Nenad Medic, the winner of the World Poker Tour's World Poker Finals for Season 5, is just another one of those highly-skilled, highly-successful, big-stakes poker players who has flown under the radar to this point due to a lack of successful tournament finishes. Although the Serbian-born, Canadian-raised 25-year-old logged a sixth place finish at the WPT's PokerStars.com Caribbean Poker Adventure in 2005 and a third place finish at the Aussie Millions earlier this year, Medic had the luxury of being able to show up to a tournament and blend into the field largely inconspicuous against a backdrop of donkeys and fish, but not anymore.
When Medic turned over his 5-7 offsuit to call E.G. Harvin's all-in bet with fives-full, he won not only a $1.7 million cash prize, a WPT bracelet, and a buy-in to next spring's WPT World Championship event, but also the cachet (and for some, the disadvantage) of having pros, press, and fans alike know exactly who they are dealing with the next time he sits down at a tournament poker table. I talked to Medic shortly after his thrilling victory.
Can you talk about your play at the final table?
Well, coming into the final table I was pretty confident, and I was just going to wait it out and see how everyone played. I was pretty comfortable with a lot of the players and I knew how they were playing, so I just waited around. The first level I think three people got knocked out, so I was very fortunate there, and then I got in a couple of good spots with E.G. bluffing into me, and I ran really good. Ran really good, which you have to do to win tournaments.
Did you change your strategy going into heads-up?
No, not really. I was limping in - just wanted to see flops with him. I thought I could outplay him after the flop. I didn't want to put a lot of money in preflop and then have him bet me out, so I just wanted to see a lot of flops for cheap and then go from there.
How did you feel Harvin played?
Well, he was tough. He knocked out three players in the first round and did all the work for me. I just got in a couple fortunate spots and didn't have to have the nuts against him every time.
You built up quite a few chips early on in the tournament. What was your strategy over the first few days?
I just played my game and I was running good. That's what you've got to do in tournaments. I played well, ran good, and picked up some chips. I picked up a lot of chips when it was on the bubble because my whole table was satellite winners, and they were all playing tight, so I went from like $100,000 to $400,000 in an hour just raising every hand, because I knew they wanted to get into the money and get something out of the tournament. So I did well over that time.
How did this final table compare to your previous final tables at the Aussie Millions and in the Bahamas?
Well, this was a lot more fun - I finally got to win. But I think there was probably a lot more skill and the quality of players was a lot better at this tournament than the other ones I was at. There were a lot of tough players at this table.
Did you approach this final table any differently based on your previous experience?
Well, in the Bahamas I was short-stacked coming in, so yeah, of course. It was my first live tournament, and I didn't really have that much experience. Yeah, I approached it a little differently.
How did you get your start in poker?
I went to the University of Waterloo (in Canada), and I was on the basketball team there. I just played when I went to basketball tournaments and stuff like that. My teammates and I played little $5 tournaments, and then I deposited some money online and did well from there.
I'll say you did. Congratulations, Nenad and have fun celebrating.
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On the flip side of the coin is E.G. Harvin. The easygoing Floridian is not a professional poker player and has no plans to be. In fact, the proud grandfather of five seemed genuinely happy to see Medic take the event - partly so that he could avoid people like me, no doubt. I got the chance to ask Harvin a few questions as he headed out to dinner with his family and his $904,389 paycheck.
How would you assess your play at the final table?
Well, I knocked out every player but one, so I guess I played pretty well. But I was fortunate. I was lucky.
You came in with the big stack. Did that affect your strategy at the table?
No. My strategy was to make the final two. That was my total strategy. Not to do anything differently than what I was doing until I got to the final two. And once I got to the final two, I knew I had to play more hands than I would normally play.
So what did you think of the final table overall?
I enjoyed every second of it. I wasn't nervous at all - you could probably tell I was having a good time, enjoying it, and I don't know what else I can say. It was fun. I am extremely happy this young kid won. No hard feelings whatsoever. He's a nice kid, and I told him, "I mean it from the bottom of my heart, I am glad you won this thing." Because it wouldn't make any difference to me. Not that I'm a wealthy man, but a million dollars, $1.7 million, what's the difference? I'm happy with it. And as far as the trophy and all of that, it doesn't mean anything to me anyhow. I'd sell it on eBay.
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It's unclear whether we'll see E.G. Harvin at a WPT tournament again. In fact, it's probably unclear whether we would have seen Harvin again even if he'd won the event and received the $25,000 buy-in to the WPT World Championship at Bellagio. But rest assured you'll hear Nenad Medic's name in the future. With three final tables in big name tournaments in the past two years and a juicy bankroll to show for his efforts, the 25-year-old is just starting to hit his poker-playing prime. Congratulations to both men and good luck finding ways to spend that cash.