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Online poker pro reaches first place in WSOP

27 June 2016

Christopher Vitch

Christopher Vitch (photo by WSOP)

Meet the latest WSOP gold bracelet champion
Name: Christopher Vitch
Birthplace: Florida
Age: 33
Current Residence: Phoenix, AZ
Marital Status: Single
Children: 1
Profession: Poker Player (previous occupation – computer engineer)
Number of WSOP Cashes: 14
Number of WSOP Final Table Appearances: 5
Number of WSOP Gold Bracelet Victories (with this tournament): 1
Best Previous WSOP Finish: 2nd (2015)
Total WSOP Earnings: $509,777
Personal Facts: Vitch is a Triple-Draw Lowball specialist with more than ten years of experience

Winner's Quote:
"I'm a cash game player. I don't play that many tournaments….I used to come out and play the cash games here. I'd rarely play the tournaments. But then when I came out last year, I got bitten by the bug. To me, it's not about the money. I looked at the World Series -- and I wanted to win a bracelet. That was my focus."

After a long wait and multiple close calls, Christopher Vitch has finally won a World Series of Poker gold bracelet.

The 33-year-old professional poker player from Phoenix, AZ won the $2,500 buy-in Mixed Triple Draw Lowball (Limit) tournament, which was played over three days and nights and just concluded at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Vitch collected $136,854 in prize money. The victory was particularly satisfying in light of a previous second-place finish and two thirds in recent years. This time, Vitch not only won this first World Series of Poker gold bracelet. He also demolished the final table like no other player yet at this year's series.

In reality, Vitch's road to this moment of glory was paved with ambition and determination. He started playing poker online about 13 years ago, and focused primarily on Limit Hold'em. However, Vitch discovered a liking and natural talent for a new online game that was initially played for small stakes, which was Triple-Draw Lowball. Vitch began focusing much of his time and energy into this niche form of poker and gradually worked his way up into some of the bigger cash games played in Phoenix and Las Vegas.

"I became one of the better players in Triple-Draw before there was much information about the game," Vitch said when asked about what accounted for taking up a more obscure game variant. "I feel like I had lots of experience in the game compared to most people who were just picking it up."

While he was gradually becoming one of the world's best players in various forms of Draw Lowball, Vitch didn't focus much on the tournament aspect of poker. His goal was to get the money. Then, Vitch decided to play a heavier WSOP schedule last year. He entered 16 events, a heavy workload for someone not accustomed to the annual summer series and the grind it can be for some. Vitch managed to come in second in one event, which paid $111,860 and he cashed in another. More important for Vitch's future goals – he became caught up in the WSOP excitement and was determined to return to the Rio this year and win a gold bracelet.

That goal appeared to be within reach during the second week of the series. Vitch took third place in the $1,500 buy-in HORSE event. Still, he came within grasp of the bracelet, but it departed around the wrist of his opponent.

"I'd previously gotten 2 thirds and a second," Vitch said. "Each time I looked back and thought I ran super good the whole way, but then I hit a bump in the road. I don't know how much you have to run good to win, but then I found out. On Day One and especially on Day Three I made really big hands. You have to do that to win, even though these are some of my best games. You still have to run well at this level."

Vitch min-cashed a tourney three days earlier and almost didn't event this event.

"I late registered, because I was still in the Six-Handed Limit," Vitch said. "If I would have gone much deeper in that tournament, I would have skipped this one. I was really, really mad when I busted out in that. But it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. So, it was an interesting turn of events."

The new champion won his victory by coming out on top at a final table which included several tough opponents, including a player who plays regularly with Vitch at his home casino near Phoenix. David Gee, from Gilbert, AZ came in third. The final moment of triumph came when Vitch scooped the final pot of the tournament against Siegfried Stockinger, from Linz, Austria who finished as the runner up.

Vitch has been playing poker professionally for more than a decade. He still mostly plays in cash games. During the online poker boom, Vitch was co-owner and a poker instructor at the website

"I've read a lot of things over the years about 'the best player never to have won a gold bracelet," Vitch said. "I'm sure there are many players in that category who are deserving. But I always thought I belonged in that conversation. So now, to get the gold bracelet, it justifies that level of confidence and what I was thinking."

This was a first-time event at the WSOP. The competition included three forms of lowball draw poker, played in rotation. The games were Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, Ace-to-Five Triple Draw, and Badugi.

This tourney attracted 236 entrants which created a prize pool totaling $536,900. The top 36 finishers collected prize money.

Aside from the winner, here's a brief report of the other top finishers who made the final table:
Second Place: Siegfried Stockinger, from Austria, finished as the runner up. He cashed for the first time at the WSOP since 2011 with this deep run, which paid $84,572.

Third Place: David Gee, from Gilbert, AZ has previously posted 13 cashes at the WSOP. He came in fifth in an event a few years ago, so this was his highest finish, to date. Gee received $55,511.

Fourth Place: Damjan Radanov, from Memphis, TN made a deep run, coming in fourth place. This was his best showing at the Las Vegas summer series, which paid $37,375. This was his second highest cash in a WSOP-related tournament. Two years ago, Radanov won the WSOP Circuit Main Event championship at Harrah's New Orleans, for which he was awarded a gold ring.

Fifth Place: Michael Schiffman, from Henderson, NV made his first six-figure score in a series event by coming in fifth place. He earned $25,830. The last time he cashed in a WSOP event was two years ago, when he also took fifth place.

Sixth Place: Gary Benson, from Sylvania Southgate, Australia finished in sixth place. He collected $18,336. Benson won a gold bracelet in his first WSOP cash back in 1996 (Seven-Card Stud). He now has 20 series cashes.

Seventh Place: Anthony Lazar, from Maple Grove, MN made his second final table at this year's series, coming in seventh place (he took fifth place in the $1,500 buy-in Eight-Game Mix). Lazar pocketed $13,380.

This was the 40th official event on this year's schedule. This leaves 29 gold bracelet events still to be played at the 2016 WSOP.

Other notable in-the money finishers:
Quinn Do, a two-time gold bracelet winner (2005, 2015), finished in 17th place.

Jason Mercier, a five-time gold bracelet winner (including two wins this year), cashed in 26th place. This was his seventh in-the-money finish at the 2016 WSOP. He currently leads the "Player of the Year" points race.

"Captain" Tom Franklin, a gold bracelet winner (1999), finished in 29th place.

Tuan Le, with two gold bracelet wins (2014, 2015), finished in 31st place.

Fun facts:
Although each of these forms of poker have been played previously at the WSOP, this was the first time three varieties of Lowball were combined into one tournament.

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker)

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