After such an exciting start, it almost seemed to be a shame that they had to interrupt the tournament. Alas, they did – the final table of the 2021 World Poker Tour Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown has been determined from the largest entry field in WPT history. The downside is that the champion will not be determined until May 18.
Record Setting Field Down to 21 on Final Day
There was a great deal of work done simply to get to the final day of the event. Two Day Ones amassed a record-setting 2478 entry field (each Day 1 had a singular re-entry for players who were eliminated), which had been brought down to the final 21 on Tuesday. Sitting in the best position at the start of action on Tuesday was chip leader Albert Calderon, who had gathered up 11.525 million of the chips in play. He was closely pursued, however, by Brekstyn Schutten (11.05 million) and Ken Aldridge (9.125 million) as the cards went into the air.
The player who made the biggest moves in the early going was Canada’s Erik Cajelais. One of the short stacks to start the day, he found a double up through Jon Borenstein to crack the million-chip mark and didn’t slow down from there. By the time that the field was down to two tables (16 players), Cajelais would double that stack to sit near three million chips and become a force to deal with as crunch time came.
The news was not so good for a couple other players. Steve Karp was eliminated after he was all-in on the turn against Sonny Franco on a K-10-2-7 flop and turn. Holding a J-8 for a gut shot straight draw and a flush draw, Franco ran down Karp’s pocket tens on the river when a club came to complete the flush.
After that knockout, Ray Henson was on the bad side of a bad beat. In a blind versus blind battle, Albert Calderon raised all in from the small blind and Henson glanced down at pocket Queens in the big blind. Henson called immediately and had visions of a double up dancing in his head as Calderon’s A-7 faded against the K-J-8-7 flop and turn. Calderon hit magic on the river, however, when an Ace came to give him two pair over Henson’s pocket Kings to send him home in 17th place.
Bad Beats Become the Rule
Depending on the way you look at it – either they were “bad beats” or the players with chips could play a bit more freewheeling – the chip leaders with lesser holdings picked off players with better cards. Viet Vo used an off-suit K-J to best Daniel Blum’s pocket Queens with a King on the river, ending Blum’s day in 16th place. Schutten was not above this either, using a Q-10 to pick up a King high straight and beat Fikret Kovac’s A-Q.
As the unofficial final table approached, one of the more exciting hands of the tournament occurred. After a limp from Blair Hinkle in the cutoff and calls from Calderon (button), Vo (small blind) and a check from Arthur Conan, an A-7-7 flop hit the board. Conan and Vo checked to Hinkle, who fired a bet. Calderon made the call and, after a fold from Vo and Conan, the action was heads up.
A deuce on the turn brought another bet out of Hinkle and another call out of Calderon, sending them to the King on the river. With three hearts on the board, Hinkle moved all in and Calderon immediately made the call. Hinkle had to feel good about his 7-5 for flopped trips, but Calderon topped him with an improbable A-7 for a better flopped trips. It sent Hinkle out of the tournament in 12th place as the final table approached.
Cajelais’ Charge Comes Up Short
Cajelais continued to surge up the leaderboard, at the expense of Conan. He was responsible for Conan’s knockout in tenth place, pocket Jacks against Conan’s A-Q, to crack the 17 million mark. When the final eight were determined, that was enough to put Cajelais into second place behind Schutten.
That would be the end of Cajelais heroics, however. The World Series of Poker bracelet holder would slowly bleed chips on the television table bubble, eventually getting his chips to the center after Franco opened the betting and Schutten made the call. Franco did not believe Cajelais, making the call for over six million chips, while Schutten stepped away from the fray. Franco’s A-Q off suit was ahead of Cajelais’ K♦ J♦ and the board brought no help. After a 6-5-8-2-7 runout, Franco’s Ace high was good enough for the hand and a slim lead for the final table on May 18:
1. Sonny Franco, 31.9 million
2. Brekstyn Schutten, 31.5 million
3. Steven Snyder, 15.975 million
4. Ken Aldridge, 10.6 million
5. Albert Calderon, 5.35 million
6. Viet Vo, 4.15 million