The Giant of Rozvadov: Former Pro Basketball Player Max Neugebauer Wins the WSOP Europe Main Event

The Giant of Rozvadov: Former Pro Basketball Player Max Neugebauer Wins the WSOP Europe Main Event

Max Neugebauer is a hard man to miss in a crowd. Standing six-foot, eight inches tall, he towers over the competition in any poker tournament. And tonight, at the final table of the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event, he was left looking down on everyone as he hoisted the gold bracelet in the air.

The 26-year-old Austrian is the newest WSOP Europe Main Event champion, prevailing over a record-setting field of 817 players to earn the title and 1,500,000 top prize. He did it in spectacular fashion, with a hero call against Eric Tsai on the final hand of the tournament that ensured his name would forever be etched in WSOP lore.

It means a lot. I mean, the bracelet itself means a lot. And then its actually the WSOP Main Event means even a bit more, he said, surrounded by a crowd of supporters that cheered every pot won and held up a sign that read Max throughout the final table. What means most to me, honestly, is my friends being here and cheering me on. It was really wonderful. I dont know what the experience wouldve been without them."

Neugebauer is a poker world champion, but his first career aspirations were in a different game. He was a professional basketball player before turning to poker, playing for BC Vienna in the Austrian first division. He also represented the Austrian Under-18 team. When his athletic career came to a premature end, poker seemed like a perfect avenue to funnel his competitive fire.

I had huge knee problems. When I stopped playing basketball, I started playing poker as well. Just the competition part and the part of improving and working on your game were really important to me, and I felt like there was some void that needed to be filled. Poker was that for me, he said.

Neugebauers previous best tournament cash was for $27,000 in a tournament in Las Vegas last June. He also cashed twice at the WSOP this summer. His total live earnings stood at just $84,000 before the Main Event, the first prize he earned today dwarfing anything on his poker resume just as he stands over his fellow players. Neugebauer attempted to satellite into the Main Event this week but couldnt win a seat and instead directly paid the 10,350 entry. It was an investment that paid off in a big way.

WSOP Europe Main Event Final Table Results

PlacePlayerCountryPrize (EUR)Prize (USD)
1Max NeugebauerAustria1,500,000$1,631,588
2Eric TsaiTaiwan891,000$969,163
3Michele TocciItaly639,000$695,056
4Kasparas KlezysLithuania464,000$504,704
5Michael RoccoUnited States341,000$370,914
6Nils PudelGermany255,000$277,370
7Ruslan VolkovUkraine193,000$209,931
8Alf MartinssonSweden148,000$160,983

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Final Table Action

The eight-handed final table began at 2 p.m. local time here at Kings Resort in Rozvadov, with Tsai holding a big chip lead with 23,650,000. Neugebauer started out in third place with 10,325,000.

Alf Martinsson, a Swedish high-stakes cash game pro, began the day as the short stack and quickly moved all in for 2,500,000 with ace-three. Michele Tocci called with pocket tens and finished with a full house to eliminate Martinsson in eighth place.

The Italian continued his hot start to the final table when he made two pair on the river to beat Michael Roccos pair of aces, then flopped trips with king-jack to crack the queens of Kasparas Klezys. The deck was certainly in Toccis favor as he flopped a set of jacks and shoved on Tsai to move into the chip lead.

Rocco, the most accomplished player at the final table with more than $4 million in live earnings, was involved in a three-way pot against Tsai and Nils Pudel. Rocco flopped a set of nines and raised the flop. Tsai called with top pair and a flush draw, while Pudel got away from his pocket aces as Rocco and Tsai got the rest of Roccos 4,600,000 in the middle on the turn. Rocco held on to double up and knocked the start-of-day chip leader down to a short stack.

Ruslan Volkov was the next player to fall, Klezys spiking an ace on the turn to beat Volkov's two tens and eliminate him in seventh place.

Neugebauer was down to 7,000,000 when he moved all in from the small blind with ace-eight. Tocci called with king-queen and, seemingly for the first time at the final table, failed to connect with the board as Neugebauer doubled up. Klezys also doubled when he flopped a set of tens against Tocci to take the chip lead over the remaining six players.

Tocci got those chips back, making the nut flush to beat Klezys flopped trips. Pudel then shoved for 6,600,000 with ace-five on the button. Rocco, though, woke up with aces and snapped him off to send Pudel out in fifth place.

Rocco moved up to 23,000,000, and his long-awaited first WSOP bracelet was firmly in his sights. It took all of one hand to end that hope. On the next hand, after busting Pudel, Rocco ran into Tsais aces as the Taiwan poker ambassador doubled up. Rocco was knocked down to less than 8,000,000 and was eliminated shortly after against Toccis tens.

Neugebauer began his charge up the leaderboard when he bet 5,000,000 on the river with a pair of nines, and Tsai called with just ace-high. Neugebauer also eliminated Klezys in fourth place with king-jack against queen-eight, hitting two pair by the turn.

It looked like it would be a heads-up battle between Neugebauer and Tocci as Tsai got his last 7,800,000 in the middle with deuces, but Tocci had him at risk with sixes. A lucky deuce spiked on the turn to crush Toccis hopes, and he picked up jacks the next hand and called off his last 2,600,000 when Neugebauer shoved with king-four. Tocci remained in front until the river, but Neugebauer hit a king as Tocci suffered a two-outer and a three-outer on consecutive hands to hit the rail in third place.

Neugebauer led 64,100,000 to 17,400,000 at the start of heads-up, but most sizeable pots at the start of the match went to Tsai. He won the first when he turned two pair and raised to 6,000,000 on the river as Neugebauer gave up a flopped pair of queens. Tsai then rivered a Broadway straight, and Neugebauer paid him off on the river this time.

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David vs. Goliath

Then came the hand that will be talked about for years to come. Tsai raised to 1,200,000 on the button, and Neugebauer called. The flop came queen-eight high with two diamonds, and Tsai bet 1,000,000. Neugebauer called, and an ace fell on the turn. Tsai then overbet the pot for 6,300,000, and Neugebauer again called to the river, which came a seemingly unhelpful four of spades. Tsai then moved all in for 16,000,000, sending Neugebauer into the tank for several minutes.

Last night, Neugebauer set the final table when he hero-called Andrea Radicchi with jack-eight. He now did it again, eventually calling with third pair on the board, and Tsai could only show a busted draw with jack-nine of diamonds. The title, in a flash, belonged to Neugebauer. Tsai, a popular YouTube vlogger back home in Taiwan with more than 125,000 subscribers, had to settle for second place.

After the hand, Neugebauer explained how he used Tsais aggressiveness against him. I just thought he wouldnt c-bet from how he played before. He wouldnt c-bet his range. I think he wouldve checked a lot of ace-x. So I discounted a lot of ace-x, he said.

I thought it was very, very easy to overbluff this spot because he has all the bluffs. He doesnt have all the ace-x. Also, it seems like a very good card or him to bluff, and with those wide ranges, I felt like it was just a very decent call because he was playing somewhat aggressively. I felt like he wanted to push it and overtake the chip lead. With those wide ranges in that spot, I felt like it was a good call, and I called.

Neugebauer survived a gruelling five days of long nights and tough opponents on his way to his crowning achievement. He has the bracelet, he has the money, and now its time for a little break. Next for me is a few days off. Actually, I already planned to go to the spa with my mother and my sisters in a week. Just taking a bit of vacation, he said.

The battle between Neugebauer and Tsai, with the significant difference in stature between them, seemed like a David versus Goliath matchup. Only this time, the giant won.

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2023 WSOP Europe Winners

EventEntriesWinnerPrize
Event #1: 350 NLH Opener3,503Lukas Pazma110,000
Event #2: 550 Pot Limit Omaha 8-max719Omar Eljach65,900
Event #3: 1,350 Mini Main Event1,729Sokratis Linaras310,350
Event #4: 2,000 Pot Limit Omaha206Hokyiu Lee91,183
Event #5: 550 NLH Colossus3,436Ermanno Di Nicola200,000
Event #6: 5,000 Pot Limit Omaha202Wing Po Liu230,000
Event #7: 1,650 NLH 6-Max495Tobias Peters143,100
Event #8: 25,000 NLH GGMillion89Daniel Dvoress600,000
Event #9: 1,100 NLH Mystery Bounty803Tobias Garp92,300
Event #10: 2,000 8-Game Mix97Dainius Antanaitis47,770
Event #11: 1,100 NLH Turbo Bounty Hunter570Joakim Andersson70,000
Event #12: 50,000 NLH Diamond High Roller37Santhosh Suvarna650,000
Event #13: 10,350 Main Event NLH European Championship817Max Neugebauer1,500,000
Event #14: 1,000 No-Limit Holdem Turbo Freezeout182Bernd Gleissner46,700
Event #15: 550 NLH Closer628Maurice Nass60,000

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