There are certain accomplishments in one’s poker life that a player will never forget. Playing at the World Series of Poker. Eliminating Phil Ivey from a tournament. Winning a WSOP gold bracelet. How about all three? Aleksejs Ponakovs did just that Monday night, as he knocked out arguably the greatest poker player of all time to win the 2022 WSOP Event #42: $100,000 High Roller No-Limit Hold’em and $1,897,363.*

One of Ponakovs’ most important hands came on Day 1. With the board reading J♣-A♦-A♣-3♦, Michael Addamo bet 60,000, about two-thirds of the pot, and Ponakovs called. The K♦ landed on the turn, putting both a flush and a straight out there, not to mention a bevy of face cards. After using a time extension, Addamo bet 160,000. Ponakovs took about a minute and a half to consider his options before finally making the call. And what a call it was. Addamo had T♣-9♦ – a bluff – and Ponakovs had 7♦-7♥ for two pair. From there, Ponakovs finished the first day second in chips.

Fast forwarding to the final table, Ponakovs went into heads-up play against Phil Ivey with a 21.275 million to 15.925 million-chip lead. Ivey, who was gunning for his 11th WSOP bracelet, soon took the lead when he sniffed out a Ponakovs bluff.

It didn’t take long for Ponakovs to regain the chip lead, though, which led to the final hand. Ponakovs opened for 800,000 chips pre-flop, Ivey re-raised to 2.8 million, and Ponakovs called. The flop came down J♥-7-3♥. Both players checked, bringing on the turn 9♣. Ponakovs bet 3 million, prompting Ivey to check-raise all-in for 11 million. After a minute, Ponakovs made the call, showing A♦-9 for middle pair. Ivey had 8♦-6 for an open-ended straight draw. The river was the 8♥, pairing one of Ivey’s cards, but it didn’t beat Ponakovs’ pair, giving the Latvian the title.

“I’m really pleased to finally get the bracelet,” Ponakovs told afterward. “There is for sure some good stuff happening right now in my head. I will realize later [as it sinks in].”

Ponakovs has been on a major roll lately. Prior to this windfall, he won his first WSOP bracelet online last November, making him the first WSOP winner from Latvia. In May, he finished fourth in the Triton Poker Series Madrid Main Event, earning over $900,000.

2022 World Series of Poker Event #42: $100,000 High Roller No-Limit Hold’em – Final Payouts

  1. Aleksejs Ponakovs – $1,897,363
  2. Phil Ivey – $1,172,659
  3. Ben Heath – $805,024
  4. Gregory Jensen – $571,896
  5. Micahel Moncek – $420,944
  6. Talal Shakerchi – $321,437
  7. Mikita Badziakouski – $255,001
  8. Masashi Oya – $210,485
  9. Nick Petrangelo – $181,068
  10. Eric Worre – $162,623

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*I, too, had a similar experience once, but it was knocking out Jim “Krazy Kanuck” Worth at the final table of a $100 re-buy cruise ship tourney on my way to a third place finish and a $3,500 payday. Pretty close to what Mr. Ponakovs did.

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