Thomas Pomponio outlasted a giant field of 18,054 to reach the poker pinnacle in Event #5: THE COLOSSUS III - $565 No-Limit Hold'em. Pomponio took home $1,000,000 for his outstanding performance, along with his first WSOP bracelet.
"It feels... just surreal," the Champion said. Pomponio's live tournament cashes had totaled less than $140,000 before he entered this tournament. Earning a seven-figure score is certainly an amazing feeling for anyone who makes their breakthrough in poker, but for Pomponio, the bracelet is even more meaningful.
"Ever since I was a kid, I was dreaming about sitting there and holding that gold," said Pomponio, who hails from New Jersey.
Pomponio came back for the final table fourth in chips. There were only about 180 big blinds in play, and all of the finalists played at a high tempo. Most of the decisions were made within just a few seconds, and the fast-paced action brought the casualties early.
The eventual Champion was involved in the pot that saw the first player lose his stack. He held ace-king and so did Erkut Yilmaz, who also joined the contest against Luke Vrabel, whose ace-deuce didn't find any help on the board.
Eleven hands into the final day, the field was reduced to seven players as Matt Affleck, the biggest star on the final table, sent his short stack to Kent Coppock.
Just like Affleck, Ralph Massey couldn't get much going, and he never bounced back from the ten big blinds he maneuvered. He hit the rail in seventh place.
Taylor Black's tournament was on the line when he shoved with nine-seven of clubs, running into the ace-queen of diamonds of Kent Coppock. Black, however, flopped a flush to soar into the chip lead.
Coppock's stack took a massive hit, but he laddered one more pay jump. Erkut Yilmaz clashed with pocket fours against John Hanna's aces and walked away in sixth place. With that knockout, Hanna suddenly guarded more than third of all the chips in play.
Hanna, however, wasn't among the dominant players on the final table; Pomponio and Black were the ones who kept things rolling. Pomponio knocked out Coppock in fifth, holding Big Slick against a weaker ace.
Then it was Black's turn, tangling with start-of-day chip leader Mark Babekov in a brutal cooler. Babekov's queens couldn't hold versus Black's ace-king as the king of diamonds landed on the turn. Black took over the lead and finished Babekov off the following hand.
Black held more than 50 percent of the tournament chips to begin three-handed play, and his railbirds were ecstatic. Pomponio was the shortest stack among the three remaining players, but the meat cutter from the east coast was relentless. Pomponio shoved on Black several times and always took the pot without contest.
The final duel was set when Pomponio's ace-high held strong in a preflop war against Hanna's queen-ten of clubs. Hanna's hand improved to a flush draw on the flop, but the rest of the board bricked.
Playing for a pay difference of close to $500,000, Black started the heads-up match with about a five-to-three chip lead. That dramatically changed after four hands, though. The two were both dealt a strong hand for heads-up play, which resulted in Black's five-bet shove with ace-ten. Unfortunately for him, Pomponio had ace-king.
Black first thought he got there when he saw a ten hitting the felt, but the flop also included a king, and the better starting hand stayed firmly ahead. Pomponio earned a huge lead and he never relinquished it. After 142 hands played on the final table, he remained the last man standing, with all the chips of all 18,054 entrants.
As the story unfolded, Pomponio became this year's second WSOP winner to collect a seven-figure prize, following the One Drop High Roller Champion, Doug Polk.
Final Table results:
|1||Thomas Pomponio||United States||$1,000,000|
|2||Taylor Black||United States||$545,480|
|3||John Hanna||United States||$406,474|
|4||Mark Babekov||United States||$305,294|
|5||Kent Coppock||United States||$230,564|
|6||Erkut Yilmaz||United States||$175,208|
|7||Ralph Massey||United States||$133,975|
|8||Matt Affleck||United States||$103,090|
|9||Luke Vrabel||United States||$79,827|