Winne winner, chicken… bucket?
Yuliyan Kolev defeated a field of 7,961 entries in the 2022 World Series of Poker $1,500 buy-in no-limit hold’em ‘Millionaire Maker’ event, earning his second WSOP gold bracelet and the top prize of $1,125,141. The Bulgarian closed out the victory to secure the seven-figure payday while wearing an upside-down KFC bucket on his head. Kolev’s supporters on the rail also donned the unique headware, reportedly in homage to a popular Bulgarian musician.
Kolev had won his first WSOP title less than a year earlier, taking down the $777 buy-in ‘Lucky 7’s’ event online last fall for the gold and $146,163. With this latest win, he became the first player from his home country to win multiple bracelets. This latest win came with a bit more excitement, given that it took place under the bright lights on the main final table and was broadcast on PokerGO.
“The feeling is so much stronger because all of your friends are here and they watch you play,” Kolev said. “And the pressure is much more.”
Kolev now has more than $2.8 million in lifetime tournament earnings from 89 recorded cashes. He had four prior six-figure scores to his name, but this was his first seven-figure payout.
In addition to the title and the money, Kolev also earned 1,320 Card Player Player of the Year points for the win. This was his first POY-qualified score of the year, but it alone was sufficient to see him climb within reach of the top 100 in the 2022 POY race standings, which are sponsored by Global Poker.
The huge turnout for this tournament resulted in a prize pool of more than $10.6 million. That money was paid out among the top 1,196 finishers. Plenty of big names made deep runs, including three-time bracelet winner Ryan Leng (40th – $29,070), five-time bracelet winner and two-time World Poker Tour champion Michael Mizrachi (27th – $35,573), and WSOP and WPT champion James Calderaro (26th – $43,849).
This event ran over the course of six days, with two starting flights and then four more days of action. The final day began with just five players, with a few players being eliminated from the official nine-handed final table the previous night in order to set up a short-handed showdown on the PokerGO broadcast. Among the final tablists to hit the rail late on day 4 was the UK’s Nicholas Marchington, who finished seventh in the 2019 WSOP main event for more than $1.5 million. His run in this event ended in ninth place ($108,704) when his Q-J suited was unable to outrun the A-3 suited of Tyler Gaston.
Gaston took the chip lead into the final day of play, while Kolev sat in second chip position despite having been down to a single chip earlier on day 4. He won several all-ins to rebuild his stack, including flopping a set when his pocket eights ran into the pocket jacks of an opponent.
Kolev overtook the lead in the early final-fay action, and then extended his advantage when his J-8 beat out the Q-7 of short stack Dominic Brazier. Both players flopped a pair, but Brazier’s queens were ahead heading into the turn. Kolev rivered jacks up to eliminate Brazier in fifth place ($301,346) and narrow the field to four.
Kolev was soon involved in another big pot. He moved all-in with Q-4 and was called by Yita Choong in the big blind, who held pocket sevens. A queen on the turn left Choong in need of a river seven. The Australian was sent home with $395,545 when a deuce rolled off the deck.
Gaston’s run in this event came to an end in third place ($522,705). he got all-in on a J75 flop with his J10 leading the Q10 of Oren Rosen. The 9 on the turn gave Rosen additional outs with an open-ended straight draw. Rosen hit the Q on the river to win with a pair of queens.
With that heads-up play began with Kolev leading Rosen. The final showdown for the bracelet didn’t last all that long. Roughly 20 minutes after Gaston was sent home, Rosen raised on the button with QJ. Kolev three-bet from the big blind with AA. Rosen called and the flop came down Q83. Kolev bet 10 million and Rosen called. The 3 on the turn prompted Kolev to move all-in. Rosen went into the tank before eventually making the call. He was in trouble, and only a queen on the river could keep his hopes of a bracelet in this event alive. The 9 on the end was of no help to Rose, though, and he was eliminated in second place ($695,390). This was, by far, the largest tournament score yet for the Israeli player.
Here is a look at the payouts and rankings points awarded at the final table:
Winner photo credit: PokerGO / Antonio Abrego.
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