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The 2016 World Series of Poker schedule boasted of numerous major tournaments, one of the biggest touted by WSOP executives was Event 2, the $565 No Limit Hold’em tournament called Colossus II.

The inaugural Colossus event last year had four starting flights, brought in 22,374 total entries, and surpassed the $5 million prize pool guarantee with an actual prize pool of $11,187,000 pool. But there were problems, such as the massive lines for payouts when the money bubble burst and the odd payout percentages that awarded the winner only six percent ($638,880).

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So when the 2016 schedule was announced, changes for Colossus II were promising. Not only would there be six starting flights over three starting days and payouts happening at the end of each flight, but the winner was guaranteed $1 million from the $7 million total guaranteed prize money.

Good but Not Great

With the publicity surrounding Colossus II and the plethora of opportunities for entries and reentries, along with the wider payout schedule, all bets were on a bigger turnout than in 2015. That, however, did not happen. The finally tally of entries was 21,613, notably lower than last year. The prize pool was set at $10,806,500, and the top 2,923 players were paid.

While the tournament was still deemed a success, the downturn signaled that the 2016 WSOP may not be on an upswing for total registration numbers as many hoped. And glitches from the previous year were fixed, which was noted by many players on social media. Payouts went rather smoothly, and an early rule about reentries was quickly adjusted when tournament officials saw that another way was preferred. All in all, it was okay.

But the first big story of the 2016 WSOP was not the growth of the Colossus. And that hurt a little.

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Winner Story Wins

When the tournament finished on June 7, there was one player left standing. Benjamin Keeline won the Colossus II for a cool $1 million.


Other than the $1M payout, not many people knew the name or would have given the winner a second look. His past results topped $500K, and he did win a WSOP Circuit event in 2013 and finished second in the WSOP Choctaw Circuit Main Event for $218K. But in the larger world of tournament poker, he was not a recognizable figure.

Keeline’s story of getting to the 2016 WSOP, however, was a significant one.

According to the WSOP report, Keeline was in a tough spot a few months ago. He was broke with debts adding up and no money with which to play poker, his former income source. He found no backers to get him back into action, so he got a job as an Uber drive where he lived in Boulder, Colorado. With the money he made, he built enough of a bankroll to head to Las Vegas and give the Colossus II a shot.

After Keeline busted the first time, he did have the money to reenter, but he knew that was his last shot with his modest bankroll. After entering that second time, he lost a good deal of his chips when his pocket kings ran into pocket aces. Soon after, he was left with one 500 chip with blinds at 1,500/3,000 and a 500 ante. He had one ante.

Then he doubled. And Keeline doubled again and again, finally building a stack with which he could play his best game again. And he did that. By the end of Day 3, he had made the final table with the second-largest chip stack of the nine men.

The final table played at a relatively normal pace, and by the 111th hand, Jiri Horak eliminated Farhad Davoudzadeh at about 7:30pm. Horak took 63 million chips into heads-up play against Keeline’s 45 million chips, and it was a battle. They played 123 hands over the course of nearly four hours, and Keeline emerged victorious.

Emotional and overwhelmed, Keeline composed himself and posed for his winner photos with the pocket jacks that won it for him. He literally came back from a chip and a chair to win $1 million.

That is what the 2016 WSOP Colossus II will be remembered for – the kind of story that inspires poker players every day.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.