The first tournament for the PokerGO Tour’s PLO Series II is in the books and it was certainly a stunner. First, the players turned out in droves for a non-Texas Hold’em event, something rarely heard of. Second, the eventual champion of the tournament, Matthew Wantman, had to fight from the final table basement to capture a huge victory.
Prize Pool Threatens $1 Million Mark
In the PGT tournaments, you can usually count on a solid core of around 50 players to step up to the tables for the events. If an early event – usually with a lower buy-in – is held, that can sometimes see the best tournament poker players in the world willing to take a chance against their peers. Usually, these tournaments are Texas Hold’em events, however, making what occurred in the $5000 Pot Limit Omaha tournament, Event #1 on the PLO Series II roster, a bit of a stunner.
Whether the game of Omaha is increasing in popularity in the States or there were plenty of Omaholics from outside of the country (Omaha is a hugely popular game in Europe), the numbers kept spinning up as Day One’s action played out. These players weren’t afraid to gamble it up, either, as Veselin Karakitukov showed some heart in taking his double-suited A♦ Q♦ 7♥ 3♥ up against the K-K-5-2 of Florian Langmann. Langmann led the entire way, catching an unnecessary King on the river to make a full house after the board spread Q-9-6-6-K.
What did Karakitukov do? Pulled a second bullet out of the holster and jumped back in right before the late registration/reentry period closed. He was joined by late arrivals such as Joseph Cheong, Ben Yu, Jim Collopy, Sam Soverel, and Ryan Riess, eventually bringing the total count to 172 entries. Out of that huge number for a PGT function, 25 players would take home a payday from the tournament, with the eventual champion earning a $150,500 first-place prize.
With the knowledge of what they were playing for, the participants steamed towards the final table. David ‘Chino’ Rheem has seemingly done everything right of late, including winning the most recent PGT Mixed Games II overall championship, but it wasn’t in the cards for him to be around for this tournament’s later stages. Rheem would be eliminated on the money bubble after James Chen hit a set of sixes he didn’t need to hit to end Rheem’s tournament without any cash.
Several players who have been on a hot streak on the PGT felt of late were able to earn some cash. Josh Arieh and Isaac Kempton would pick up a small bit of change, while Stephanie Chung motored to 17th place before she departed the battleground. PGT Mixed Games II Championship Event winner Maxx Coleman was knocked out in twelfth place by Wantman after his K-K-7-5 found nothing to catch up to Wantman’s A-A-10-5 on an eight-high board.
Play went deep into the night on Thursday, with the final seven determined around 1 AM. After the elimination of Zachary Schwartz by Evgeni Tourevski soon after the redraw, however, officials suspended action for resumption on Friday with a leaderboard that looked like this:
1. Jim Collopy (USA), 8.05 million
2. Benjamin Juhasz (Hungary), 4.4 million
3. Quan Tran (USA), 3.4 million
4. Evgeni Tourevski (USA), 2.8 million
5. Mattyeu Provost (Canada), 1.8 million
6. Matthew Wantman (USA), 1.125 million
From the Basement to the Penthouse
Wantman eked his way into the final table, and many didn’t believe that he had a hope of catching the monster stack of Collopy when the table resumed on Friday. In a realistic sense, it was going to be difficult for anyone to catch Collopy, who built a monster stack and was at the peak of his game. From the start of the final table fight, however, Wantman showed he was going nowhere meekly.
On the very first hand of action, Wantman potted the action and Juhasz, on the button, decided to repot the situation. That was enough to put Wantman’s final chips in the center, and he called them off knowing his tournament life was on the line:
Although Juhasz had the pair at the start, the leader pre-flop in Omaha rarely will win by the river. That is exactly what happened in this case as Wantman flopped the world on the A-4-J flop. That gave Wantman two pair and only needing to fade the remaining nines in the deck, which he did once the turn and river ran out with a ten for each street. That double-up gave Wantman 2.8 million in chips and a new lease on life.
Wantman would put those chips to work, taking down Provost in sixth and Juhasz in fifth to seize the chip lead from Collopy. Although Collopy would fight back in knocking out Tran in fourth, it wasn’t going to be enough after Wantman ended Tourevski’s tournament in third place. As the two men prepped for heads-up action, Wantman held almost a 2:1 lead (13.6 million to 7.9 million) and all the momentum.
It wouldn’t take long for the champion to be determined. After Collopy limped on the button, Wantman would check and see a Q-7-2 flop. Wantman check-raised a Collopy 750K flop bet and Collopy didn’t back down, putting his remaining stack in the center. Wantman called and the hands were turned up:
Wantman had once again flopped strong with two pair and Collopy needed some help if he were to get back in the hand. No help would come, however, as the trey on the turn and the eight on the river only served to improve Wantman’s holdings to earn him the title.
1. Matthew Wantman (USA), $150,500 (151 points)
2. Jim Collopy (USA), $111,800 (112)
3. Evgeni Tourevski (USA), $86,000 (86)
4. Quan Tran (USA), $64,500 (65)
5. Benjamin Juhasz (Hungary), $51,600 (52)
6. Mattyeu Provost (Canada), $43,000 (43)
(Photo courtesy of PokerGO.com)