Ema Zajmovic Makes History, Wins partypoker.net WPT Playground Main Event
Ema Zajmovic came close in November, finishing fifth in the World Poker Tour (WPT) Montreal Main Event, but now she got over the hump at the same venue, Montreal’s Playground Poker Club, as she won the WPT Playground Main Event Tuesday night. Her first major live tournament title was worth CAD $241,500 (USD $183,789).
While the victory was a milestone in Zajmovic’s poker career and her greatest accomplishment to date, it is arguably a more significant moment for the history of poker in general. By winning the WPT Playground Main Event, Ema Zajmovic became the first woman – the first – to win an open Main Event on the World Poker Tour. Only one other woman, Van Nguyen, has ever won a WPT title, but that was in the 2008 WPT Celebrity Invitational. As the word “invitational” should indicate, that was not an open event; only those invited to participate could buy-in.
“Honestly, I am really happy that I proved women can do it,” Zajmovic told WPT.com afterward. “The funniest and nicest part of this experience was all the women who came and were so supportive of me. It was amazing. When I started playing poker, there was so much competition between girls. It was hard to be good and be supportive of each other. Now it has evolved so much and it is nice to see I had support from older women, younger women.”
Poker Hall of Famer, “Ambassador of Poker,” and WPT television analyst Mike Sexton, who won WPT Montreal at the Playground Poker Club, said of Zajmovic, “I have the greatest respect for her. This is no fluke, in my opinion. We’re going to be seeing a lot more of her in the future. She’s that good.”
He added that she is a “combo of Phil Ivey and Vanessa Selbst.” That is some serious praise.
When Tuesday’s action began, our champ was the chip leader of the remaining ten players with nearly 3 million. Of her opponents, just Jean-Pascal Savard had over 2 million, 900,000 chips behind. She didn’t add many chips by the time the six-handed final table began, having climbed to barely over 3 million, but that still left her in good shape. Tam Ho was the chip leader at that point with 3.570 million and nobody else was over the 2 million mark.
Zajmovic dropped a chunk early at the official final table as she doubled-up Mekhail Mekhail, but that still left her in the second spot.
Savard was the first one to be eliminated when it was down to six players, knocked out by Jean-Francois Bouchard. With A-4 suited, Bouchard had hit top pair (Fours) on the flop with the nut flush draw and ended up all-in. Savard called, putting himself all-in, with Jacks. The flush came on the turn and Savard was out.
It was the 100th hand of the final table that Zajmovic began her run. She doubled through Eric Afriat on that hand and then ten hands later knocked out Mekhail in fifth place to grow her stack to 5.160 million chips. Mekhail had raised pre-flop to 225,000 with A-J suited, Zajmovic raised over the top with Kings and, pot committed, Mekhail made the reluctant call. No surprises from there and Zajmovic had the chip lead.
The long slog of the final table continued from there, with players often trading large pots. Zajmovic fell back, seeing her stack chopped in half, but on Hand 175, she eliminated Tam Ho in fourth place. Zajmovic flopped the nut flush and that was that.
To get to heads-up on Hand 194, a crippled Eric Afriat was all-in pre-flop for just a few chips. Both Zajmovic and Bouchard checked it down from there with Zajmovic winning the hand.
To start heads-up play, Bouchard had a 6.850 million to 4.525 million chip lead.
The two players traded the lead once or twice before Zajmovic took over, grabbing a 3.5 million chip lead on Hand 227 (this was a REALLY long six-handed final table). From there, she didn’t look back. On the final hand, Bouchard made an unusual move, going all-in out of turn before the flop for 5.125 million chips. Bouchard had A-9 and Zajmovic had K-Q, spades all around. Zajmovic flopped a King and turned a Queen to win the hand and her first-ever WPT title.
partypoker.net World Poker Tour Playground Main Event – Final Table Results
1. Ema Zajmovic – CAD $261,000 (USD $200,769*)
2. Jean-Francois Bouchard – CAD $169,270 (USD $130,208)
3. Eric Afriat – CAD $108,690 (USD $83,608)
4. Tam Ho – CAD $71,670 (USD $55,131)
5. Mekhail Mekhail – CAD $55,200 (USD $42,462)
6. Jean-Pascal Savard – CAD $45,690 (USD $35,146)
*Lead photo credit WPT.com
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