The annual Tournament of Champions at the 2023 World Series of Poker (WSOP) needed an additional day to crown its champion, and it would be Ohio native Ronnie Day emerging victorious to win his first WSOP bracelet.
The 741-entrant field was open to winners of ring events from the 2022 / 2023 WSOP-Circuit season and bracelet winners from WSOP Online and WSOP Europe. Eventual champion Day qualified by winning Event #6: $400 No-Limit Hold'em Monster Stack for $46,374 at WSOP-Circuit Indiana just two weeks prior to the start of Event #4: Tournament of Champions. Day parlayed his first WSOP-Circuit ring and biggest lifetime cash into his first WSOP bracelet and newest biggest lifetime cash of $200,000 - all in front of an incredible raucous home crowd that cheered along in every moment.
"They were just a bunch of alcoholics having fun," Day said when discussing his supportive rail. "I've known them all for a long time, and I'm glad they were able to be here when I did it."
The final seven players returned for a fourth day of play under the bright lights of the WSOP Main Stage, with all the action being livestreamed on PokerGO.com. Wissam Gahshan entered the day as the chip leader, while the remaining six players all hovered between 20 and 40 big blinds. Immediately it would be Patrick White surging into the chip lead before poker dealer Brent Gregory took top spot on the leaderboard. Barry Schultz would be the first to fall when his pocket jacks were outdrawn by White's king-ten.
Justin Hotte-McKinnon fell next when he was outdrawn on the river by Day, who would take the chip lead shortly after when he had a superior two pair. Overnight chip leader Gahsham's run would end in fifth place when he pushed with king-seven but would run into the ace-queen of Day. The jack-high board resulted in the Tournament of Champions being trimmed to just four players. Hunter McClelland shoved holding ace-two, and Gregory looked him up with ace-six. No help fell for McClelland, and he was out in fourth place.
White was then eliminated in third when his pocket sixes couldn't improve against the pocket kings of Day as he held a better than two-to-one advantage over Gregory to begin heads-up play. Both players traded chips back-and-forth before both would turn trip fives. Gregory moved all-in, and Day quickly called, having his opponent outkicked. The river was safe, and Day was crowned the Tournament of Champions winner, and recipient of the $200,000 first-place prize and his first WSOP bracelet.
"It's so surreal right now," Day said on accomplishing winning a WSOP-Circuit ring just two weeks ago, followed by this WSOP bracelet. "It's unbelievable. I don't even know how to explain it."
The WSOP Tournament of Champions has a long tradition of giving WSOP champions a chance to participate in an invitational freeroll. Champions date back to 2004, including Annie Duke, Mike Matusow, Mike Sexton, Huck Seed, and Benjamin Kaupp, who won a 470-entrant field in 2022.
"I loved the competition, and I loved that there was a wide range of skilled players in this," Day said about the Tournament of Champions. "You don't have to be a crusher to get into this. The online circuits definitely help. But you had world beaters in there, and then you had some guys that were able to make their dream run. God, you gotta love the result, right?"
No doubt that Day loves the result, having won his first WSOP bracelet and the $200,000 first-place prize. Day joins a list of previous Tournament of Champions that include some of the best poker players the WSOP has produced, and he'll be looking to capitalize on his great run of recent results to add more WSOP gold to his trophy case.