LAS VEGAS (AP) — Card-playing supremacy. Bragging rights. Cold, hard cash. More than 22,000 gamblers — many pros, quite a few amateurs — came for the same thing in Las Vegas, drawn by the low cost to enter the World Series of Poker's new Colossus event.
Just $565 to enter, unlike the $10,000 price to play the much-watched Main Event, Colossus proved irresistible.
They had a 1 in 22,374 chance, right?
There was Nick Luis Damico from Highland, California, who plays Tuesday night poker tournaments in a buddy's garage and snapped photos of pros in the tournament's hallways before taking a seat at his own table and getting knocked out relatively early.
And then there was Jennifer Kistner from Northern California who had played in a World Series of Poker ladies tournament before but thought she might win enough this time to build an addition to her house for her mother.
"Who wouldn't give it a shot?!" she said in a text message.
Ultimately, the last men standing were no novices to the game, including 25-year-old winner Lance "Cord" Garcia from Houston who found his stride his third time entering the event and took it all the way to a pair of fours at the final table that turned into a full house for the win.
He won $638,880 Wednesday, minus the $1,695 he spent entering three times.
"It hasn't set in that I've won the biggest tournament in poker," he said after six days of outlasting everyone else. The regular on the tournament circuit posed for photos with his mom, his friends and his poker chips. He welcomed the bigger crowd of competitors to get more people involved.
"It's always good for the game," he said.
Colossus was just one of 68 events happening throughout the 51-day World Series of Poker that started last week and culminates with the closely watched Main Event. Colossus attracted attention for its low buy-in and expectation to attract crowds.
The $11.2 million prize pool was spread out among 2,241 players.
The spread of wealth is what surprised and upset many players with a few finding out midplay Sunday that the top prize wouldn't break $1 million.
World Series of Poker spokesman Seth Palansky said the payout represented the tournament's standard formula used for most events since 2009.
"Never did we think a winner getting 1,130 times his investment five days later would be construed as a negative," Palansky said of Colossus.
Jimmy Fondren of North Las Vegas was one of the cash winners. He carved out a spot near the top of the heap at 1,345, winning $2,315.
As he saw it, every green poker chip stacked on the final felt table — and there were many — symbolized 20 competitors who tried to get there and lost.
After six days, nine players were left when the no-limit Texas Hold 'em playing resumed Wednesday underneath studio lights and with fans watching in stadium-style seating inside a convention hall at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. Three players were eliminated in the first two hours.
Aditya "Adi" Prasetyo of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was the fourth after going all-in. The day before he carefully arranged a fortress of chips in front of him, more chips than anyone else. Ultimately his ace and nine of clubs were outdone by a pair of kings with no help from the five cards on the table. The 32-year-old former competitive chess player frequents the poker tournament circuit and cash games but said he had never competed in an event as large as Colossus.
"This is pretty much a big marathon," he said of the six-day endurance test to outlast and out-bet everyone else.
With the exception of one competitor from Belgium, the final nine were from the United States. All the men have had at least a taste of the World Series of Poker or its circuit tournaments before Wednesday.
Paul Lentz of San Francisco placed fourth. The man who regularly plays cash games, not tournaments, was one card away from a club-suited flush, but Garcia had a pair of unbeatable aces.
"I never thought I'd experience something like this," Lentz said afterward of the Colossus event.