The intensity is ramping up as the buy-ins rise in the 2023 U. S. Poker Open in Las Vegas. Two more champions have been crowned, both in $15,000 tournaments, while two previous champions of the 2023 USPO are prepared to square off to vie for a second win in the series. That is critically important, especially with the $50,000 Main Event looming on the horizon on Sunday.

Kempton, Elias Take First GPT Titles

On Thursday afternoon, Isaac Kempton ticked a box on his career resume in taking down Event #6, a $15,000 buy-in Pot Limit Omaha tournament on the USPO schedule. In winning his first-ever PGT title, Kempton picked up a decent $279,000 payday and, perhaps more importantly, massive points toward the overall champion of the 2023 USPO.

Only four players came back on Thursday from the 62-entry field due to the carnage of the Day One action. Kempton was in the driver’s seat of these four men with his 3.2 million chip stack, while only Gregory Shuda (2.51 million) looked to be a serious challenger. Rounding out the quartet were Martin Zamani (1.22 million) and Ben Lamb (820K), who would have to get on their horse if they were going to be viable in this tournament.

Lamb was the first to go, pushing all-in on an A♣ Q♦ 6♣ while holding A-K-J-9 against Shuda’s Q♣ 10♣ 9♠ 2♣. While Lamb led on the flop, that would change quickly (as is a common occurrence in Omaha Hold’em) as Shuda had a wealth of possible outs. Lamb’s top pair with a Broadway draw was quickly caught when a J♣ came on the turn, giving Shuda the club flush. All was not lost for Lamb – he had draws to a boat – but a five on the river didn’t give him what he wanted, shipping Lamb out of the tournament in fourth place.

Surprisingly, it was Zamani who would exit next. It was a family hand as all three players took part. The Q-5-2 flop hit every player except Kempton, who bowed out, but both Zamani (Q-Q-8-7) and Shuda (K-6-5-5) had flopped sets and, as you would expect, played it aggressively. All of Zamani’s chips would go in with the lead, but the board cruelly dealt the case five to move Shuda back to the lead. The final lady in the deck refused to come out for Zamani on the river, sending him from the tournament in third place.

It was roughly an hour-long battle between Kempton and Shuda for the title. On the final hand, Kempton (Q-10-9-8) flopped the world on a Q-J-6 starter, goading Shuda (K-7-6-2) to commit his final chips to action with only a bottom pair and potential straight draw. A four on the turn didn’t change anything, and the King on the river only made it better for Kempton as he finished with a straight over Shuda’s two pair to end the event.

1. Isaac Kempton, $279,000
2. Gregory Shuda, $186,000
3. Martin Zamani, $130,200
4. Ben Lamb, $93,000
5. Roussos Koliakoudakis, $74,400*
6. Erik Seidel, $55,800*
7. Jim Collopy, $46,500*
8. Chris Brewer, $37,200*

(* – eliminated on Wednesday’s Day One, part of official final table)

In Event #7 on Friday, Darren Elias replicated Kempton’s efforts in winning his first-ever PGT tournament. In the $15,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament, Elias would emerge as the champion in topping Sam Soverel for the victory. While Elias had to be excited about the win, Soverel could salve his wounds in the fact that he took over the Player of the Series lead with his runner-up finish.

Six men spent roughly two hours divvying up the lion’s share of the $1.305 million prize pool (87 entries). It was Masashi Oya atop the leaderboard at the beginning of the action, but he would surprisingly be taken out in fourth place after Chris Brewer (sixth) and Sean Winter (fifth) departed with their short stacks. It was Elias who was the beneficiary of Oya’s elimination, turning a seven high straight against a top pair of tens for Oya, and he would continue to rampage through the remaining field.

Elias took down Brian Wilson in third when his A-2 flopped a deuce against the dominant A-Q of Wilson in a blind-versus-blind battle. A few hands after Wilson had packed his bags and picked up his third-place money, Elias took care of Soverel with his massive advantage. On the final hand, it was a classic race situation as Soverel looked to double with his pocket sevens against Elias’ Big Slick. A King on the flop was all it took and, after the turn and river failed to deliver a seven, Elias could put another feather in his cap with a PGT championship on his resume.

1. Darren Elias, $313,200
2. Sam Soverel, $221,850
3. Brandon Wilson, $156,600
4. Masashi Oya, $130,500
5. Sean Winter, $104,400
6. Chris Brewer, $78,300
7. Isaac Kempton, $65,200*

(* – knocked out on Day One, part of official final table)

Hellmuth, Weissman Looking for Second Title in Event #8

The race for the overall championship of the 2023 USPO is heating up. As stated previously, Soverel took over the lead with his work in Event #7 and Kempton’s work in both Events #6 and #7 has moved him up the board significantly. In Event #8, the $25,000 No Limit Hold’em final table, two more players will look to snatch the lead away from Soverel.

Dan Smith will lead the final six to the felt on Saturday, holding 2.71 million chips, but it is two men down the board who will be the focus of attention. Event #5 champion Phil Hellmuth is in fourth place with just over a million in chips, while Event #1 victor Joey Weissman has just under a million in fifth place. If either man can make a run to win this tournament, they would pass Soverel for the overall lead with only a couple of events remaining.

1. Dan Smith, 2.71 million
2. Isaac Haxton, 1.52 million
3. Alex Foxen, 1.14 million
4. Phil Hellmuth, 1.065 million
5. Joey Weissman, 990,000
6. Bill Klein, 680,000

The action will resume streaming at noon (Pacific Time) on Saturday and play down to the champion. Simultaneously, the second $25,000 No Limit Hold’em event will begin ahead of Monday’s Main Event action in the $50,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament. Many are contending and the money is flying, making for an exciting end to the 2023 U. S. Poker Open.

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