The 27-year-old, who lives in Southhampton, New York, but has Greek lineage, outdueled a tough final table that included Yevgeniy Timoshenko and Matt Stout to take down a $650k first place prize and a WSOP bracelet
“This bracelet means so much to me,” he said. “Almost too much. I really love this game and I’ve been playing for a long time.”
Polychronopoulos was overwhelmed with emotions after winning and broke down crying moments after beating Canadian Simon Charette.
“I loved cards growing up so I just kept playing,” he said. “I started by playing with my sister and friends when I was just a child.”
Polychronopoulos went on to work at his father’s Greek restaurant but he continued to play poker on the side.
“I actually ended up paying for my college tuition through my poker winnings,” said Polychronopoulos.
When his father finally closed the restaurant, Polychronopoulos decided to pursue poker full-time and quickly found a great deal of success.
In 2010 Polychronopoulos, who plays online as Athanasios9, made his biggest score ever when he placed third in the PokerStars SCOOP main event for $418k.
The huge cash gave Polychronopoulos the bankroll and the confidence to attempt his first WSOP.
It turned out to be an incredibly disappointing experience for Polychronopoulos as he went 0-10 at the 2010 WOSP and then busted on Day 1 of the Main Event.
“It was definitely discouraging,” said Polychronopoulos. “I love this game and the WSOP only comes once a year.”
Polychronopoulos did return to the WSOP, however, and after bubbling a couple tournaments and making his first cash in the $2,500 No-Limit Hold’em he struck gold in Event 48.
The victory was particularly meaningful for Polychronopoulos as it helped validate his career as a poker player. His parents were exceptionally pleased to see their son rake in his first bracelet.
“They are so happy,” he said. “My mother never liked gambling but I help her out and she’s alright with it now.”
The score couldn’t have come at a better time for Polychronopoulos as Black Friday has effectively removed his ability make a living online.
“It’s had a huge, terrible, effect on me and my friends,” he said. “We all had a lot of money online and it was pretty devastating.”
As far as his future is concerned, Polychronopoulos isn’t sure what he will do but has already taken a brief trip to Canada so that he could play the PokerStars SCOOP.
“I have a lot of family in Greece so I might go visit them,” he said. “I love to travel.”
Polychronopoulos will stick around for a little bit longer, however, as the $10,000 buy-in 2011 WSOP Main Event starts on Thursday.
The 2011 WSOP continues through July 19. For comprehensive coverage live from Las Vegas check PokerListings' Live Updates brought to you by PartyPoker.