Registration opens and live satellites begin for the 2018 World Series of Poker, but before that, the World Poker Tour needed to wrap up its sixteenth season. And so it did Sunday, as Matthew Waxman won the WPT Tournament of Champions.

The WPT Tournament of Champions began in 2016 as an invitation-only tournament, a departure from the former WPT Championship, which was a standard – albeit more prestigious – open event. Only people who have won a WPT Main Event title can participate. Those who have won one this season get a free seat, while the rest still must pay the $15,000 buy-in to play.

This is also the first year that the WPT Tournament of Champions is in Las Vegas, the previous two being held in Florida. The move was made to try to increase participation, as the new location, ARIA, is closer to where many American poker pros are, plus people are headed to Las Vegas this week to play in the WSOP. It is a much easier decision for a past WPT champ to play in the WPT Tournament of Champions when he is already going to be in town, rather than having to fly across the country.

And while the field wasn’t large – it was never going to be by the nature of the event – it was an improvement over the past couple years. The Florida-based tournaments drew fields in the mid-60’s, while this year’s event saw 80 players sign up.

Waxman qualified for the WPT Tournament of Champions by winning the WPT Grand Prix de Paris Main Event back in 2011. Since then, he has had a very nice several years of cashes, including one WSOP bracelet, some final tables, and some six-figure scores, but his record has been relatively non-descript as far as the world’s best poker players go. Winning this weekend was one heck of a way to kick off the summer.

Interestingly, Waxman almost didn’t register for the tournament, telling WPT.com afterward:

I was thinking about not playing because it’s a big buy-in and I wasn’t too confident in my game, but I jumped in there after feeling pretty good lately. It’s just a great tournament. You’re playing with a lot of these big faces that you’re used to seeing on TV and you’re just playing these big pots. Although there were only 80 players, the atmosphere – you can just feel the tension. It’s a real treat to play, and to be able to win this thing is amazing.

In winning the WPT Tournament of Champions, Waxman also denied Darren Elias what would probably be the week of his poker life. Elias won the $10,000 Bobby Baldwin Classic last week to become the first player to win four WPT titles and just missed out yesterday, finishing third in this event. A victory would not have extended his record to five WPT titles, though, as only open events count for that.

WPT Tournament of Champions Final – Table Results

1. Matthew Waxman – $463,375
2. Matas Cimbolas – $265,590
3. Darren Elias – $177,060
4. David Benyamine – $123,045
5. Nick Schulman – $89,290

Lead image: WPT via Flickr

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