Maria Konnikova completes 'student to master' journey with $84,600 victory, plus Platinum Pass

Great authors require great stories. Great students require great teachers. And great poker tournaments require great winners.

Maria Konnikova - from student to master

New York Times best-selling author Maria Konnikova certainly had the great story down when she decided to enter the poker world around a year ago with little to no knowledge of the game; an effort to discover how the poker skills she'd pick up could be transferred to live a more successful life away from the tables.

She also knew she had a great teacher when she began her tutelage under hall-of-famer and one of the all time greats, Erik Seidel. Both of them were at final tables today (with Seidel ultimately finishing fourth in the $50,000 High Roller for $260,260).

Read about the writer's journey: "Konnikova seals the deal as the Biggest Bluff pays off".

And now we have the perfect winner of the $1,650 National here at the PCA 2018, which is simultaneously the perfect end to Konnikova's story. She outlasted 290 players over the past few days to win her first live poker tournament for a massive $84,600 prize.

Maria Konnikova and Erik Seidel

But actually her story isn't over at all. Because not only did she bank that cash, Konnikova has now also won a coveted Platinum Pass for the 2019 PokerStars Players Championship right back here in the Bahamas this time next year. That means she'll be free-rolling in the $8 million guaranteed $25,000 event.

How do you win a tournament like Maria? You can scroll down through all of our final table live updates below to find out.


Ready to sign up for PokerStars? Click here to get an account.

But here's a very condensed version. The day started with the likes of former PCA Main Event Harrison Gimble and the winningest online tournament player in history, Chris Moorman, but both would fall before four-handed play (check out all the payouts here).

Like Konnikova, this final table also included masters of other fields away from poker. Loek van Wely from the Netherlands is in fact a chess grandmaster, but he'd ultimately just be a pawn in Konnikova's victory (a pawn that collected $33,210 for fourth place, mind you).

Canada's Kevin McDonald would bust in third, leaving Konnikova with a huge chip lead against Alexander Ziskin of the USA. The heads-up battle would end pretty quickly, and we had our latest champion and Platinum Pass winner.

A huge congratulations to Maria Konnikova, your $1,650 National champion here at the PCA 2018. --JS


PCA 2018 $1,650 National Championship (Platinum Pass for the winner)


Entrants: 290
Prizepool: $421,950

POSNAMECOUNTRYSTATUSPRIZEDEAL
1Maria KonnikovaUSA $84,600 
2Alexander ZiskinUSA $56,250 
3Kevin MacDonaldCanada $41,140 
4Loek van WelyNetherlands $33,210 
5Harrison GimbelUSA$26,040 
6Ryan SmithCanada $19,710 
7Marcos AntunesBrazil $14,480 
8Chris MoormanUK $10,640 

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7:15pm: Konnikova takes it down, Ziskin finishes second
Level 27 - Blinds 30,000/60,000 (ante 10,000)

The heads-up match didn't last long. Not only did Konnikova have a large lead, she was using to pressure Ziskin nearly every hand. He decided to push back at one point, but it didn't go well.

Konnikova raised to 125,000 from the small blind that hand and Ziskin called, bringing a T♦7♠T♠ flop. Konnikova bet 125,000 and Ziskin raised it up to 300,000. Konnikova called and the turn brought a 2♠. Ziskin moved all-in for about 450,000 and Konnikova called before the dealer was done counting out his stack. Konnikova showed ace-high with A♣K♠ and Ziskin turned over J♦8♠ for jack-high.

Photographers and cameramen descended on the table to catch the final card. When everyone was in position the dealer put out the last card of the tournament: K♥.

Ziskin finished second and won $56,250 while Konnikova took the title, the Platinum Pass and $84,600. --AV

Runner-up finisher, Alexander Ziskin

7:05pm: Konnikova busts Kevin MacDonald in third ($41,140)
Level 26 - Blinds 25,000/50,000 (ante 5,000)

Maria Konnikova's wild ride continues at the expense of Kevin MacDonald.

The red-capped gent made it 150,000 from the small blind only for Konnikova to pop it up to 600,000 in the big. Back to MacDonald, he shoved for 1.4 million and Konnikova snap-called.

MacDonald was dominated with his A♦2♠ against Konnikova's A♥K♥, and the J♣8♣7♦Q♥T♣ runout ultimately gave her broadway. MacDonald made his exit, and it was time for heads up against Alexander Ziskin.

Konnikova has won most of the pots so far, and currently has a massive chip lead.

Konnikova - 4.5 million
Ziskin - 1.3 million

--JS

Kevin MacDonald

6:55pm: Konnikova dips, doubles
Level 26 - Blinds 25,000/50,000 (ante 5,000)

After doubling up, Maria Konnikova lost a large pot to Kevin MacDonald and dipped to about a million, but then she doubled up through him again to jump back up to 2 million.

MacDonald raised to 150,000 from the cutoff that hand and Konnikova re-raised to 600,000 from the small blind. MacDonald four-bet to 950,000 and Konnikova moved all-in for 990,000. MacDonald called the extra 40,000 and we went to a showdown.

Konnikova tabled K♥J♥ and MacDonald showed Q♣T♣. The J♣J♠4♣ flop gave Konnikova trips jacks and then she filled up when the K♦ came on the river. Konnikova doubled up to 2 million while MacDonald dipped to 1.75 million. --AV

6:45pm: Loek van Wely out in 4th ($33,210)
Level 26 - Blinds 25,000/50,000 (ante 5,000)

Kevin MacDonald raised to 125,000 from the button and a short-stacked Loek van Wely moved all-in for 725,000 from the small blind. The big blind got out of the way and MacDonald quickly called.

Van Wely tabled K♠9♠ and MacDonald was in the lead with A♠Q♠. Neither player connected on the T♥3♣2♠2♦4♣ board and MacDonald took the pot with his ace-queen. Van Wely won $33,210 for finishing 4th while MacDonald chipped up to a massive 2.75 million. --AV

Fourth-place finisher, Loek van Wely

6:35pm: Maria's miracle turn of events
Level 26 - Blinds 25,000/50,000 (ante 5,000)

One minute she was the short stack. The next she was chip leader.

Maria Konnikova has been on quite a rush this level, with the help of lady luck. When it folded to Loek van Wely in the small blind, he took his time before coming in with a 3x open to 150,000. Konnikova quickly moved all in for 680,000, and van Wely snap-called with very good reason:

He had A♣A♠.

All Konnikova could muster was the 7♣7♦, but when the board ran out 6♠9♠8♠T♣2♣, those sevens had turned a straight for the win.

An incredible comeback from Konnikova

Konnikova would take down the next hand against Kevin MacDonald too, bringing her chip stack up to 1.625 million. MacDonald still had 1.8 million, but he'd lose a big pot to Alexander Ziskin just after.

Ziskin opened to 100,000 from the cutoff and was three-bet by MacDonald to 250,000 on the button. Ziskin called to see the 2♦7♥K♥ flop, on which he'd check. MacDonald continued for 200,000, and now Ziskin check-raised to 450,000 leaving himself 700,000 behind. After a minute or two of thinking, MacDonald let it go.

Kevin MacDonald

After all that, here's how they are stacked up:

Maria Konnikova - 1.62 million
Alexander Ziskin - 1.45 million
Kevin MacDonald - 1.3 million
Loek van Wely - 800,000

Yep. Konnikova is now in pole position. --JS

6:25pm: Ziskin zaps one off Van Wely
Level 26 - Blinds 25,000/50,000 (ante 5,000)

Players came back from break and were happy settling hands preflop, but then Van Wely and Ziskin took a hand to showdown. The hand started simple enough. Van Wely called from the button and Ziskin checked his option.

The flop came down3♦7♠Q♠ and Ziskin check-called a 50,000 bet. This brought an 8♥ on the turn and a 100,000 bet from Ziskin. Van Wely called and a T♦ completed the board. Ziskin fired again, this time for 275,000. Van Wely thought for a bit and called. Ziskin showed Q♦8♠ for two-pair and Van Wely mucked.

The pot brought Ziskin's stack up to 1.4 million while Van Wely dropped to 1.6 million. --AV

6:10pm: We're back!
Level 26 - Blinds 25,000/50,000 (ante 5,000)

Play is back underway. Here's how the final four players stack up:

NAMECHIPS
Kevin MacDonald2,170,000
Loek van Wely1,900,000
Maria Konnikova970,000
Alexander Ziskin770,000

5:50pm: Back in 20

We're now on a 20-minute break. --JS

5:45pm: It's not over 'til it's Konnikova
Level 25 - Blinds 20,000/40,000 (ante 5,000)

Maria Konnikova is fighting away in this one, and has built her stack back up above 20 big blinds.

In the most recent pot, she made it 85,000 to go from the small blind when it folded to her, and Alexander Ziskin called the big to see the 6♥7♥5♣ flop. Konnikova continued for 95,000 which got a call, bringing the T♠ on the turn.

Konnikova then slid out a 500,000 stack, and that was too rich for Ziskin's blood. He let it go and dipped to 1 million, while Konnikova is up to 910,000. --JS

5:35pm: Konnikova keeps shoving
Level 25 - Blinds 20,000/40,000 (ante 5,000)

Maria Konnikova wants a double up, but hasn't gotten any callers so far. Her first in a series of shoves was from the cutoff for 440,000. There were no callers and one round later, she moved all-in from the cutoff again. No customers there either.

Then Loek van Wely raised to 80,000 from the cutoff a few hands later and Konnikova jammed from the button. Van Wely folded and Konnikova took down another one. Then the same happened with Alexander Ziskin. Ziskin raised to 80,000 from under the gun and Konnikova jammed from the big blind. Ziskin folded and Konnikova kept adding to her stack.

Then Konnikova did it to both of them at the same time. Ziskin raised to 80,000 from the cutoff and Van Wely called from the button. Konnikova jammed from the small blind and both players folded. Konnikova took down the pot and has crept back up to 875,000, nearly doubling her stack without doubling up.

Chips make Maria happy

5:25pm: 2018's first Platinum Pass winners

As you know, this time next year, we'll be covering the first $25,000 PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em Players Championship. PokerStars is giving away 300 packages to that tournament, and the first of 2018's Platinum Passes have found their owners. Read about it here. Whoever ends up winning the National Championship will also get a coveted Platinum Pass.

5:15pm: Chip counts
Level 25 - Blinds 20,000/40,000 (ante 5,000)

Here's how the stacks look four handed (approximately). Maria Konnikova is in desperate need of a double up! --JS

Loek van Wely - 2 million
Kevin MacDonald - 1.7 million
Alexander Ziskin - 1.4 million
Maria Konnikova - 450,000

5:10pm: Harrison Gimbel busts in fifth ($26,040)
Level 25 - Blinds 20,000/40,000 (ante 5,000)

We're now four-handed, having lost the most experienced and accomplished player at the final table.

Harrison Gimbel was short stacked and open-shoved for his last 340,000. It folded around to Loek van Wely in the big blind and he snap-called with the J♥J♠, up against Gimbel's 9♠7♠.

The Q♣8♠3♣9♦T♠ couldn't improve Gimbel to the winner, and he made his exit.

"Good luck gentleman...and Maria!" he said as he got out his seat. Van Wely is up to 1.92 million now. --JS

Gimbel's gone

5:05pm: Time for aggression
Level 25 - Blinds 20,000/40,000 (ante 5,000)

There's no stopping Kevin MacDonald right now. He opened to 80,000, and Loek van Wely three-bet him to 225,000. With little hesitation, MacDonald came right back over the top for around 520,000 and took it down. He's up to 1.62 million, while Van Wely is on 1.425 million. --JS

5pm: Double up for MacDonald
Level 25 - Blinds 20,000/40,000 (ante 5,000)

Kevin MacDonald is invincible in this event. He's just managed to find another crucial double up, this one through Alexander Ziskin.

Ziskin opened to 80,000 and MacDonald jammed for 555,000, which Ziskin snap-called with the A♠Q♦. MacDonald held the K♥5♥ and that would end up the winner after the 5♣6♦2♦5♦Q♥ board gave him trips.

MacDonald has 1.18 million now, while Ziskin has 1.73 million. --JS

4:55pm: Gimbel doubles...then drops back down
Level 24 - Blinds 15,000/30,000 (ante 5,000)

Harrison Gimbel was down to just 330,000 and moved all-in from the cutoff. Alexander Ziskin was on the button and quickly called. Gimbel turned over T♥8♥ and was in need of some help against Ziskin's K♠Q♣.

Gimbel did get the help he needed, but not until the river of a 3♠2♣A♠9♣T♦ board. Gimbel doubled to 730,000 with his rivered pair of tens while Ziskin dipped to 2.16 million.

Then Gimbel lost a big chunk of those chips to Loek van Wely. Van Wely raised to 60,000 from the button that hand and Gimbel three-bet to 180,000 from the button. Van Wely called and the flop came J♦2♠6♦. Both players checked and a Q♥ came on the turn. Gimbel checked again, but this time Van Wely bet 100,000. The J♣ came on the river after Gimbel called and then he checked again.
Van Wely fired off another bet, this one worth 150,000.

Gimbel thought for a while and then threw in a single chip for the call. Van Wely showed Q♣T♣ for a pair of queens and Gimbel mucked. The pot but Van Wely up to 1.9 million while Gimbel was left with just 280,000. --AV

It's been a roller coaster ride for Gimbel this level

4:40pm: Frustrations
Level 24 - Blinds 15,000/30,000 (ante 4,000)

Action folded to Kevin MacDonald on the button and he went for a bigger than normal sizing: 75,000. Maria Konnikova defended her big blind to see the A♥5♦K♥ flop, before checking it to the raiser.

MacDonald put it a c-bet worth 60,000, only for Konnikova to check-raise it to 200,000. MacDonald tanked for a while, but ultimately gave it up, showing the A♠ as he folded.

A couple of hands later and Alexander Ziskin opened to 65,000 and MacDonald three-bet to 150,00. Back to the chip leader, he then four-bet to 400,000 and MacDonald turned his head away as if to say "I can't believe this!"

He let it go, and sits with around 850,000. --JS

4:25pm: MacDonald doubles
Level 24 - Blinds 15,000/30,000 (ante 5,000)

A few stacks are starting to get short. Harrison Gimbel was down to 430,000 and he jammed from the small blind but got no callers. Then Kevin MacDonald moved all-in from the big blind after Alexander Ziskin raised to 60,000 from the small blind.

Ziskin called and turned over 7♦7♥. If Ziskin was hoping for a flip, he didn't get his wish. MacDonald turned over 9♥9♠ and the 4♣8♥6♦8♦K♥ board tiptoed around both players hands.

Nines stayed in the lead and MacDonald doubled up to about 900,000 while Ziskin dipped to 1 million. --AV

Kevin MacDonald

4:10pm: Konnikova captures some
Level 24 - Blinds 15,000/30,000 (ante 5,000)

Kevin MacDonald raised to 60,000 from the button and Maria Konnikova called from the big blind. Konnikova then check-called on the flop and turn of a T♦7♦K♥9♥9♠ board. MacDonald bet 50,000 on the flop and then 80,000 on the turn.

Konnikova then checked the river and MacDonald checked behind. Konnikova turned over Q♥T♠ for tens and nines and MacDonald mucked. The pot left MacDonald with about 450,000 while Konnikova chipped up to 800,000. --AV

4pm: He's Ziskin the lead
Level 24 - Blinds 15,000/30,000 (ante 5,000)

Since the break Alexander Ziskin has managed to extend his chip lead, mostly thanks to this hand against Kevin MacDonald.

Ziskin made it 65,000 in the cutoff and MacDonald called on the button. Maria Konnikova was getting a good price from the big blind and she peeled to see the 6♣K♣9♦ flop.

There was a 105,000 c-bet by Ziskin when it checked to him, and MacDonald matched it. Konnikova let her hand go and left them heads up to the 8♥ turn. Ziskin didn't slow down; the bet now was 215,000. MacDonald called.

The A♦ completed the board, and the pile of chips next to it looked pretty darn big by this point. Ziskin pulled of a stack of chips, ultimately sliding out 320,000. MacDonald gave a light laugh, as if to say that's not what he wanted to happen. He gave it up to drop to 740,000, while Ziskin is up to 2.35 million now. --JS

Alexander Ziskin

3:45pm: We're back
Level 24 - Blinds 15,000/30,000 (ante 5,000)

Our final five players are back from break. Here's how they'll be starting level 24:

NAMECHIPS
Alexander Ziskin1,930,000
Loek van Wely1,560,000
Kevin MacDonald950,000
Maria Konnikova885,000
Harrison Gimbel535,000

3:35pm: Gimbel dips on break
Level 23 - Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 4,000)

In a hand that extended well into the break, Alexander Ziskin raised to 55,000 from under the gun and Harrison Gimbel called from the big blind.

The flop came 6♠T♥K♣ and Ziskin bet 70,000 when checked to. Gimbel thought for a few seconds, called and a 5♦ came on the turn. Gimbel checked again and Ziskin upped the bet to 160,000. Gimbel thought for a bit longer this time and called as well.

A 3♠ completed the board and this time Ziskin bet 300,000 after Gimbel checked. Gimbel tanked for a few minutes, but came out with the same result: call. Ziskin turned over A♠A♣ and Gimbel mucked. The massive pot put Ziskin in the lead with 1.93 million while Gimbel dipped to 535,000.

There was still 15 minutes left on break after the hand ended. We'll be back soon. --AV

Harrison Gimbel took a bit hit at the end of level 23

3:25pm: Ryan Smith out in sixth ($19,710)
Level 23 - Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 4,000)

Maria Konnikova has claimed another victim.

She opened to 50,000 under the gun before Ryan Smith shoved from the +1 seat for around 360,000. It folded back to Konnikova and she snap-called.

Konnikova - Q♣Q♥
Smith - J♥J♦

Both flopped sets when it came J♣Q♦K♠, but Smith couldn't find the case jack on the 5♦ turn or 9♣ river.

Konnikova is up to 1 million now, good for second. --JS

Smith's outta here

3:15pm: The Grandmaster
Level 23 - Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 4,000)

Not only do we have a best-selling writer on the final table in the form of Maria Konnikova, we've also got a chess grandmaster in Luek van Wely.

The Grandmaster - Van Wely

The Dutchman has been a grandmaster since 1993, and was ranked top 10 in the world in 2001. He's showing he's pretty good at poker too here today, as he currently sits with the chip lead.

After Kevin MacDonald opened to 50,000 under the gun, Van Wely three-bet it up to 125,000 and MacDonald called. The dealer spread a J♣K♦9♣ flop, and when it checked to Van Wely he took it down with a 200,000 c-bet.

He's up to 1.62 million now. --JS

3:05pm: Van Wely dips and rises
Level 23 - Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 4,000)

Loek van Wely's stack has remained large, but it's been very mobile, like an elevated roller coaster. Van Wely recently lost a few to Alexander Ziskin and then got some back from Kevin MacDonald.

Van Wely raised to 50,000 in the hand against Ziskin and Ziskin called from the big blind. The flop came 8♠7♣8♦ and Van Wely bet 40,000 when checked to. Ziskin called and a K♠ came on the turn. Ziskin checked again and Van Wely bet 60,000. Ziskin didn't call and he didn't fold either, he raised to 300,000 and took down the pot.

Then Van Wely got some back on an all-diamond board. MacDonald called from the small blind that hand and Van Wely raised to 65,000 from the big blind. MacDonald called and a K♦A♦8♦ flop hit the board. Both players checked and checked again after the 2♦ came on the turn.

The river brought a 3♦ and a flush on the board. Van Wely bet 75,000 and MacDonald thought for a while before eventually calling. Van Wely showed 9♦9♥ for an ace-king-nine flush and MacDonald mucked. MacDonald dipped to 650,000 while Van Wely's stack jumped back up to 1.6 million. --AV

2:50pm: Smith doubles
Level 23 - Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 4,000)

Ryan Smith was down to just 196,000 and pushed it all-in from the hijack. Action folded to Kevin MacDonald on the small blind and he called. The big blind got out of the way and we had a pair vs pair showdown.

Smith turned over K♥K♦ and was a favorite to double up against MacDonald's 6♦6♣. There was a bit of a sweat though. The flop came A♠5♣Q♣, and a J♣ came on the turn to give MacDonald a flush draw. The river was a safe 5♠ though and Smith doubled up to about 435,000 while MacDonald dipped to 530,000. --AV

Ryan Smith doubles up to stay in the game

2:40pm: Two more for Konnikova
Level 23 - Blinds 12,000/24,000 (ante 4,000)

It's the Maria Konnikova show right now. She's managed to spin her stack up over the million mark.

First, she called a 40,000 open from Kevin MacDonald at the end of the last level, and Alexander Ziskin called from the big blind. A K♦5♣4♥ flop got a c-bet of 60,000 from MacDonald when it checked to him, and Konnikova called while Ziskin let it go.

The turn was the 7♥ and there would be no more betting. Likewise, both checked the 4♠ river too. Konnikova showed the K♠Q♠ for top pair, and that was good against MacDonald's A♦J♦.

A couple of hands later, Ryan Smith made it 48,000 to go under the gun and Konnikova defended her big blind. She check-called 40,000 on the J♥J♦4♦ flop, and then checked again on the 8♥ turn. Smith checked it back.

The 9♠ completed the board and Konnikova led out for 80,000. Smith called pretty quickly, but he'd muck with a nod and a sigh when Konnikova turned over the A♦J♣ for trips.

She's now playing 1.02 million, while Smith is very short with just 250,000. --JS

2:30pm: A great read
Level 22 - Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

No, I'm not talking about Maria Konnikova's writing (although it is fantastic), I'm actually talking about her latest pot.

It started with Loek van Wely opening under the gun to 40,000 which Konnikova called in the +1 seat. It then folded to Kevin MacDonald in the big blind and he came along to see the 6♥9♥5♦ flop. It went check check check.

The 6♠ hit the turn and that prompted MacDonald to lead out for 55,000. Van Wely moved aside, but Konnikova didn't budge, and the river came the J♦. MacDonald fired again for 100,000, and Konnikova went into reading mode. She glanced at the board, over to MacDonald, back to the board and back again.

Whatever it was she saw, it made her call with the A♠5♠ for bottom pair. That was good though, as MacDonald had the A♦7♦ for just ace high.

He's down to 850,000, while Konnikova is up to 640,000. --JS

Konnikova in reading mode

2:20pm: Gimbel gets some back
Level 22 - Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

2010 PCA Main Event champion, Harrison Gimbel, wasn't about to let Loek van Wely run away with the lead. The former champ was ready to fight back and three-bet him.

Van Wely had raised to 44,000 from the cutoff and Gimbel made it 132,000 to go from the big blind. Van Wely called and a 3♣A♠4♥ flop hit the board. Both players checked and checked again after the 8♠ came on the turn. The river brought a 2♦ and a bet of 125,000 from Van Wely.

Gimbel thought for a while, he was only holding a pair of fours with 6♦4♠. He called anyways and it turned out to be the right decision since Van Wely showed air with T♦9♦. The hand put Gimbel up to 1.3 million while Van Wely's lead shrunk to 1.65 million. --AV

2:10pm: Van Wely wins some
Level 22 - Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

Loek van Wely has been chipping in and is now closing in on the 2 million mark. He recently took a chunk off Ryan Smith to get there.

Smith raised to 40,000 that hand and Van Wely called from the big blind. Both players checked the 7♦Q♦T♥ flop and a 5♥ came on the turn. Van Wely check-called a bet of 40,000 and and a 7♠ completed the board. Van Wely bet out 100,000 and Smith thought for a bit before throwing in a lone chip for the call.

Van Wely showed 8♠7♥ for trip sevens and Smith mucked. Smith was left with 460,000 while Van Wely's lead grew to 1.95 million. --AV

1:55pm: Gimbel gets shoved on again
Level 22 - Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

Why's everybody always picking on Harrison Gimbel?

Harrison Gimbel

OK, so they're not picking on him, per se, but they do keep shoving on him and putting him to tough decisions.

In this latest example, he opened to 40,000 on the button and was three-bet to 100,000 by Kevin MacDonald. Gimbel made the call, and then called a 75,000 c-bet on the A♣8♥6♦ flop.

That took them to a turn which came the 5♦. MacDonald was thinking for at least a minute or two before he announced all in for 423,000 total, and Gimbel had a decision to make. He asked for a count, and then began a series of facial expressions that expressed his thought process.

First there was an arched eyebrow look of stern contemplation. Then a raised eyebrow look of range realisation. And finally a normal eyebrow hood-in-mouth look that said I'm folding.

He did, and drops to 820,000, while MacDonald is up to 800,000. --JS

Kevin MacDonald

1:45pm: Van Wely jams on Gimbel
Level 22 - Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

A battle of the big stacks just took place between Loek van Wely and Harrison Gimbel, the former of whom came out on top.

Gimbel opened to 40,000 from the cutoff and Van Wely defended his big blind to see a 7♣4♣6♥ flop. He checked it to the raiser and Gimbel continued for 50,000. Call.

On the Q♣ turn it went check-100,000-call, and the K♠ landed on the river. Van Wely checked a final time and Gimbel never slowed down, making it 250,000. After a minute or so Van Wely shoved and Gimbel quickly let it go.

Gimbel is on 1.05 million now, while Van Wely takes the chip lead with 1.5 million. --JS

Loek van Wely

1:35pm: Konnikova eliminates Antunes in 7th ($14,480)
Level 22 - Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

Maria Konnikova came back from break swinging. In the first minutes back from break, Loek van Wely raised to 44,000 and Konnikova moved all-in for 349,000 from the small blind. Action folded back around to Van Wely and he thought for a bit, but eventually folded.

Then Marcos Carneiro Antunes moved all-in from under the gun for 204,000. Action folded to Konnikova in the cutoff and she called. The rest of the table got out of the way and players tabled their hands.

Antunes showed T♣8♣ while Konnikova turned the preflop nuts: A♥A♠. This time aces held up for Konnikova. The board ran 6♣Q♣Q♦T♥9♥ and Antunes fell in 7th while Konnikova chipped up to 670,000. --AV

Marcos Antunes

1:25pm: We're back
Level 22 - Blinds 10,000/20,000 (ante 3,000)

Players are back from break. Here's how they stack up going into level 22:

NAMECHIPS
Harrison Gimbel1,370,000
Alexander Ziskin1,330,000
Loek van Wely1,120,000
Ryan Smith760,000
Kevin MacDonald655,000
Maria Konnikova350,000
Marcos Carneiro Antunes208,000

1:06pm: Break time

Players are now on a 20-minute break. In the meantime, take a look at this interview we shot with final table member Maria Konnikova. In it, the author-turned-poker shark talks about her relationship with coach Erik Seidel, and Seidel himself even comments on her as a player and their relationship.

Check it out:

1:05pm: Moorman falls in eighth ($10,640)
Level 21 - Blinds 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000)

We've lost our first player from this final table, and it just so happens to be one of the most feared.

It would take a cooler to eliminate the winningest online tournament player of all time, Chris Moorman. He opened to 35,000 from the UTG+1 and it folded around to Harrison Gimbel in the big blind. He took a peek at his cards, then over at Moorman's stack, before carefully coming in for a three-bet to 105,000.

Moorman paused for a few moments, eventually announcing he was all in for around 400,000 total. Gimbel couldn't have called any quicker, and here's why:

Moorman - A♦K♦
Gimbel - A♥A♣

The Q♠J♣K♠ flop gave Moorman some hope, both to win outright and to chop. But the 2♦ and 7♦ weren't the cards he was after. He'll take home $10,640 for his efforts in this one, while Gimbel is up to 1.4 million and the chip lead. --JS

No luck for Moorman

12:55pm: Small ball
Level 21 - Blinds 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000)

All the recent hands have been settled without a showdown, some preflop, some post.

Chris Moorman jammed in one of them. Harrison Gimbel raised to 32,000 from the hijack that time and Moorman moved all-in from the button. The blinds got out of the way and so did Gimbel. The short-stacked Moorman lived to see another hand.

On the other side of the chip spectrum, Loek van Wely used his large stack to take down pots preflop. Marcos Carneiro Antunes raised to 35,000 from the button that hand and Kevin MacDonald three-bet to 78,000 from the small blind. Van Wely was on the big blind and four-bet to 250,000.

That was good enough to take down the pot.

Moorman then took down another one on the flop. He raised to 35,000 from early position and got calls from Van Wely in the cutoff and Gimbel in the big blind. The flop came down 4♦K♠3♣ and Moorman took it down with a 45,000 c-bet. Moorman is now up to about 450,000. --AV

12:50pm: Konnikova lets it go
Level 21 - Blinds 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000)

Maria Konnikova made it 33,000 from the hijack, and her only caller was Alexander Ziskin in the small blind. The flop came 7♦K♦4♠ and Ziskin check-called a 44,000 c-bet.

That took 'em to the turn: 7♥, which paired the board. Ziskin checked again, and this time Konnikova checked it back. That resulted in the J♣ river, and now Ziskin took the betting lead, making it 80,000. Konnikova gave it up quite quickly.

She's now on 415,000, while Ziskin is up to 940,000. --JS

12:40pm: Gimbel chips up
Level 21 - Blinds 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000)

Former PCA Main Event winner Harrison Gimbel is along the favourites any time he makes a final table. He's had a good start to proceedings today, including taking down this latest pot.

He opened it to 32,000 under the gun, and got two callers in Marcos Carneiro Antunes (hijack) and Kevin MacDonald (cutoff). The trio saw a 7♦K♦4♠ flop on which Gimbel continued for 35,000. Both called.

The dealer burned and turned the 2♦ and Gimbel didn't slow down. He made it 105,000 and
Antunes quickly let it go. Macdonald had more of a decision, but after looking back at his cards he opted to fight another day.

With that Gimbel is up to 950,000, while Macdonald is on 800,000 and Antunes has 390,000. --JS

12:30pm: Cracking Konnikova's aces
Level 21 - Blinds 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000)

It always feels good to get aces, but it also feels bad when your opponent flops a straight. Both happened to Maria Konnikova in the same hand and she ended up losing a large pot.

Konnikova started that hand with a raise to 34,000 from under the gun with A♥A♦ and action folded around to Loek van Wely in the big blind. Van Wely called with T♥9♠ and he hit a straight when the flop came J♥Q♣K♥.

Van Wely check-called a 30,000 bet from Konnikova and checked again after the 6♦ came on the turn. Konnikova bet out again, this time for 84,000, and Van Wely raised to 200,000. Konnikova snap-called and a K♦ completed the board. Both players checked and Van Wely took down the pot with a straight. Konnikova dipped to 600,000 after the hand while Van Wely chipped up to 940,000. --AV

12:20pm: The Brazilian rail arrives
Level 21 - Blinds 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000)

While Maria Konnikova was visited by Erik Seidel, Brazil's Marcos Carneiro Antunes - a $1 million Spin&Go winner - had his own visitors.

PokerStars Team Pro Andre Akkari has just arrived, and as soon as he spotted his fellow countryman he began filming him on his phone (check Akkari's social channels for that one). Akkari and Bruno Politano are here for Day 1B of the Main Event, but you can be sure they will be checking in with their friend throughout this final table.

Antunes just opened a pot to 35,000 from under the gun plus one, and it folded around to Alexander Ziskin in the big blind who defended. They saw an 8♣6♦2♣ flop which both checked to the 3♦ turn. Ziskin led for 65,000, and that was enough to take it down.

Other than that, it's been a quiet start to the finale. --JS

12:05pm: It begins
Level 20 - Blinds 6,000/12,000 (ante 2,000)

Our final eight players have taken their seats and play is underway. One of them even got a surprise visit from Erik Seidel. Seidel has been coaching Maria Konnikova and stopped by to wish her luck before the final table. His tutelage has helped her get this far, can she take it all the way? Stay tuned and find out.

There's only three minutes left in this level and then the blinds will pop up to 8,000/16,000 with a 2,000 ante. --AV

11:30am: How do you win a tournament like Maria?

Mornin' all, and welcome back to our coverage here on Paradise Island. On this page we'll be focusing our attention to the final table of the $1,650 PCA National event, which has just eight players remaining from the 290 who entered. The winner will not only bank $84,600; they'll also win a coveted Platinum Pass to 2019's PokerStars Players Championship worth $30,000.

Maria Konnikova

It's an exciting bunch too, headlined by famed journalist Maria Konnikova. In case you didn't know, Konnikova is a New York Times best-selling author who for the past year has been coached by hall-of-famer Erik Seidel. Her experience on the felt seems to be coming to fruition here in the Bahamas, as she comes in to play today as the final table chip leader. To find out more about Konnikova's journey, check out this interview we did with her at the 2017 WSOP.

She'll have stiff competition though, most notably from 'triple crown' winner Harrison Gimbel and Chris Moorman. Here's a look at the seat draw and chip counts, with blinds starting at 6,000/12,000/2,000:

NameCountryEntry infoChipsSeat
Chris MoormanUKRe-Entered3790001
Marcos Carneiro AntunesBrazilRe-Entered5160002
Kevin MacDonaldCanada 8630003
Loek van WelyNetherlands 7430004
Maria KonnikovaUSARe-Entered8830005
Ryan SmithCanada 8270006
Harrison GimbelUSA 6740007
Alexander ZiskinUSA 9140008

And here's what they're playing for:

POSNAMECOUNTRYSTATUSPRIZEDEAL
1   $84,600 
2   $56,250 
3   $41,140 
4   $33,210 
5   $26,040 
6   $19,710 
7   $14,480 
8   $10,640 

Play begins at noon. Can Konnikova win her first live title? Stay tuned.

PokerStars Blog reporting team on the $1,650 PCA National: Jack Stanton and Alex Villegas. Photos by Carlos Monti.

Live reporting team
@PokerStars in Live