At a truly international final table Austria’s Max Neugebauer was able to outlast the remaining eight men from the final table (and the 817-player field) to secure the championship of the 2023 World Series of Poker main event on Wednesday. In front of a packed house at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, Neugebauer made a stunning call against Eric Tsai to secure the title. Along with the WSOP bracelet, Neugebauer won a hefty sum of 1.5 million euros (approximately $1,631,588) for the biggest payday of his career.
Eight countries make up the final table
To demonstrate the international appeal of poker, the eight men at the final table each represented a different country. At the start of the day it was Tsai (Taiwan) who was the big chip leader with a stack of over 23 million chips. Only two other players even reached eight figures, Kaspars Klezys (Lithuania, 13.95 million) and Neugebauer (10.325 million). The rest of the field – Nils Pudel (Germany, 9.875 million), Michael Rocco (USA, eight million), Michele Tocci (Italy, 6.525 million), Ruslan Volkov (Ukraine, six million) and a short stack Alf Martinsson (Sweden, 3, 15 million) – had a lot of work to do if they wanted to get involved.
With his short stack, Martinsson thought he was the player to make an early move, and in the second hand he did exactly that. The problem is that he played his A-3 outside the suit into the pocket tens of Tocci, who caught an unnecessary ten on the river (K-6-KQ-10) to finish Martinsson’s event in eighth place. The players then played for about three hours shuffling chips until Volkov finally ran out of chips after Klezys’ A-10 found an ace on the turn while Volkov tried to send him out of the game in seventh.
After two knockouts, Tocci was now the man in control as Tsai made several missteps that sent him plummeting to the bottom of the rankings. However, Tsai slowly built himself back up and eventually reached fifteen million chips again after taking a pot from Rocco. Not to be discouraged, Rocco opened the hand afterward and immediately called when Pudel moved all-in. Rocco’s pocket aces dwarfed Pudel’s A-5, and the ten-high board brought no rescue, ending Pudel’s tournament in sixth place.
From five to champion
Rocco had taken the lead, but it would be short-lived. Tsai 3-bet with Rocco on the button and after Rocco moved all in, Tsai was the one who called. This time it was Tsai with the pocket aces, while Rocco could only muster an A-9 for the fight. No miracle would happen for Rocco as he sent 15 million chips to Tsai, not to mention the chip lead.
Another questionable move from Rocco would send him off the table. After watching Tocci limp in, Rocco put almost eight million chips on the line with an all-in move. Tocci wasted no time and called the bet, playing pocket tens against Rocco’s A-7 in the off-suit suit. A seven would come on the flop, but that would be all, as Tocci pocketed the rest of Rocco’s chips and Rocco went into fifth place.
The hand of the tournament was probably between Neugebauer and Tsai in a four-handed game. On a 9-3-3-4-10 board, Neugebauer was able to put Tsai in action throughout, showing a K-9 for a flopped two pair that Tsai put in the air with his AQ. Those thirteen million chips could put Neugebauer in the lead, which only increased when the duo met again and Neugebauer took another seven million chips. Thanks to Tocci’s generosity, Neugebauer quickly collected 42 million chips, making him more chips than Tocci (19.85 million), Tsai (12.25 million) and Klezys (7.35 million) combined.
Neugebauer then rioted. He would eliminate fourth-place Klezys and third-place Tocci to enter heads-up play against Tsai with 64.1 million chips, far surpassing Tsai’s 17.4 million chips. Although Tsai tried to level the stacks, Neugebauer never let him get close. Nevertheless, the drama of the final hand at King’s Casino was a topic of conversation.
Tsai raised the bet to 1.2 million and Neugebauer called to see a Q♦ 8♦ 7♥ flop, with Neugebauer check-calling another bet from Tsai. An ace on the turn should have slowed things down a bit, but Tsai kept the pressure on with a 6.3 million chip bet that Neugebauer called. A four came on the river and Neugebauer checked again, this time Tsai fired with every ball he had left.
Neugebauer was faced with a huge decision. If he called and was right, he was the WSOP-E Main Event Champion. If he was wrong, the two would essentially be tied in chips and the fight would continue. After an eternity, Neugebauer called and the cards were revealed:
Tsai: J♦ 9♦ (missed flush draw, no pair)
Neugebauer: J-8 (flopped middle pair)
The overwhelming call secured the Austrian victory and gave him his first major championship and the WSOP bracelet.
1. Max Neugebauer (Austria), €1,500,000
2. Eric Tsai (Taiwan), €891,000
3. Michele Tocci (Italy), €639,000
4. Kasparas Klezys (Lithuania), €464,000
5. Michael Rocco (USA), €341,000
6. Nils Pudel (Germany), €255,000
7. Ruslan Volkov (Ukraine), €193,000
8. Alf Martinsson (Sweden), €148,000
9. Yulian Bogdanov (Bulgaria), €115,300*
(* – eliminated on Tuesday, part of the official final table)