WSOP Paradise reverses previous trends with the GGPoker High Roller tournament

The 2023 World Series of Poker Paradise is underway in the Bahamas and after a launch attempt the money is now starting to flow. There are two events on the program that barely gathered enough players to meet the tournament guarantees. That changed with the first big money tournament of the WSOP Paradise schedule, the GGPoker High Roller Championship, where the big names came to the table at Atlantis and broke the guarantee.

Awarded two bracelets

The fifteen-event schedule will award official WSOP bracelets, so winning every tournament on the list will be a big deal. The WSOP attempted to create excitement in these early events – the $1500 Mystery Millions and the Millionaire Maker in Paradise – by placing a $5 million guarantee on each offering. In the end, these tournaments barely made it past the guarantee, which saved some face for the WSOP officials.

Event #1, the Mystery Millions, saw 3,446 entrants pay a $1,500 buy-in for their chance. During the five day one flights, the numbers gradually increased, but there was a chance that there could be an overlay (which is unusual in WSOP tournaments). However, on the fifth flight, the players managed to break even.

The professionals try to do their part by getting involved in events they wouldn't normally attend. While Phil Hellmuth attracted the usual attention by making a deep run in the tournament, it was Maria Ho who caused the biggest upset and stormed to the top at the final table. However, she failed in her bid for a WSOP bracelet as she was knocked out in third place by eventual champion Jin Hoon Lee.

1. Jin Hoon Lee, $420,000
2. Max Pinnola, $257,100
3. Maria Ho, $200,000
4. Konstantin Maslak, $160,000
5. Drew Scott, $127,000
6. Thomas Santerne, $101,000
7. Kartik Ved, $80,000
8. Davidi Kitai, $64,000
9. Hyunsup Kim, $51,000

Event #2 was a similar story but with a different approach. The $1500 Millionaire Maker launched online with GGPoker and recorded 3496 participants from his virtual war. That was enough to eclipse the $5 million guarantee that WSOP and GGPoker had set for the event and generate a prize pool of $5,233,000. 100 players from this tournament traveled to the Bahamas to take part in the live side of the hybrid event, with a lively heads-up battle at the final table capping the event.

The final table lasted almost sixteen hours and ended with an international final table. Seven countries were represented – the USA and France with two players each, and Brazil, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Ukraine with one – and joined the fray. In the end it was the Brazilian Allan Mello who secured the million-dollar first place ahead of the Ukrainian Nazar Buhaiov, making Mello's trip to the Caribbean definitely worth it!

1. Allan Mello, $1,000,000
2. Nazar Buhaiov, $593,500
3. Morten Norland, $263,500
4. Maksim Vaskresenski, $158,500
5. Maxime Parys, $128,000
6. Clemen Deng, $103,500
7. Kasparas Klezys, $81,100
8. Arnaud Enselme, $65,000
9. Roland Israelashvili, $50,000

GGMillion$ Shatters Guarantee

Bucking the trend of previous events, the GGMillion$ High Roller Championship had no trouble attracting a sizeable field despite its $25,000 buy-in and $10 million guarantee. Over the course of the two-day Ones, 533 participants competed, and with an online component to the tournament, the prize pool generated exceeded the $13 million mark. It also lured the sharks into the water in the Bahamas to secure a sizable first-place check.

Of the 67 players who competed in the Atlantis competition, Jason Koon led the Day 1A participants (13 players will come from the online competition and play on Thursday, Day 2). Koon accumulated a large stack of six million chips, leaving his fellow Day 1A players Fedor Holz and Artur Martirosian well behind. Day 1B was led by Renat Bohdanov, who will be in the top five as action begins on Thursday.

1. Jason Koon, 6.0 million*
2. Fedor Holz, 4.73 million*
3. Artur Martirosian, 4.67 million*
4. Renat Bohdanov, 4.105 million
5. Daniel Smiljkovic, 3.86 million
6. Jun Obara, 3.705 million
7. Klemens Roiter, 3.15 million*
8. Damian Salas, 2.9 million
9. Brandon Wilson, 2.8 million

(* – indicates Day 1A player)

Particularly noteworthy at this event is Stephen Song, who is currently in tenth place on the leaderboard. Song is the defending champion of the World Poker Tour's WPT Prime event, which will take place at Wynn Las Vegas. After this high-roller tournament, will Song return to Las Vegas to fight for another title, or will he stay in the Bahamas sun and forego attempting to defend his WPT Prime championship?

There are a lot of questions about which players go where. These decisions are being made now as both the WPT World Championship and WSOP Paradise intensify their actions.

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