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The 2022 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Event #47: $1,000 Seniors Championship was full of big names, big drama, and some incredible poker.
At the end of five days, there could only be one person from the 7,188-entry field donning the gold bracelet, and that was Eric Smidinger.
In a come-from-behind effort, Smidinger outlasted Ben Sarnoff in a two-and-a-half hour heads-up battle to take home an incredible $694,909 top prize and his very first WSOP gold bracelet.
Smidinger's previous career-high live cash was for $28,831 when he finished in fourth place at a $365 WSOP Circuit event in Baltimore, Maryland back in 2015 according to The Hendon Mob.
This was Smidinger's third year at the WSOP, having enjoyed three cashes in 2019, three cashes in 2021, and four cashes in 2022. The Maryland native claims to have a cash rate of over 50% each and every year so far.
He notably went deep in the 2022 $1,500 Millionaire Maker, finishing in 275th place, with his previous career-best finish being in the WSOP coming in the 2021 $1,000 Double Stack, where he finished in 71st.
Smidinger has attributed his success in poker to his wife's lasagna and being able to study and play poker more while working less in recent years.
Event #47: $1,000 Seniors Championship Final Table Results
|1||Eric Smidinger||United States||$694,909|
|2||Ben Sarnoff||United States||$429,420|
|3||Charles Mitchell||United States||$323,057|
|5||Kathy Liebert||United States||$186,541|
"This is a dream. I love it. This morning, coming in, I knew I had just as good of a chance as anybody. I'm excited," he said after the win. "It's going to be cool to go back to Blackhawk, I live in Colorado (Evergreen) and play there regularly, including tournaments. It'll be nice to sport the bracelet."
When asked how winning the bracelet ranked amongst the top moments in his life, Smidinger began to tear up as he looked over to his wife.
"Uh. Wow. You know, family is so important... (voice breaks) After that, wife, kids, making a family... we have three great kids, five grandkids. After all that, married to a loving partner, a life-long loving partner, this is up there. This is, for sure, a bucket-list item, and I hope to get another one and I'll probably play the Main Event. I can afford it."
He was asked how the money would change his life, he first thought of his wife.
"My wife, Betsy, she's retiring soon. She was planning to retire within the year and now that date will probably come a little sooner."
He added: "Tonight? I haven't had a drop of alcohol since I've been here so we're going to go out and celebrate."
Path to Bracelet
“It's wonderful. I started playing poker in high school, went to Jim Boyd's (Prince's) home game in Maryland with my buddy Gabe (who was on the rail). We used to play tournaments there all the time. Then the casinos came, I didn't start playing tournaments in casinos until 2006. I had minor success but then when work decreased, poker increased and I could study the game. The last few years have been really good.
"I think I played in six events this year, cashed in four. Played five events last year, cashed in three and similar the year before but nothing significantly large. But this tournament, everything just worked out.
"Even though I didn't run overly good. When I did get it in, anytime it was critical, I got it in slightly ahead and those held up, just like the last hand, it just held up."
Final Table Action
The first player out was the legendary Kathy Liebert ($186,541), who was short-stacked and shoved pocket kings from the hijack. Unfortunately, she ran into the pocket aces of Sarnoff in the cutoff.
A little over 15 minutes went by before Biagio Morciano ($244,664) ran his ace-jack into the pocket eights of Smidinger. After getting it in preflop, he couldn't improve and had to settle for fourth place.
Out in third was Charles Mitchell ($323,057), better known as Mitch. After coming in as the short stack, Mitchell was very active and battled all day until finding himself in a three-way all-in pot with both Sarnoff and Smidinger. Unfortunately for Mitchell, his ace-king was bested by Sarnoff's ace-jack, who also beat Smidinger's pocket sixes.
Though he would be the chip leader for all of Day 5 before it was heads up, it would be the aforementioned Sarnoff ($429,420) to fall just short at the end. Sarnoff's suited ace-king could not catch up to Smidinger's pocket eights and he was visibly disappointed to finish in second.
That does it forPokerNews' coverage of Event #47: $1,000 Seniors Championship, but there are still plenty of great events remaining at the 2022 WSOP. Click here to see what other tournaments are taking place now.
Eric Smidinger raised to 4,000,000 on the button and Ben Sarnoff shoved all in for around 27,000,000 from the big blind. Smidinger instantly flicked in a chip to call and the cards were on their backs.
They were off to the races and Smidinger was looking to hold to capture the title. The flop came and Sarnoff was unable to connect as of yet. The on the turn changed nothing and it was the that bricked on the river.
"Yeah, baby!" Smidinger shouted as he got up from his seat. The two players shook hands and Sarnoff was off to the payout desk to collect his runner-up prize.
Ben Sarnoff opened to 4,500,000 and Eric Smidinger called.
Both players checked the flop. The turn brought a 5,500,000 bet from Sarnoff and Smidinger called.
On the river, Sarnoff put out a huge bet of 12,500,000. Smidinger let out a huge exhale, thought for about 45 seconds, and made the call.
Sarnoff looked meekly at his cards before tossing them into the muck face down, allowing Smidinger's rail to let out a huge roar as he took a six-to-one chip lead.
Sarnoff is now left with around 11 big blinds.
Eric Smidinger limped in on the button this time and Ben Sarnoff checked his option. The flop came and Sarnoff check-called a bet of 4,000,000 from Smidinger.
The landed on the turn and both players checked to the on the river. Sarnoff checked once more and Smidinger pushed out a bet of 6,500,000. Sarnoff deliberated for a minute before making the call. Smidinger turned over for trip threes and raked in the pot.
Ben Sarnoff opened for 4,500,000 and Eric Smidinger called.
The flop came and Sarnoff continued for 4,000,000. Smidinger called.
Both players checked the turn and the river.
Smidinger turned over , getting a surprised reaction out of Sarnoff, who had .
Ben Sarnoff was just starting to take a small chip lead and raised to 4,500,000 on the button. Eric Smidinger called from the big blind and the flop came . Smidinger checked to Sarnoff who continued for 5,000,000 and Smidinger called.
The paired the board on the turn and both players checked to the on the river. Two more checks and Smidninger turned over for a rivered flush to win the pot.
- Slepe stave:
Eric Smidinger opened for 3,000,000 and Ben Sarnoff called.
The flop came and Sarnoff lead for 3,000,000. Smidinger called.
They both checked the turn and on the river, Sarnoff put out a bet of 4,000,000. Smidinger took a few seconds before laying down his hand.
Ben Sarnoff raised to 3,500,000 on the button and Eric Smidinger called from the big blind. The flop came and Smidinger check-called a bet of 4,000,000 from Sarnoff.
The turn was the and both players checked to the on the river. Smidinger checked one last time and Sarnoff tossed in a bet of 7,000,000. Smidinger gave it some thought but decided to lay his hand down.