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Koray Aldemir outlasts field to win WSOP Main Event

Koray Aldemir was one decision away from the crowning achievement of his — or any — poker career.

After a long wait, he threw some chips into the pot. Then he collected $8 million.

Aldemir called on the river with two pair to win the World Series of Poker Main Event on Wednesday night at the Rio.

The 31-year-old Germany native who lives in Austria prevailed in the field of 6,650 entries over nearly two weeks to win the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Hold’em World Championship and his first WSOP bracelet. (The WSOP awards trophy bracelets for tournament victories.)

Aldemir won heads-up against George Holmes, a 49-year-old banking executive from Atlanta, who earned $4.3 million.

In the final hand, the players had nearly equal chip stacks. On the river, Aldemir checked, and Holmes went all-in with top pair with king-queen on a king-high board. Aldemir had flopped two pair with ten-seven, but couldn’t beat a straight, three of a kind or a better two pair.

“My plan was to check-call on the river because he showed that he’s capable of making bluffs,” Aldemir said. “But I had to think about it. It’s a big moment, obviously. It was for all the chips, basically. If I lose the hand, I don’t have much left.

“I’m glad I made the call.”

Holmes, an amateur player who said he almost never plays tournaments, was still trying to wrap his mind around his achievement.

“Unbelievable,” he told PokerGO. “I still can’t put it into words. Maybe a week from now I’ll be able to tell you how I feel.”

Aldemir vs. Holmes created a classic Main Event contrast.

Aldemir is a top professional who had more than $12 million in career tournament earnings coming into the Main Event, according to the Hendon Mob Poker Database.

Holmes had one tournament cash on his record: 213th in the 2019 Main Event for $50,855.

Holmes’ Cinderella story added another layer during the tournament, when he was nearly eliminated Monday, then rocketed up from 475,000 chips into second place with 83.7 million by the end of the day.

Holmes said he concentrates on cash games and plays in a weekly home game. Those poker buddies vocally supported him throughout the late stages of the tournament, yelling “show ’em the lights” when Holmes won a big pot, a reference to pinning opponents on their back in wrestling.

Aldemir came into the final table as the most accomplished player and with a big chip lead, and he said he was “pretty stressed” when Holmes took the chip lead heads-up in an event Aldemir seemed primed to win.

“He was really, really tough,” Aldemir said. “I didn’t expect that at first, but he played great. … Made good bluffs, made good folds.”

Aldemir has won some of the biggest tournaments in the world, but he said the Main Event retains its place as the most important event in poker.

“It’s the one tournament family and friends know of basically, also guys that aren’t into poker,” he said. “It does mean a lot to me to win it.”

Before the heads-up battle, Jack Oliver went out in third place for $3 million. The 26-year-old from the United Kingdom went all-in preflop with ace-eight, and Holmes called with queen-jack and hit a jack on the turn.

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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