Daniel Negreanu had done everything he could to put himself in the position to be crowned the inaugural PokerGO Cup Champion: he cashed four times during the eight-event series, accumulating $996,200 in earnings and securing his first tournament title in nearly eight years. The 46-year-old poker pro was eliminated from the final event of the high-stakes festival in brutal fashion, with his pocket aces being cracked by the pocket eights of Sam Soverel. After that, Negreanu could do nothing but watch from the sidelines and root on Cary Katz while he battled Soverel heads-up. If Soverel were to come out on top, he would surpass Negreanu to win the PokerGO Cup player of the series points race in a photo finish.
Katz was able to win the heads-up showdown. While he had secured the title and a seven-figure payday, Negreanu was the one who was the most excited. His cheers could be heard from the sideline during the broadcast of the final event. Katz’s victory meant that Negreanu had officially won the points race to become the first-ever PokerGO Cup champion. He earned $50,000 in added prize money for coming out on top.
“I’m a nerd, big time. When I was a kid, I used to take wrestlers and pit them against each other, roll dice, and one wrestler would win. I would keep stats on their tournament results, for like the ‘player of the year.’ I did that when I was eight, nine years old, so I love this kind of stuff,” Negreanu told PokerGO reporters after all was said and done. “Winning a tournament is awesome, but winning a player of the series is so much more involved. You need to have repeated results and stuff like that, so it’s huge for me.”
Negreanu earned $230,000 for his fourth-place finish in the final event of the series that was ultimately won by Katz. Had his pocket aces held up, he might have added several hundred thousand dollars more to his series total of just shy of $1 million in cashes.
“It was a bittersweet day because I busted and I didn’t win the million dollars, and I busted in an ugly fashion, but ‘El Jefe,’ Cary Katz, came through for me and got the job done,” Negreanu said. He went on to praise Katz’s achievements as a poker player, saying, “He’s good. He’s not a [recreational player]. Everyone says, ‘Cary Katz, he’s a recreational player,’ but he played against a field in a $100,000 buy-in where there was not a single player who didn’t identify as a professional poker player, outside of Cary.”
Negreanu’s biggest score of the series came in the penultimate tournament on the schedule: a $50,000 buy-in high roller. He topped a field of 35 entries to earn his first live tournament victory since October of 2013. Negreanu had cashed in 144 events in the intervening years, cashing for more than $22 million in the process, but had not secured a title for 2,819 days. Negreanu ended that streak with a bang, and took home $700,000 as the winner. Earlier in the series he had finished eighth in a $10,000 buy-in no-limit event and sixth in a $25,000 buy-in high roller.
As a result of his success during this series, Negreanu increased his career tournament earnings total to $42,370,255. The six-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner and two-time World Poker Tour champion solidified his hold on the third-place spot on poker’s all-time money list, with more than a $4 million lead over his nearest competition in fellow Poker Hall of Fame member Erik Seidel ($37,936,451).
Negreanu finished with 537 PokerGO Cup points, giving him a 40-point margin of victory over runner-up Ali Imsirovic, who won two titles during the series. Katz placed third in the standings, while Soverel ultimately finished sixth after failing to secure the final title.
Here are the final top ten standings in the PokerGO Cup points race:
Photo credit: PokerGO / Antonio Abrego.