Soren Turkewitsch: From Factory to Final Table Champion

The Champion
The North American Poker Champion

Soren Turkewitsch is the World Poker Tour's newest millionaire. The native of Oshawa, Ontario, (about 45 minutes east of Toronto) won his seat in the WPT Season 5 North American Poker Championship in a $90 Sit and Go at the Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, and was able to parlay that victory into a seat at the final table and, eventually, a WPT title.

A factory worker by trade, Turkewitsch won his $1,352,224 payday by facing down pros like John Juanda and Jim Worth at the final table before finally beating Jason Sagle in a grueling and dramatic heads-up battle. I talked to Turkewitsch as the smoke cleared at the end of another successful WPT event.

What does this win mean to you?

It means … I don't even know. I came down here to shoot a $90 Sit and Go to try and win this ticket, like just to get the ticket to play in this event, and even to make it through Day 1, that was in itself something. And then when I got to 45, you know, that was the goal, just to make the money. And then when I got the money, each time I kept stepping up I said, okay, I'm going to try and get a little farther, going to try and get a little more, and a little more and somehow I made it. Like, yesterday, I ran hot. There was a good half-hour where I cleaned up a lot of chips. I got in a couple of huge pots and that helped me through the whole day.

Was there a point along the way where you started to believe it was possible to win this thing?

Soren Turkewitsch

I don't think I was ever - for the longest time - shooting for number one, because I didn't have enough chips to think that I was going to win the thing, and there were a lot of players in the tournament, a lot of good players. I've never played in a tournament like this; I didn't know what to expect.

With this many people, the money was the goal when I first started. When I got to the final table, it was just to move up to fifth and hope that John Lam went out, and then hope that somebody else went out, you know what I mean? Just grind my way up in the money, and when I was able to get to heads-up I think that with the blinds getting so high the way they did, it was really in my favor.

Can you talk a bit about Jason Sagle and the way he played tonight?

Jason Sagle

Yeah, he was a really, really good player. He is a world class player. I've been on his table for a few days now, and I think the only reason he didn't win was because of how the blinds went up. It just became a pushing match where whoever gets the luckiest wins, and that's what it was at the end. There wasn't much skill to it, you know. It was just whether he was going to call me or I was going to call him on an all-in bet and who was going to get lucky, and obviously I got the luckiest. But I think if the blinds were lower and you had to go back and forth, just with little raises and playing little pots and stuff, obviously I think he would have had a lot better chance.

Yesterday you were at a table with John Juanda, John D'Agostino, Eric Cajelais and Melissa Hayden. How did you approach that, and was it daunting at all?

I just tried to play my game and wait for hands. I knew that they were going to be playing a lot of hands and raising a lot of pots, but I just tried to stay out of their way and waited until they were raising into my good cards. Then I tried to come over the top of them just enough that they'd call. I was just waiting for the better hands, that was the thing.

I folded a lot of hands that weren't on TV that a lot of people wouldn't have folded. A lot of people would have been out a long time ago. On the second day, I laid down Ace-King. I came out and raised, a guy called and another guy raised all-in for about $5,000 and I ended up folding it. I would have won the pot, but there were other hands like that, where I'm glad they weren't on camera because people would be like, what the hell are you doing folding that, right?

A lot of things went my way. I got lucky. The biggest thing was on the first day, I think I would have been out. I should have been out. Barry Greenstein had pocket aces and somebody came in for a raise, and they raised to about $2,200 and I pushed all-in for like $19,000 on the puck. Barry was sitting in the big blind with pocket aces and he called it, and then the original raiser called it with ace-king, and I had king-jack offsuit. And I just sucked out on them and tripled up.

John Lam and Soren Turkewitsch

How did you get your start playing poker?

I used to go to casinos all the time, playing blackjack, at the Blue Heron and Port Perry casinos. So I was playing blackjack and eventually just started playing poker as well.

Did you play online at all?

I was playing online on PokerStars.com, but I stopped playing there after a few months. I was just going through money all the time, taking bad beats, you know, all the stories you hear. That's why I don't really play online. I still like to come out here to Niagara Falls to play the $5/$5 No-Limit games.

How often do you come down here?

Maybe once a month. Once a month, stay for a few days. I'm always playing blackjack, like that's how I first started gambling.

I heard a rumor you work at an auto plant in Oshawa. Is that correct?

No, I actually work for a little feeder plant. I work at two little ones, actually, part time. We make car parts, mostly for GM.

Are you going to quit the job now?

Oh yeah, I'm done working.

Soren Turkewitsch

So where do you go from here, then?

I don't even know. I have no idea what I'm doing. It doesn't even feel like I won. It just feels weird.

Do you want to give a shout-out to your crew at all? You seemed to have a ton of support in the stands at this final table.

Yeah, I'd like to give a shout-out to my girlfriend, Michelle, and my family, and all of the friends that came down for coming down here and supporting me. I wouldn't have been able to do it without them.

Thanks, Soren. Congratulations.

Thank you.

* * * * * * * * * * *

About midway through Day 3, I noticed a crowd of family and friends gathered to watch a guy playing at a star-studded table. Not knowing his name, I asked someone (who I'd later realize was his girlfriend) to fill me in. "Soren," she told me. "Soren Turkewitsch." They asked if I wanted them to spell his name, and I told them I'd look it up. Then I wandered off, scrawled "Soren" in my notebook, and forgot about it. The table he was at, I figured, he'd be gone in a couple hours. But he stuck around, and when I came back to work on Day 4, I realized I'd have to learn to spell his last name after all. By the end of the day, though, as the dust settled on the final table, it was pretty obvious that neither I nor anyone else at the NACP would be forgetting the name Soren Turkewitsch anytime soon.

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