Updated July 17, 2023 - 7:04 pm
Daniel Weinman was in the crowd at the World Series of Poker Main Event final table 11 years ago, cheering on his friend and imagining himself making it that far one day.
When the dream became reality Monday, Weinman could only put his hands on his head in disbelief.
“It doesn’t feel real,” he said.
The professional poker player from Atlanta outlasted a record field to win the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Hold’em World Championship at Horseshoe Las Vegas. Weinman defeated Steven Jones during heads-up play to collect the $12.1 million first prize.
He is the first American to win the Main Event since John Cynn in 2018 and the last player standing from a record 10,043 entrants.
“There’s been three or four hands in this tournament I got unbelievably lucky,” Weinman said. “You just kind of feel like maybe it’s my time, whether that’s because I put in the time for close to 20 years now or something else. It feels so incredible.”
Weinman, 35, added to his poker resume with his second career WSOP bracelet, which are awarded for tournament victories. The graduate of Georgia Tech also pushed his career live tournament earnings more than $15.8 million.
Weinman felt burned out after the first two weeks of the WSOP and returned to Atlanta to reset. He almost didn’t enter the Main Event but was encouraged by his girlfriend and poker pro Shaun Deeb to return to Las Vegas for the tournament.
On Day 8, Weinman won one of the most important pots of the tournament with 14 players remaining when he hit a two-outer with pocket jacks against two opponents.
That good fortune continued at the final table as Weinman eliminated professional poker player Adam Walton in third place during a pot worth almost 200 big blinds. Weinman had pocket aces and quickly called when Walton went all-in holding pocket eights.
Walton, a Henderson resident originally from Seattle, took home $4 million.
“When you get this close, you obviously want to finish the deal, but sometimes it doesn’t go your way,” Walton said. “Obviously I wish I would have played it a little bit different. Overall I am thrilled, but I wish I would have spiked an eight.”
Weinman entered heads-up play with a 3-to-1 chip advantage after winning the massive clash against Walton and needed 24 hands to finish off Jones, a real estate broker and recreational poker player from Scottsdale, Arizona.
On the final hand, Weinman and Jones each flopped a pair of jacks and the pot quickly ballooned from there. After the turn card, Weinman led out with a big bet and Jones thought for more than four minutes then went all-in for his remaining 146 million chips.
Weinman stood up, and after asking how many chips his opponent had left, he wasted little time putting in a stack of chips to make the call. When the cards were flipped over and Weinman saw he held the better kicker with king-jack against Jones’ jack-eight, Weinman clapped and raised his hands over his head in excitement.
The river card was a harmless ace, and Weinman’s friends and family drenched him with water and cocktails in celebration.
Jones earned $6.5 million.
“When the guy has almost a 4-to-1 chip advantage on me, that led to my decision of going with the jack there because I’ve got to make some pots at that point, try to make a comeback,” Jones said. “It was an incredible experience. I had an amazing time with it.”