Dapo Ajayi had come painfully close to winning multiple big tourneys in his poker career, but always fell short. That all changed on Tuesday when he won the World Poker Tour Choctaw Main Event for his first WPT title, collecting $558,610 for his efforts.
“It’s difficult to articulate. It’s been a really interesting week. I almost didn’t come. There was a friend of mine that convinced me to come down”, Ajayi told WPT.com afterward. “I will say, this time, I appreciated the moment more than in past times, and I was able to kind of savor it.”
Ajayi was in excellent shape going into a competitive six-handed final table. Holding 8.075 million chips, he was in the third spot, but there was not much daylight between anyone. Viet Vo had the chip lead with 9.750 million, while Albert Calderon was in second with 8.425 million.
And the tournament came down to those three.
While there are always hands heads-up that loom large, no more so than the clinching hand, the biggest hand of the tournament was arguably the one that got Ajayi to heads-up against Vo.
Holding A♣-2, Ajayi checked from the big blind when Calderon limped from the small blind pre-flop. The flop was big for Ajayi – A♥-A-8♥. Calderon bet 200,000, only to see Ajayi raise him to 650,000. Calderon made the call to bring on a turn of J. Calderon slowed down, checking this time, and Ajayi bet 2.3 million. But then Calderon immediately moved all-in over the top for 12.825 million in total. Ajayi tanked, finally making the call for his tournament life, as Calderon just barely had him covered.
It was a spot-on decision, as Calderon was on a flush draw with Q♥-5♥. The river was a brick and Ajayi went into heads-up play with close to a 3-to-1 chip lead.
“I’m not even sure if that was the correct call, to be honest with you,” Ajayi said later, “and I certainly don’t claim to be a great poker player, but I like to think I get lucky with my instincts sometimes, and I just felt like maybe he put me in some sort of range that I might have confused him with, not raising with an ace. So giving that I decided to go with it, he had a flush draw, and we held.”
Despite that lead, it took 108 hands for Ajayi to finally defeat Vo. Vo actually took the lead at one point, but Ajayi quickly turned it back around and pulled away. Vo held on as long as he could (and it was a long time), but he finally had to just shove with a suited Q-3. Ajayi made the easy call with pocket Kings and that was that.
“It feels great. It was a long battle. Vo is a really tough player, he has had a lot of success recently, so yea, it’s humbling”, Ajayi said of his heads-up mate.
Congratulations to Dapo Ajayi on his first World Poker Tour triumph!
Photo credit: WPT via Flickr