In 2009, Aaron azzabentonaces Benton created Aussie online poker history when he worked his way through a field of 4,581 players in the Full Tilt Poker FTOPS Main Event to pocket US$262,500. It marked the beginning of an amazing year, capped off by taking down the APPT Grand Final at Sydney’s Star City Casino. Since then, Benton has made two ANZPT Main Event final tables and over AU$650,000 in live tournament cashes.
2010 has been a breakthrough year for Benton’s housemates, Brendon brendooor Rubie and Rennie steel44 Carnevale. Carnevale took out this year’s ANZPT Adelaide Main Event in February before Rubie picked up the Melbourne Poker Championship Main Event in May.
We also can’t forget the successes of Jonathan Karamalikis, who’s collected more than US$350,000 in tournament winnings this year alone, plus other big names like Jarred flopnutsonyou Graham, Joel strongplay Dodds, James ANDY_McLEOD Obst, Ben Delaney and Daniel Neilson.
Clearly, there’s a growing trend of young online players taking the live poker scene by storm. And should this trend continue, keep an eye out for Sydney’s Evan Psarras. Known online as kevinnok, (pronounced “Kevin, no K”), the 25-year-old recently shattered Benton’s record of the largest online tournament cash by an Australian after collecting US$340,698.50 from his win in a PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) event, sending Australian poker forums and social networking sites into a frenzy. For Psarras, it still hasn’t sunk in.
“For some reason, other people are a lot more excited than I am right now,” Psarras said. “Everything’s happened so fast ... I knew I’d been playing well and I had a feeling that there was going to be a big win around the corner – I just never expected it to be this big.”
Psarras first took up the game in 2006 by teaching himself in freeroll tournaments online. “I’ve always been a firm believer in (self-education),” Psarras explained. “I’ve never read any poker books or anything like that. I enjoy playing online tournaments and live cash games – I quickly moved on to playing live cash games at Star City and more and more tournaments online.”
Psarras’ passion for the game was also shared with his late father, who insisted that he continue following his chosen path, even before he died two years ago. “My father was diagnosed with cancer, so for 14 months I deferred my commerce degree at the University of Wollongong and spent most of my time in between the hospital with Dad and playing poker. My mum’s always been very anti-poker though, she’s always on my back, telling me, ‘If you spent as much time at uni as you did with poker ...’ I think after this, she might have changed her mind!”
Despite his mother’s opinion, Psarras had plenty of support from his brother George and his good friend ‘Panda’ during the WCOOP event. “Panda was railing me over the phone almost the whole way. We developed this strange ritual – every time there was a break, Panda and I would always go to the bathroom, even if we didn’t need to. He told me he’d been closing the bathroom door the same way all day to make sure I wasn’t jinxed!”
“George was a pest though. He always kept calling and asking me, ‘You still in?’ and then came in to see me just as we got into the top 15 (the minimum payout at that stage was US$13,350). He pointed at the screen and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got enough for our trip to Europe!’ I said, ‘I’m not looking at 13k, I’m looking at (original first prize of) 470k – now get out of my room!’”
Psarras maintained a “pretty tight image” throughout the early stages of the tournament. “With the deep structure, I didn’t play many big hands but I wasn’t far behind the average stack by the end of Day 1,” he recalled. “From Day 2, my stack never went below 50 BBs. When we got down to six tables, I opened them all up and started taking notes and I found that most of the players were really aggressive. They were knocking each out pretty quickly, so I didn’t have to do much until the final table – and though I was the short stack, I still had over 50 BBs.”
“I then got really lucky against MISHELA (fellow Australian player Mishel Anunu). I’d noticed earlier that he’d raise or shove with small pockets UTG and he’d knocked a few players out hitting sets on the river, but in one of the first hands on the final table he made a standard raise UTG. I looked down at pocket tens so I just flat-called. He bet three-quarters of the pot after the flop, I shoved and he snap-called with pocket aces, but I hit a ten on the river and doubled up!”
“From there, players just started dropping out again so I sat back and waited. When we were four-handed we proposed a deal but skylarsash rejected and ironically he was the next to go. Then, after the three-way chop I thought, ‘I can relax now, just go for it and try to win the title’. Once I doubled up through AlwaysFelted, I just ran over them and took it down.”
With the WCOOP bracelet now safely around his wrist, Psarras is looking forward to playing live events, but not before he finishes his studies. “I’m going to wait until I get my degree, then head over to Europe next year, maybe play some of the smaller events in the WSOP. In the meantime, I’ll keep playing online and I’ll certainly play a few more WCOOP tourneys. You never know, by the time this goes up on PokerNetwork, I might have won another bracelet!”
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