Dan Sepiol stuns Wynn Crowd to win 2023 WPT World Championship

It was both an exciting and breathtaking conclusion to the 2023 WPT World Championship. In one of the most competitive final tables of the year, short stack Dan Sepiol took the title in the guaranteed $40 million event. In addition to the hefty payday, which was the biggest of his career, Sepiol also earned the nickname WPT World Championship, his name at the Mike Sexton WPT Champions' Cup, and will be part of the tournament in 2024 where he will defend his title.

Sepiol starts at the bottom

At the beginning of the last day of action, things weren't looking good for Sepiol. He was the second-smallest stack at the six-handed WPT final table, competing against players like Artur Martirosian (the only stack smaller than Sepiol's 34.3 million at 29.4 million) and chip leaders Chris Moorman (88.3 million) and Andrew Lichtenberger (148.2 million) in million). Ben Heath (36.7 million) and Georgios Sotiropoulos (46.2 million) were at the final table when play began on Thursday.

After playing extensively together over the past few days, you might have thought that the players knew each other. That wasn't the case in this tournament (millions of dollars could have been at stake), as it took more than fifty hands to get to the first elimination. However, when it happened, it had an immediate impact on the leaderboard and the course of the tournament.

Sepiol had steadily weathered this early action, and on hand #52 Sepiol would make the most of his work. After Sepiol increased the bet to five million chips in the small blind, Martirosian moved all-in with his impressive stack of 43 million chips. After receiving the count, Sepiol decided to make the call and the cards were turned face down:

Sepiol (Small Blind): Pocket Sevens
Martirosian (Big Blind): Pocket Fives

It was a desperate situation for Martirosian, who was looking for one of the two remaining fives in the deck, and he wouldn't succeed. The KQ-8-2-A board didn't help Martirosian, as he was eliminated first at the final table of the 2023 WPT World Championship, still earning seven figures, but exiting in sixth place. Meanwhile, Sepiol moved up to second on the leaderboard and would take the chip lead on the next hand.

The duo of Sepiol and Lichtenberger became the story of the final table, fighting for the chip lead while the rest of the table tried to keep up. Sotiropoulos defeated Heath in fifth place, with his A-7 on the flop catching a needless ace against Heath's QJ out of the suit, and then knocked down Moorman in fourth, with his KQ Moorman's QJ on an AA-10-9 7 board exceeded. Despite these two eliminations, Sotiropoulos was still looking at the stacks of Lichtenberger and Sepiol.

Who is the next WPT World Champion?

The trio tossed chips at each other for twenty hands before a practical collision decided the winner. On hand #102, Lichtenberger limped out of the small blind only to see Sepiol increase the action. Undaunted, Lichtenberger came out with the 3-bet and raised the stake to 32.5 million, earning Sepiol a time bank chip. After this 30-second break, Sepiol moved all-in, Lichtenberger called and the fight continued:

Lichtenberger: AK
Sepiol: Pocket Jacks

It was a classic racing situation with a huge pot of over 300 million that would decide the course of the championship. The Q-9-7 flop did nothing for “LuckyChewy,” and the deuce on the turn didn’t help either. The river brought a ten, leading to Lichtenberger's ace-high exit in third place, while Sepiol's pair of jacks collected 310.5 million chips to go to war with Sotiropoulos (72.6 million).

With a lead of more than 4:1, Sepiol seemed to be assured of the championship. The duo fought for another twenty hands before a WPT rarity occurred – the pair came to an agreement over the remaining money in the prize pool. After extensive discussion, Sepiol would receive $4,682,954 of the remaining $9.45 million in the prize pool, while Sotiropoulos negotiated a payday of $4,167,246 for himself. The two left $600,000 in the middle along with the hardware to leave them something to play with.

After the deal, Sotiropoulos took the lead for five hands before Sepiol fought back. Sepiol caught a miraculous two pair with a J-2 on a J-9-2-10-7 board against Sotiropoulos' QJ, setting the stage for the final hand. On hand #130, Sotiropoulos raised the bet and after Sepiol moved all-in, he called with a dominant KQ over Sepiol's K-3. The J-8-4 flop was right for Sotiropoulos, but the three of a kind on the turn changed fortunes. Sotiropoulos needed a queen on the river and saw a deuce instead as Sepiol's stunning final few hands took him to the 2023 WPT World Championship.

1. Dan Sepiol, $5,282,954*
2. Georgios Sotiropoulos, $4,167,246*
3. Andrew Lichtenberger, $2,798,700
4. Chris Moorman, $2,095,300
5. Ben Heath, $1,583,100
6. Artur Martirosian, $1,207,000

(* – indicates the deal at the final table)

This sets the 2024 2023 World Poker Tour season (the WPT will no longer use Roman numerals to number its seasons after 2021). Although the WPT World Championship was a nice reward for Sepiol, it was almost enough for him to win the title Overall WPT Player of the Year Award, but he would finish second there. The WPT POY was won by Bin Weng, who used a brilliant start to the 2023 season in which he won one tournament and reached the final table in another to build a considerable lead. This ends one of the most beautiful seasons in recent times for the World Poker Tour.

(Photo courtesy of WPT)

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