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After five days of intense action, the 58-year-old Evergreen, Colorado resident Eric Smidinger (cover image) emerged victorious in the 2022 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Event #47: $1,000 Seniors NLHE Championship, winning his first WSOP gold bracelet and a career-best $694,909 in prize money. He made an incredible comeback in the event and outlasted the final day chip leader, Ben Sarnoff, in a two-and-a-half-hour-long heads-up match – the latter collected $429,420 in second place.
According to his Hendon Mob profile, the bracelet win boosted Eric Smidinger’s lifetime poker earnings to $828,358. It was his 15th ITM finish at the WSOP (his fourth this year) and improved his WSOP tally to $766,947. This is his third year attending the WSOP, and he claims to have a cash rate of over 50% every year.
In his post-match interview, Eric Smidinger said, “This is a dream. I love it. This morning, coming in, I knew I had just as good of a chance as anybody. I’m excited,” and added, “It’s going to be cool to go back to Blackhawk, I live in Colorado (Evergreen) and play there regularly, including tournaments. It’ll be nice to sport the bracelet.”
Speaking about how this bracelet win is one of his life’s top moments, Smidinger began to tear up as he looked over at his wife. “Uh. Wow. You know, family is so important… (voice breaks) After that, wife, kids, making a family… we have three great kids, five grandkids. After all that, married to a loving partner, a life-long loving partner, this is up there. This is, for sure, a bucket-list item, and I hope to get another one, and I’ll probably play the Main Event. I can afford it.”
He further said, “My wife, Betsy, she’s retiring soon. She was planning to retire within the year, and now that date will probably come a little sooner.” And added, “Tonight? I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since I’ve been here, so we’re going to go out and celebrate.”
Sharing his poker journey over the years, Smidinger said, “It’s wonderful. I started playing poker in high school and went to Jim Boyd’s (Prince’s) home game in Maryland with my buddy Gabe (who was on the rail). We used to play tournaments there all the time. Then the casinos came. I didn’t start playing tournaments in casinos until 2006. I had minor success, but then when work decreased, poker increased, and I could study the game. The last few years have been really good.”
Smidinger has had a lot of success at the WSOP, and speaking about his stats at the series; he said, “I think I played in six events this year, cashed in four. Played five events last year, cashed in three and similar the year before but nothing significantly large. But this tournament, everything just worked out. Even though I didn’t run overly good. When I did get it in, anytime it was critical, I got it in slightly ahead, and those held up, just like the last hand, it just held up.”
The $1,000 buy-in event attracted a massive field of 7,188 entries, generating a whopping $6,397,320 prize pool. The top 1,079 places walked past the money line with a min-cash worth $1,600.
Day 4 began with 18 survivors. Patrick Martorella (12th for $42,295), Danny Panagatos (13th for $42,295), Jamal Sawaqdeh (14th for $33,842), Steven Himebaugh (15th for $33,842), Joseph D’Agostino (16th for $33,842), John Fones (17th for $33,842), and Valerii Lubenets (18th for $27,271) posted deep runs in the event.
Brian Brunner’s elimination (11th place $53,324) formed the unofficial ten-handed FT.
Unofficial Final Table Chip Counts
Domenico Scalamogna was the first of the last 10 to fall (10th for $53,324).
Final Table Recap
Alexander Hill made a quick exit in ninth place after his ran into Ben Sarnoff’s . The board gave Hill two pairs, but Sarnoff turned a set of jacks.
Soon after that, the short-stacked Mark Pett fell out in eighth place after his failed to get past Eric Smidinger’s .
After Pett, the former bracelet winner Andres Korn joined the rail in seventh place when his were crushed by Ben Sarnoff’s .
Jan Pettersson scored the sixth-place payout after his fell short against Eric Smidinger’s .
Almost an hour after Pettersson’s elimination, the tournament directors decided to let players bag up their chips.
Ben Sarnoff managed a run-away chip lead with almost one-third of the chips in play (55,000,000). Eric Smidinger (32,800,000), Women Poker Hall of Famer Kathy Liebert (29,100,000), Biagio Morciano (19,000,000), and Charles Mitchell (7,900,000) were the other seniors in contention.
Final Day Recap
The Women Poker Hall of Famer Kathy Liebert, who had gone short-stacked, exited in fifth place. In a classic cooler, she moved all-in with but unfortunately for her, Ben Sarnoff woke up with to take over her stack.
Fifteen minutes later, Biagio Morciano was knocked out in fourth place after his failed to connect on the board against Eric Smidinger’s .
Charles Mitchell went crashing out in third place in a three-way pot.
Entering the heads-up, Ben Sarnoff (115,500,000) held an over 3.5:1 chip lead over Eric Smidinger (31,500,000). But Smidinger fought back valiantly across the two-and-a-half-hour-long battle to gain the lead before the last hand was dealt. The deciding hand saw Ben Sarnoff moving all-in with , and Eric Smidinger called off with . It was off to the races, and the board ran , naming Smidinger as the newest WSOP bracelet champion!
Final Table Results (USD)
Content & Cover Image Courtesy: PokerGO, PokerNews & WSOP
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