16 June 2019 (Las Vegas) – Howard Mash won the $1,000 Seniors Championship at the 2019 World Series of Poker Sunday night. He earns his first WSOP bracelet and $662,594. This payout is more than double his previous total career earnings.
“This is unbelievable,” an ecstatic Mash said after the event. “I don’t even know what to say. I’m totally in shock, honestly.” Mash, a financial advisor from Florida, is just barely eligible for this event. He just recently turned 50, and made the most of his first opportunity to play the seniors event.
With a few players left, Mash seemed like an underdog. When the field was down to four-handed, Mash was a short stack, and had to survive three all-in situations, twice coming from behind. “I was just staying alive, barely, missing all my hands, getting three-bet a lot and having to fold. And I got lucky in two key spots. In any tournament with 5,900 people you have to get a little lucky to win. I had some pretty tough opponents and I just tried to stay as focused as I could.”
By the time Mash was heads up against Jean-René Fontaine, circumstances were different. Mash held a substantial chip lead to begin heads-up play. However, Fontaine quickly won an all-in pot to virtually even the score. Mash pulled ahead again, but Fontaine then won another all-in pot to take the lead. That pattern continued – heads-up play lasted about two and half hours, and it was a back and forth battle, but whenever Mash fell behind, he’d soon claw his way back into the lead.
“I changed my strategy,” he explained, “and I was trying to play small pots with him because I felt like I had an advantage. I tried to keep the pots as small as possible and just grind and grind him down. And then I made a couple mistakes, I got a little too aggressive trying to end it. But I knew that I had an advantage so as long as I had chips I was in good shape.”
Fontaine earned $409,249 for his runner-up finish.
This is the second-largest WSOP Seniors tournament of all time. It drew 5,916 entries, just barely missing out on the record – the largest ever was last year’s event, with 5,918.
The tournament began on Thursday, June 13, and the near-record field was reduced to 1,786 on the first day. After Day 2 on Friday, 252 remained.
The huge turnout meant the final day lasted longer than planned. The original schedule called for the field to play down to the final six players on Day 3. But after a full ten hours of poker, 19 players remained, and they all returned at noon on Sunday for the final day. They reached the official final table of nine at about 3:00 p.m.
About an hour later, Mansour Alipourfard became the first player eliminated from the final table. He earned $59,044 for his ninth-place finish. Alipourfard has three previous WSOP cashes, all in either the Seniors or Super Seniors event, and this is his first WSOP final table appearance. It was over another hour before the next bustout. Mike Lisanti finished in in eighth place ($76,165). Lisanti also finished in eighth in this event in 2016.
After another hour, the seven remaining players paused for a dinner break, and when they returned they jumped straight into the action. It was only 20 minutes after they returned that Samir Husaynue busted out in seventh place ($98,981). This is his first ever WSOP cash. Then about 20 minutes after that, Farhad Jamasi was eliminated in sixth place for $129,582. And just half an hour later, Donald Matusow became the fifth-place finisher, earning $170,887.
Four-handed, James McNurlan took a big lead after a key hand against Adam Richardson. McNurlan flopped a set, and made a big river raise. After Richardson called and saw the bad news, McNurlan found himself holding about 60% of the chips in play.
The action didn’t slow down, but the pace of eliminations slowed considerably. No one else busted out for almost three hours. In the interim, there were five all-in confrontations in which the at-risk player doubled up, usually as an underdog.
Then just before 11:30 p.m., Adam Richardson became the fourth-place finisher, earning $226,996. The very next hand, he was followed by James McNurlan in third place. McNurlan earned $303,705. This is by far the biggest recorded tournament score of his career. Prior to today, he had under $4,000 in earnings, all of which came from small cashes in this event from the past two years.
After McNurlan’s elimination, Howard Mash and Jean-René Fontaine were left to battle it out heads-up for the bracelet.
Here are the final table results:
1 – Howard Mash – $662,594
2 – Jean-René Fontaine – $409,249
3 – James McNurlan – $303,705
4 – Adam Richardson – $226,996
5 – Donald Matusow – $170,887
6 – Farhad Jamasi – $129,582
7 – Samir Husaynue – $98,981
8 – Mike Lisanti – $76,165
9 – Mansour Alipourfard – $59,044