The fifth event of the inaugural Stairway To Millions series was the first five-figure buy-in tournament of the series. A total of 43 entries turned out for the $15,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em event, creating a prize pool of $645,000 that was ultimately paid out among the top seven finishers. Poker pro Michael Wang outlasted a tough final table to secure the title and the top prize of $219,300.
This was the second-largest payday of Wang’s tournament career, behind only his win in the 2015 World Series of Poker $5,000 no-limit hold’em event for $466,120. The New Jersey native now has more than $3.6 million in lifetime live tournament earnings to his name.
In addition to the title and the money, Wang also took home 360 Card Player Player of the Year points for the win. This was his first title and second final-table finish of the year. With 540 total points, he now sits in fifth place in the 2022 POY race. He also secured 219 PokerGO Tour points as the champion, enough to overtake the lead in that points race.
“I’m feeling really good, obviously,” Wang told PokerGO reporters after coming out on top. “It’s really good to be in an event where it’s so well run. The studio is amazing. It’s my first series playing here and I can see why all of the top high-stakes players love playing here. From start to finish, it’s been a great experience. Every little detail that I can think of, I just can’t think of any room for improvement. It’s a great venue, it’s a great series, it’s a great format – a really interesting idea.”
The 2022 Stairway To Millions features eight events, with progressively larger buy-ins throughout the series. Players who make the money in an event are automatically entered into the next tournament, building up to the grand finale: the $1.2 million guaranteed $100,000 buy-in event.
“I’m really glad I ran well to start my series. I haven’t been playing too many high rollers, but I’m starting to get my feet wet a little bit and it’s good to not immediately be stuck 50 buy-ins,” continued Wang, who now has a ticket into the next event on the agenda, a $25,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em high roller.
“At least the $25K for sure, since I’m already registered for that,” Wang said when asked what is next for him. “It helps to have a little bit of success, not only for the bankroll but for confidence. I feel like I did okay. Obviously, I got very fortunate in my run-outs and my hole cards, but I think that more high rollers are on the horizon.”
Wang entered the final day of this event as the chip leader with six players remaining. He extended his advantage by knocking out high-stakes tournament regular Sean Winter in sixth place, with his A-10 coming from behind against Winter’s A-J. Winter earned $45,150 for his latest deep run, increasing his lifetime earnings to just shy of $19.4 million in the process.
WSOP bracelet winner and 2019 Card Player Player of the Year award winner Stephen Chidwick was the next to fall. He doubled up short stack Vikenty Shegal to fall to the bottom of the leaderboard and then ran K-J into the A-10 of Wang for his last six or so big blinds. Chidwick earned $51,600 for his fifth-place showing, increasing his lifetime earnings to more than $38 million. As a result, he now sits in seventh place on poker’s all-time money list.
Shegal got all-in with K-Q suited and found himself in rough shape against the A-Q of Wang. Shegal was unable to find any help from the board and was eliminated in fourth place ($64,500). Shegal has been on a tear in recent months, making seven POY-qualified final tables since the start of November. Two have come in 2022, both at the Stairway To Millions.
Wang entered three-handed action with nearly 70 percent of the chips in play, having scored every elimination so far on day 2. The streak continued with a very short Bill Klein getting his last handful of big blinds in with K8 facing the A7 of Wang. With queens and sevens by the river, Wang scored yet another knockout. Klein earned $90,300 as the third-place finisher. The businessman and frequent tournament competitor now has more than $4.5 million in cash under his belt.
With that, Wang took more than a 4:1 chip lead into heads-up play with Larry Greenberg. In the final hand Wang raised with A10 from the button and called when Greenberg moved all-in with K10. The board came down AK4QQ to lock up the pot and the title for Wang. Greenberg earned $135,450 as the runner-up finisher.
Here is a look at the payouts and rankings points awarded at the final table:
|Place||Player||Earnings (USD)||POY Points||PokerGO|
Photo credit: PokerGO / Antionio Abrego.