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In the wee hours of the morning on Oct. 16, two players won bracelets just minutes apart, prompting very different reactions from the spectators in the room.
The first winner was Anthony Zinno, who took down the $1,500 HORSE event. Zinno bested a field of 594 players to win $160,636 and his fourth bracelet. Even more amazing; this was Zinno’s second bracelet in a week after winning the $10K Seven-Card Stud event. The two wins, and two more cashes, puts Zinno in a strong position in the Player of The Year race.
Popular win for one of the game’s good guys
A large rail cheered for Zinno and posed with him in his official bracelet photos, holding up four fingers to celebrate the fourth win. His girlfriend, a massage therapist working at the Rio during the WSOP, posed on his lap with the bracelet, and a crowd of happy people surrounded him. A host of world-class players offered congratulations as the cameras flashed.
Zinno is pleasant, friendly, and well-liked in the poker world. He was the target of a Phil Hellmuth blow-up at the final table of the stud event he won a week ago, which sent poker Twitter into a tizzy with many people asking why the WSOP had different rules for Hellmuth when other players would have been penalized for such behavior. But Zinno, as he is known to do, took it all with class, and had nothing bad to say about Hellmuth after the rant.
Zinno has amassed more than $10M in tournament poker winnings and is a regular in big cash games as well. Known for dressing well and offering a big smile for the cameras, Zinno is a star on the rise.
The second bracelet of the night, won just minutes later, went to Scott Ball of Oceanside, California. And much of the room was not so happy about Ball’s victory. Once heralded as the father of poker Twitch, Ball was the head of poker streaming at the company for a few years until leaving in 2018 to start his own business, End Game Talent. After winning awards and accolades for bringing poker to Twitch and starting a new era of poker broadcasting, doubts about his character began to spread through the poker world.
Rumors spread that Ball had colluded in a private online game hosted by Phil Hellmuth and won more than $700,000 in games that were not fair. Then, Mike Matusow came out with stunning accusations on his podcast, claiming that not only had Ball cheated Hellmuth and others in the game, but that he had also taken more than $1M from Hellmuth to start his company and gambled much of that money away.
Other noted players came out against Ball, with Doug Polk and Parker Talbot both offering scathing criticism of his character. No big names came to his defense, but the story wasn’t big enough to garner serious attention since Hellmuth had nothing to say about it. Some took his lack of willingness to defend Ball to mean that Matusow’s accusations were all true. Others believed that with no confirmation, there wasn’t enough evidence to be certain that Ball had done anything wrong.
Ball faded from the spotlight for a while, playing smaller events without a big score for a few years. His biggest win before his bracelet was less than $30,000, and his lifetime earnings were just over $100,000. And he was no longer playing in big, privately hosted cash games, so his name was rarely mentioned.
Then, Scott Ball won a bracelet
That is, until the early morning of Oct. 16 when he won Event #25, the $5,000 6 max No-Limit Hold’em tournament that many consider one of the toughest fields in all of poker. Ball defeated Galen Hall, another well-liked player who has amassed more than $5.5M in winnings. including a bracelet in the 888 event in 2018 for $888,888, and a win in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event for more than two million dollars.
Ball won $562,667 and the gold bracelet when he defeated Hall after a long heads-up battle; a sum worth more than five times his previous lifetime earnings. He had his supporters, as a small group cheered from the rail and hugged him when he won. Shouts of “Let’s Go Scott!” rang through the room, and Ball sat down on the edge of a step, overwhelmed for a moment after the last card fell to seal his victory.
On the other side of the rail, the sentiment about Ball’s win was decidedly different. A number of pros expressed displeasure at watching his victory, claiming that he was a con artist and a thief, echoing Matusow, Polk, and others.
While Zinno’s bracelet celebration was a party filled with smiles and congratulations, Ball celebrated with his close friends and appeared to wipe tears from his eyes at one point. He and Hall shared a hug and stood for an interview for the cameras in a more subdued moment with the flashes from Zinno’s official bracelet photo going off less than 100 feet away.