Dominik Nitsche wins WSOP National Championship

Dominik Nitsche won the WSOP National Championship, poacketing $352,800 and the year's first gold bracelet. (Photo courtesy WSOP)

Dominik Nitsche won the WSOP National Championship, winning $352,800 and the year’s first gold bracelet. (Photo courtesy WSOP)

German Dominik Nitsche took home the first World Series of Poker bracelet of the year on Saturday at the WSOP National Championship at Bally’s Casino in Atlantic City. Nitsche topped a field of 126 players and pocketed the $352,800 in first-place cash.

The event caps the WSOP-Circuit season, offering a $1 million freeroll for 94 WSOP-C winners and top performers as well as offering other ways to qualify. Four WSOP.com players qualified online, the winner of the Bally’s freeroll winner, and the winner of a $1,125 last chance satellite. Also, the 100 top players in the WSOP World Rankings were eligible to buy in for $10,000, and 26 took advantage for a total prize pool of $1.26 million. The field included many players with major success.

Nitsche had more than $3 million in tournament winnings before earning the National Championship title. He won his first WSOP bracelet in 2012, winning  a $1,000 buy-in NLHE event that featured 4,620 entrants for $654,797. In October, Nitsche finished third in the WSOP-Europe Main Event, winning €400,000.

Runner-up Athanasios Polychronopoulos, of East Hampton, N.Y., took home $218,056 for his efforts, and is no stranger to success on the felt. Polychronopoulos won bracelets in 2011 and 2012 for a total of almost $1.2 million.

Matthew Ashton had been chipleader going into the final day, but ended up finishing third for $157,399. Ashton won the $50,000 Poker Players Championship at last year’s WSOP for $1.77 million.

Nitsche and Polychronopoulos battled heads-up for 31 hands before both got it all in. Polychronopoulos held A-10 and seemed to be in good shape to Nitsche’s A-8. But an 8 spiked on the flop and Polychronopoulos didn’t improve.

“It’s always nice to win a tournament, especially in a tough field like here,” Nitsche told WSOP.com after his win. “Athanasios is an amazing player and we played heads-up for quite some time. Beating him feels extra sweet because he is such a good player, even though we’re friends. It’s always extra sweet if you beat someone who’s really strong.”

The German was thrilled with his win and Tweeted that he was “off to NYC now to party.”

The final table of six (to be televised by ESPN later this summer) included a range of qualifiers. Ashton qualified as the circuit’s Player of the Year. Chris Bibb scored 14 cashes during this season and earned a spot as an at-large bid.

Andrew Robinson won two rings this season to qualify. Pizza business owner Tracy Doss qualified online and finished with an $86,461 score. Nitsche and Polychronopoulos bought their way into the tournament as part of the top 100 players in the world.

Several big names battled on Day 2 to make the final table. Greg Merson, 2012 Main Event champion, finished 15th for a min-cash of $21,269. Two-time bracelet winner Scott Clements finished 13th for a min-cash as well.

Bryan Campanello, one of three Texas residents in the final 12, capped a very nice week finishing 12th for $25,830. Only days earlier, he qualified at the last circuit event at Harrahs New Orleans, winning the Main Event for $175,459. He also won his first bracelet last summer in the $2,500 Seven Card Razz.

An original member of the first November Nine, Ylon Schwartz, finished seventh for $50,816. He qualified by winning a title at the circuit stop at the IP Casino and Resort in Biloxi, Miss., where he also added a runner-up finish in another  tournament. Schwartz finished fourth in the 2008 Main Event for $3.77 million.

With big names in on the action in Atlantic City, the buzz in the poker world ramps up even more when the 65-event WSOP kicks off in Las Vegas next week at the Rio Resort and Casino. Things get underway Tuesday, May 27, with the $500 Casino Employees Championship and the $25,000 Mixed Max NLHE event, which should draw plenty of poker pros. Check back often to Bluff.com and grab the magazine for the best in poker tournament coverage, features, and strategy.

2014 WSOP National Championship

  1. Dominic Nitsche – $352,800
  2. Athanasios Polychronopoulos – $218,056
  3. Matthew Ashton – $157,399
  4. Christopher Bibb – $115,655
  5. Tracy Doss – $86,461
  6. Andrew Robinson – $65,734
  7. Ylon Schwartz – $50,816
  8. Jeffrey Gunnip – $39,917
  9. Sean Lippel – $31,865
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