In the weeks leading up to the 2023 World Series of Poker, longtime professional poker player and coach Faraz Jaka was dealing with health issues that left him unsure if he could make it out to Las Vegas for the largest tournament festival of the year.
According to a social media post he made back in June, Jaka had two herniated disks that resulted in a, “…severe four-week episode of nerve pain that left me unable to perform basic tasks like walking, sitting, getting my own food from the fridge, and even put me in the ER for a day.”
The 37-year-old an World Poker Tour Player of the Year award winner at one point gave himself a one-in-five chance of being able to attend the WSOP as a result of his struggles. Eventually, he recovered enough to make the trek to Paris and Horseshoe Las Vegas. After a slow start, Jaka hit his stride in the final weeks of the series, making a deep run in the main event (219th -$58,500) and then, days later, emerging victorious in the $1,500 no-limit hold’em shootout event with his first WSOP gold bracelet and the top prize of $237,367.
The shootout event essentially sees players participate in several consecutive single-table sit’n’gos. A total of 987 entries took a seat, with 100 players winning their tables to make the money and move on to day 2. The next round repeated the same process, with ten ten-handed tables playing until ten winners were decided.
Jaka was one of those players, and he was joined by the likes of five-time bracelet winner Adam Friedman and three-time bracelet winner Yuri Dzivielevski at the ten-handed final table. Friedman entered this final table with a chance to win a live tournament bracelet for the fifth year in a row, but was eventually knocked out in eighth place for $29,834 after losing a preflop coin flip.
Dzivielevski’s run ended in fifth place ($63,295) when his Q-10 suited was unable to come from behind against the pocket tens of Michael Finstein. Ao Chen (4th – $82,954) also fell to Finstein, and Jaka busted Olga Iermolcheva (3rd – $109,780) to set up the heads-up showdown for the shootout title.
In the final hand, Finstein limped in from the button with J3 and Jaka checked from the big blind with 97. The flop came down 1098. Jaka bet out with his pair and open-ended straight draw. Finstein raised in position with a straight draw of his own and Jaka called. The K on the turn saw Jaka check-call another bet from Finstein. The 6 completed the board and Jaka’s straight. He checked again and Finstein moved all in with his busted draw and jack high. Jaka called to lock up the pot and the title. Finstein earned $146,686 as the runner-up, the second-largest score of his career.
Here is a look at the payouts and ranking points awarded at the final table:
Photo credit: WSOP / Omar Sader.