There’s no need to travel. There’s no need to book a hotel room. Heck, there’s no need to even get dressed if you don’t want to.
The $5,200 Main Event of the World Championship of Online Poker is the pinnacle of the online poker calendar, and for four days it sees professionals, amateurs, satellite winners, and everyone in between competing in an event which has a larger first-place prize than most live poker stops out there, all from the comfort of their homes.
Past winners, like Fedor “CrownUpGuy” Holz and Steven “SvZff” van Zadelhoff, will tell you how special an event this one is to win. “It is the most prestigious tournament in Online Poker,” Holz told us after his victory in 2014. “There is nothing comparable to winning this bracelet for me.”
Now the elite club of Main Event world champions has a new member.
Scotland’s Fraser “BigBlindBets” Russell is the latest to etch his name into the poker history books, winning the whole thing outright on Wednesday 25 October for $1,665,962.
PokerStars Blog sat down for a chat with 27-year-old Russell over the weekend, before which not much was known about the elusive “BigBlindBets”, aside from the fact he was an accomplished high-stakes cash game player.
Oh, but there was also Russell’s now infamous 2015 post on a poker forum in which he claimed he’d been on “the baked bean grind” for a few years.
“I best explain this baked bean thing, since it’s fast becoming a ‘thing’,” Russell tells us. “This was just a slang phrase a friend and I used to use years ago because it was at a point in my life where often all I could afford to eat was cheap tins of beans and toast. So, to be clear, no – I have no plans to open a baked bean factory!”
You heard the man.
Russell’s skills quickly became evident at the Main Event final table, but how did we get there, and how did Russell take it down? Before we get to our full interview with Russell, let’s recap how the whole tournament went down.
THE BIG ONE
It was clear right from the off that this was going to be huge.
Players started with stacks of 250,000 and blinds of 500/1,000, and after eight hours and five minutes of play on Day 1 we’d seen 2,070 total entries with registration still open until the beginning of Day 2. The $10 million guaranteed had already been beaten.
Anyone tuning into PokerStars Ambassador Fintan Hand’s Twitch stream during Day 1 was in for a treat. Hand absolutely crushed it, ending the day with 2.4 million which was good for second place of the 788 survivors, giving fans around the world a glimpse of what it’s like to compete in such a prestigious event.
Of course, Hand wasn’t the only member of Team PokerStars to make it through the opening day. His team-mates Igor Kurganov (66th), Andre Akkari (114th), Lex Veldhuis (465th), Leo Fernandez (541st), Ramon Colillas (546th) and Liv Boeree (671st) also ended the night with chips.
When Day 2 got going, we had official numbers confirmed. There were 2,236 total entries (including 599 re-entries), swelling the aforementioned $10M into an $11,180,000 prize pool. Only 271 players would make the money, although we were a long way from the bubble.
During Hand’s Day 2 Twitch stream, a huge rail gathered to not only root Hand on, but also to cheer for Twitch moderators Croaks and RuthannK, whom Lex Veldhuis and PokerStars had entered into the Main Event as a thanks for all they do for the Twitch community. While RuthannK sadly busted before the money, Croaks made it all the way past the bubble, ultimately busting in 185th place for $13,978.
At the end of Day 2, Hand was the last PokerStars Ambassador standing, ending the night 23rd in chips of the 86 survivors. Unfortunately for him (and all of us watching) his Main Event run would come to an end on Day 3, coincidentally in 23rd place.
Hand had amassed a huge audience, with 18,000 tuning in at his peak. Seeking a double-up, he lost the last of his chips with pocket sevens to “TheMakrill7”’s pocket kings. He then sent his fans to rail for his poker coach, Jordan “BigBluffZinc” Drummond, who was also streaming his run on Twitch. Drummond made it all the way to 12th place, good for $79,168.
That night the final table was set, with a very familiar face topping the chip counts.
Hedge-fund manager and high stakes beast Talal “Raidalot” Shakerchi has plenty of experience playing in big online tournaments. He won the 2016 SCOOP Main Event for $1.4M after all and was in a great position to become the only person to win both Mains when he entered Day 4 with 122M in chips.
Here’s a look at how the final nine stacked up overnight:
1 – Talal “raidalot” Shakerchi (UK) – 122,626,562
2 – XMorphineX (Belgium) – 82,023,949
3 – Danilo “dans170′” de Lima Demetrio (Brazil) – 81,843,549
4 – Fraser “BigBlindBets” Russell (UK) – 68,825,817
5 – NeedBeat (Estonia) – 56,071,362
6 – Leitnant (Estonia) – 44,901,942
7 – TheMakrill7 (Sweden) – 42,717,905
8 – 19Pistike93 (Hungary) – 31,260,220
9 – moglimiranda (Germany) – 28,728,694
THE FINAL TABLE
While the likes of Hand and Parker “Tonkaaaa” Talbot—who were streaming the final table on Hand’s channel—favoured Russell to win it all, all eyes were on Shakerchi to begin with. For good reason too.
He got off to a flying start, eliminating “TheMakrill7” when his A♠Q♦ sucked out on the Swede’s A♥K♠ after a pre-flop all-in. Shakerchi eliminated the eight-place finisher too when his 9♦10♦ got all-in from the small blind against “moglimiranda”s A♥9♣ and ended up turning a straight.
Shakerchi wasn’t the only one doing work though. Russell was busy trying to keep up, and did so without putting too much of his stack on the line. Seven handed, the two were the only players comfortably over the 100M chip mark.
But still, the KOs kept on coming for Shakerchi. With no action in front of him, “Leitnant” jammed the small blind with K♦3♥ for 11 big blinds, only for Shakerchi to snap-call with his dominating K♠J♣, which held up after the runout.
Finally, it was someone else’s turn to bust a player, and it was Russell who played executioner. Action folded to “19Pistike93” in the small blind who ripped his 21 big blinds in with K♥10♠, but Russell woke up with A♦J♣ in the big blind and made the call. An ace hit the flop, and then there were four.
Russell held the chip lead at this stage, with roughly 217 million to Shakerchi’s 170 million. The latter would run into a spot of bother versus “dans170” soon after though.
With blinds at 1M/2M, Russell opened the 7♥4♥ to 4.8M in the cutoff, before Shakerchi three-bet from the small blind to 18M holding the 10♦9♥. “dans170” had the A♣A♦ in the big blind and bumped it up to 33M, which shook off Russell but got a call from Shakerchi. The A♠Q♥K♣ flop gave “dans170” top set, and he’d take it down with a 20M bet when it checked to him.
“NeedBeat” would be the next to fall, after opening A♣J♣ and getting three-bet by “dans170” holding 9♦9♣. “NeedBeat” jammed for 28 blinds, “dans170” called, and the pocket pair held up to take them down to three.
Russell kept his foot on the gas and built a 3:1 chip lead on both “dans170” and Shakerchi, before ending the former SCOOP Main Event winner’s shot at a second COOP Main title.
With blinds at 1.75M/3.5M, Shakerchi opened the button to 7.5M holding K♣J♣. It folded to Russell in the big blind who had A♥J♥, and he then three-bet to a little over 24M. Shakerchi jammed for 102M, and was snap-called. Two aces on the flop all but ended it for him, and after the river his fate was confirmed.
That left Russell heads-up with Brazil’s Danilo “dans170′” de Lima Demetrio, and with a 7:1 chip advantage it seemed like Hand and Talbot’s premonition of a “BigBlindBets” victory was on the cards. “Congrats dan, gllll” wrote Russell in the chat. “Gg wp man, glgl,” replied “dans170”.
The whole thing was over pretty quickly thereafter, albeit in a pretty sick fashion. “dans170” had A♦K♦, slyly limped the button, and got the perfect setup when Russell set him all in holding A♠2♠. However, by the river there were three spades on board, and we had ourselves a new WCOOP champion.
Thanks to everyone who took part in this year’s WCOOP, making it the biggest and best we’ve seen so far.
And now, without further ado, meet Fraser “BigBlindBets” Russell: the champ.
World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP)
Event: WCCOP-70-H NLHE Main Event
Dates: Sept 22-25, 2019
Entries: 2,236 (inc. 599 re-entries)
Prize pool: $11,180,000
1 – Fraser “BigBlindBets” Russell (UK) – $1,665,962.04
2 – Danilo “dans170′” de Lima Demetrio (Brazil) – $1,187,553.01
3 – Talal “raidalot” Shakerchi (UK) – $846,528.35
4 – NeedBeat (Estonia) – $603,434.91
5 – 19Pistike93 (Hungary) – $403,148.26
6 – XMorphineX (Belgium) – $306,624.91
7 – Leitnant (Estonia) – $218,572.35
8 – moglimiranda (Germany) – $155,805.59
9 – TheMakrill7 (Sweden) – $111,063.23
PokerStars Blog: Hi Fraser. Congratulations on winning the Main Event for your first WCOOP title in the biggest event of the year. Has it sunk in yet?
Fraser “BigBlindBets” Russell: Thanks, I was really blown away by all the supportive messages I received. I went in to make the best decisions I could and came out with a great result.
It really is an amazing achievement. What does a win like this mean to you, and how do you think you’ll look back on it in, say, 20 years?
That’s an interesting question, 20 years is a long time. I’d be a very different person in 20 years. More broadly I would like to think I’d look back and say I gave things my best shot, attempted to think things through and developed on the many things I am not great at. All of that applies to poker, and so that in the end also applies to this tournament.
$1.66 million is a nice chunk of change. How do you think this will impact your life and poker career, if at all?
It is a lot of money. You’re always offered more choices with more money, and that can have a positive or negative outcome on your life. I would hope to think I would use it positively.
You were tipped as a heavy favourite by the likes of Fintan Hand and Tonkaaaa, who were streaming the final table. Did you feel confident going into the final table? Did you like your seat? Was there anyone, in particular, you looked to play pots with/avoid?
I’m happy they had confidence in my abilities. Yes, I felt confident, although I was certainly feeling some pressure not to make a massive mistake with many people railing. I preferred not to go heads up against “Moglimiranda” and I was generally not looking to play pots with “Raidalot” [Talal Shakerchi] as the big stack.
There aren’t many four-day online tournaments. How did the tournament go for you overall? Were there any huge hands you remember which either surged you up or down? Was it mostly a smooth ride?
This is probably a bit strange, but I don’t really remember many specific hands from any particular session or tournament unless I felt I made a mistake. I just get dealt a decision and try to make it well. I will say there was a hand on the final table where I opened the button with A5 offsuit at 40 big blinds, got called from the big blind, and bet twice on Q942r then checked when I hit an ace on the river. I am still unsure if I should have bet or checked there.
How did WCOOP go for you as a whole? Did you put in a big schedule or were you just picking certain tournaments?
I didn’t play many events at all this year, although it was a nice schedule. I normally focus on cash games.
Could you tell me a bit about your poker journey so far?
I kept public blogs of my journey. As you can imagine, some things I posted or wrote in the past make me cringe when I look back on them, but I prefer to keep things unfiltered. I started nine years ago playing with friends and in free money games online. I began enjoying learning about the game and it took up more and more of my time. I got a coach and then eventually went pro after having my first $50K year while studying.
Was there anyone instrumental in your poker rise? Which players did you ‘come up with’?
There were a bunch of guys I talked strategy with on my way up, and so many people helped impact my game positively. However, my coach Paul “Lnternet” Otto helped me to make massive strides in my game and introduced me to some truly smart and hard-working players who helped me shape my thoughts.
As a cash game player, how do you feel about the attention tournament players get? Do you prefer to stay out of the spotlight usually?
Yes, I am. I have never really considered how I feel about this before. I can understand why, as tournaments are much more exciting to follow. They have leader boards, special events, sudden eliminations and upsets and probably most importantly for following, a completion date. Overall I think the attention tournament players get has a positive impact on the game as a whole and I welcome that. The spotlight is not something I chase nor is it an ambition of mine. I feel admiration for the people that handle the spotlight well and don’t let the negative sides of it affect them. I’m sure it is not an easy task.
Do you think you’ll focus more on MTTs going forward or will cash always be your bread and butter?
I have no plans to move away from 6max NL cash games at this time.
What were you doing before poker? Were you studying or working?
I was studying, however I was never committed to my studies. I was doing it because I knew I really didn’t want to work in a shop or a warehouse full time. However, I was really looking for something that I enjoyed working on for hours each day, and that thing became poker.
Do you have any specific goals in poker you’d like to achieve?
That’s a good question. There are no specific goals like I want to win this or that event. I want to develop and become stronger at the game and continue competing with extremely talented players.
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