The 2022 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Event #47: $1,000 Seniors Championship was full of big names, big drama, and some incredible poker.
At the end of five days, there could only be one person from the 7,188-entry field donning the gold bracelet, and that was Eric Smidinger.
In a come-from-behind effort, Smidinger outlasted Ben Sarnoff in a two-and-a-half hour heads-up battle to take home an incredible $694,909 top prize and his very first WSOP gold bracelet.
Smidinger’s previous career-high live cash was for $28,831 when he finished in fourth place at a $365 WSOP Circuit event in Baltimore, Maryland back in 2015 according to The Hendon Mob.
This was Smidinger’s third year at the WSOP, having enjoyed three cashes in 2019, three cashes in 2021, and four cashes in 2022. The Maryland native claims to have a cash rate of over 50% each and every year so far.
He notably went deep in the 2022 $1,500 Millionaire Maker, finishing in 275th place, with his previous career-best finish being in the WSOP coming in the 2021 $1,000 Double Stack, where he finished in 71st.
Smidinger has attributed his success in poker to his wife’s lasagna and being able to study and play poker more while working less in recent years.
Event #47: $1,000 Seniors Championship Final Table Results
|1||Eric Smidinger||United States||$694,909|
|2||Ben Sarnoff||United States||$429,420|
|3||Charles Mitchell||United States||$323,057|
|5||Kathy Liebert||United States||$186,541|
“This is a dream. I love it. This morning, coming in, I knew I had just as good of a chance as anybody. I’m excited,” he said after the win. “It’s going to be cool to go back to Blackhawk, I live in Colorado (Evergreen) and play there regularly, including tournaments. It’ll be nice to sport the bracelet.”
When asked how winning the bracelet ranked amongst the top moments in his life, Smidinger began to tear up as he looked over to his wife.
“Uh. Wow. You know, family is so important… (voice breaks) After that, wife, kids, making a family… we have three great kids, five grandkids. After all that, married to a loving partner, a life-long loving partner, this is up there. This is, for sure, a bucket-list item, and I hope to get another one and I’ll probably play the Main Event. I can afford it.”
He was asked how the money would change his life, he first thought of his wife.
“My wife, Betsy, she’s retiring soon. She was planning to retire within the year and now that date will probably come a little sooner.”
He added: “Tonight? I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since I’ve been here so we’re going to go out and celebrate.”
Path to Bracelet
“It’s wonderful. I started playing poker in high school, went to Jim Boyd’s (Prince’s) home game in Maryland with my buddy Gabe (who was on the rail). We used to play tournaments there all the time. Then the casinos came, I didn’t start playing tournaments in casinos until 2006. I had minor success but then when work decreased, poker increased and I could study the game. The last few years have been really good.
“I think I played in six events this year, cashed in four. Played five events last year, cashed in three and similar the year before but nothing significantly large. But this tournament, everything just worked out.
“Even though I didn’t run overly good. When I did get it in, anytime it was critical, I got it in slightly ahead and those held up, just like the last hand, it just held up.”
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Final Table Action
The first player out was the legendary Kathy Liebert ($186,541), who was short-stacked and shoved pocket kings from the hijack. Unfortunately, she ran into the pocket aces of Sarnoff in the cutoff.
A little over 15 minutes went by before Biagio Morciano ($244,664) ran his ace-jack into the pocket eights of Smidinger. After getting it in preflop, he couldn’t improve and had to settle for fourth place.
Out in third was Charles Mitchell ($323,057), better known as Mitch. After coming in as the short stack, Mitchell was very active and battled all day until finding himself in a three-way all-in pot with both Sarnoff and Smidinger. Unfortunately for Mitchell, his ace-king was bested by Sarnoff’s ace-jack, who also beat Smidinger’s pocket sixes.
Though he would be the chip leader for all of Day 5 before it was heads up, it would be the aforementioned Sarnoff ($429,420) to fall just short at the end. Sarnoff’s suited ace-king could not catch up to Smidinger’s pocket eights and he was visibly disappointed to finish in second.
Blaise Bourgeois is a full-time digital nomad living and playing poker in Latin America. He’s part of the PokerNews live reporting team for the 2022 World Series of Poker.