The first event of the 2023 Poker Masters is in the books and it turned out to be a bit of a surprise. While there were plenty of familiar faces around the PokerGO Studios in Las Vegas for the first $10,000 of this year’s series, the final table was dominated by a list of newcomers to the “high roller” fray. In the end, it was Lithuania’s Vladas Tamasauskas who was able to draw first blood in the 2023 Poker Masters, earning the win in Event #1 and a decent $239,400 for his efforts.

Large Outpouring of Players for Day One

Day One on Thursday saw a rather large outpouring of players for the Poker Masters. After all the late entries, reentries, and “one bullet” heroes completed the late reg period, 114 entrants were in the books. That allowed a prize pool of $1,140,000 to be built, with the final seventeen players picking up some cash for their efforts.

Despite the large field, there wasn’t a safe spot anywhere around the PokerGO Studios. Former Purple Jacket winner Sam Soverel was on the tables, but he was unable to get anything moving forward and was eliminated late Thursday evening. As the night moved on into Friday morning, he would have company in the forms of Matthew Wantmann, Steve Zolotow, and Anthony Zinno, who was eliminated in seventeenth place and was the first player to officially pick up some money from the prize pool.

While most tournaments would have stopped once the money bubble popped, the Poker Masters “powers that be” decided to forge forward to bring the play down to a more-manageable seven-handed final table. On the way to that goal, former World Champion Ryan Riess, Ping Liu, Byron Kaverman, and Dylan Linde would fall by the wayside.

After Ben Yu was eliminated in ninth place, his “Doyle Brunson” (10♠ 2♠) failing to find the flush against the A-3 off suit of Aram Zobian on an A-6-3-9-K board, the final eight players came together to figure out who would be the final survivors. The reason we say “players” is that there was a lady at the table in the form of Victoria Livschitz, who was holding her own admirably well with the men.

The battle would be a lengthy one. Zobian, who came to the eight-handed play with the chip lead, simply kept extending his lead while the rest of the pack fought behind him. This isn’t to say that Zobian didn’t have challengers; Livschitz flopped a boat with a J-9 to severely slash the stack of Jesse Lonis. Ren Lin, who is also in the midst of a battle for the Player of the Year race, finished off the job by knocking Lonis out of the tournament on the final table bubble to set up Friday’s final table play:

1. Aram Zobian, 2.98 million
2. Victoria Livschitz, 2.67 million
3. Ren Lin, 2.47 million
4. Filipp Khavin, 1.785 million
5. Samuel Laskowitz, 1.555 million
6. Vladas Tamasauskas, 1.48 million
7. Scott Jacewicz-O’Kelly, 1.31 million

Day Two Full of Fireworks

The players came back on Friday afternoon and immediately lit the wick on the fireworks. After about a half-hour of chip pushing, Laskowitz was able to find a double up through Jacewicz-O’Kelly, his A-Q finding a lady on the turn to defeat Jacewicz-O’Kelly’s Big Slick. Jacewicz-O’Kelly didn’t back down, however, firing again with another A-K against Livschitz’s A♠ 10♠, only to see three spades come on the J-4-2-K-3 board to end his tournament in seventh place.

Right after Jacewicz-O’Kelly departed the game, the new chip leader Livschitz became the former chip leader after getting rivered. Zobian was the beneficiary of some tremendous luck after he pushed in with an A 3 against Livschitz’s pocket Kings. The board would bring two diamonds by the turn, but it was an Ace on the river that sealed Zobian’s double up and catapulted him back into the lead.

Although Zobian was riding high at this mark, Tamasauskas was just getting the engines warmed up. He would be the thorn in Livschitz’s side as he first doubled up with a K-9 that found a King against Livschitz’s A-10, then knocked the lady from the final table after he flopped two pair with Q-10 and was able to fade Livschitz’s open-ended straight draw. After Zobian eliminated Khavin in fourth place, it was down to Zobian, Lin, and Tamasauskas for the title.

Lin and Tamasauskas would exchange double-ups before Zobian took out Lin in third place to go to a heads-up battle against Tamasauskas with a monstrous edge. Holding 10.7 million chips, it looked as if Zobian was going to roll on to the title against Tamasauskas (3.55 million), but the Lithuanian had other plans. Within twenty minutes, Tamasauskas had pulled into the lead before finding the coup de grace to take down Zobian.

On that final hand, Tamasauskas limped in and Zobian decided that he wanted to play for stacks in pushing his slightly more than two million chips to the center. Tamasauskas immediately made the call, tabling pocket nines for the battle against Zobian’s Q-2 off suit. Once the board ran out King high, Tamasauskas’ pair was the best and he was crowned the champion of Event #1.

1. Vladas Tamasauskas (Lithuania), $239,400 (239 points)
2. Aram Zobian (USA), $171,000 (171)
3. Ren Lin (China), $125,400 (125)
4. Filipp Khavin (USA), $102,600 (103)
5. Victoria Livschitz (USA), $79,800 (80)
6. Samuel Laskowitz (USA), $68,400 (68)
7. Scott Jacewicz-O’Kelly (USA), $57,000 (57)

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