Dan Zack was living a dream last week at the World Series of Poker. The New Jersey grinder found himself heads-up for his second bracelet with a 20-1 chip advantage. The winner would score $440,757 in the $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo Championship. But things weren’t exactly going as planned.
That lead had sunk to a 6-1 advantage for his opponent, Dustin Dirksen. Losing another big pot could find Zack in serious trouble. A key hand developed that may have turned things around.
Dirksen held A-9-5-10 with a double flush draw with a 9-5 on the board and no redraw. A loss for Zack would mean runner-up, but splitting the pot would at least keep him alive.
“It’s a spot where if he has a made hand already, I’m just dead and it was the first time heads up in four hours I really tanked,” says Zack, who lives in Jersey City. “I ended up deciding the price was too good and there were enough hands he could have I was live against and put in my last 1.5 bets.”
The two players indeed chopped the pot and Zack went on to make a huge comeback. Adding that second piece of hardware still feels surreal for the longtime poker player.
“It feels great to win a second bracelet,” he says. “I first got into poker watching the WSOP on ESPN and always dreamed of playing these. As a result, even though I rarely play tournaments outside the WSOP, I’m always here each year chasing the dream of collecting these things, and so every bracelet win is precious.”
WSOP success and adjusting to online poker
While he may prefer cash games, Zack is obviously no slouch in the live tournament arena. He currently has more than $1.7 million in live tournament winnings.
The Omaha Hi-Lo title became the biggest win of his career. He also scored a bracelet in 2019 in a $2,500 Limit Mixed Triple Draw event for $160,447.
Zack exemplifies just how difficult it is to win a bracelet in these events featuring huge fields and great players. Beyond last week’s tournament, which featured 196 players for a $1.8 million prize pool, he’s had numerous other deep runs and final table appearances. He also scored a WSOP Circuit ring in 2013 as well, and was glad to break through again in Las Vegas.
Like many, poker changed quite a bit for Zack during the pandemic and he was forced to adjust. Previously mostly a live player, online poker in New Jersey became a bigger part of his routine.
“There’s been a decent amount of mixed game action there since the pandemic, which is where most of my volume has gone,” he says, “But I also just play significantly fewer hours these days than I had in the past.”
Away from the table and looking ahead
Poker isn’t the only game the 29-year-old enjoys. Zack thrives on strategy and competitive games. Away from the tables, Hearthstone and Teamfight Tactics are particular favorites.
“Those are two games I’ve spent a lot of time on the past five years trying to get as good as I can as a challenge to myself,” he says. “At one point I think I was in the top 100 players global of TFT and was probably close, but not quite that good of a Hearthstone player. I doubt I’ll ever stop playing strategy games even after I quit poker.”
There’s a good chance that strategy and analytical thinking pays off at the poker table as well. The Omaha Hi-Lo win wasn’t the only big news on Zack’s agenda recently. Another major event is also in his future.
“I recently got engaged to the love of my life, Ivy,” he says. “We’ve been together the past six years and I feel blessed to have found such an amazing life partner.”
More bracelet chasing
With plenty of action remaining in Las Vegas, Zack has plenty more poker on the horizon. Beyond his big win, Zack also managed two other cashes so far.
He’s looking for even more success as the action plays out on the Strip. That includes even adding some bigger buy-in tournaments to his schedule with hopes of another nice finish.
“The WSOP so far has been quiet for me outside of the win,” he says. “I had one nice run in the $500 Housewarming, but flamed out 200th out of 20,000 entries. Otherwise it’s been a full schedule but no other cashes yet
“The rest of the series for me is just full steam ahead. I’m now third in the player of the year standings, so I’ll be chasing that as hard as I can. I might try to add the $50,000, $100,000, and $250,000 No Limit Hold’em events to my schedule, but otherwise I was already planning to fire everything else.”