Dan Zack
Dan Zack throws his hat in the ring for the WSOP Player of the Year race following his first gold bracelet win (photo: WSOP)

Those who know Dan Zack and know of him won’t ever question his ability, but even all the talent in the world is sometimes not enough to overcome the breaks in poker. Zack entered the third and final day of Event #6: $2,500 Limit Mixed Triple Draw at the 2019 World Series of Poker in 10th place on the leaderboard with 13 players remaining. He lost the first two hands that of the day, which knocked him even further down the leaderboard, but he never gave up, eventually walking away with his first gold bracelet and $160,447 top prize.

As players around him hit the payout desk one by one, Zack inched closer to the finish line. There was one problem, though. He wasn’t really picking up any chips. Rather, Zack was treading water with everything from the neck down submerged. Every time he began to pick up some traction he was knocked right back down.

“This whole tournament, I was not above average until I came to [the final table] with seven left,” Zack said. “I think the hand before we moved from eight players to seven players was the first time I was above average the entire tournament.”

Along the way, Zack joked that he kept telling his friends and family that he was going to go bust soon, but it just never happened. For whatever reason, the poker gods kept him alive on the felt but not in a way that made Zack feel overly excited about his chances. In fact, as he claimed his text log would prove, he thought he’d be out at any moment.

“I have a million texts,” Zack said. “My brother asks for text updates on every break, and every break for the last two days has been, ‘Yeah, I’m in dead last,’ ‘I’m in last place,’ ‘I’m about to be out,’ ‘Holy cow, I made the money but don’t worry I’ll min-cash and bust soon.’ Just over and over and over again. Every break, I was bottom five in chips for the entire tournament.”

Eventually, Zack hit a rush that stuck. He climbed up the ladder to the middle of the pack and then the next thing he knew, he was at the final table of seven following the elimination of two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Mike Gorodinsky in eighth place. The trip to the WSOP main stage marked the eighth WSOP final table of Zack’s career, but that didn’t exactly shed a beaming light of confidence on the well-rounded pro. You see, Zack had never made it to the top three of a WSOP event before. According to someone on social media, the only player with more WSOP final tables without a top-three finish was Tony Cousineau. Zack got that monkey off his back, though.

“Yes, it’s been a running joke that someone tweeted at me that I had the second most final tables without a top three somehow,” Zack said. “This was a relief because I was starting to question if I was just doing something terrible at every final table that I made.”

At the final table, Zack started to really rocket up the counts. A few players hit the rail as he moved up and then Zack knocked out Jon Turner in fourth place. From there, he only kept shredding and took a commanding chip lead into the dinner break with three players left. When they went to eat, Zack had 80% of the chips in play.

Zack admitted to getting a little nervous on the dinner break. Nervous in the sense that he didn’t want to blow it because a lot of his supporters were already congratulating him.

“It was just a little bit nerve wracking,” Zack said.

After dinner, Zack continued to steamroll his opponents. He quickly knocked out Brayden Gazlay in third place and then ended the tournament by busting Sumir Mathur in second.

Now, with one gold bracelet wrapped around his wrist and a six-figure boost to his bankroll, Zack will step on the gas to chase WSOP Player of the Year. He only plans to take five days off when his girlfriend gets into town. Other than that, it’s going to be poker, poker, and more poker.

“My plan was always to chase Player of the Year,” Zack said. When I came in the last three years, I always came in the first week or so with the plan to do that and then if I didn’t do anything in the first week I usually ended up in cash games. This is the first year I’ve done anything in the first couple weeks, so I’m more committed to actually trying going forward.”

Prior to this victory, Zack had a 12th-place finish in Event #2: $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty for $18,667. He also had already accumulated a hefty stack in Event #3: $500 ‘Big 50’ No-Limit Hold’em that became a record-setting tournament. In that event, Zack has 1.985 million chips in the bag advancing to Day 3, which he’ll resume playing on Wednesday. After his result in the $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty and win in the $2,500 Limit Mixed Triple Draw, a deep run in the ‘Big 50’ could really boost his efforts in the WSOP Player of the Year race.