniel Willis secures first WSOP bracelet

31 May 2024

Daniel Willis

Daniel Willis (photo by WSOP)

A British businessman and a two-time WSOP bracelet winner went heads up for the title, and it was the former who stood alone in the end.

Daniel Willis defeated Michael Wang on Day 3 to take down Event #3: $500 Kickoff No-Limit Hold'em Freezeout, securing Willis a $175,578 winning prize and his first WSOP bracelet after he outlasted the final eight players. Wang collected $117,046 as the runner-up.

"Coming off the first event I played and have a huge win, it's a dream come true moment," Willis said with a smile.

Willis, who entered Day 3 as the chip leader, didn't falter at the final table and credits the momentum he gained late in Day 2.

"In deep fields, thousands of players, you get these really crucial spots where you get your chips in and it's a really critical hand to keep that momentum going," Willis said. "And so many times when I played poker professionally 10-15 years ago before I started my music journey and business, I found that those crucial spots weren't going my way really deep for very big prize money.

"But in this tournament, it just went really, really well in those crucial spots, like (Thursday) when I was like fifth or sixth in chips, perhaps seventh, and someone shoved all in, another big stack re-raised all in, and then I got kings in the big blind, so I call. I was up against jacks, Q3 suited. The flop came 2, 4, 5, so I had to dodge an Ace, a Jack, a 6, and I did. Those are the key spots where I just kept gaining momentum."

Not only did Willis gain momentum, he sustained it throughout Day 3 while in good spots en route to winning the event.

"The final table seemed to go really smoothly," Willis said. "Someone shoved all in and I have kings; obviously an easy call. The same thing happened again and I had Aces, and it just kept going like that where I was in those dream scenarios, spots that a lot of poker players would just love to be in and would just appreciate that the luck is on your side."

While luck is a factor, there is arguably a level of skill required to navigate the minefield of not just players, but capable players.

The overall field boasted multiple WSOP bracelet winners, including Wang, Poker Hall of Famer Daniel Negreanu, Ryan Riess, Tamas Lendvai, Jason Wheeler, Joseph Altomonte, Qiang Xu, andMarco Johnson, among others.

Going through all the tough competition isn't lost on the WSOP's newest bracelet winner.

"I'm just really grateful for this amazing opportunity," Willis said. "And how everything unfolded to be here and to be the winner."

With a major tournament win in his back pocket and a shiny WSOP gold bracelet on his wrist, Willis now looks forward to the future, which includes sticking around for a few more weeks in Las Vegas before he heads home.

"I'm definitely going to try and play the Mystery Bounty, probably take a day off and celebrate," he said. "I'll probably play a few more events, and then I got to get back to work."

A new event for 2024, the $500 Kickoff No-Limit Hold'em Event secured a sizeable 3,485 total entries, building a prize pool of $1,442,960. There were plenty of notables in the field, including Joe Cada, Greg Raymer, Brad Owen, Shaun Deeb, Josh Arieh, and Jeremy Ausmus but were not successful in making the money.

The bubble burst on Day 1 with Deeb losing out on the score. Maria Ho and Justin Saliba were sent to the rail shortly after making the money and didn't get to advance to Day 2.

Day 1 finished at the end of level 22 with 151 remaining players, including WSOP bracelet winner and 25K fantasy draft player Qiang Xu. Steven Borella was second in chips going into Day 2 with Gregory Snyder close behind in third.

Day 2 saw some big bust-outs with Xu eliminated in 37th place for $4,596, Ryan Riess (63rd - $2,679), Marco Johnson (47th - $3,805), Daniel Negreanu (16th - $8,541) and Jason Wheeler (14th - $8,541) before the final table was reached.

Play stopped when the field reached 8, with the final table redraw seeing Willis have 47 big blinds and the short stack David Niedringhaus with seven big blinds.

Day 3 resumed at 1 p.m. with the final table action being streamed by PokerGO on a two-hour delay, which saw Willis prevail as the event champion.

Final Table Results
1st Daniel Willis United Kingdom $175,578
2nd Michael Wang United States $117,056
3rd Shawn Smith United States $86,820
4th Steven Borella United States $,64,920
5th Yoshinori Funayama Japan $48,938
6th Daniel Sherer United States $37,194
7th John Marino United States $28,501
8th David Niedringhaus United States $22,022

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