Stoyan Madanzhiev Wins WSOP 2020 Online Main Event

Stoyan Madanzhiev Wins WSOP 2020 Online Main Event

It happened so fast. The WSOP Main Event played down from 1,171 players to 38 in one day, and then from 38 to one winner in fewer than seven hours.

It was not on television, there were no interviews or bios of the finalists, and the players had no faces during the action. But poker fans tuned in online to livestreams and updates to see the historic World Series of Poker find its Main Event champion in an era unlike any other.

Stoyan Madanzhiev of Bulgaria became that champion.

Stoyan Madanzhiev won the tournament with the largest-ever prize pool for an online poker tournament.

Stoyan Madanzhiev won the largest-ever prize for an online poker tournament victory.

The only thing that most poker fans know about the WSOP 2020 Online Main Event champion is his name and his initial self-videoed reaction.

And we know how it happened because of PokerNews’ live reporting.

Non-Traditional Main Event: An Understatement

Players wanting to participate in this year’s unique WSOP Main Event had many ways to do so. They varied greatly from any time in the World Series of Poker’s history in many ways.

Traditionally, players paid a $10,000 buy-in plus an entry fee. This year, players bought in for $4,750 plus a $250 entry fee.

Traditionally, players had satellite opportunities to win Main Event seats, some online but most at the Rio in Las Vegas. This year, players had weeks of chances to qualify to play the Main Event at a small fraction of the buy-in.

Traditionally, players had one, two, or three starting days to get into the Main Event. This year, there were 23 starting flights.

Traditionally, players had one chance to make it into the money. This year, they had the ability to reenter two additional times if they busted during their starting flights.

Traditionally, players have no guarantees on the prize pool. This year, the hosts guaranteed that it would be at least $25 million.

Traditionally, players submit to a grueling live day-after-day schedule of play, submitting to interviews and answering reporters’ questions along the way. This year, they played from home with relative anonymity.

Traditionally, players making the WSOP Main Event final table have a chance to celebrate the accomplishment and plan their final table strategies. This year, the blurringly fast action allowed for no preparations or celebrations of the moments leading to their final standings.

But in a year when a pandemic changed the ways of the world in many ways, the World Series of Poker and GGNetwork made a WSOP Main Event happen in the most non-traditional of ways.

From 23 Starting Flights to 38 Players

Those 23 starting flights showed a range of participation. The lowest was Day 1D with just 68 players, and the most well-attended was Day 1W with 858 players in the last-minute turbo flight. (We provided more details of each flight in this piece.)

While there may have been some nervousness about the Main Event meeting its $25 million prize pool guarantee, they rested easy when they tallied the final numbers.

Total entries:  5,802

Total prize pool:  $27,559,500

Poker history, that is.

When the 1,171 players gathered together on Sunday, August 30 to play their version of a Day 2, Kahle Burns was the initial chip leader from the starting flights.

It didn’t take long to play down to and burst the money bubble. That left 728 players guaranteed at least $11,834 for their efforts. Hundreds of players busted from the event, including former chip leader Burns. Play stopped with 38 players remaining and Bryan Piccioli with the most chips. Michael Kane was second, and Stovan Madanzhiev was third.

Looking for Final Table Spots

Those 38 players logged back on to their GGPoker accounts on Saturday, September 5.

The three previous WSOP bracelet winners were among the first to exit: Arkadiy Tsinis in 37th place, Jonas Lauck in 34th, and Michael Lech in 31st. And as play moved along quickly, former chip leader Bryan Piccioli busted in 23rd place for $79,625.

When Piccioli began his fall, Madanzhiev took over. He lost some ground when several players doubled through him, falling to seventh place on the leaderboard with 16 players remaining. He quickly climbed again, though, eliminating Craig Timmis in 13th, Samuel Vousden in 12th, and Mariano Martiradonna in tenth. Tyler Rueger had stepped up, meanwhile, and eliminated Benjamin Rolle in 11th.

The final table then began with Rueger holding a slight lead over Madanzhiev, and each of them nearly two-to-one over the others.

There was $12,578,911 on the table for the final nine.

Playing for the Win

Wenling Gao took charge quickly to eliminate Samuel Tayler in ninth place and she worked herself into the lead. She and Madanzhiev then traded that lead.

In a battle of the Tylers, Tyler Rueger ousted Tyler Cornell in eighth place. Gao came back in to bust Stefan Shillhabel in seventh.

Thomas Ward doubled through Joao Santos, and Rueger quickly ended Santos’ short-stacked pain for a sixth-place payout. Madanzhiev sent Satoshi Isomae out in fifth, and Gao dispatched Ward in fourth.

Three-handed play began with Madanzhiev holding a significant lead over Gao and Rueger. When Rueger took A-Q into battle, Gao quickly called with pocket kings, which held up to send Rueger out in third.

Madanzhiev took 147,136,208 chips into heads-up play against the 141,725,463 of Gao. The leader extended his lead, though Gao put up a fight. But when Madanzhiev took a big pot from her with 10-4 on a K-T-6-5-3 board against Gao’s A-7, he solidified his lead. Gao then pushed with pocket aces on a board of 8-5-4-3, and Madanzhiev quickly called with 7-6 and a nut straight.

The final table payouts were as follows:

1st place:  Stoyan Madanzhiev (Bulgaria) $3,904,686

2nd place:  Wenling Gao (China) $2,748,605

3rd place:  Tyler Rueger (US) $1,928,887

4th place:  Thomas Ward (New Zealand) $1,353,634

5th place:  Satoshi Isomae (Japan) $949,937

6th place:  Joao Santos (Brazil) $666,637

7th place:  Stefan Shillhabel (Germany) $467,825

8th place:  Tyler Cornell (US) $328,305

9th place:  Samuel Taylor (US) $230,395



About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

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