A pair of Massachusetts natives made waves in the 2022 World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event. Matthew Su and Robert Welch each earned six-figure scores after deep runs resulted in ninth- and 11th-place finishes, respectively.
Welch earned $675,000 for nearly making the final table, and Su netted $850,675 for his finish. The paydays mark the largest of both players’ poker careers.
Su is a regular at cash games in Washington, D.C.. area, where he resides. Su was born in Boston. Welch has lived in the Bay State his entire life. He was born in Worcester and lives in Baldwinville.
A quick history of the main event’s popularity
The $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold ’em tournament always is one of the most anticipated events on the poker calendar. It is one of the first high-stakes poker tournaments to run every year. Since the WSOP’s inception in 1970, the main event was created to crown the world’s best poker player.
As poker slowly gained mainstream popularity over the next several decades, participation in the event trended upward. For most of its history, the event was won by one of poker’s top pros.
However, that changed in 2003, when the perfect storm came together to create the modern-day poker boom. Chris Moneymaker, an accountant from Tennessee, made his buy-in for the event through an $86 online satellite tournament hosted by PokerStars.
Moneymaker made the trip to Sin City and eventually defeated a field of 839 players to win $2.5 million. Along with his win, ESPN televised event coverage and used a hole-card camera for the first time in history, allowing viewers to see what players had during the hand.
The combination of Moneymaker’s win and enhanced media coverage sparked a new breed of poker player. In 2004, 2,576 players put up the five-figure buy-in to take their shot. That number jumped to 5,619 the following year.
Since then, the smallest WSOP main event field was in 2013, when Ryan Riess won $8.3 million in a field of 6,352.
The 2020 main event was the lone exception. It was a hybrid online-live format in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Damian Salas was crowned champion that year. The Argentinian won $2.55 million for topping the 1,379-entry field.
2022 WSOP main event nearly broke records
The 2006 WSOP main event set a record for the largest field in history when 8,773 players registered. It resulted in Jamie Gold winning the top prize for $12 million.
In 2020, officials decided to play the WSOP almost entirely online. And in 2021, there was a vaccine mandate to compete and a statewide indoor mask mandate in effect. Travel restrictions also further dampened attendance.
There were still 6,650 entries for the main event in 2021. But to put it simply, it was just different. In 2022, governments essentially dropped the travel restrictions. They also did away with the vaccine and mask mandates.
With the pandemic in the rear-view mirror for many, the 2022 WSOP experienced a huge turnout. The main event drew 8,663 entries, only 110 shy of breaking the record set 16 years ago.
First place was worth $10 million, and the top-eight finishers were going to leave millionaires. Unfortunately for the two Bay State natives, they fell just shy of a seven-figure finish.
Norwegian high-stakes regular Espen Jorstad eventually left with the eight-figure first place money. He defeated Australia’s Adrian Attenborough for the title. Here is a look at the final table payouts:
Welch’s elimination wrapped up a 17-hour Day 7
The huge fields result in massive paydays, but they also mean players invest a ton of time into the event. It obviously takes longer to maneuver through 8,000 players than to survive an 800-player field.
To account for that, officials schedule the 2022 main event for nine days of play. They spread those nine days out over two weeks with four different starting flights and two separate Day 2s. Players could register for the event until the start of Day 2, and the field wasn’t completely combined until Day 3.
|Sunday, July 3||Day 1A||631 of 900 Entries|
|Monday, July 4||Day 1B||634 of 880 Entries|
|Tuesday, July 5||Day 1C||1,376 of 1,800 Entries|
|Wednesday, July 6||Day 1D||3,297 of 4,370 Entries|
|Thursday, July 7||Day 2ABC||1,260 of 3,580 Entries|
|Friday, July 8||Day 2D||1,733 of 3,749 Entries|
|Saturday, July 9||Day 3||2,993|
|Sunday, July 10||Day 4||1,299|
|Monday, July 11||Day 5||380|
|Tuesday, July 12||Day 6||35|
|Wednesday, July 13||Day 7||10|
|Thursday, July 14||Scheduled Off-Day||N/A|
|Friday, July 15||Day 8||3|
|Saturday, July 16||Day 9||1|
The original plan for Day 7 was to play down to the final table. Since the event was played nine-handed, a final table would correspond with the final nine players. However, WSOP tournament officials redraw the field to an “unofficial final table” when they are one elimination from a final table.
In this case, that meant a redraw to one table with 10 players remaining. If it were a six-handed event, players would combine when seven remained. Officials implement this to prevent stalling. Some players try to manipulate the structure and get an extra pay jump typically correlated with a final table finish.
However, Day 7 took so long that WSOP officials decided it was better to conclude the day with 10 players remaining, instead of the scheduled nine.
Jorstad sends Welch packing
When Day 7 kicked off, 35 players were seeking a spot at the final table. Welch started the day 34th in chips and with very little hope of making the final nine. But with a little bit of luck, skill and some well-timed double-ups, Welch found himself alive deeper and deeper into the day.
Cards got in the air on Wednesday, July 13, at 2 p.m. Welch wasn’t eliminated until Thursday morning just before 7 a.m. He headed to receive his payout when his K-5 couldn’t out flop the eventual champion’s A-K.
Welch’s bust-out hand concluded a 17-hour Day 7, and the final 10 players received a day off before finishing the tournament.
Su’s disappointing final table
After Welch hit the rail, it left Jorstad and Su tied atop the chip counts with $83.2 million worth of chips each. But the two chip leaders saw their paths go in drastically different directions.
Here were the chip counts of the final 10 players:
Short-stacked Asher Conniff, who was the most accomplished tournament player of the 10 remaining, was the first casualty on Day 8. Conniff was all in on the seventh hand of the final table and lost a race with 10-10 against Michael Duek’s A-K.
There wasn’t another elimination for nearly six hours and 95 hands. Chips swung back and forth throughout that time, and Su, who was one of the chip leaders at the start of the day, found himself near the bottom of the leaderboard.
Su got the last of his chips in the middle preflop with 8-8, but ran into Philippe Souki’s K-K. The Boston-born Su couldn’t get lucky and was out in ninth.