In the 2023 European Poker Tour Barcelona’s €5,300 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event, Simon Wiciak emerged victorious. Hailing from La Rochelle, France, the 30-year-old defeated a field of 2,120 entrants to secure his first-ever live tournament championship and the grand prize of $1,225,125.
While this marked Wiciak’s debut triumph in live tournaments, he possessed significant experience as an online player. Transitioning from virtual poker to a physical event is not always straightforward.
Reflecting on his victory, Wiciak shared his emotions with PokerStars reporters, stating, “I have felt so many emotions. Even though I appeared composed and confident in my plays, I am still human. This was my first participation in an EPT main event.”
Before this triumph, Wiciak had accumulated just over $100,000 in live earnings from 12 in-the-money finishes, with his highest previous payout being $44,700, earned for a 344th-place finish in this year’s World Series of Poker main event. Now, he stands as an EPT champion and a millionaire through poker.
Wiciak expressed, “It is everything at the same time – the win, the camaraderie, the moment, the effort I have put in. You want to shout with joy!”
Additionally, Wiciak received 2,160 Card Player Player of the Year points for his victory in Spain, marking his second final-table appearance of the year after finishing sixth in a $600 buy-in event at the Aria Poker Classic in Las Vegas. With a total of 2,300 points and $1,235,933 in year-to-date POY earnings, Wiciak narrowly missed breaking into the top 100 in the 2023 POY standings presented by Global Poker.
This event attracted the second-largest field in EPT history, surpassed only by the 2022 edition of the same event, which drew 2,294 entries. The Casino Barcelona hosted a massive turnout, resulting in a final prize pool of $11,112,786 distributed among the top 303 finishers.
The tournament spanned eight days, from August 27 to September 3. Out of the two starting flights, only 438 players advanced to day 2, with late registration remaining open until the start of the first day of combined-field play. A total of 67 players took advantage of this option, bringing the final participant count to 2,120. By the end of day 2, the field had narrowed to 303 hopefuls. It took an additional four days to reduce that number to six contenders for the final day. Some notable participants who made deep runs included EPT champion and high-stakes regular Patrik Antonius (54th), bracelet winner and WPT Prime Championship winner Stephen Song (47th), bracelet winner Ka Kwan Lau (31st), Thomas Boivin (25th), and 2013 EPT London champion Robin Ylitalo (8th).
Throughout the three days leading up to the final table, Wiciak consistently led the chip counts. He began the final table with 92 big blinds. Ezequiel Waigel, the 2021 Card Player Poker Tour Venetian main event champion, was the first to be eliminated. Waigel finished sixth for $326,700 after his A-7 lost to the A-K of Joao Sydenstricker from Brazil.
PokerStars Ambassador Andre Akkari’s tournament journey ended when his flush draw failed to materialize against the top pairs of both Sydenstricker and Carl Shaw. Akkari secured fifth place and a payout of $424,764, pushing his career earnings past $3.3 million.
In a hand between Canada’s Santiago Plante and Carl Shaw, Plante’s pocket queens were defeated by Shaw’s king-high straight, resulting in a fourth-place finish for Plante and a $552,204 prize.
After some three-handed action, the remaining players negotiated a deal to redistribute the remaining prize money. Shaw locked in at least $973,156, while Wiciak ($1,107,432) and Sydenstricker ($1,132,439) guaranteed themselves seven-figure payouts, leaving $117,693 and the title to vie for.
Shaw finished third after his K-Q lost to Wiciak’s A-Q, earning the agreed-upon sum. This marked the UK bracelet winner’s largest win to date, boosting his lifetime earnings to over $2.2 million.
The heads-up battle commenced with Wiciak holding 38.3 million chips to Sydenstricker’s 25.3 million. While the lead shifted a few times, Wiciak regained control in time for the final hand. Sydenstricker raised on the button with Q-10, and Wiciak three-bet with 6-5. Sydenstricker called, and the flop revealed 9-5-2. Wiciak bet with his second pair, and Sydenstricker called with his overcards and backdoor straight possibilities. The 4 on the turn drew a check from Wiciak. Sydenstricker bet 3,500,000 into the pot of 14,400,000, and Wiciak called. The river showed a 9, and Wiciak checked once more. Sydenstricker moved all-in for 19,380,000, and Wiciak, with 22,800,000 behind, took a few moments before announcing his call, securing both the pot and the title.