PokerStars Team Pro Benjamin “Spraggy” Spragg wins UKIPT Brighton!
It wasn’t surprising to see all eyes on Benjamin “Spraggy” Spragg today as he made his way back into Brighton’s Rendezvous Casino for the UKIPT Brighton final table. And not just because of his fetching bucket hat.
The PokerStars Team Pro and award-winning Twitch streamer got the biggest cheer from the rail during the final table player introductions — and just a couple of waggish boos.
He was seeking his first major live title.
Well, five hours later, he got it.
Spraggy — whose first and only PokerStars Main Event final table (prior to today) was at the UKIPT Galway in 2013 — defeated high-stakes superstar Dominik Nitsche heads-up to win £69,120 and the trophy. In doing so, he becomes the first patched-up PokerStars Team Pro to win a PokerStars Main Event since Victoria Coren-Mitchell took down her second EPT in 2014.
“It’s unbelievable,” Spraggy told us as the win was sinking in. “I’m lost for words. I’m genuinely really emotional. I didn’t think I would be because there was such a good atmosphere at the final table, it didn’t feel like a final table.”
Scroll down for our full winner’s interview with Spraggy.
We couldn’t have asked for a better final table line-up today, as everyone had a fantastic story.
We had two online qualifiers in Oliver Hutchins and Sebastian Gohr. The former a Power Path success story who won entry via a Silver Pass. And the latter a direct qualifier playing at his local casino. Then there was Allesandro Spina, a former professional rugby player who found a new passion in poker.
We also had Adam McKola – or Adam McIlroy, as he’s officially listed on our books – the influential football YouTuber and podcaster who only learned poker two years ago and is not only making waves at the tables but introducing poker to a wider audience.
McKola’s dreamlike run came to an in third place. He picked up pocket sixes and got them all in, only for Spraggy to find pocket queens and hold. The 34-year-old told us yesterday that it would be “an honour” just to make this final table. He did himself proud today, and if his chips were going to leave him, we’re sure he’s happy it was his good friend Spraggy who received them.
Then there was start-of-day chip leader Dominik Nitsche: the consummate high-stakes crusher with more than $20 million in live earnings and Spraggy’s eventual heads-up opponent.
“You’re not playing just any old poker player,” Spraggy said of his duelling partner. “Dom is one of the best in our industry. He’s been there and done it, so I didn’t want to give him any room.”
We won’t give you the heads-up blow-by-blow here – you can check out full live updates from today over at PokerNews. But trust us, they’re well worth reading. Spraggy had a massive chip lead but more than a couple of pots didn’t go his way.
“I had a little word with myself and regrouped,” Spraggy said.
Whatever he told himself, it worked.
He’s the UKIPT Brighton champion.
To relive today’s final table action, check out the blow-by-blow coverage on PokerNews.
See you in London!
MAIN EVENT RESULTS
UKIPT Brighton £1,100 Main Event
Dates: September 7-10, 2023
Prize pool: £337,920
SPRAGGY’S WINNER INTERVIEW
We spoke to Spraggy immediately after his victory. Here’s an abridged version of what he had to say.
ON THE WIN
It’s unbelievable. I’ve been playing UKIPT’s since 2011 and to win one…I’m lost for words.
I’m genuinely really emotional. I didn’t think I would be because there was such a good atmosphere at the final table, it didn’t feel like a final table. Having Adam [McKola] there and other players I know, it didn’t feel that intense.
But then when we got heads-up for those last hands, my adrenaline really kicked in and I was really feeling it. I had such a big chip lead that it actually put pressure on me. The expectation is that I’m going to get it over the line.
But you’re not playing just any old poker player. Dom is one of the best in our industry. He’s been there and done it, so I didn’t want to give him any room.
ON PLAYING LIVE
There’s something to be said for winning titles in the live environment, where you have friends with you and onlookers watching, and the whole event.
The first thing I was able to play was a UKIPT, so for this to be my first major tournament win, it’s really nice to come full circle. I’ve had so many near misses, I was determined to put my best foot forward today.
I no longer feel like an online guy who plays a bit of live. I’m just a poker pro.
Former champ Jamie Burland on his “legendary” time at UKIPT Brighton
Only two people on the planet can call themself a UKIPT Brighton champion.
“For the next few minutes at least!” says Jamie Burland – winner of this event back in 2010 – as he glances over towards the Main Event final table, rapidly approaching its conclusion.
Burland, a Brighton local who earned £65,400 for his UKIPT win, has been at the Rendezvous Casino almost every day throughout this festival.
“When the stop was announced I was really excited,” he tells us. “I haven’t been playing much live poker at all so immediately jumped in the cash games here to get in the swing of it and meet some of the regulars. The room has been buzzing with the tour coming to town.”
“There have been so familiar faces”
A former poker pro with more than $300K in live earnings, there’s a good reason Burland no longer grinds brick-and-mortar poker. He’s got a young family, as well as a full-time job in the poker industry. That keeps him pretty busy, but thankfully, the UKIPT schedule is accommodating.
“It’s been really convenient, the schedule really works for working people,” he says. “I come down in the evenings, took Friday off work to play the Main — one, two, three times! — but I’ve just been coming down after work and playing.”
The only issue with his return to the live tables – aside from not running well this week – is that he’s caught the poker bug once again. He’s even been asking people what the next stop on their calendars is (that’ll be UKIPT London later this month).
“It’s a really fun tour, really well organised too,” Burland says. “There have been so many familiar faces here.
“It’s been legendary to walk around and catch people for 10 minutes on a break and swap old stories.”
UKIPT BRIGHTON MAIN EVENT FINAL TABLE PLAYER PROFILES
Get to know your six finalists playing for the title and £69,120.
Seat 1: Alessandro Spina, Italy – 2,070,000
Alessandro Spina is still riding high after starting Day 2 as chip leader. The 35-year-old discovered poker as “a new passion” after ending a professional rugby career. For 12 years he has been playing regularly in cash games and tournaments – including EPT London for which he qualified online on PokerStars. Though considering himself “on the way to being a pro”, he works as a chef and is sensible of his family and work commitments that mean that taking the full-time plunge is not on the cards – yet.
Spina plays mainly Texas hold’em, though when in Italy does dive into five-card draw. The minimum prize at this final table represents his biggest live tournament cash.
“I’m very proud of this,” he said of his run at UKIPT Brighton, “In this tournament I felt confident from the very beginning. Now I want to win!”
Seat 2: Adam McKola, United Kingdom – 1,015,000
A popular football influencer and YouTuber, Adam McKola (whose real surname is McIlroy) has proved himself to be quite a force on the poker tables too. That’s pretty impressive considering he only learned the game two years ago while playing a live-streamed poker show on Twitch.
Now friends with many of the UK poker elite (from whom he says he’s learned a lot), McKola has smashed his previous biggest score just by reaching the final table. Earlier today he told us: ““If I could make the final table here, it would be unreal. It would be an honour. I just hope I get dealt some cards!”
Seat 3: Ben Spragg, PokerStars Team Pro, United Kingdom – 1,440,000
It was at the UKIPT where it all started for Benjamin “Spraggy” Spragg. The 33-year-old final tabled UKIPT Galway back in 2013, and now he’s a member of PokerStars Team Pro.
He’s a two-time World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) champion. He’s an award-winning Twitch streamer. The only thing missing from Spragg’s resume is a live victory. His loyal community will no doubt be frantically hitting that refresh button throughout tomorrow’s final table to find out how their hero gets on. Third in chips at the start of the final, he will undoubtedly have a lively rail in person, too. Read more about him here.
Seat 4: Sebastian Gohr, United Kingdom – 550,000
Sebastian Gohr has felt like he was freerolling on home turf the past few days, as though originally from Germany, he now calls Hove home. He played three £109 satellites for UKIPT Brighton, cashing two and winning a seat on his third attempt. Now the self-proclaimed “semi-pro and full-time dad” is on the verge of his biggest live cash in years.
Having turned pro back in 2007, Gohr has racked up $450K in live earnings throughout his career but has never clinched a PokerStars title. “It’s been amazing,” he told us. “Everyone [who plays poker locally] was talking about it, so it was impossible for me to miss.”
Seat 5: Dominik Nitsche, Germany – 3,000,000
Dominik Nitsche needs little introduction to those familiar with the international poker circuit. Fifth on Germany’s all-time money list with over $20 million in live cashes, the WSOP and WSOPE bracelet-holder (most recently finishing 5th in the Wynn Summer Classic for $700,000 this July) has made yet another final table here in Brighton – and as the chip leader.
Now based in Edinburgh, he could almost have come no further within the country to take part in the UKIPT Main Event. “I like the format – that it’s in the money after Day 2. So it’s worth while to travel.” Of the Main Event title, he deadpanned, “I deserve it the most because I came the furthest.”
Seat 6: Oliver Hutchins, United Kingdom – 500,000
All Oliver Hutchins, 29, needs to complete the supreme PokerStars Pass set is a Power Path Gold Pass. He’s already won a Platinum Pass and a Bronze Pass, and it was a Silver Pass win that brought him to UKIPT Brighton from his home in Maidenhead. Now the factory worker turned poker pro is seeking his first PokerStars title, having enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2022, winning an event in Malta for €74,000.
“I love the atmosphere. There’s a real buzz,” he told us. “Winning a UKIPT would mean a lot to the 18-year-old in me who [used to watch on Channel 4], dreaming of playing in an event like that.”
Sebastian Gohr is freerolling on home turf
There’s nothing quite like the gut punch of travelling a long distance to play a live poker tournament, eagerly taking your seat, and then getting eliminated in the very first hand.
It’s especially brutal if it’s a freezeout.
Sebastian Gohr had that elimination experience on Thursday night when he entered the Rendezvous Casino for UKIPT Brighton. “I late-regged the £220 freezeout and busted immediately in the first hand,” he says, chuckling.
Thankfully, though, Gohr only lives down the road in Hove, so his post-bust-out decision was easy: head home and look after his 14-month-old son.
Gohr is one of the last remaining online qualifiers in the UKIPT Brighton Main Event, where there are 18 players left at the time of writing.
A poker pro since 2007, he began his career with a $50 online deposit and climbed up through the online stakes, all the while racking up more than $450K in live cashes throughout his career.
His biggest score came from a deep run in the 2013 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, where he cashed for $151K.
These days, though, he considers himself “a semi-pro and full-time dad”.
“I’m still playing poker but not as serious as back in the day,” he says on the Day 2 dinner break. “I still play online but not as much volume as back in the day.”
It was online where Gohr punched his ticket to this event.
He played three £109 qualifiers on PokerStars, cashed two of them, and then won the £1,100 seat on his third try.
“It’s pretty much a freeroll!”
Now he’s guaranteed £3,300 and playing for the £69,120 first-place prize. Not bad for a poker event on your doorstep.
“It’s been amazing,” he says. “Everyone [who plays poker locally] was talking about it, so it was impossible for me to miss.”
How did Adam McKola get so good at poker so quickly?
The first time that popular football influencer Adam McKola played poker, it was in a home game with mates for peanuts. He had fun, but for some reason, the game just didn’t stick with him.
That all changed just over two years ago when McKola – alongside his fellow football influencer Rory Jennings – took part in a live-streamed poker game on Twitch. This time, he was gripped.
“I didn’t have a clue what I was doing,” he admits. “But I loved it and really got the bug for it.”
So what was different? Was it the pressure of playing with cards-up? Was it the joy of having a professional dealer slinging out the cards?
No. For McKola (real name Mcilroy), it all changed when professional poker players like Benjamin “Spraggy” Spragg started to make guest appearances on the show.
He felt inspired to dig a little deeper and began to learn the game. Then he had a revelation, one that he often shares with his football audience who ask him why he chooses to play poker.
“Here’s the thing,” McKola says. “When you have some idea about what you’re doing — and I’m not saying I know what I’m doing all the time — but just having some idea, poker becomes so much fun.
“You realise a lot of it is maths, a lot of it is guts. There are so many styles and ways to play.”
At the time of writing, McKola is very deep in the UKIPT Brighton Main Event, hoping to better the deep run his good friend Jennings recently recorded at EPT Barcelona.
But just how has McKola managed to get so good, so quickly? How has he gone from not having a clue, to eyeing a UKIPT title?
“TRAVELLING AROUND, PLAYING POKER? IT DOESN’T GET MUCH BETTER!”
“A lot of my learning simply comes from watching a lot of poker,” says McKola, who cites PokerStars Team Pros Spraggy, Parker “Tonkaaaa” Talbot, and Fintan “easywithaces” Hand as the streamers he’s learned the most from.
“Seeing what other people are doing, hearing what they’re thinking,” he continues. “When Spraggy talks through a hand and his decisions, you pick up stuff.”
Of course, it helps to be mates with some of the world’s best poker minds. When he’s not at the tables at a PokerStars event, you might find McKola eating dinner or grabbing a drink with the Spraggy’s, Tonkaaaa’s, and Conor “1_conor_b_1” Beresford’s of the world.
Your brain is bound to be a sponge when you’re talking poker in that kind of company. But McKola is doing his own independent study, too.
“I’m reading books and doing master classes, and I’m hoping to get some private lessons in the future,” he says. “I just really enjoy it, it’s so much fun.
“I figured, if I’m going to be participating in these tournaments, why not try and get better at it?”
McKola now travels the PokerStars live circuit regularly. “All of the PokerStars events are so great, really well put together and so much fun,” he says. It’s clear from the smile on his face that there’s nowhere he’d rather be.
“It’s amazing, this is the ideal lifestyle for me,” he says. “Obviously, we have our own thing when we do the football stuff, but travelling around playing poker? I don’t think it gets much better than that.”
Well, hold on a sec. Perhaps there’s one thing that would make it better:
Winning a UKIPT title, something that McKola (at the time of writing) is very much in contention to do here in Brighton.
“Me and Rory, we’re min-cashers,” he says, laughing. “Min-cash, get out of there.
“But if I could make the final table here, it would be unreal. It would be an honour. I just hope I get dealt some cards!”
Oliver Hutchins: 12 years of UKIPT dreaming
For a variety of reasons, making a deep run in the UKIPT Brighton Main Event is special to Oliver Hutchins.
For starters, the 29-year-old poker pro won his entry via the Power Path, turning $11 into a full $2,500 Silver Pass package, and he loves playing these regional tours.
“Whether it’s in Rozvadov, on the Estrellas tour, or the UKIPT… They’re brilliant,” says Hutchins on Day 2 of the £1,100 Brighton Main Event. “I love the atmosphere. There’s a real buzz.”
But his attachment to the UKIPT goes back much further than the introduction of Power Path.
“A UKIPT title specifically would be…,” he trails off, gathering his thoughts. “You know, when I was getting into poker it was watching the UKIPT on channel 4 in 2011 and 2012, that’s what got me into poker.
“So winning a UKIPT would mean a lot to the 18-year-old in me who was watching back then, dreaming of playing in an event like that.”
CHASING THE FULL SET
Hutchins lives in Maidenhead and it was there, at his computer, that he won his Silver Pass. He’s played around 30 of the $11 Step 3’s so far, with one pass won. “It’s a great ROI,” he says.
When he’s playing online, Hutchins mainly focuses on playing satellites for live events. Prior to Power Path, that meant jumping in the £109 direct qualifiers. But now, he’s going for the Gold and Silver Passes.
Should he win a Gold Pass soon, he may very well become the first PokerStars player to win a complete Pass set: a Platinum Pass, Gold Pass, Silver Pass, and Bronze Pass. Just the Gold is missing at the time of writing.
Hutchins won his Platinum Pass by winning a £5.50 online qualifier to a special Shootout event, held at the Aspers Casino in London. When he took that down too, he bagged himself a $30,000 to the Bahamas and the PokerStars Player’s Championship (PSPC).
That win gave Hutchins the confidence to leave his factory job and pursue poker full time, and he’s never looked back. In 2022, he enjoyed a breakout live score when he took down an event in Malta for €74,000.
“That really springboarded everything for me and since then I’ve just been travelling,” he says.
Right now, Hutchins’ travels have landed him in Brighton and at the time of writing, he’s deep in the Main Event with just 29 players remaining.
This could be special.
We’re in the money…
It’s Day 2 of the UKIPT Brighton Main Event and for most tournaments, that would mean a looming bubble hanging over (and slowing down) proceedings.
But not today. All three Day 1 flights played down until just 15% of the field remained, and that means that if you managed to bag chips, you were already guaranteed a cash.
The payouts and prize pool (£337,920) have just been announced so here’s a look at what the final table will play for:
1 – £69,120
2 – £42,150
3 – £30,110
4 – £23,160
5 – £17,820
6 – £13,700
7 – £10,540
8 – £8,690
All 54 players who made it through to Day 2 had a min-cash of £1,640 locked up, and we’ve already seen a flurry of eliminations so far.
The plan today is quite simple: reach a final table.
The incredible instincts of Adrian Creagh
DAY 1B: When asked how he would describe his poker playing style, Adrian Creagh told us: “I play on instinct.”
A few weeks ago, those instincts led the 60-year-old to register a £109 qualifier for UKIPT Brighton on PokerStars, despite the fact he doesn’t play online poker regularly.
“I must admit, I get a bit bored sitting at home and playing a 10-hour tournament online,” he says. “But the qualifiers are quick and get me to events like this.”
He didn’t single out Brighton from the UKIPT schedule, or mark the dates on his calendar. He just happened to open PokerStars on that particular day, after getting the poker itch.
“You can get in from very little and go up through the qualifiers,” he says. “I just see what’s running and go for it!”
His instincts then led him all the way to winning a full Brighton package, including his Main Event entry, hotel and money for expenses.
JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT
Creagh lives with his wife and two dogs in Ascot, Berkshire, where he works as a Managing Director for a worldwide IT logistics company. He has three grown-up children and two grandchildren.
That probably doesn’t leave much time for poker, right?
“Just the right amount,” Creagh says, with a smile.
This isn’t his first rodeo. Creagh has qualified for the European Poker Tour (EPT) twice (both in Deauville) and has seven cashes at the Irish Poker Open, including this year.
But he’s yet to have that breakthrough live result.
“I’m pretty good at the qualifiers,” he says. “I’ve just got to improve my game a bit in the actual events!”
How ice cream and $1.50 brought weekend warrior Tom Lewis to UKIPT Brighton
DAY 1B: Tom Lewis’ journey to UKIPT Brighton began back in 1930 when his grandfather, Artillio, fled starvation in his native Italy and landed in Wales. There, he flourished and became a prominent cafe owner, but making authentic Italian ice cream was his passion.
“He only made one flavour, but it was really good, the best I’ve ever tried,” Lewis tells me. “I knew we couldn’t let that stop.”
The 36-year-old entered the family business around 10 years ago with his mum – the fourth generation of the Conti family – and now Conti’s Ice Cream produces a range of flavours from Chocolate Stracciatella to Pure Welsh Honey, all using that classic recipe.
August is understandably a busy month in the ice cream business, but some bad weather towards the end of the month meant Lewis had a bit more free time than he was used to.
A self-proclaimed weekend warrior, Lewis decided he would grind more and started to play the Power Path on PokerStars using a $1.50 ticket and managed to go all the way, winning himself a Silver Pass worth $2,500.
“I actually won two within a week,” Lewis says, beaming. “I wanted to try and play some live tournaments over the winter but then I saw Brighton was coming up and I know some people here, and it’s a great time to visit.”
KING OF THE FISH
UKIPT Brighton is only the second time Lewis has ever played live poker (the first was Lex Live in London back in 2019), and it’s the biggest tournament he’s jumped in.
“I’m really enjoying it,” he says. “I try to keep up because the game has changed so much over the past few years.”
Lewis might not have a lot of experience on the live tables, but he’s enjoyed some success on the virtual felt, most notably winning the $11 Sunday Storm – the bucket list event of the weekend warriors – back in 2019.
“It’s the king of the fish tournaments,” he says, chuckling. “It was a bit of a blur. I think I tripled up in the first hand to 600 big blinds and went on to win it for $19,400. It was crazy.”
POWER PATH TIPS
But while he clearly has a knack for online events with massive fields, it’s the Power Path where he’s going to focus his efforts.
“They’re very soft satellites,” he says. “Satellites are a very different game to regular tournaments. Early on, there’s a lot of gamble play. But later on, people in Power Path are just not aggressive enough close to the bubble.
“I’ve found you get a lot of walks. So just make sure you don’t do that. Steal their blinds because people tank a lot and suddenly everyone has three or four big blinds.
“And obviously, get lucky! I was in the big blind with one big blind, nine players remaining and eight Silver Passes. Everyone folded!”
Lewis plans on using his second Silver Pass at UKIPT Edinburgh in November, where he’ll bring his partner and their one-year-old daughter.
“It’s great because you can turn it into a city break,” he says. “Amazing.”
“REPORT THIS NOW BECAUSE THIS MAY NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!”
DAY 1B: A familiar voice whooped towards the media desk.
“Report this now because this may never happen again! I’m chip leader! I’ve never been chip leader…”
You might think those words came from a green and eager PokerStars qualifier playing in their maiden Main Event.
Taking a well-earned commentary break here at UKIPT Brighton is none other than James Hartigan. He’s the award-winning voice of the European Poker Tour (EPT) and the head of poker editorial at PokerStars.
But today, more importantly, he’s the early chip leader on Day 1B of the £1,100 UKIPT Main Event.
“Within the first two levels, I got moved four times,” Hartigan tells us. “The third table is where I managed to win two massive pots. I had aces and made a full house, and I had sevens and made a full house.”
Weird start. Have moved table twice already. Third table’s working out for me. Now have more than 2x starting stack. (Making full houses with AA and 77 helped!) #UKIPTBrighton
— James Hartigan (@J_Hartigan) September 8, 2023
Regulars on the tour should get used to seeing Hartigan at the tables. He’s been playing plenty of poker so far in 2023, including a trip to the Irish Poker Open earlier this year and a special, invite-only cash game last night. Now he’s on holiday and making a run at the Brighton title.
“I still feel like I’m working though,” he says, laughing. “It’s a different kind of work, but I still feel like I’m on the whole time. But obviously, it’s different and more enjoyable to actually be at the table and playing.
“And any time you’re winning chips and building a stack it’s even more enjoyable than when you’re losing chips, which happens to me most of the time!”
In the words of my muse Taylor, “Let the games begin. Let the games begin!”#UKIPTBrighton
— James Hartigan (@J_Hartigan) September 7, 2023
“I’ve definitely played more so far this year than I have in the last 10 years and if the opportunity is there I’ll definitely play more,” says Hartigan.
Looks like Spraggy is going to have to get used to Hartigan building stacks too.
I fell asleep in Brighton and woke up in the Twilight Zone. pic.twitter.com/vSPos85c5N
— Spraggy (@spraggy) September 8, 2023
DAY 1B: If you’ve been umming and ahhing about heading to Brighton this weekend for the UKIPT, let us try and persuade you.
You might want to start packing while you read this.
It’s been hot here on the south coast. Real hot (for the UK, at least). Perfect weather to hit the beach and enjoy an ice cream or two.
But today (Friday), it’s slightly cooler than it was yesterday, and slightly cooler than it will be tomorrow.
That makes today the ideal day to sit inside an air-conditioned casino and play a Day 1 flight of the UKIPT Brighton Main Event, here at Brighton Marina’s Rendezvous Casino.
And there are even two flights to choose from. Day 1B has just begun with late registration open until 8:10 pm tonight, plus there’s a turbo Day 1C flight kicking off at 7:00 pm with 20-minute levels instead of the usual 40.
Bust the first flight? You can always enter the other one. Bust both? Then you get to enjoy Brighton on a sizzling weekend.
IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK
Should you come down and play (and, let’s face it, you will), you’ll also be in with a chance of becoming the first UKIPT Brighton champion in 12 years.
Over at the media desk, we’ve been enjoying a scroll down memory lane (i.e. the #UKIPTBrighton hashtag on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter) and it’s brought on a wave of nostalgia.
Two-time UKIPT champ Nick Abou Risk was in town back in 2011, as was PokerStars Blog legend Marc Convey.
— Nick Abou Risk (@nickabourisk) July 15, 2011
And we’ve already had some blasts from the past here on Day 1B with a former Brighton champion in the field – Jamie Burland. The Brit took down the first UKIPT Brighton back in 2010. [Alas, he has since been eliminated].
For now, here are the Day 1A survivors and the stacks to beat:
You’re coming down, right? Of course you are.
See you soon.
Meet the Power Path crusher playing his first live tournament (and heed his qualifying tips!)
DAY 1A: Richard Wells has a Power Path batting average of .04.
That might be low in cricket or baseball, but for Power Path – the new qualifying route introduced on PokerStars at the end of June – it seems incredible.
“I think I’ve played just under 50 of the $11 Step 3’s and I’ve won two Silver Passes,” Wells tells me during the first break of the UK and Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) Brighton Main Event.
So, for every 25 $11 Step 3 events he plays, Wells is averaging one $2,500 Silver Pass. That pass awards the 31-year-old from Cheltenham a regional tour Main Event buy-in, plus side event buy-ins and money for expenses.
But what’s really amazing is that while he seems to be an expert in qualifying for live events, he’s never played a live tournament before. To continue the baseball analogy, that’s like an incredible baseball hitter who has yet to leave the cage for the mound.
Wells might be new to live poker, but he’s enjoyed a lot of success so far in 2023, so much so that he left his job as a software engineer to become a poker pro.
Now he’s in Brighton to trade in his first Silver Pass – perhaps the first of many…
We spoke to Wells about his life as a pro so far and what advice he has for those of you also hoping to qualify for PokerStars events through Power Path. Check it out.
THE SCORE THAT BLEW HIS MIND
OK, so the £1,100 Main Event isn’t Richard Wells’ first-ever live tournament. That took place on Monday earlier this week.
“I played a qualifier to the High Roller as a warm-up,” he says. “I wasn’t fussed about getting through, I just wanted to figure out what I was doing!
“I made a few mistakes with blinds and stuff, but now I get it.”
Wells has been into poker for years, originally learning the game through an online puzzle game before moving on to online poker. He’s been playing ever since and – having decided to focus on learning and improving – he turned pro a few months ago after an incredible score.
During the Main Event weekend of the Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) 2023, Wells won a seat to the $109 Main Event and made it through Day 1. On the same day, he banked his biggest career score – around $4,000.
But he knocked that out of the park a few days later, finishing third in the SCOOP Main for $118,000.
“I was absolutely mind blown,” he says, and it’s not hard to see why.
All of a sudden, Wells had a bankroll big enough that he could leave his job as a software engineer and pursue his poker dream.
“I’ve set aside what would have been a year of my salary and I pay that into the bank each month like a normal job,” he says. “So I don’t have to worry about money for the rest of the year.
“Now I have a year to build up a poker bankroll.”
LIFE AS A PRO SO FAR
And how’s life as a poker pro treating Richard Wells so far?
“It’s going great!” he says, smiling. “I’m now a regular at the $100 MTT level and I don’t feel out of depth there. As long as I play a bit of poker or do some learning during the day, I feel like I’ve achieved something.”
Now that he’s popped his live poker cherry, Wells plans on continuing his incredible run in the Power Path.
“Having the chance to try the live dream from $11 online tournaments is crazy,” he says. “Power Path is such a good way for players to win live event packages.
“I’m hoping to get as many passes as I can!”
POWER PATH TIPS
We asked Wells what tips he would give to others hoping to qualify for live events through the Power Path.
Here’s what the two-time winner had to say.
For the $11 Step 3’s…
You need to play crazy ICM implications. I keep catching myself out with it — I actually think I could have done better than I have so far.
When you get towards the bubble, a 10-big-blind stack could mean you have one of the biggest stacks as everyone is super tight around the bubble.
Normally in a tournament when you’re sitting on 6 big blinds, you’re thinking about shoving anything, but in the Power Path 11s, having 6 bigs is loads! You can sit there and keep folding.
As for the $109’s, everyone gets very short-stacked so it’s worth being more aggressive around that bubble as you can build up a stack to cruise to the final table.
SIDE EVENT RESULTS
Here’s a look at all the side event results from the UKIPT Brighton festival.
Event 3 – £220 Freezeout
Dates: September 5, 2023
Prize pool: £12,000
Event 5 – £2,200 High Roller
Dates: September 6-7, 2023
Entries: 58 (including 17 re-entries)
Prize pool: £116,000
Event 8 – £220 Freezeout
Dates: September 7, 2023
Prize pool: £15,600
Event 11 – £220 Freezeout
Dates: September 8, 2023
Prize pool: £8,400
Event 12 – £330 Cup
Dates: September 9-10, 2023
Entries: 320 (including 118 re-entries)
Prize pool: £96,000
Event 13 – £220 8-Game
Dates: September 9, 2023
Entries: 26 (including 5 re-entries)
Prize pool: £5,200
Event 14 – £220 Women’s Event
Dates: September 10, 2023
Entries: 27 (including 3 re-entries)
Prize pool: £5,400
Event 15 – £220 NLH Bounty
Dates: September 10, 2023
Entries: 101 (including 20 re-entries)
Prize pool: £10,100
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
For the first time in 12 years, the UK and Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) is returning to Brighton.
Some call it ‘London-by-the-sea’, but while Brighton shares the buzz of the English capital, the popular city has its own unique and charming culture comprised of everything from art and live music to fish and chips and deck chairs on the beach.
The Main Event is almost upon us and we can’t wait to get down there. We hope you’re looking forward to it, too.
If you can’t make it this time, don’t worry. You’ll still be able to follow the action.
But for all the latest news, player interviews, results, event info and more, you can stick right here on PokerStars Blog.
Bookmark this page because here in our coverage hub we’ll be roaming the Rendezvous halls throughout the festival, speaking to players old and new and finding out what it’s like to pull up a chair at the UKIPT.
UKIPT BRIGHTON DATES: SEPTEMBER 5-10, 2023
High Roller: September 6-7 – £2,200
Main Event: September 7-10 – £1,100
Cup: September 9-10 – £330
UKIPT Brighton will be held at the Rendezvous Casino in Brighton Marina.
Address: Rendezvous Casino Marina, 7, Western Concourse, Park Square, Brighton Marina, Brighton BN2 5UT, United Kingdom
Dress Code: smart casual
Minimum Age: 18
NB: Must bring a valid government-issued passport or ID to participate.
LATEST FROM THE UKIPT
Most recently, the UKIPT stopped at another seaside city – Blackpool – for what was an incredible few days of poker.
Tuan Le of Manchester took down the £1,100 Main Event for £53,630, defeating a 288-entry field to clinch the first live victory of his career.
Le, a recreational player and father of four, doesn’t get to play poker as much as he’d like. But as he told us after his win, “Every dog has its day”.
Catch up on everything that happened at UKIPT Blackpool here.
UKIPT BRIGHTON OFFICIAL SITE
The PokerStars Live official page, with everything you need to know about the tournament series in Brighton.
FULL TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
There are events across the UKIPT Brighton tournament series. Here’s the day-by-day schedule.
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