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Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP 2011

Oleksii Kovalchuk - Event #26 Champion

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The $2,500 Six-Handed No-Limit Holdem event brought 1,378 players to the tables to play for a total prize pool of $3,134,950 of which 126 would be paid and one would walk away with 1st place, $689,739, and the gold bracelet - that 'one' was Oleksii Kovalchuk.

WSOP Overview:

When communism collapsed and the Iron Curtain disintegrated some 20 years ago, many observers wondered about the impacts of half a billion people suddenly being jolted by the culture shock of having to compete with the rest of the free world for the first time.

Repressive governments disintegrated. Walls crumbled. Flags of freedom waved. Suddenly millions of people living in more than two dozen countries controlled their lives and made their own decisions – about everything. Eastern Europeans and citizens of the former Soviet Union were allowed to travel freely and were granted access to the influences and attractions of the West.

A few years later, when poker’s tentacles began branching out into Europe, the game knew no boundaries. Poker didn’t just stop when it reached England, France, and Germany. Poker expanded further and continued to spread east.

Young people, who had previously grown up confined to watching mind-numbing state-run television and playing conventional board games like chess, were suddenly bombarded with flashy images of an exciting new game called poker. The game began to appear on satellite network feeds beamed into cities from Prague all the way to Moscow. Adoration of the iconic chessmasters such as Kasparov and Karpov was displaced by Ivey envy and Negreanu worship.

Then, there was the Internet revolution. Access to online poker games, breaking tournament news, and strategy discussions in different languages accelerated the infancy and inevitable maturity of poker to nations and people who likely would have never been exposed to the game if under the same confining rules of prior generations. Online poker sites began to attract thousands of new players from countries with names that many of their opponents wouldn't be able to locate on a map. Players with screen names like “Krzysztof” from Kazakhstan began bad beating the heck out of online pros from Leeds to L.A.

The old proletariat might as well have pawned their old hammers and sickles for cards and chips. Hungary, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and 20 more nations once famously referred to by one former U.S. President as "the Evil Empire" had more young people playing poker than were once enrolled in the MarxistdrivenYoung Pioneers. Inevitably, some of these players starting winning. A few players starting winning really big.

Two poker players saw the dynamics of a new age around them. Both got caught up in the craze. They started playing the game everyone seemed to be talking about. One of the players lived in the Ukraine. The other player resided in Romania.

The idea that a poker player from Kiev and another from Bucharest would be playing heads up for a gold bracelet at the World Series of Poker would have been unthinkable just a generation ago. Now, it’s treated as rather ordinary. Such is the astronomical growth of the WSOP abroad and the universal magnetism it holds for millions of poker players.

On the night of June 18th, Ukrainian poker pro Oleksii Kovalchuk defeated Romanian engineer Ionel Anton in heads up play and won the $2,500 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em championship at the 2011 WSOP. Kovalchuk collected whopping $689,739 for first place. He was also presented with the famed WSOP gold bracelet, which symbolizes the game’s ultimate achievement.

Kovalchuk becomes the second player in history from the Ukraine ever to win a WSOP gold bracelet. The first Ukrainian to win was Eugene Katchalov, who won the $1,500 buy-in Seven-Card Stud championship just two weeks ago. The runner-up Anton had nothing to be ashamed of either. He became the highest-finishing Romanian player in WSOP history.

Some day, other repressive regimes will collapse. Evil dictators will fall. People of all ages will be liberated. Just as before, hundreds of millions of a new generation will covet exciting new opportunities. For the first time, they shall gain access to the most appealing activities the world over, which will inevitably include poker.

It wasn't too long ago that a Russian poker player first won a WSOP gold bracelet. That occurred in 2006. Now, five years later, not just one, but two Ukrainians have won victories at the 2011 WSOP.

All this begs the question. How long before the WSOP crowns a Chinese champion? Or, a North Korean champion? Can a Libyan world poker champion be in our future?

Whether it’s politics or poker – more revolutions are coming.

The $2,500 Six Handed No Limit Holdem event took three days to complete and when the tournament reached heads-up play, Oleksii Kovalchuk and Ionel Anton exchanged the lead several times. On the final hand Kovalchuk raised it to 150,000 on the button and Anton moved all in for about 1,500,000. Kovalchuk called instantly and flipped over {7-Clubs}{7-Hearts} to Anton's {A-Clubs}{6-Spades}.

The flop appeared with the {9-Spades}{5-Hearts}{7-Diamonds} and left Anton in need of an 8 to overcome Kovalchuk's set of sevens. The turn produced the {10-Hearts} and the river {10-Diamonds} sent Ionel Anton home in 2nd place with $428,140.

When the river hit, Oleksii Kovalchuk gave a winning fist pump as he won his first gold bracelet and picked up $689,739 for his victory. Congratulations Oleksii!

The final table:

Oleksii Kovalchuk 
Ionel Anton 
Chris Moorman
Dan O'Brien
Mazin Khoury
Anthony Ruberto

For more detailed hands and information about the event, visit PokerNews Live Reporting.

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