Big changes occurred on Saturday at the 2021 U. S. Poker Open. News that Ali Imsirovic took down Event #9, a $10,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament, may not be huge, but the victory was important. By winning the event, Imsirovic (and second-place finisher Andrew Lichtenberger) passed Joe McKeehen for the lead in the Overall Championship with only three events left on the schedule.

Imsirovic Wins in Wire-to-Wire Fashion

The 99-entry field was carved down to only the final seven players during Saturday’s action, with Imsirovic holding the chip lead. It was a dominant one as he held 5.075 million of the chips in play. The closest person to Imsirovic was Vanessa Kade, making her first inroads into the U. S. Poker Open fray, who only had 1.715 million chips, and Cary Katz, who held 1.455 million.

Soon after the cards went into the air, Jake Schindler was finding his way to the PokerGO Studio exits. Putting out most of his chips with only a K-9, Schindler saw Katz (holding pocket sevens) look him up. A King on the flop moved Schindler into the lead and in position for a much-needed double, but Katz had other plans. After a blank on the turn, Katz would call out the exact card that he needed to win – the 7♣ – and it miraculously appeared on the river. With the turn of one card, Schindler went from back in the tournament to the cash out cage in seventh place.

Katz kept up the knockout pace, taking down Thomas Winters in sixth when his Big Slick kicker played against Winters’ A-3. Next to go at the hands of Katz was Poker Hall of Famer Erik Seidel, with Seidel getting his final chips in with A-Q against Katz’s pocket Jacks. None of the six outs Seidel needed would appear on the turn or river, sending him out of the tournament in fifth place.

Even with all of Katz’s efforts, Imsirovic was still in a comfortable lead as Katz, Kade and Lichtenberger squabbled around the same chip sizes. Of the three shorter stacks, Lichtenberger was the one who would make a move, first eliminating Kade in fourth place, but Imsirovic would best Katz to go to heads-up play with a sizeable advantage.

The final hand of the tournament was a demonstration of how sometimes holding the best hand just isn’t enough. Lichtenberger would move in on Imsirovic with a dominant K-J, putting the pressure on Imsirovic’s decision. It was one that Imsirovic certainly pondered; he did not want to double up such a dangerous player as Lichtenberger, but there are times that you’re priced into a call with any two cards. Eventually Imsirovic made the call and tabled a J-6, sending the decision off to the fates.

Lichtenberger would fade the flop, with neither man catching anything, but the turn had different ideas. A six peeled off, pushing Imsirovic into the lead, and he only needed to fade a King to take the title. Once the river didn’t bring the right card for Lichtenberger, Ali Imsirovic was the champion of Event #9.

1. Ali Imsirovic, $217,800
2. Andrew Lichtenberger, $158,400
3. Cary Katz, $118,800
4. Vanessa Kade, $94,050
5. Erik Seidel, $74,250
6. Thomas Winters, $59,400
7. Jake Schindler, $49,500

Imsirovic Upends Overall Championship Race

With his victory in Event #9, Imsirovic surged to the top of the Overall Championship for the 2021 U. S. Poker Open. The 218 points that Imsirovic earned in that event pushed him up to 406 points overall, snatching the first place slot from the previous leader Joe McKeehen. Lichtenberger was also a beneficiary of his finish in Event #9, adding 158 points to sit at 308 points overall, enough to pass McKeehen also and land in second place.

McKeehen will have three more events to reclaim his place on the top of the mountain. Here are the current rankings for the 2021 U. S. Poker Open Overall Championship:

1. Ali Imsirovic, 406 points
2. Andrew Lichtenberger, 308
3. Joe McKeehen, 302
4. Steve Zolotow, 289
5. David Peters, 243
6. Dan Shak, 236
7. Maxx Coleman, 231
8. Cary Katz, 227
9. Alex Foxen, 223
10. John Riordan, 222

The eventual Overall Champion won’t just be earning pats on the back. That champion will take an extra $50,000 and the 54-pound “Golden Eagle” trophy that signifies the victor of the 2021. U. S. Poker Open.

(Photos courtesy of

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