The 2022 World Series of Poker has been groundbreaking in several areas. The throngs that have returned to the new home of the WSOP, Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas, have brought outstanding poker to fans. Early Friday morning, another page was written in the history books as Dan Cates became the first back-to-back champion of the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship.

Path to Championship Set on Wednesday

It is arguable that Cates’ path to his second PPC championship began with the last hand of action on Wednesday.

With seven players left from the 112-player field, Johannes Becker opened the action in Pot Limit Omaha and saw Cates come along with him on the button. In the small blind, Taylor Paur pushed his stack to the center for about 400K and defending World Champion Koray Aldemir agonized over his choices. He eventually called, but the action was not over yet.

Becker and Cates both called, making for a 1.6 million chip pot, and a 10 7♠ 2♠ flop greeted the quartet. Aldemir checked and Becker bet out 300K, which was upped to 1.275 million by Cates. Aldemir made the crying call and Becker decided to fight another day. With a main pot and a side pot in action, the cards were turned up:

Paur: A 9 6 3
Aldemir: Q♣ Q 9♣ 7
Cates: A♣ 8♣ 7 3

Both Paur and Aldemir had strong hands, but Cates’ actions were more of a result of having position and chips. Cates was behind Aldemir’s Queens…until the trey on the turn brought a second pair for Cates. Needing to dodge a nine (which would give Aldemir a better two pair), the six on the river sealed the fates of Paur and Aldemir; starting the hand with less chips, Paur would finish in seventh place and Aldemir was out in sixth.

Lengthy Battle to the Championship

It certainly was not an easy path to victory for Cates, despite starting on the pole. Benny Glaser was within a million chips and Yuri Dzivielevski was only 500K behind Glaser. Rounding out the final table were Becker (with 5.7 million chips) and Naoya Kihara (3.265 million), who had their work cut out for them.

Glaser went on the attack from the pitch of the first card. He would take over the lead from Cates within minutes of the start of play, taking a PLO hand after Glaser rivered a flush. Cates was in it for the long haul, however, as he clawed back into the lead after taking a couple of hands from Becker. Becker would eventually fall in fifth place at the hands of Glaser, but it was not enough to push Glaser back into the lead.

On one hand, the entire tournament would take a turn. In No Limit Deuce to Seven Single Draw, Cates (8-6-6-4-2) and Glaser got into a betting war until both committed 1.675 million to the center. While Glaser stood pat, Cates drew one card, pitching away his pairing six, to see a seven make his combination of 8-7-6-4-2 better than Glaser’s offering. Unfortunately for Glaser, it cost him 3.125 million chips to see this story, sending him to the bottom of the standings and catapulting Cates into the lead.

Down to Three

Holding nearly half the chips in play, it seemed that Cates was easily on his way to his repeat title. Dzivielevski and Kihara had other ideas, however, as Dzivielevski scooped Cates in Omaha Hi/Lo to join ‘Jungleman’ over the ten million chip mark. That was short lived, however, as Cates powered back to a massive edge when he took both sides in Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo against Kihara, debilitating the Japanese champion’s stack to only 450K and eventually eliminating Kihara in third place.

At the start of heads-up Cates (25.925 million) was in the dominant spot over Dzivielevski (7.675 million). Dzivielevski would draw close within the first hour of heads-up play, using skillful actions in Deuce to Seven Triple Draw and No Limit Hold’em to close within 1.5 million chips of Cates. Dzivielevski would then put the boots to Cates, who was dressed as the late wrestling legend Randy “Macho Man” Savage, as he powered out to his own significant advantage (24.2 million to 9.4 million).

After nearly three hours of play, Dzivielevski maintained a significant lead and Cates needed to regroup. He found that regrouping in taking a Limit Hold’em hand from Dzivielevski that put Cates back up, but the duo continued to swap the lead back and forth as the hours passed by. At the five-hour mark, the duo was only separated by 1.2 million chips.

Dzivielevski made one more charge to take the title. Through No Limit Deuce to Seven Single Draw, he was able to stretch out to 28 million chips, but he could not put the “Macho Man’s” shoulders to the mat. Cates battled back to even in No Limit Hold’em after flopping trip Jacks against Dzivielevski, then seized the lead back in Deuce to Seven. Although Dzivielevski was able to fight back on a couple of occasions, the end was nigh. On the final hand during a No Limit Hold’em round of play (and seven and a half hours into heads up), Dzivielevski made a bold move in pushing his final chips to the center with only a Q-5 for battle. Cates called with a lesser J-4, but that was irrelevant to the cards as they fell 4-8-8. A nine on the turn did not bring Dzivielevski any help and, once the board completed with a six, the tournament was over, and history had been made by Dan Cates…OOOHH! YEAH!

1. Dan Cates, $1,449,103
2. Yuri Dzivielevski, $895,614
3. Naoya Kihara, $639,257
4. Benny Glaser, $464,420
5. Johannes Becker, $343,531
6. Koray Aldemir, $258,812*

(* – eliminated on Wednesday night, part of official final table)

With his win, Dan Cates has done something no other player has done in the history of the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship. Before this, the closest that someone had come to repeating as champion was Michael Mizrachi, who won the 2010 and 2012 versions of the tournament (Mizrachi also won in 2018 to be the only three-time champion of the tournament). Cates not only pulled off the “back-to-back” bit, but he did it by defeating a field that nearly doubled – in 2021, there were only 63 entries compared to the 112 runners this year.

(Photo courtesy of

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