WPTDS Sydney makes history as brand’s largest Main Event turnout; festival pays out massive A$ 6.4M; Mark Fester wins Player of the Festival

Ever since the World Poker Tour announced a stop in Sydney, Australia, social media buzzed with non stop excitement. This was to be the brand’s first ever visit to the bustling harbor city and it promised to be big. When the doors opened on March 30, the rush that followed was seemingly endless as players packed the house daily. In the aftermath, the Main Event amassed a mind blowing 2,023 entries, the largest ever in WPT history. In a quote by WPT Live Events Specialist Danny McDonagh to Poker Media Australia, he said,

“WPT staff had an inkling that we might be looking towards the global record for WPTDeepStacks, previously 1,684 entries at WPTDeepStacks Seminole. To have smashed past it and hit 2,000 is amazing. We definitely weren’t expecting that, and to hit 2,000 on the 20th Anniversary is special in itself. It blew our minds.”

At the close, WPTDS Sydney paid out A$ 6.4 Million across 11 events. Here are the highlights. 

Screenshot 2022 04 16 at 1.57.10 AMPhoto credit Poker Media Australia

Festival results (Events #1 – #11)

Festival prize pool: A$ 6,418,762 (~US$ 4,775,430)
Entries: 6,392
Biggest event earner: Mark Fester – Main Event – A$ 413,006
Biggest pot: Main Event – A$ 2,690,590

Multiple final tables

Al Josue – Opening Event (6th) and Pot Limit Omaha (3rd)
Ken Demlakian – A$ 1100 Freezeout (6th) and 5K Challenge (3rd)
Ali Ghezelbash – A$ 440 Pot Limit Omaha (5th) – A$ 660 Pot Limit Omaha (9th)

MARK FESTER clinches largest ever WPTDS Main Event for A$ 413,006

The inaugural WPTDeepStacks Sydney Main Event was a sight to see with 2,023 entrants pouring in for a chance at the prestigious title. For those fortunate to be there, it was history in the making as it established a record breaking WPT Main Event attendance. As for the pot, it was an eye-popping A$ 2,690,590. 

Screenshot 2022 04 16 at 1.03.49 AMMark Fester – Photo credit Poker Media Australia

After six days of fierce competition, Mark Fester became the first crowned champion in the capital city. Fester pocketed a career-high A$ 413,006 (~US$ 309,025) and earned a bundle of points to win Player of the Festival. For the achievement, he was awarded a special trophy and an entry ticket to the WPT Australia Main Tour Main Event valued at A$ 54,000.

Prior to this win, Fester’s live tournament portfolio was only 13 lines short with his total earnings roughly US$ 70K. Interviewed by WPT Royal Flush Crew, Fester expressed,

“I watched so many tournaments, and all of my favorite players, through the years, so to now say that I am a champion when I thought that it was just a dream that would never be achieved … and it’s now come true, that’s amazing.”

Indeed it was amazing. To wade through a minefield of thousands was a major achievement. Fester started the final table wedged in the middle and watched as Nick Wright did early damage. Wright knocked out three players before Fester claimed his first in Benedikt Erbele (5th). Luke McCredie also fell to Fester, leaving the final three. It was at this point when Fester really picked up momentum, dragging in chips to take the lead as Wright claimed a fourth victim in Anthony Cierco.

Heads up lasted all of three hands. Up in the count, Fester shoved his Ad10s straight on a board Kd5sQdJh8h, Wright snapped with KsKc set. Among the notable players that reached the top 50 ITM were Leo Boxell, Luke Martinelli, and the highly decorated Alexander Lynskey. Also seen were 2005 WSOP Main Event champion Joe Hachem, 2019 WPT Gold Coast Main Event champion Hari Varma, Mike Maddocks, Dennis Huntly, Ehsan Amiri, and Norbert Koh.

Buy in: A$ 1,500
Entries: 2,023
Prize pool: A$ 2,690,590
ITM: 253 places

Final table payouts

1st Mark Fester – Australia – A$ 413,006
2nd Nick Wright – Australia – A$ 275,328
3rd Anthony Cierco – France – A$ 204,270
4th Luke McCredie – Australia – A$ 152,906
5th Benedikt Erbele – Austria – A$ 115,507
6th Lirui Zhang – China – A$ 88,090
7th Darius Bucinskas – Australia – A$ 67,803
8th Spencer Davies – Australia – A$ 52,655
9th Marco Perri – Australia – A$ 41,274

MICHELLE PSARRAS tops the 1,204 entry Opening Event

The 13-day series kicked off with the Opening Event and with 1,204 turning up, it was a big sign of what was to come. With buy in at A$ 750, it built a handsome A$ 812,700 prize pool. Out of the 151 players in the money, the glory went to Australia’s Michelle Psarras for a career high payout of A$ 136,506. Psarras is WSOP International Circuit champion, having won the Ladies Event in Sydney two years prior. 

Screenshot 2022 04 16 at 1.47.40 AMMichelle Psarras – Photo Credit Poker Media Australia

Psarras latest victory was quite amazing as she rose from the shortest stack at final table kick off to champion. She grinded to reach the final three where she landed two double ups, both through Yu Wi Chen to take the lead for the first time. After several orbits went by with chips mostly funneled by Psarras, Chen fell to the leader to signal the heads up round. Despite Psarras 2.5:1 chip advantage, it was still a bumpy ride to the top. Todd Sekli caught a lucky turn card to exchange positions though briefly as Psarras seized it back and held on to win with two pair. For the top four places it was a career high score. Also at the final table was decorated pro Michel Bouskila in 5th place.

Buy in: A$ 750
Entries: 1,204
Prize pool: A$ 812,700
ITM: 151 places

Final table payouts

1st Michelle Psarras – Australia – A$ 136,506
2nd Todd Sekli – Australia – A$ 95,728
3rd Yu Wi Chen – Australia – A$ 62,074
4th Neo Han – Australia – A$ 45,983
5th Michel Bouskila – Australia – A$ 34,735
6th Al Josue – Australia – A$ 28,071
7th Yang Lei – Australia – A$ 23,178
8th Ratheshan Kulenthirarasa – Australia – A$ 18,351
9th Peter Dykes – Australia – A$ 13,653

MATTHEW PONGRASS ships the 5K NL Hold’em Challenge

The most expensive tournament in the lineup was the 5K No Limit Hold’em Challenge with 258 powerhouse players ponying up for a burly six figure prize pool of A$ 1,212,600. The top 33 got paid. The biggest haul of A$ 276,178 was awarded to Matthew Pongrass for his victory. This was the champ’s first major win and largest career takedown. He beat his previous live score of A$ 262,020 for runner up at the 2018 WSOPC Sydney Main Event. 

Screenshot 2022 04 16 at 1.41.20 AMMatthew Pongrass – Photo credit Poker Media Australia

Based on Poker Media Australia reports, it was a roller coaster ride for the title especially at the lengthy three hour three handed round where Pongrass, Ken Demlakian, and Dylan Wayne Foster took turns up top and at the bottom. The round finally ended with Pongrass claiming his first final table casualty by cleaning out Demlakian. Impressively, this was Demlakian’s second final table having placed 6th at the A$ 1100 Freezeout Tournament. At heads up, a deal was struck and Pongrass went on to win it in a couple of hands. Notable players at the final table were APT Manila Championships winner Siyoung Lee and 2021 WPTL Sydney Main Event champion Rodrigo Meneses.  

Buy in: A$ 5,000
Entries: 258
Prize pool: A$ 1,212,600
ITM: 33 places

Final table payouts

1st Matthew Pongrass – Australia – A$ 276,178
2nd Dylan Wayne Foster – Australia – A$ 194,295
3rd Ken Demlakian – Australia – A$ 124,292
4th Joseph Antar – Australia – A$ 75,606
5th Paul Hoang – Australia – A$ 58,387
6th Siyoung Lee – Korea – A$ 48,383
7th Rodrigo Meneses – Australia – A$ 40,622
8th Sam Higgs – Australia – A$ 33,953
9th Tu Tran – Australia – A$ 27,623

Other winners

A$ 1,100 No Limit Hold’em Freezeout

Buy in: A$ 1,100
Entries: 352
Prize pool: A$ 352,000
ITM: 44 places
Winner: STEPHEN TAMBOURAS – Australia – A$ 56,098 

A$ 2,000 No Limit Hold’em 

Buy in: A$ 2,000
Entries: 261
Prize pool: A$ 469,800
ITM: 333 places
Winner: FRANCESCO LOSI – Italy – A$ 107,000

A$ 330 No Limit Hold’em – GEORGE LEWKOWSKI – A$ 26,098
A$ 440 Pot Limit Omaha – ROLAND FOSTER – A$ 27,954
A$ 660 No Limit Hold’em Big Bounty – MARIO FAURE – A$ 32,513
A$ 440 No Limit Hold’em Megastack Super Turbo Freezeout – GRAHAM COWAN – A$ 20,267
A$ 660 Pot Limit Omaha – MIKAEL LARSSON – A$ 41,196
A$ 440 No Limit Hold’em Megastack Freezeout – BRENDON RUBIE – A$ 33,805

WPT Prime to launch in Vietnam in May

With WPTDS Sydney wrapped up, the brand’s next stop in Asia Pacific is Hanoi, Vietnam to launch the first ever WPT Prime series.

Screen Shot 2022 02 02 at 3.01.18 AMThrough the years, WPT Vietnam festivals have been one of the most popular in the region, driving Main Event prize pools to as high as VN₫ 18+ Billion (~US$ 780K). The tour’s return this May marks its sixth ever visit to the country and second to the city of Hanoi. Players in attendance will be the first to experience everything WPT Prime has to offer. The twelve day event is highlighted by the first WPT Prime Main Event with buy in of VN₫ 25,000,000 (~US$ 1,100).

Location: Crown Poker Club Hanoi
Dates: May 19 to 30
Main Event dates: May 26 to 30
Main Event buy in: VN₫ 25,000,000 (~US$ 1,100)

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Author: Justin Graves