Author, Erik Seidel Protégé Maria Konnikova Wins PCA National Championship, Steve O’Dwyer Binks $50K High Roller

The 2018 PCA is entering its final stretch, and some notable players have claimed titles in the past few days. Maria Konnikova, a bestselling author who only learned to play poker a year ago, took down the PCA National Championship, while seasoned veteran Steve O’Dwyer emerged victorious in the $50K High Roller.

Maria Konnikova took down the PCA National for $84,600 and a Platinum Pass to the 2019 PSPC. (Image: Carlos Monti/PokerStars)

Storybook Victory

One year ago, 33-year-old Maria Konnikova, a best-selling Russian-American author, decided to take up poker as part of a book project in which she would chronicle a year on the poker circuit under the tutelage of the legendary Erik Seidel.

Konnikova entered the 2018 PCA $1,650 National and conquered a 290-entry field to win her first title, $84,600 in prize money, and a PokerStars Platinum Pass valued at $30,000.

“It feels really amazing. I’ve been working really, really hard and it feels so validating to achieve this,” Konnikova told PokerStars officials. “My next book is about poker so this is how I got to where I am right now. I did start poker from scratch a year ago.”

“I have the best coach in the world, Erik Seidel, so I’ve been very, very lucky to have amazing training to be able to reach this moment.”

According to Konnikova, Seidel gave her both mental and moral support throughout the final table, which included outlasting the likes of 888poker Ambassador Chris Moorman, 2010 PCA champ Harrison Gimbel, and poker pro Alex Ziskin.

Konnikova’s published work includes “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes” and “The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It Every Time,” both New York Times bestsellers. “The Biggest Bluff,” is slated for release this December, though she may need an extension to fully tell her new poker story, as part of her prize includes a trip to the 2019 PokerStars Players Championship.

PCA National Final Table Results
1 Maria Konnikova (USA) $84,600
2 Alexander Ziskin (USA) $56,250
3 Kevin MacDonald (Canada) $41,140
4 Loek van Wely (Netherlands) $33,210
5 Harrison Gimbel (USA) $26,040
6 Ryan Smith (Canada) $19,710
7 Marcos Carneiro Antunes (Brazil) $14,480 
8 Chris Moorman (UK) $10,640

O’Dwyer Wins $50K High Roller, Again

Steve O’Dwyer (Image: PokerStars)

In other 2018 PCA news, the $50,000 High Roller tournament attracted 31 players (and 15 rebuys). With a 46-entry field, the final six got paid, and 35-year-old Coloradan Steve O’Dwyer walked away with the title for the second time in the event’s three-year history.

This time O’Dwyer earned $769,500 for his win, while in 2016, he bested a field of 80 entries to win $945,495.

“I had a few good years here in the Bahamas,” said O’Dwyer, who also won the 2015 PCA $100K Super High Roller for a career-high $1,872,580. “No complaints, it’s fun to win.”

O’Dwyer began the day third in chips and found himself in heads-up play against Byron Kaverman, who began with the chip lead. Kaverman relinquished the chip lead after O’Dwyer won the first five hands of the match, and after 126 more hands at the final table, things came to a head.

In the final showdown, Kaverman shoved his last 10 big blinds with Q♣9♣, and O’Dwyer called with the J♥10♠. A 2♦J♠4♥ flop gave O’Dwyer the lead, and he held it through the 5♥ turn and K♦ river. Kaverman earned $531,860 for finishing runner-up.

The win brought O’Dwyer’s lifetime earnings up to $21,121,735, which helped him leapfrog Brian Rast, Sam Trickett, and recent 2018 PCA $100K Super High Roller 3rd-place finisher Bryn Kenney into 10th place on poker’s all-time money list.

2018 PCA $50k High Roller Results
1 Steve O’Dwyer (Ireland) $769,500
2 Byron Kaverman (USA) $531,860
3 Jean-Noel Thorel (France) $339,480 
4 Erik Seidel (USA) $260,260 
5 Benjamin Pollak (France) $203,680 
6 Orpen Kisacikoglu (Turkey) $158,420

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