Huahuan Feng turned $50 into $211,282 and his first World Series of Poker bracelet. But unlike past WSOP champions who won bracelets that cheaply, he didn’t earn his way into the tournament via a satellite. The Chinese poker player instead took down the cheapest buy-in tournament in WSOP history – Event #72, $500 Big 50.
The no-limit Texas hold’em tournament attracted thousands of players who couldn’t normally afford to play a WSOP event. In total, 44,576 players registered for the massive event on GGPoker as part of the WSOP Online Bracelet Series.
The Big 50 is a spin-off of last summer’s inaugural event held at the Rio in Las Vegas. That tournament, which cost $500 to enter and commemorated the WSOP’s 50th anniversary, had a live poker tournament record 28,371 entries. Femi Fashakin luckily managed to outlast that outrageously large field to win the bracelet and $1,147,499.
This year’s Big 50 was played online at GGPoker. And it sure was easier for the players to use the restroom during breaks than it was in 2020. The 2019 version of the tournament created overcrowded hallways at the Rio, making it virtually impossible for most to relieve themselves during the short breaks.
Luck was on his side
Skill without luck in a 44,000-player poker tournament is about as useless as having a passion for poker without a bankroll. You have to get ridiculously lucky, and also play well, to have any shot at making your way to the final table.
And that’s exactly what Feng did in the Big 50. He ran hot — real hot, consistently winning races and nearly every crucial all-in for two days. But he also played well, repeatedly getting value out of his big hands and choosing the right bet sizes at the right times.
Feng has won big in the past. In 2018, he finished 2nd in a Jeju Red Dragon event in Asia for $176,985. That tournament had just 95 players. Poker legend John Juanda cashed in 12th place.
The Big 50 was a completely different animal. There were 44,481 more players competing than in the Jeju event. And most of them were amateurs and recreational players.
Feng made mincemeat of the final table, using aggression and well-timed plays to finish off his opponents. Heads-up play against Xue qiao Zhao lasted just a few short hands before all the money was in the middle of the pot. As per usual, Feng got his money in good with A-6 against K-6, and the best hand held up.
Don’t feel too bad for Zhao, who like Feng hails from China, for losing out in the brief heads-up match. He still banked a cool $159,705 for his runner-up finish. Ronald Haverkamp from the Netherlands took 3rd place for $114,237. Daniel Montagnolli, from Austria, came in 4th place, good for $81,714. Daniel Veyga, the only Argentinian at the final table, rounded out the top five and earned $58,450.
Feng won a bracelet in his first World Series of Poker cash. He already had $300,000 in live tournament earnings, but now has a six-figure online score to add to his resume.