Kovalchuk learns, wins Event 42

The final table of Event 42 ($2,500 half Omaha high-low split, half seven-card stud high-low split) offered up a great mix of talent and finished with a champion who truly surprised the rest of his competition. Among the eight were established tournament veterans in George Danzer, Wing Wong and Yuval Bronshtein. There were split-game specialists in Mark Gregorich and Tim Burt, who wait for this event each summer. There was even a member of ESPN's World Series of Poker broadcast team in Norman Chad. Yes, that Norman Chad! Oh, and there was a 22-year-old WSOP champion who had never played this variation of poker before. Guess who won?

Ukrainian Oleksii Kovalchuk captured his second WSOP bracelet by defeating the field of 393 in a tournament in which he admitted that he barely knew the rules of the game. He said the only way to get better at a game was to play it, and by the end of three days of action, he learned enough to beat some of the best in the world. The 22-year-old superstar was dubbed as one to watch by ESPN.com before the start of the 2012 WSOP. With his seventh WSOP cash, he gave poker fans everywhere another reason why.

Kovalchuk won his first bracelet in 2011 in the $2,500 six-handed no-limit hold 'em event. While the payout of $228,014 for this victory failed to match the $689,793 he earned a year ago, the second bracelet at age 22 puts him in elite company. He's just the third player to earn two WSOP victories by age 22, joining Jeff Madsen and Eric Froehlich. He's also the first two-time bracelet winner from the Ukraine.

Gregorich entered the final table with the chip lead with Chad just behind him in second.

"I just made a World Series of Poker final table," said Chad on Twitter. "This is my second proudest moment (behind passing drivers test when I was 16)."

After his tweet, it all went downhill for Chad. He failed to win any major confrontations at the final table and followed Burt and Wong out the door, finishing in sixth. He earned $36,093 for his best career WSOP finish.

Danny Ratigan eliminated Bronshtein in fifth and then lost a major pot to Kovalchuk to find his own demise in fourth. Gregorich had controlled most of the final table action up to that point, but the rookie Kovalchuk got the best of the seasoned pro in a number of pots, leading to his elimination in third. Gregorich has made nine WSOP final tables throughout his career and earned $90,829 for three-day effort.

Kovalchuk began heads-up play with a 1.8-to-1 chip lead over Danzer. The German pro made great strides quickly to overtake the lead and then extend it to nearly 2-to-1 before finding out how well the Ukrainian could run. A river flush here and a rivered two pair there put Kovalchuk in control and Danzer couldn't catch the cards he needed to battle back a second time. Kovalchuk finished him off after less than two hours of heads-up play and was mobbed by his friends as he emerged victorious in Las Vegas once again.

Since his bracelet victory one year ago, Kovalchuk won two Italian Poker Tour events, finished third in the Partouche Poker Tour main event, made a number of other final tables across Europe, and now, captured bracelet No. 2. In less than 17 months since starting his focus on poker, he's earned $2.1 million on the tournament felt. He's proven to many that he may be the biggest rising star in all of poker and a third bracelet next year would simply deepen that sentiment even further.

Other notable finishers include Jeffrey Lisandro (10th), Perry Friedman (11th) and Bryan Devonshire (12th).

Below are the complete results of Event 42 at the 2012 World Series of Poker:

Event 42: Mixed Split Omaha/Seven-Card stud
Buy-in: $2,500
Entries: 393
Prize pool: $894,075
Players in the money: 40

1. Oleksii Kovalchuk ($228,014)
2. George Danzer ($140,825)
3. Mark Gregorich ($90,829)
4. Danny Ratigan ($65,812)
5. Yuval Bronshtein ($48,387)
6. Norman Chad ($36,093)
7. Wing Wong ($27,313)
8. Tim Burt ($20,966)
9. Brandon Guss ($16,325)
10. Jeff Lisandro ($16,325)
11. Perry Friedman ($12,892)
12. Bryan Devonshire ($12,892)
13. Tom Schneider ($10,317)
14. Timothy Frazin ($10,317)
15. Mike Krescanko ($8,368)
16. Dale Phillips ($8,368)
17. Joe Weinberger ($6,884)
18. Daniel Harmetz ($6,884)
19. Michael Moed ($6,884)
20. Allen Bari ($6,884)
21. Anthony Bellino ($6,884)
22. Charles Kassin ($6,884)
23. Raymond Davis ($6,884)
24. Hooman Nikzad ($6,884)
25. Tam Hang ($5,775)
26. Daniel Fuhs ($5,775)
27. Mallory Smith ($5,775)
28. Lori Berumen ($5,775)
29. Jason Riesenberg ($5,775)
30. Mary Jones ($5,775)
31. Andrew Hippert ($5,775)
32. Chris Back ($5,775)
33. Scott Seiver ($4,845)
34. Yueqi Zhu ($4,845)
35. Jeremy Ausmus ($4,845)
36. Alessandro Ponzio ($4,845)
37. Scott Epstein ($4,845)
38. Tom Koral ($4,845)
39. Joshua Karnad ($4,845)
40. William Fitzpatrick ($4,845)