Stanislav Zegal WSOPP
Stanislav Zegal won the WSOP Paradise Main Event for $2 million.

The inaugural World Series of Poker Paradise Main Event has been won by German qualifier Stanislav Zegal after a thrilling battle in The Bahamas. With the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island attended by some of the biggest players in the world, the seven finalists in the WSOP Paradise Main Event were the envy of everyone else. At the end of a dramatic conclusion to the event, Zegal had won $2 million, a score he called “life changing money” as he celebrated the achievement of his life.

Seven Start but Don’t Last Long

With Daniel Neilson’s chip leading stack being 62 big blinds tall and the short stack being Montgomery McQuade’s eight bigs, there weren’t too many big blinds on the table. That showed early on as two quick eliminations reduced the field to five in the time it takes to mix a cocktail at the Atlantis Resort’s Hard Rock Hotel. No-one had time to visit the Lazy River before McQuade was the player at risk and Team Lucky lived up to their name.

The British player McQuade shoved pre-flop from the hijack position with KhTd and was begrudgingly called by ‘Team Lucky’ player Matt Glantz. The other three members of Team Lucky are Daniel Weinman, the 2023 WSOP Main Event winner, Josh Arieh, star of Game of Gold and Shaun Deeb, who is on his way to winning a million-dollar weight loss bet by next summer’s Vegas WSOP.

With over a dozen bracelets between them, Glatz was attempting to win the quartet’s second Main Event of 2023 and held with ease as his 4s4c struck gold on the As5c4d. The 9s turn rendered the 9c river meaningless as Glantz hoovered up McQuade’s chips and the Brit shook his hand to leave in seventh place for a payday of $300,000.

Schroeder Gets Peanuts

If irony ever plays a part in poker, it seems to be in the regular exposure of players’ names for narrative game. In a world where the WSOP record-holding winner enjoys talking and is called Hell-muth and the most propulsive winner of the seminal Main Event was called Moneymaker, the Brazilian players Schroeder winning ‘Peanuts’ in final table terms was apt. In the famous cartoon Peanuts, Schroeder love Beethoven but was often left frustrated.

Here the same was true in at least the latter example as Schroeder, his AhKd lost to Michael Sklenicka’s QsQd as a flip for 38.9 million chips went against him. Left with just under three big blinds, Schroeder lost his final hand to the same player as Skleicka’s Ah7h prevailed against the Brazilian’s Kc6c, a board of Ad5s5c5d6d leaving Schroeder dead by the river and on the rail with $400,000.

Sklenicka was on a roll and took out Portuguese professional Rui Sousa next. The latter three-bet all-in for 20.5 million chips with Qs9s – a whopping 34 big blinds – and paid for his over-aggression, as Sklenicka called with the dominating AcQh. The flop of JhTs5c gave Sousa an open-ended straight draw but a Tc turn wasn’t any help and when the 3d fell on the river, the Czech player grew his new chip lead at the table with the large chunk of chips that had been in front of the eliminated Sousa, who slunk away to collect $1510,000.

Team Lucky Lives Up to Their Name

“How good does this guy run!?”

All-in with 6s6d, Matt Glantz was left needing a lot of luck from his Team Lucky railmates when the overnight chips leader Daniel Neilson called with AsAh. The flop of 9d8h8s gave Glantz a backdoor straight draw, but such runner-runner miracles were no longer necessary when the two-outer 6c landed on the turn to rapturous roars from the rail.

“How good does this guy run!?” Asked Norman Chad on the official WSOP commentary stream and it was a good question. Team Lucky? They know it.

A 9h ended any hope Neilson had of winning the hand and having started the day on 15 million chips, Glantz leapt to 33.8 million at the now deposed Neilson’s expense, the Aussie slipping to just 25.8 million chips by comparison. A tight hand between Michael Sklenicka and German player Stanislav Zegal saw the chipstacks balance up even more, with the hand concluding with Sklenicka on 46.3 million and Zegal stacking up 43.8 million. The WSOP Paradise Main Event was anyone’s to win.

Matt Glantz decided to make another move soon after that elimination, but his timing was horrible. Three-betting all-in with KcQc, Glantz was well behind his caller Daniel Neilson with AsQd. The six-high board of 4c4s2h6d3c saw Glantz hit the rail just as Jeff ‘Doomslayer’ Platt spoke to fellow Team Lucky member Shaun Deeb on the rail.

Zegal Eagle Flies Highest

“You make plans for when stuff like this happens, but then when it happens it’s so overwhelming.”

Another huge hand was right around the corner, as a few minutes later, Stanislav Zegal, an online qualifier for the $5,000-entry Main Event was all-in on a board showing KhQh5d9d with KcQc after Neilson shoved, covering Zegal with AsKd. A Tc river concluded the hand and while Zegal ended it with 110 million chips and a massive chip lead, Neilson was down to 15.2 million, the equivalent of just 15 big blinds.

Losing the rest of his chips in the next hand, Neilson cashed for $900,000. All-in with 7s4s on a flop of JcTd9d, he was called by Michael Sklenicka with Ts9c and he survived the Qh turn and 5c river to go to the heads-up for the title with around a third of Zegal’s chips.

It didn’t take long for Zegal to lock it up. On a flop of Td4h2h, Zegal checked with Jh4d and Sklenicka bet with 7s3s.

Both players checked the Qs turn before a 5c river saw Zegal check again. Sklenicka moved all-in for 16 million and Zegal went into deep thought, taking off his hat and glasses and eventually making a hero call to win his first-ever major title and the inaugural WSOP Paradise Main Event for $2 million. Sklenicka had to settle for a second-place score of $1.2 million.

“It was somewhat exhausting and needs to settle,” Zegal told PokerNews “You always make plans for when stuff like this happens, but then when it happens it’s so overwhelming. I’m going to do something for myself, for my health more, study more poker and just enjoy the time with friends and family but I won’t play higher. I felt comfortable here.”

No-one ever looked more comfortable than the German player as he landed the first major win of his poker career.

WSOP Paradise 2023 Main Event Final Table Results:
Place Player Country Prize
1st Stanislav Zegal Germany $2,000,000
2nd Michael Sklenicka Czech Republic $1,200,000
3rd Daniel Neilson Australia $900,000
4th Matt Glantz United States $685,000
5th Rui Sousa Portugal $510,000
6th Gabriel Schroeder Brazil $400,000
7th Montgomery McQuade United Kingdom $300,000
8th Luke Graham United States $250,000

Headline photograph courtesy of Tomas Stacha at PokerNews, the official reporting team for the WSOP Paradise festival.