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Pingray navigates huge field, wins WSOP Monster Stack event

Hugo Pingray’s roommate Pierre Calamusa was the chip leader after the first day of the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold ‘em Monster Stack tournament at the World Series of Poker, and he made sure to give Pingray a hard time about his modest stack.

“He was making fun of me because he was like, ‘Oh, you don’t have a stack. You should not even come tomorrow. This tournament is for me,’ ” Pingray said. “And now he is in the rail cheering for me.”

Pingray won the Monster Stack event early Tuesday at the Rio Convention Center, outlasting Joseph McKeehen in a grueling heads-up duel that lasted more than three hours.

Pingray, a 22-year-old native of France and hospitality management student in Martigmy, Switzerland, earned $1,327,083 in his first career cash at the WSOP.

“I don’t realize right now what happened,” Pingray said. “I’m happy. I’m exhausted. It’s a great feeling, though.

“I planned to give myself a year to play poker and see how it goes. This is a good help, if I may say.”

The Monster Stack tournament, which was in its first year on the WSOP schedule, drew a whopping 7,862 entrants for a prize pool of more than $10.6 million. It was the third-largest field in WSOP history behind the 2006 Main Event (8,773 players) and this year’s $1,500 buy-in “Millionaire Maker” tournament, which drew 7,977 entrants.

The field for the event was so large that some players had to wait several hours to take their seat on the opening day, and it took an extra day to complete.

McKeehen, of North Wales, Pa., pocketed $820,863 for his second-place finish. He was one of the most accomplished players at the final table with two WSOP circuit titles and four WSOP cashes prior to Tuesday.

Pingray started playing poker three years ago and primarily plays online. His biggest cash previously was a 21st-place finish at the European Poker Tour Deauville (France) event in February of 2013 for $31,370.

Pingray opened the final table as the chip leader and carried a nearly 2-to-1 chip advantage into heads-up play. He survived against McKeehen after the chip lead changed hands several times.

“I’ve played a lot of sit-and-gos heads-up, so it helps, definitely,” Pingray said. “I knew I had to remain focused and try to let him make mistakes. You have to believe in yourself and be lucky as well.”

Sean Drake of Sacramento, who won the 2011 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold ’em event, finished third. Drake attracted attention at the final table for his unpredictable play and boisterous, but controversial, cheering section.

Drake’s supporters wore black T-shirts with his poker slogan “PLAY LIKE DRAKE AND RAPE.” They were asked to take off the shirts after several complaints at the Rio and on Twitter.

Contact reporter David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.

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