WCOOP 2011: Line of champions forming

wcoop2009-thumb.jpgQuentin Lae is 24 years old. He lives in Rio, an ocean away from his small hometown in France. He plays medium stakes cash games and rarely ventures into the world of poker tournaments. He makes his living playing cash. It's his job, but it's not his life.

"Poker is not an end in itself to me," Lae said. "I just use it as a way to live my life the way I want to."

Lae, known as "MiPwnYa" on PokerStars, defines life in a way that many people define dreams. In the past three years, he's called five different countries home. It was a freedom he earned with poker money. He's met people he never expected to meet and learned a lot about himself. He can look back and see how much he's grown and matured.

"I'm definitely a much happier and better person thanks to all the experiences poker has enabled me to have," Lae said. "Had I stayed in France to have a 'regular' life, things would have been much different, and certainly not as good as they are now."

Though much better than just about anybody could imagine, Lae's life got even sweeter a few days ago when he crushed Event #25 ($215 PLO) of the PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker for $72,996.

"It was totally unexpected and was a very nice feeling," Lae said. "I almost never play tournaments, so scoring that one was definitely very lucky and I'm thankful for that."

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MiPwnYa

Lae is just one of 30 champions crowned so far in this year's WCOOP series. In the first week and half of the series, millions of dollars in prizes have gone out to thousands of players. Among them are a host of people who are earning their first WCOOP gold bracelet.

Ashley "DYBYDX" Mason picked up his first WCOOP championship just as the series kicked off. He won a whopping $430,000 in the $10,300 Event #2 NLHE High-Roller event.

"It feels absolutely amazing," Mason said. "It was a very tough field and I had to play my best and run well to reach the final. The final table brought me some very tricky opponents to beat. I was fortunate enough to run well enough in the crucial all-in pots to be able to take it down."

Mason started playing over beers with his buddies just five years ago. Since then, poker has become a sort of de facto job. He plays multi-table tournaments for a living. The WCOOP win was the biggest of his young career.

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DYBYDX

Today marks the halfway point for WCOOP. Around thirty more champions will win their bracelets between now and the $5,200 main event on September 25. The winner of that tournament is guaranteed $1 million.

For more information on how you can join in on the last half of the world's biggest online tournament series, see the PokerStars WCOOP web page.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in WCOOP