Ali Imsirovic’s poker idols are already his peers. The young wizard is a top-three finish in the $50,000 No Limit Hold’em final table away from leaping over Brandon Adams for the lead in Poker Masters. Inconceivable, some would say.
A generation behind the prime of the poker boom, Imsirovic grew up on a diet of YouTube clips of his favorite players. Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan’s portraits line the walls of the PokerGO Studio and today, their spirits gaze upon Imsirovic as he plays for consecutive Poker Masters event wins.
Imsirovic calls the two legends his “biggest heroes” in poker and the DNA of their respective games live within his natural fearlessness.
“Tom was doing the most crazy s*** and it was so cool,” a giddy Imsirovic exclaimed before the Event 6 final table. “Ivey was just the best player in the world at the time so I was like, ‘I wanna be like that guy.’ Tom, being able to experiment and try new things all the time…I really respect because most people don’t do that enough. I think that’s what got him to where he was.”
Five of poker’s best sit beside Imsirovic at today’s final table including the one and only Justin Bonomo. In fact, both Bonomo and Jake Schindler, who Imsirovic busted yesterday in Event 5, look down from the PokerGO Studio walls. Bonomo and Imsirovic are not familiar opponents and Imsirovic is anxious to take on the High Roller king.
“I didn’t play much against him so I’m curious how that’s going to be,” Imsirovic said. “He’s had the most absurd year and congrats to him. Hopefully, I can do something a third or the quarter of him someday.”
The PokerGO stage is an exclusive territory and in only a week, Imsirovic’s hoodies and their color pallet are suddenly as iconic as Jason Koon’s beard. Imsirovic is still in shock at the climb his game made to reach this level and perhaps today’s $799,000 first-place prize will assist in forming words to put the moment of this week into context.
“I never really thought I would get to this stage early on. It kind of seemed like it was possible six months ago, just so surreal. I can’t even describe it.”
The advantage of being the relative unknown in High Rollers slips from Imsirovic every time he runs deep. Imsirovic is becoming a regular in the world of five-figure buy-ins and he hopes the respect of his peers will follow.
“A few think I’m pretty good but I’m not sure in general,” Imsirovic said. As he said yesterday, becoming number-one is the overall goal for the 23-year-old. Proving to the competition he is the best is part of that plan.
On yesterday’s final table, Imsirovic befuddled Brian Rast a few times and caused the 2015 Super High Roller Bowl champion to uncharacteristically verbalize his malcontent on a couple of occasions.
On break from Day 1 of the $50,000 event, Imsirovic enjoyed his time outside and a familiar figure who he had never seen in-person passed by the PokerGO Studio. It was Tom Dwan.
Imsirovic admired and then moved on to the moment at present.
The first step to following in his idol’s footsteps and landing on the PokerGO Studio wall is winning the Purple Jacket. A win today all but locks the title up.