Jun 15, 2017
John Racener Wins 2017 WSOP $10k Dealers Choice Crown - Does It for Late Mom
By RTR Dennis
John Racener is a highly successful poker pro who has over $9.5 million in career tournament winnings. And one of the biggest influences that helped Racener get to this point is his late mother, who passed away four years ago from liver cancer.
That said, it's little surprise that he dedicated his recent 2017 WSOP $10k Dealers Choice victory to his mom's memory. After winning, the 2010 WSOP Main Event runner-up took off his hoodie to reveal a white undershirt with the words "For Mom" written on it.
"I always said to myself that I wanted to win my first bracelet for my mom," Racener explained. "She's always been my biggest fan, and she still is from up above. No matter what time of the day it was back home, with three-hour time span, she would always stay up and sweat me online all night. Even if she had to get up for work at eight a.m. She would stay up and sweat me until she had to go to work. I just really wanted to win the first one for her."
Let's recap how Racener won this tournament, cover his thoughts during the event, and discuss how his mom concealed her cancer until after his famed 2010 WSOP Main Event run.
Racener Survives 8-Hour Final Table
102 players entered the 2017 WSOP $10,000 Dealer's Choice tournament, creating a $930,600 prize pool. And Racener had little trouble battling his way through the field, amassing the chip lead by the time the final table rolled around.
Notable players who busted out just before the final table include James Obst (8th, $32.5k), Ben Yu (9th, $24.5k), Shawn Buchanan (10th, $25.5k), Tommy Hang (11th, $18.9k), Lyle Berman (14th, $14.8k), and Todd Brunson (15th, $14.8k).
As for Racener, the tourney was just getting started when the final table rolled around. It took eight hours for the event to grind down to four remaining players. Strangely enough, action picked up quickly by this point.
Racener knocked Chris Klodnicki out in fourth place ($83,263) and busted Dennis Eichorn in third ($117,786) within a few hands of each other. This left him in a heads-up duel with Viacheslav Zhukov, who was seeking his third-career gold bracelet. But not even Zhukov stood much of a chance as Racener quickly eliminated him in second place ($169,323).
This left Racener standing in the winner's circle with a $273,962 payout and his first-career gold bracelet.
"I've been wanting this forever," said Racener. "I've got so many seconds and thirds. I have over $10 million in earnings, but no gold. I've just been wanting to win so bad. I didn't even look at the prize pool. I didn't even know what first place was. I just wanted to win the bracelet. It's all I really care about."
Mike 'The Mouth' Matusow, who finished in fifth place ($59,827), was very impressed with how Racener played.
"You played great," Matusow said to Racener. "You didn't make any mistakes."
As Racener explained, this is his goal every time he goes out on the tournament circuit.
"I pride my game around making no mistakes. Trying to always get it in with the best hand, trying to never miss a bet, trying to always get that extra bet in. That's just how I play. People know that about me and I don't really recall a mistake I made at the final table. Every time I got these guys all in, I had the best hand. And then I won the flip at the end."
Coming Prepared for WSOP Success
Given the stakes entering the final day, and the fact that he wanted to win a gold bracelet for his mother, Racener prepared extra well before the Event #17 final table.
"I really prepared today," he explained. "I don't usually study or look up notes on anybody. I had everything written down of all their good games and bad games. Like I said, when it was on me, it was hard to pick a game because they were all playing good."
Racener referred to his notes when figuring out which games to pick when it was his turn. Specifically, he thought about what games he saw opponents making mistakes in before making his picks. Another criteria is that he wanted to ensure all of his selected games had low variance.
"Everyone knows this about my game, I'm not really volatile at all," Racener said. "So, I wanted to make sure I was picking a game I wasn't going to go broke in because I knew they would have to just drag me down and win like five to 10 pots off me. Scoop pots to beat me."
The Big Secret that Racener's Mother Withheld
Despite winning a bracelet at the 2017 WSOP, Racener's career will in many ways be defined by his runner-up effort in the 2010 Main Event ($5,545,955). And during the run up to the November Nine final table, his mother withheld her cancer secret so he could focus.
"During the November Nine layover, she found out she had cancer and she didn't tell me until after," said Racener. "That's how much she cared about me. She didn't want me to be all upset or lose focus. She wanted me to just be in the best spot I could be to do well in the Main Event."
After Racener's big performance and $5.5 million payout, they went out to eat, where she told him the unfortunate news.
"For three or four months, only one person knew," he said. "She didn't want to tell anybody. That's how much she cared about me and loved me. She just wanted it to be all about me."
Afterward, she moved in with Racener and his sister. Having lost their father six years earlier to Alzheimer's disease, they wanted to keep their mother around as long as possible.
"She lived in my back house when she was sick," Racener explained. "And even though I would go play poker, my sister would watch her. And then I'd come home and watch her. We just did everything we could for her. It just got to the point where she didn't want to live that way anymore."
Final Table Results
1st: John Racener - $273,962
2nd: Viacheslav Zhukov - $169,323
3rd: Chris Klodnicki - $117,786
4th: Dennis Eichorn - $83,263
5th: Mike Matusow - $59,827
6th: Schuyler Thornton - $43,707