Putting on a display of poker prowess that has not been seen in some time, Germany’s Koray Aldemir completed the task that he started at the beginning of November. In a dominant fashion, Aldemir rode the chip lead he had built at the start of the final table of the 2021 WSOP Championship Event to the World Championship. Prior to the start of the festivities on the last night of the battle, one of poker’s venerable “living legends,” Eli Elezra, was honored with induction into the Poker Hall of Fame, the only person inducted for 2021.
Aldemir Avoids Pitfalls, Powers to Title
At the start of the action on Wednesday, it was plainly obvious that it was Aldemir’s tournament to lose. Aldemir’s 264.6 million chip stack dwarfed the COMBINED efforts from the two men that would oppose him, the United Kingdom’s Jack Oliver (77.3 million) and the United States’ George Holmes (57.4 million). At stake for the eventual winner was the title of World Champion, the special 2021 WSOP Championship Event bracelet and the $8 million bounty that came along with those prizes.
Aldemir was content in the early going to let Oliver and Holmes slug it out for the right to play him. That would turn out to be a drawn-out affair, as the duo battled back and forth for two hours total. Holmes, however, was able to work his way in front of Oliver and knock him out, although he needed some luck to do it.
After Oliver pushed all in, Holmes would make the call with a lesser holding:
Oliver: A♣ 8♦
Holmes: Q♠ J♠
Oliver had the lead at the start of the hand and, after an 8-7-5 flop, pulled even further out in front of Holmes. Needing the double up, Oliver’s dreams were crushed when a Jack came on the turn to shift the fortunes over to Holmes. Now looking for another eight or an Ace, Oliver instead saw an innocuous nine come on the river to end his tournament in third place.
Even with the knockout of Oliver, Holmes was still looking up at the mountain of chips Aldemir had in front of him. At the start of heads-up action, Aldemir had 261.9 million while Holmes had the other 137.4 million on his side of the table. While it might have seemed to have been a foregone conclusion, the real battle was just starting.
Stunningly, Holmes not only caught Aldemir but passed him within 30 minutes of heads-up play. Perhaps a bit complacent after watching his tablemates battle it out with each other, Aldemir for the first time at the final table found himself knocked off the top slot of the leaderboard. He would persevere, however, slipping back in front of Holmes after demonstrating some power poker in betting pre-flop, on the flop and on the turn before getting Holmes to fold to a river bet on a J-10-J-Q-7 board (Holmes showed he had two pair with an Ace kicker; Aldemir did not show…).
That had put Aldemir back into the lead and he would not look back. With only about ten million chips separating the twosome, a 10-7-2-K-9 board brought an all-in move from Holmes for 133 million (larger than the pot) that put Aldemir to the test. He weighed his options – and the fact that he would have bare scraps if he were wrong – before making the call. Holmes had found gold on the turn with his K-Q, but Aldemir had him beaten; he slapped his 10-7 on the felt for two pair, tens up, to win the championship of the poker world and the WSOP bracelet.
1. Koray Aldemir, $8 million
2. George Holmes, $4.3 million
3. Jack Oliver, $3 million
4. Joshua Remitio, $2.3 million*
5. Ozgur Secilmis, $1.8 million*
6. Hye Park, $1.4 million*
7. Alejandro Lococo, $1.225 million*
8. Jareth East, $1.1 million*
9. Chase Bianchi, $1 million*
(* – part of official final table, eliminated during Tuesday’s action)
Eli Elezra Chosen for Poker Hall of Fame
During a pause in the action on Wednesday night, the Poker Hall of Fame took to the stage of the WSOP to announce that the living members of the Hall had chosen their 60th member. After the votes had been tabulated, Israel’s Eli Elezra was chosen for induction into poker’s Parthenon. By inducting Elezra, the Hall elected only their eighth international member (after Nick “The Greek” Dandalos, Sir Edmund Hoyle, Henry Orenstein, Daniel Negreanu, John Juanda, Carlos Mortensen and David Ulliott).
Elezra began his tournament poker career back in 1996 by making the final table at an event at the United States Poker Championship in Atlantic City, but he would make his bones three years later in making three final tables during the run of the 1999 WSOP. Over the years, Elezra played at the highest levels of the cash game world, traipsing the globe to the best games running. He would also remain a strong part of the tournament poker world, winning the World Poker Tour stop at the short-lived Mirage Poker Showdown in 2004 and, in 2007, earning his first WSOP bracelet in Seven Card Stud Hi-Low.
Elezra was a staple on televised poker shows during the “poker boom” years. He was frequently seen on shows such as High Stakes Poker and Poker Superstars, but the draw of tournament poker always kept Elezra in that world. While picking up four total WSOP bracelets in his career, Elezra also plays in “The Big Game” in the Bellagio, where he routinely squares off against Poker Hall of Fame members Doyle Brunson and Daniel Negreanu. As of 2021, Elezra’s total tournament earnings sit at more than $4.5 million.
(Photo courtesy of PokerGO)