Michael Persky takes down WSOP Circuit Graton for $175K

Tom Morash
Posted on: August 22, 2023 06:16 PDT

Photo Credit: Hayley Hochstetler/ 8131 Media

This was not Michael Persky's first rodeo, but it was the first time he rode the bull all the way to the end. What's more he did it while avoiding his biggest problem.

That effort at WSOP Circuit Graton ended Monday with Persky winning the main event for $175,000.

Michael Persky's biggest problem solved

Here's the thing about Persky: he's a homebody who lives in northern California, and the WSOP Circuit hadn't stopped in Graton before. In short, he sort of has a heart problem. His is too big.

"My problem is I love my family," Persky said. "For me to be away from my family to play the big events is super difficult for me." 

So, when the Circuit put Graton on the schedule, Persky put his rear end in a seat. He finished 20th in the first event and finished runner-up to Albert Gorelik in Event #3. Prior to the Main Event, Persky had already banked nearly $56,000.

"I had a good series," he said. 

Maybe it had something to do with running hot. Maybe it had something to do with being able to see his family. And maybe geography played a big part, too.

"The Bay Area is a Mecca for poker. There are a lot of good places to play," Persky, who lives in nearby Novato, CA, said.

The WSOP Circuit Graton Main Event

This is the first time the WSOP Circuit has made a stop at Graton, and by any measure, it was a success. There were several events that had guarantees and every one of them was eclipsed, including the Main Event. There was a $500,000 guaranteed prize pool and an actual prize pool of $933,240.

There were two Day 1 flights resulting in 93 Day 2 players making the money. Once Day 2 began, it was impossible to keep up with the speed of the eliminations, having lost half the field before the first break. Day 3 was similar, beginning with nine players.

It was three-time Ring Winner Wendy Freedman finishing in 10th ($13,567) that set up the final nine. Finishing in third was five-time Ring Winner Jasthi Kumar ($80,135), and those weren't the only challenges Persky faced on Day 3 or even prior.

"I folded so many hands tonight. I folded ace-jack on the button twice, pocket nines," Persky recounted. "If you don't fold hands, you can't win."

He said much of his final table philosophy involved folding a lot and waiting for others to be eliminated.

Heads-Up for the Ring in Graton

Persky and runner-up Dan Sarasin had some history together, and they played like it. The table was loose. In fact, the men were sharing their folded and mucked hands with each other. The general vibe was more celebratory than competitive.

"I've known Danny a really long time, so it was kind of crazy to be playing against him," Persky noted. When reminded that he was nearly eliminated by Sarasin early on into heads-up play he said, "He was crushing me." 

All that changed in one hand.

"I hit a straight and then the momentum changed," Persky said.

To Sarasin's credit, he came back to the stage and took a photo with Persky.

"You're alright, man. You're alright," Persky said to him.

Poker's notables fall short of the ring

There were a number of notable players and WSOP Circuit ring winners in the starting field, including Daniel Lowery, Brittney Stout, Taylor Pollard, and Matt Affleck.

The Day 2 field included Bob Mather (finishing 93rd), two-time ring winner Victor Paredes (88th), two-time WSOP bracelet winner Jason DeWitt (67th), nine-time ring winner John Holley (61st), and six-time ring winner Ian Steinman (47th).

The Day 3 final table featured Ben Ludlow (9th), ring winner Kurt Watkins (7th), and five-time ring winner Jasthi Kumar (3rd).

Ultimately, it was a former Limit Hold-em player from Novato, CA who took home the crown.

"People never talk about the luck factor in poker," Persky added. "It's real. If you're not lucky, you're not going to win a tournament."

The top ten finishers of the WSOP Circuit Graton Main Event:

1 - Michael Persky - $175,595

2 - Dan Sarasin - $100,528

3 - Jasthi Kumar - $80,135

4 - Benjamin Underwood - $60,122

5 - Paul Vlahos - $45,532

6 - Zhengxiong Zouxu - $34,890

7 - Kurt Watkins - $27,055

8 - Avenes Rastomyan - $21,233

9 - Benjamin Ludlow - $16,868

10 - Wendy Freedman - $13,567