Ryan "gutshtallin" Welch on winning his first WCOOP bracelet
It seemed like we spent a long time waiting for the World Championship of Online Poker to start, and now the first week is almost over. In six days of play 13 new champions have celebrated their first title, and perhaps the most familiar of those came on Monday, when Event #3, the Sunday Million Special Edition was won by Ryan "gutshtallin" Welch.
Welch has some resume. In live poker his record is largely US based with more than $1.2 million in live tournament earnings, headlined by a WSOP bracelet win in 2010. This past summer he nearly made it two, finishing fourth in a hold'em event. But when you look at his online career you can double that figure.
So perhaps it was no surprise to see the name "gutshtallin" among the winners, in fact you might say it was overdue. But then the final table of Event #3 was not exactly an easy one to win, as would become clear as Day 2 began with 159 players remaining.
"Well I had a pretty good stack of around 60bbs so I was looking to continue to build a stack by playing aggressive," said Welch. "Those plans went out the window cuz i lost half my stack in the first two hands of the day. So it was all about just surviving and finding some good spots to re-shove and double up."
Welch overcame these early setbacks and recovering strongly to reach the final nine, a table that boasted some tough opposition, particularly in the form of Ami "UhhMee" Barer and Ivan "Negriin" Luca. Both were experienced pros looking for a first WCOOP title, in Barer's case to go with two SCOOP titles.
But Barer was short stacked and went out in ninth. Luca's departure in eighth though, given that he was one of the big stacks, was more surprising. Regardless, they were two eliminations that would make Welch's job a lot easier.
"It was quite nice that Ami was very short," said Welch. "He had a very tough position with two tables left and was pretty much handcuffed. I wasn't familiar with Luca before and I was very surprised he went out in eighth. Can't say I wasn't pretty happy to see two very good accomplished players eliminated.
But they were not the only obstacles casting shadows on Welch's position.
"My position at the final table pretty much sucked to say the least. The massive chip leader (whipEEr from the Czech Republic) was on my direct left and I had to test him to see if he was going to let me do anything with all the ICM implications on the line. The answer was a resounding NO. It seemed like the final table played out pretty wildly after the chop. So it was tough to tell if people were playing their best."
The chop would be the big turning point. Unusually, or perhaps not given the size of the event and the stakes (the prize pool amounted to $2,326,800), it was a seven-way deal, which for Welch and others seemed the right move as the blinds got bigger and the stacks shorter.
"Like I said my position at the final table was horrible and blinds were getting pretty big as everyone got shallow. I felt anything more than ICM would be a good deal plus we got to play for another 30k which I felt I had a good shot at winning. I'm ok with lowering variance a bit and locking up a great score."
The whole process took 45 minutes to sort through, with numbers to calculate and agree too. A player could be forgiven for losing concentration or getting restless. Was this the case for Welch?
"Nah," he said. "That kind of break doesn't bother me personally at all. It seemed to possibly affect my opponents. I think after the chop was made they thought the tournament was over pretty much. Seemed like they just expected the chip leader to win without contest. I of course had different plans."
Welch did have different plans, and got to work immediately. While the short stacks scuffled with one another, Welch sent GepettoAce to the rail in fourth before a series of big pots left him out front, snatching the lead from whipEEr.
From that point on he didn't look back, securing a first WCOOP bracelet and a pay-out in excess of $200,000, something that, for the American, undoubtedly ranks as a career highlight.
"I think it's a massive accomplishment," said Welch. "It wasn't my biggest online score as I was lucky enough to chop a similar SCOOP event but I didn't win the HU. So it was nice to get a bracelet last night to add to my collection.
"It's also important to me that I can be a winner online as well as live. Online was my bread and butter and what I cut my teeth on growing as a poker player, so it's nice to win a flagship event eight years after I started playing. The game evolves and a lot of players get left in the dust. I'm hoping to stay around for a while.
Welch undoubtedly will. Now though his sights are on targets in the short term. That means new more WCOOP and new targets.
"Might as well try to win WCOOP Player of Year!"
Follow all the action from WCOOP 2014 on the PokerStars Blog, with details of the Championship itself on the WCOOP 2014 webpage, where you'll find the schedule, results and (Welch is currently in fourth).
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.