In the final tournament of its second season, the World Poker Tour (WPT) last Friday awarded $2,728,356 to Martin Deknijff of Stockholm, Sweden, the winner of its WPT Championship tournament at Bellagio in Las Vegas.
The total was the largest prize ever paid to a single individual place finisher in a televised poker tournament or North American sporting event. Deknijff outlasted 342 poker players in a tournament that will air on The Travel Channel on June 30.
"This is a dream come true," said the 32-year-old Deknijff. "To win the World Poker Tour Championship and the biggest tournament ever in poker ... it is just overwhelming."
Deknijff added that his first post-tournament act would be to wake up his 7-year-old son Robin and tell him the news.
Deknijff has made his living combining sports betting, poker and professional bridge since he graduated high school in Sweden. He recently moved to Las Vegas.
The top 50 players in the WPT Championship each earned a share in the $8,342,000 prize pool, the most ever for a poker tournament. The buy-in was $25,300, the largest poker tournament entry fee to date.
Coming into the final table were Deknijff, who was the chip leader; Matt Matros of Bronxville, NY; Richard Grijalva of Las Vegas; Hassan Habib of Downey, Calif.; Russell Rosenblum of Bethesda, Maryland and Steve Brecher of Reno.
Poker pro Habib walked away with $1,372,223; Matt Matros, a grad student at Sarah Lawrence College took home $706,903; Grijalva claimed $457,408; Rosenblum won $332,660; and Brecher earned $232,862.
The $2.7 million to the victor was more than double the $1,011,886 prize money paid to the winner for the inaugural World Poker Tour Championship, which aired last year on The Travel Channel.
"We are truly excited about having hosted the record-breaking 2004 World Poker Tour Championship and Five Star World Poker Tour Classic at Bellagio," said Doug Dalton, director of poker operations at Bellagio. "This was another successful tournament and we look forward to hosting additional WPT events in the near future, including the 2005 WPT Championship."
WPT Enterprises, Inc. is a media and entertainment company principally engaged in a development, production and marketing of gaming-themed televised programming, the licensing and sale of branded products and the sale of corporate sponsorships.