As he won one event, Mizrachi had eye on another

How confident is Michael Mizrachi in his poker playing skills?

Moments after becoming the first two-time winner of the World Series of Poker’s Players Championship event Thursday night, Mizrachi went to the tournament’s cashier’s cage at the Rio and transferred $1 million from his $1.45 million winnings to pay his entry in Sunday’s “Big One for One Drop” No- Limit Hold’em event. It also helped that Mizrachi, 31, had secured some $900,000 in financial commitments from backers willing to wager that he could win the special event’s potential top prize of more than $18 million.

“I was already thinking about buying into the million dollar event a week ago,” Mizrachi said shortly after defeating Chris Klodnicki in heads-up play at the $50,000 buy-in Players Championship. “As a poker player, it’s something you want to compete in. I’m sure everybody wants a piece of me now. We’re sold-out.”

Mizrachi is no longer considered the heir apparent as poker’s next superstar.

He has arrived.

Winning the Players Championship – the tournament’s second-most coveted title after the Main Event – two out of the last three years has put the Miami resident among poker’s elite.

The win gave Mizrachi his third individual event championship bracelet and pushed his career World Series of Poker earnings to more than $7 million.

In a three-year span, Mizrachi has earned three gold bracelets and reached nine final tables.

“With this victory, the next mystery surrounding Mizrachi is not so much if he’ll win another gold bracelet, but when,” said World Series of Poker media director and poker historian Nolan Dalla.

Two years ago, Mizrachi not only won the Poker Players Championship, but he also made the final table in the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em World Championship, finishing fifth and earning more than $2.3 million.

This year, Mizrachi has three in-the-money finishes, reaching the final table of each event. In addition to the $1 million buy-in event, he plans on playing in the Main Event.

“Things happen, and I’ve been running really well,” Mizrachi said. “I’m appreciative of the outcome. Winning the Players Championship twice is really hard to describe. It’s just another part of my history.”

Mizrachi is known throughout the poker community as “The Grinder,” for his aggressive style of play.

Klodnicki, seeking his first World Series of Poker bracelet, quickly found out what it is like to be heads-up with Mizrachi.

“The Grinder is really tough short-handed. He never stops applying pressure,” said Klodnicki, who earned $896,935 for second place, his largest-ever World Series of Poker payday. “Unless you make cards or go back at him, he’s really tough to play against. I don’t mind full (table), but short handed he’s no fun to play with.”

The Grinder has is own entourage, a boisterous rooting section that includes three poker-playing brothers.

At the 2010 Main Event, all four brothers cashed in the tournament, led by Michael’s fifth-place finish. Older brother Robert, 33, placed 116th and collected almost $57,000, Donny, 25, was 345th and earned $36,000, and Michael’s twin, Eric, finished in 718th place for $19,000.

Robert has been the most successful behind Michael, with his own World Series of Poker bracelet and almost $1.7 million in career earnings. He took fifth at the 2010 Poker Players Championship, landing at the final table with Michael.

“Eric and I were heads-up in a limit hold’em event once before,” Michael said. “Maybe Donny will take me down.”

On Thursday, Michael seemed on a mission, knocking out five of the final table of eight players while ending the event in a little more than five hours. Normally, the final table at the Poker Players Championship takes up to 15 hours to complete.

“When I was heads-up, everything fell into place,” Mizrachi said. “I was getting all cards and its tough to play against someone who is winning every hand and playing super aggressive. (Klodnicki) was in a tough spot.”

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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