Manhattan native Nick Schulman became the youngest winner in the history of the World Poker Tour Friday night, pulling in $2.1 million as he wiped the table in a game of no-limit Texas Hold 'Em at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.
Two months to the day after reaching the legal gambling age of 21, Schulman, a former tournament pool player, beat out 46-year old Tony Licastro with a spade flush.
After being dealt a six and nine of spades, Schulman watched the dealer turn over an eight of diamonds, an ace of spades and a king of spades.
After calling a raise to $300,000, Schulman watched the dealer flip over a two of spades. He thus had a flush and bet his whole stack by going "all in."
He watched as his opponent turned over a hand that held the eight of hearts and the two of diamonds.
Licastro's two pair were not as good as Schulman's flush at that point. But he still had a solid chance to make a full house, leading to a tense moment as the final card was turned.
It was a five of spades, giving Schulman the victory.
"I couldn't believe it," Schulman said a day after his victory, which came in front of a crowd of 300. "That was the money card. It was just so surreal.
"When I got to the final table, I thought I was going to win," he added. "I was nervous, but I was confident ... I had no doubt I was ahead when I called."
The win also earned Schulman a free ticket to the World Poker finals at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas in April.
Schulman had been gambling at the casino for about three weeks, first ponying up $1,000 to play nine others entrants. That win earned him a seat to the 783-player World Poker tourney.
He showed up at the final table with almost three times the number of chips as any of the remaining contenders — including Lyle "The Godfather of Poker" Berman, a three-time World Series of Poker winner, and Allen Cunningham, the 2005 World Series of Poker player of the year.
Gina and Bob Schulman said they rushed up to Foxwoods after their son phoned Wednesday.
"Listen, things are going well," he told his parents. "It looks like I'm going to the final table. Why don't you come on up? It could be good — you never know."
After Schulman won it all, his mom called his half-sister Jane Miller Rennert in Brooklyn, who said with a laugh, "I was a little worried my mom was going to have a heart attack on the spot. She said that it was the most exciting thing she ever saw." Schulman, who attended La Guardia HS, became a successful pool player at 13, playing in the U.S. Open of pool at 15.
About two years ago, he decided to switch to poker. He played online a lot to hone his skills.
"I saw I could make a lot more money in poker," Schulman said, adding that, with his winnings, "I'm definitely going to buy a car. The rest of it, I'll probably put in the bank."