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November 24, 2014

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WORLD SERIES OF POKER:

Michael Mizrachi prevails in the Player’s Championship

The Grinder” wins his first bracelet and $1.5 million

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Case Keefer / LAS VEGAS SUN

Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi poses with his newly acquired World Series of Poker gold bracelet and $1.5 million in prize money after winning the 2010 Poker Player’s Championship Wednesday morning at the Rio.

Final Table Finish and Payouts

  • 1.Michael Mizrachi—$1,559,046
  • 2.Vladimir Schmelev—$963,375
  • 3. David Oppenheim—$603,348
  • 4. John Juanda— $436,865
  • 5. Robert Mizrachi— $341,429
  • 6. David Baker— $182,463
  • 7. Daniel Alaei— $152,739
  • 8. Mikael Thuritz— $152,739

Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi truly did his nickname justice Tuesday night at the Rio.

Despite being on the brink of elimination twice at the final table of the $50,000 buy-in Poker Player's Championship at the World Series of Poker, Mizrachi grinded back to win the event and the $1,559,046 first-place prize.

The title gives Mizrachi his first World Series of Poker bracelet and the coveted David "Chip" Reese Memorial Trophy.

"I'll be looking at this trophy every day," Mizrachi said.

And when he does, the Miami professional will remember what it took to win it. The Player's Championship, which featured 116 of the best players in the world, was a grueling five-day event capped off by a 14-hour final table that finished minutes before 4 a.m. Wednesday.

That was the moment Mizrachi's Queen-5 beat Russian bank owner Vladimir Schmelev's Queen-8 when a 5 hit on the turn. It was the final chapter in a major comeback by The Grinder.

An hour before, Schmelev had a commanding 3-to-1 chip lead and Mizrachi said he was frustrated heading into a 20-minute break.

"I had a talk with all of my friends," Mizrachi said. "I had some great advice. Thank God for all my friends. I had a great game plan and a great strategy."

That group of friends included a number of notable poker pros such as Mike "The Mouth" Matusow, David "Chino" Rheem, J.C. Tran and, most importantly, The Grinder's brother Robert Mizrachi.

Robert Mizrachi entered Tuesday's final table with the chip lead, but Michael Mizrachi proved that big brother doesn't always win. Michael knocked out Robert in fifth place when his Queen-Jack bested his older brother's Ace-10.

Robert earned $341,429 for his finish. It was the highest that two family members have finished together in the 41-year history of the World Series of Poker.

Even after winning the title, Michael felt guilty about busting his brother.

"At least I put his chips to good use," he said.

Robert was happy his chips went to his brother, but still wondered what could have been.

"I didn't play that well today," Robert said. "I'm disappointed. It happens."

Even with his brother's chips, The Grinder was not in an ideal situation. After Schmelev picked up pocket 10s to knock out well-known poker pro John Juanda in fourth place, Michael found himself at a severe disadvantage in three-handed play.

He had only 1 million chips to Los Angeles pro David Oppenheim's 9 million and Schmelev's 7 million. The Grinder then went on a tear and won nearly two out of every three pots for a couple hours.

The streak culminated when Michael got all his chips in with King-Queen against Oppenheim's pocket 8s and hit a Queen on the river.

"I thought everyone in this tournament played well," Michael said. "It was 116 great players."

For a while, however, it looked like a foregone conclusion that Schmelev would become the first amateur champion in the five-year history of the Player's Championship. He dominated the early portion of heads-up play by staying aggressive and applying constant pressure that baffled The Grinder.

But ultimately, Michael Mizrachi lived up to his moniker.

"It's always a grind," Michael Mizrachi said. "I never give up. That's the Mizrachi style."

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