“Regular” tournament poker is slowly beginning to make its way back into action (the World Poker Tour’s first event for Season XIX starts in a couple of weeks), but the “high rollers” have been extremely active. The ARIA High Rollers Series has held a few events, but this week marked the start of an entire series. The 2021 U. S. Poker Open is underway in Las Vegas, with Dan Shak seizing the lead at the final table of the first $10,000 event in the series.

Nearly A Million-Dollar Prize Pool

The U. S. Poker Open, shuttered in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown, was expected to bring the crème of the poker world and it did not disappoint. Perhaps because they had been sitting around for a year with no poker, it seemed everyone had the $10K required for Event #1 (and maybe even the re-entry buy in that the players could use). But when it is the best in the world on the felt, you’d better bring your game and, from the start, several players did.

The cards hit the air in the PokerGO Studios in Las Vegas at noon and the players were ready for action. Eight tables with seven players each started off the event and those numbers swelled through the late registration/re-entry period. By the end of that time frame, 95 entries were in the books, building a prize pool just shy of the million-dollar mark ($950,000, to be exact) and ensuring the final 14 players of a payday for the day.

To say there was not a weak table in the PokerGO Studios would be a huge understatement. Former U. S. Poker Open champions Stephen Chidwick (2018) and David Peters (2019) were in attendance, with “high roller” regulars such as Ali Imsirovic (currently leading the “High Rollers” Player of the Year race), Cary Katz, Sam Soveral, Daniel Negreanu and Jeremy Ausmus all in attendance. With 125,000 in chips at their disposal (and an additional 125K if they rebought), they wasted little time getting to action.

Jonathan Little made some interesting moves early on, and they were not working for him. In a hand against Frank Funaro, Little called a Funaro all-in on the river with 10-A-6-2-4 showing on the board. Funaro showed Big Slick to Little, which bested whatever Little had. Left with only 31K after that beating, Little would get the last of his chips to the center with pocket Kings, but James Anderson’s pocket Aces coolered him; a re-entry did not do the trick either, leaving Little lamenting his day on the felt.

Shak Surges to Lead, Chidwick in Pursuit

Once the final 14 players were determined, Dan Shak was a long way down the leaderboard. In fact, he only held 745,000 in chips, looking up at such players as Stephen Chidwick, Barry Hutter and Sergi Reixach, and that was at his own immediate table. Shak started a surge at this point, however, which he would ride all the way to the chip lead by the end of the night.

Shak would first get a bit healthier after doubling up through Johan Guilbert and cracking the million-chip mark. Shak would finish the job by eliminating Guilbert a few hands later, turning trips against Guilbert’s open ended straight draw to do the deed. When Shak took out Aram Zobian in eighth place, his pocket Aces besting the K♦ Q♦ of Zobian, to surge to the lead of the final table:

1. Dan Shak, 2.57 million
2. Jake Daniels, 2.12 million
3. Steve Zolotow, 2.1 million
4. Tim McDermott, 1.565 million
5. Sergi Reixach, 1.44 million
6. Stephen Chidwick, 1.085 million
7. Barry Hutter, 985,000

The final table of Event #1 will begin at 1PM (Pacific Time) and PokerGO will be the home of the streaming feed for the event. For those who aren’t taking part in this finale, Event #2 of the U. S. Poker Open, the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha tournament, will also be in action. For the next 10 days, the eyes of the poker world will be on the PokerGO Studios in Las Vegas as the 2021 U. S. Poker Open plays out.

(Photos courtesy of PokerGO.com)

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