Tom Koral Overcomes 20-to-1 Chip Disadvantage to Win First WSOP Bracelet

Tom Koral closed out June in a big way by winning his first World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelet, which came in epic fashion after he overcome a significant chip disadvantage. And while that jewelry was the only piece of hardware awarded on Friday, there were plenty of other events playing out inside the Rio in Las Vegas.

Tom Koral wins Event #55 WSOP 2017

Serial casher Tom Koral’s first WSOP gold puts his lifetime live tournament take at just under $2 million. (Image: Drew Amato/

Koral’s Epic Comeback

After 13 years of playing the WSOP, which includes garnering 53 cashes and five final tables, Illinois native Koral finally broke through. He did so in Event #55: $1,500 Seven-Card Stud, overcoming a 20-to-1 chip disadvantage in heads-up play to win $96,907.  The tournament drew an initial 298 players.

“Honestly, I still think it’s going to take a little bit to soak in,” the 33-year-old poker pro told WSOP officials after the win. “Finally, it happened … I love poker, I love the game, so it’s really a blessing to finally have a … bracelet. I know after a 13-year journey how hard it is to get one.”

Heads-up play began with Tsong Lin holding 2.1 million of the 2.2 million in play, but Koral worked his 125,000 up into the lead over the next several hours. It took five hours, but eventually Koral, who less than a week earlier finished fourth in Event #44: $3,000 HORSE for $74,382, eliminated his opponent to capture his first bracelet.

“In stud, you are basically anteing, but you really aren’t forced to play a big pot, if you have enough chips, unless you have to,” Koral continued. “A big part of my heads-up strategy was to just play very aggressively with the hands that I was going to play and basically trying to punish him as much as I could for playing too many hands.”

Final Table Results
1 Tom Koral (Skokie, IL) $96,907
2 Tsong Lin (Cape May, NJ) $59,894
3 Yueqi Zhu (Benxi, China) $41,349
4 Alexander Freund (Austria) $29,102
5 Todd Bui (Sacramento, CA) $20,888
6 Cheryl Denzik (La Grange, KY) $15,297
7 Daniel Mogavero (Las Vegas, NV) $11,433
8 Chris Tryba (Evergreen, CO) $8,726

Clements Leads in PLO $10K FT

Event #54: $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha 8-Handed Championship began with 428 players, but after Day 3 action came to a close, just eight remained to battle for the $938,732 top prize. Leading the pack for the second day in a row is Scott Clements with 5.48 million.

Others still alive are Tommy Le (4.065 million), Eoghan O’Dea (2.895 million), Hani Mio (2.72 million), Jason DeWitt (2.56 million), Chris Lee (2.135 million), Miltiadis Kyriakides (1.275 million), and Murat Tulek (425,000).

Among those to finish in the money on Saturday were three-time bracelet winner John Monnette (14th for $38,347), Ben Lamb (15th for $31,337), and John Racener (17th for $26,167).

WSOP Circuit Champ Seeks Bracelet #1

Event #56: $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em began with 623 players, but after Day 2 came to an end, only 32 remained, with Martin Czuczor (1.352 million) heading the counts. Not too far behind is MSPT Potawatomi champ and eight-time WSOP Circuit ring winner Ari Engel (977,000), who is seeking his first Series bracelet.

Still battling for the $618,285 first-place finish will be Dietrich Fast (672,000), Thomas Boivin (651,000), Mike Watson (445,000), and former Main Event final tabler Pierre Neuville (320,000).

Others who made it to the money on Friday were Tim West (34th for $14,183), Matt Berkey (44th for $12,147), Nacho Barbero (58th for $9,466), and Cate Hall (73rd for $8,020).

Luneau Out Front in Hi-Lo Mix

Event #57: $2,500 Omaha and Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better Mix pulled 405 players, but after Day 2 action, just 14 remained, with Alex Luneau (783,000) bagging the lead. Other notables moving on are Jared Bleznick (679,000), Barry Greenstein (417,000), and Esther Taylor-Brady (189,000).

Some of the players who saw their journey come to an end on Day 2 were Mike Ross (20th for $6,013), Jeff Lisandro (32nd for $5,200), and Shaun Deeb (45th for $4,196).

The remaining players will return on Saturday to play down to a winner, who will walk away with $215,902 and a gold bracelet.

$1,500 NLH Down to 265

Event #58: $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em drew 1,763 players, which created a $2,380,050 prize pool, but after ten levels of play only 265 survived. No one bagged more than Martin Kabrhel (235,000), with Andreas Christoforou (152,000), Denis Timofeev (151,800), and Asi Moshe (148,900) hoping to turn that around on Saturday.

Other well-known players to bag were Kenny Hallaert (130,600), Chance Kornuth (111,400), and Phil Laak (92,600). All of those remaining are guaranteed a minimum $2,249 in prize money, while the eventually winner will take home $395,918.

Phil Hellmuth, Allen Cunningham, and Dominik Nitsche all hit the rails on Friday. Day 2 will get underway at noon Pacific Time on Saturday, with the plan of playing ten more 60-minute levels.

Negreanu Bags Big in Big Bet

Event #59: $2,500 Big Bet Mix attracted 197 players, but by the end of the night, just 55 remained, with the UK’s Iraj Parvizi and his stack of 210,000 out in front. Sitting second in chips with 165,025 is Daniel Negreanu, while David “ODB” Baker (130,200), Brian Rast (126,750), and Ryan Hughes (126,025) round out the top five.

Players no longer competing for the $112,232 first-place prize are Day 1 casualties Greg Raymer, Ryan Riess, and Todd Brunson.

Things About to Get Crazy

Just one new tournament will kick off inside the Rio on Saturday with Event #60: $888 Crazy Eights No-Limit Hold’em 8-Handed. Featuring unlimited re-entry and a guaranteed $888,888 first-place prize, Saturday will see Flight 1A at 10 am PT, followed by 1B at 4 pm. Flights 1C and 1D will take place at the same time on Sunday.

Let’s not forget Event #61: $3,333 High Roller, today’s online event that plays out in a single day. CardsChat will be bringing you a standalone recap of that one tomorrow, along with all the other action, so come back with your coffee on Sunday to get caught up.

Chad Holloway
Written by
Chad Holloway
Splitting his time between his native Wisconsin and Las Vegas, Chad Holloway gave up a potential law career to follow his passion and play and write about poker. His background includes a long stint as a senior writer for a major poker news site. Long well-known throughout the poker community for his incisive and in-depth commentary and reporting, we are proud to have Chad on board as part of our CardsChat writing team, where he will be covering everything from the World Series of Poker to interviews, features, and more.


Aparajit wrote...

WOW thats a great comeback. Soo inspirational 🙂

cris21 wrote...

Tom Koral’s is a master because to overcome his opponent from 20 to 1, not anyone can do it, it is also interesting the strategy that is applied to achieve win over goliad.

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