Big event on the down-low?
The $25,000 World Poker Tour (WPT) Heads-Up Poker Championship was an odd bird. It was a 32-player invitational with an eclectic mix of poker stars, e-sports athletes, celebrities, and a couple online qualifiers. It was played online, but some players showed up in person at an undisclosed location in Cabo San Lucas. Those who were together played on their laptops sitting across the table from each other, “battleship” style. And as much as this bracket-format tourney was highly anticipated by people in the poker world, it wasn’t hyped by the World Poker Tour at all. There are no Twitter posts about it in the last few days except for the one announcing that Phil Ivey won and there are no news items, even after its conclusion, on the WPT’s website. It was streamed on Twitch, but you wouldn’t know about it unless you frequented the WPT’s Twitch channel. Guess it’s our little secret.
At any rate, Phil Ivey swept Patrik Antonius three games to none in the championship round to win the $400,000 first prize. These were two legends of poker, two players who were among the most popular in the world during the peak of the poker boom, and one in Ivey who is arguably the greatest poker player of all time and has largely been out of the poker spotlight for a while.
All eyes on Phil Ivey
There was much excitement surrounding Ivey’s appearance in the WPT Heads-Up Poker Championship and subsequent run to the finals. He hasn’t been around much in recent years, possibly (probably?) because of his legal issues surrounding the “edge sorting” scandal with the Borgata. But in a recent hour-long interview with Joey Ingram, Ivey said that his life is going well and that the pandemic was a great opportunity for him to “reset myself and realize what’s important and what’s not.”
He also said that he is very appreciative of the fans who are still interested in what he’s up to and that “Without the fans, poker wouldn’t be as big as it has gotten.”
And Ivey is ready to get back into poker. It doesn’t sound like he wants a full-time grind, “But I’m looking to play, I’m looking to play poker on TV. I’m looking to travel and play poker. I’m looking at the World Series of Poker (WSOP). I’m not sure about a full schedule, but I’m planning on playing a few events.”
Back to the Heads-Up Championship, Ivey made relatively quick work of Antonius. Despite the sweep, it wasn’t a complete blowout, as Antonius did hold the chip lead in every match. One of the highlights was when Ivey clinched the second game by picking off Antonius’ bluff. Antonius had K-7 on a Queen-high board, but was aggressive, leading the betting on the turn and going all-in on the river. Ivey would have none of it, though, calling him was pocket Jacks.
For his second place finish, Antonius won $200,000. The third place finishers who bowed out to Ivey and Antonius in the semi-finals were Sam Greenwood and Christopher Kruk, each of whom won $100,000.