With more than $7.3 million in live tournament earnings over the last 15 years, Ari Engel has been wildly successful at no-limit hold’em tournaments. Over the last year or two, however, it appears the Toronto native and Las Vegas resident began jumping into mixed games and is already succeeding at the highest levels.
Engel won his second World Series of Poker bracelet in the early hours of Friday morning in the $10,000 Omaha 8-or-better championship. He defeated a field of 134 entries and bested Zachary Milchman in a six-hour heads-up battle to secure the victory and $317,076, which jumps his total career earnings to more than $7.6 million.
Engel, who also is the owner of 10 WSOP Circuit rings, has won a bracelet in each of the last two live World Series. He took down a $2,500 no-limit hold’em at the 2019 series for $427,399, which was and still is the second largest score of his career, behind only his $1.12 million victory in the 2016 Aussie Millions main event.
His win at this year’s series is the fourth-largest cash of his career, but regardless of the amount, Engel is always happy to finish a tournament with all the chips in front of him.
“It feels great,” said Engel after the tournament. “It feels great to win, always. I play a ton of tournaments, and most of the time you lose so you have to savor the moments like this. It’s rare for me to have a crazy rail like I had today, so that was really exciting for me to have so many friends around. Which made it all sweeter.”
He went on to say that he was “new to the mixed game scene,” but it looks like he has a knack for Omaha 8-or-better. Just five days before his victory, Engel made a run in the $1,500 version of the same variant, eventually earning a min-cash for $3,634. With his cash in the $600 no-limit hold’em deepstack event, Engel already finished in-the-money three times this series.
Engel came into the final day of the Omaha championship as the overwhelming chip leader. After reaching the final table Wednesday night, the final nine players played down to the final five, who returned on Thursday afternoon and finish the event live on PokerGO. When the livestream started, Engel held nearly half of the chips in play.
“In these kind of situations, it’s a balance between wanting to put pressure on the other players that want to move up, and at the same time, kind of protect your own chip lead,” said Engel about his lead. “Any time you’re the chip leader at the final table, you’ve got to strike the right balance depending on how other players are playing and how stacks work out.”
At the other end of the chip counts was Phil Hellmuth, who came into the final day with slightly more than three big bets but was nonetheless in the hunt for his record-extending 16th WSOP bracelet. The other three players were all close in chips with between seven and 15 big bets.
Engel and Eddie Blumenthal were part of a three-way pot that squashed Hellmuth’s dream of extending his record. Hellmuth was all in on a flop of 876 with K842 against Engel’s AJ54 and Blumenthal’s AJ105.
The board ran out with a 9 turn and a 6 river. A side pot developed after Engel bet the river and Blumenthal called, but the result was the same. Blumenthal and Engel chopped up Hellmuth’s chips and Hellmuth was out in fifth.
Following his bust out, Hellmuth said on Twitter that with three cashes and two final tables, the start to his 2021 WSOP was one of the most successful of his career.
Def my best start to a @WSOP, and I’ve been playing since 1988. Played 3 tourneys: 2 final tables and an 18th. I’m exhausted, resting for 24-48 hrs. I hate skipping Limit Hold’em (3 WSOP LH wins!), but it’s important to both: 1 reward myself for great play; 2 take care of myself pic.twitter.com/SMPZzpvFEU
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) October 8, 2021
The rest of the level didn’t go well for Blumenthal and he started the second level of the day as the short stack before being disposed of by Engel.
He got all in preflop with A432 against Engel’s JJ53. The board ran out AQ310K and while both players made flushes, Engel’s was bigger and sent Blumenthal to the rail in fourth.
Just a few hands later, Engel eliminated Andrew Yeh in third, which gave him about 75% of the chips in play at the start of heads-up against Milchman. It was also the start of the longest heads-up match of the series thus far.
Milchman pulled the counts even later in the level and it quickly went from a runaway Engel victory to a slugfest between two pros. Over the next five hours the two would see the lead change seven times with both players on the brink of elimination and victory.
Eventually, Engel pulled away for good and raced out to a 10-to-1 chip lead over the Florida pro. Milchman got the last of his chips in the middle on a flop of J106 with 8842 against Engel’s A1043.
Milchman was in bad shape and needed very specific cards to keep his dreams alive. The turn and river were both queens, however, which sent the pot to Engel and gave him his second WSOP title.
Final Table Results: