Ten of the 61 2013 WSOP gold bracelet were awarded to Canadians this year — a record high for America’s neighbor to the north.
1. Charles Sylvestre
The first Canadian to touch gold was Charles Sylvestre after he won Event 3: $1,000 No Limit Hold’em. He toughed out a field of 3,164 to win $491,360. He is a friend of 2010 Main Event winner Jonathan Duhamel and the night Sylvestre won, he called him a legend of Montreal and a beast.
He knocked out four of the eight other players and took 20 minutes to dispatch second- and third-place finishers Seth Berger and William Guerrero. The event was the first $1,000 buy-in of the series and set the stage for things to come.
2. Benny Chen
Three days later Benny Chen topped the largest field outside of a WSOP Main Event to win the $1,500 “Millionaire Maker.” He pocketed $1,198,780 for his efforts; which isn’t bad for a recreational player that manages a restaurant.
“I’ve gone deep in a bunch of tournaments. I just usually keep losing those races or getting in tough spots,” Chen said. “This time everything just went well for me.”
Chen also didn’t plan to stick around for the entire WSOP but with his win, he was able to play a few more events. He went on to cash in the Main Event in 393rd place for $28,063.
The hype leading into the record-setting event was palpable with two starting days and re-entry format. The WSOP was stretched to its limits and put to the test early in the series and two Canadians claimed bracelets in the first five events.
3. Michael Malm
A few dozen feet away in the Blue Section of the Amazon Room, Michael Malm picked up the third Canadian bracelet. Malm won the $2,500 8-Game Mix event in the shadow of the “Millionaire Maker” and the epic heads-up match between Matthew Waxman and Eric Baldwin in a $1,000 No Limit Hold’em event.
Malm ended up in the event practically by mistake. He had already busted from the “Millionaire Maker” twice, played in a Daily Deepstack event until 11 a.m. that he chopped and then was too late to register for the 6 p.m. Daily Deepstack and the 8-Game Mix was the only event he could register for.
So he rolled the dice and figured he was freerolling anyways from the Deepstack winnings and played. He didn’t know four of the games in the mix and didn’t really know what he was doing.
“I made quite a few mistakes; I know the basics of the games,” Malm said. “I just picked it up as I went along throughout the tournament. I was a quick learner.”
4. Levi Berger
Two nights later on June 7, Levi Berger won the $2,500 Six-Max No Limit Hold’em bracelet for $473,019. He defeated Scott Clements heads-up for the title that also had Eddy Sabat and Jacob Bazeley at the final table.
With the win, Berger increased his lifetime earnings ninefold and stopped Clements from winning what would have been his third bracelet. “It definitely helps my confidence knowing I can play with him,” the Ottawan native said. “It feels amazing but it didn’t fully hit yet.”
5. Mark Radoja
It was another two nights before Mark Radoja put another Canadian on the board with the fifth bracelet win. He won the $10,000 Heads-Up Championship for his second career bracelet and $331,190.
Radoja went on to defeat Donald Nguyen, who also finished runner-up in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship. Radoja won seven matches to clinch the bracelet, defeating Phil Hellmuth and Justin Bonomo along the way.
Radoja picked up four cashes on the series and earned $358,947 along the way.
6. Calen McNeil
There would be a four-day lull on the calendar before Calen McNeil would be the sixth Canadian to win a bracelet in the $1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo event. He had to return for a fourth day of play when he and Can Kim Hua suspended play after 10 levels.
McNeil is a part-time poker player that had six previous WSOP cashes to his credit. He is a restaurant owner that had a near death experience following a routine surgery that went wrong and spent five days in a coma from a morphine overdose.
7. Jason Duval
Five days would pass before Jason Duvall would win a $1,500 NLH event that had 2,115 entrants. Duval was on the rail when Sylvestre won his bracelet and credited the community of Canadian poker players with his success.
“You could see on the rail, people were giving me advice,” he said. “Even if they’re really good and it took a long time to achieve their knowledge, they can share it.”
Duval’s rail saw the Canadians in full swing. His win electrified the rail, which competed with even the best of British and Brazilian rails. “Let’s get weird,” he shouted to his rail when the final card was dealt.
8. Justin Oliver
The eighth bracelet for Canada came in another premier event — the $2,500 Four-Max NLH. Justin Oliver beat a competitive final table that had Nick Schwarmann, Jared Jaffe and David Pham for $309,071.
The win was 20 times the size of his previous largest cash and was his first tournament win. “It was absolutely the time of my life,” Oliver said. “I want to spend the rest of my life on this final table. I love playing poker, it’s a passion of mine and winning the bracelet is a dream come true.”
9. Daniel Idema
One day later on June 24, Daniel Idema won his second career bracelet, the ninth for Canadians in the $1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo event. Idema picked up $184,590 in the event that also had fellow Canadian Mike Leah — who made two final tables himself.
Idema had a solid series with five cashes, two final tables and $244,078. He picked up cashes in HORSE, NLH, Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo and the Ante Only event.
10. Kristen Bicknell
The 10th and final Canadian bracelet came when Kristen Bicknell won the $10,000 Ladies Championship on the final day of June. The event attracted 954 entrants and Bicknell was no stranger to long sessions of poker — she achieved Super Nova Elite status four times on PokerStars.
The win was the first WSOP cash in her career and she said, “I’ve played 15 or 20 events but this is the first time I’ve cashed. I thought I was cursed in this casino, but I guess not.”
Canadians averaged better than a bracelet every three days of the WSOP. The wins combined for $4.18 million in prize money.