If you were to poll most hardcore poker enthusiasts, they'd remember the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event as "The Year of the Professionals."
Sweden remembers it as the year it got its first World Champion.
There was only one amateur at the final table of the 2014 WSOP Main Event and that was part-time poker dealer/foosball king William Pappaconstantinou, aka Billy Pappas.
Another player that made an impression was Mark Newhouse. The previous year Newhouse had also managed to reach the November Nine but finished in ninth.
In 2014 he said he would do anything not to finish in the same spot again. He then he ended up ninth again.
Six different nationalities reached the final table in 2014 which is quite unusual as it is normally dominated by Americans.
But this was the year of Northern Europe, and it was a battle between Sweden and Norway – Martin Jacobson vs Felix Stephensen to decide the Champion.
As Close to Perfect as You Can Get
Starting the final table it was a Dutchman, Jorryt Van Hoof, who came in with the chip lead in. He had 38.4m (95bb) in his stack.
First, the Dutchman had to go.
He was followed by Stephensen, who had collected 33.8m (81bb).
Jacobson came in in 8th place with 14.9m (37bb) behind.
With as a close to a perfect game as you can get, he managed to build a big stack and with three players left he eliminated van Hoof.
Jacobson went into the heads-up with 142m chips against Stephensen’s 58.5m.
The duel lasted for 35 hands before Stephensen called off his remaining stack of 28.3m with A9 against Jacobson’s 1010.
The board ran out 3910K4 and a new world champion was crowned.
For his achievement Jacobson was awarded with a staggering $10,000,000 and the finest trophy you’ll find in the poker world.
Jacobson: From Chef to Champ
Martin Jacobson grew up in Lidingo, a suburb of Stockholm. His initial ambition was to become a chef and his ambition was to one day own his own restaurant.
Cooking's loss is poker's gain.
The first step in that direction was to become great at the profession, so he moved to Barcelona with the goal to work at one of the finest Michelin star restaurants.
Over the years Jacobson was heading down the chef's path, his passion for poker grew. He started out with low-stakes cash games online but after a while he was mainly playing online tournaments.
In 2008 Jacobson won a satellite to WSOP Main Event. This was the first live event in his career, and a few days before he turned 21 he packed his bags and flew over the Atlantic Ocean.
It wasn't a debut to brag about though as it took him just three hands to finish his adventure. Jacobson’s breakthrough would come later that year when he finished third at EPT Budapest for €197,904.
With his newfound confidence he started to produce impressive results on all the biggest tours. When it was time for the final table, he was already a highly respected professional.
Pros like Antonio Esfandiari called Jacobson’s victory one of the most well deserved wins in history.
Jacobson himself said his victory wouldn’t change his life and that he is as motivated as before to keep on playing poker.
Since November 2014 he has cashed 11 more times with a 10th-place finish in the EPT Grand Final High Roller his best result for $107,338.
Jacobson’s dream to become a chef is not over yet, either. In several interviews he's said that he will open something within that business when he finishes his poker career.
However, there's no plan for that to happen soon and most likely we'll see a lot from Jacobson at the World Series of Poker in 2016.
He's also a key member of the Montreal Nationals team in the Global Poker League and very committed to humanitarian and charitable causes, with a percentage of his wins donated to Raising for Effective Giving.
Stephensen: PLO Warrior Who Bet His Way In
Coming into the Main Event final table Norway's Felix Stephensen had a fraction of the experience of Jacobson in live tournaments … and especially in Texas Holdem.
Despite lack of experience, Stephensen delivered.
He started out with NLHE in the beginning of his career but when he went to Thailand with a bunch of other grinders he switched over to Pot-Limit Omaha.
After Thailand he moved to London where he played a lot of $5/$10 and $25/$50 PLO online.
When it was time for the 2014 WSOP he only had two registered cashes to his name. It was a 12th place in the Norwegian championships for $5,129 and a 92nd at EPT Barcelona for $16,989.
Stephensen didn't even plan to play the Main Event, but a fortunate sports bet changed those plans. He got 60-1 on his money for Holland to beat Australia 3-2. Holland did has he predicted and with $1k on the line the night turned into a $60k success.
He decided to try out the Main and how that turned out is now history. With his $5m cash he jumped straight to the first place on Norway’s All Time Money List, ahead of players such as Johnny Lodden, Thor Hansen and Andreas Hoivold.
Norway's reigning champ.
Since November 2014 Stephensen seems to have found his way back to Texas Holdem, and he said that he worked hard to improve his NLHE tournament skills.
He’s cashed in 26 tournaments since the Main Event, which is more than twice as many as Jacobson.
His total winnings live after the heads-up duel are $418,302 compared to Jacobson’s $301,612.
The Norwegian might not have received the big headlines since they turned off the lights in the Amazon Room in 2014, but he is definitely a player to watch in the future.
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