The 2021 World Poker Tour Choctaw $3,700 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event attracted 964 entries, blowing away the $1 million guarantee to create a final prize pool of $3,272,780. In the end, it came down to a heads-up battle between a pair of former WPT main event runner-up finishers for who would walk away with the title and the top prize worth more than half of a million dollars. 2019 WPT Montreal second-place finisher Dapo Ajayi emerged victorious, defeating 2018 WPT Choctaw runner-up finisher Viet Vo to secure a $558,610 payday.
“It feels great. It was a long battle. Vo is a really tough player, he has had a lot of success recently, so yea, it’s humbling”, Ajayi told WPT reporters after coming out on top.
In addition to the title and the money, Ajayi was also awarded 1,368 Card Player Player of the Year points as the champion of this event. This was his first POY-qualified score of the year, but it alone was enough to catapult him into 54th place in the 2021 POY race standings, which are sponsored by Global Poker. Vo took home 1,140 points as the runner-up finisher. This was his fourth final-table showing of the year, and with $1,194,895 in year-to-date earnings, Vo has climbed into seventh place in the overall rankings.
The final day of this event began with just six players remaining and Vo atop the leaderboard. On just the third hand of the day, Michael Perrone ran AJ into the AQ of Calderon. The board brought no help and Perrone was eliminated in sixth place ($118,090).
Will Nguyen’s run in this event came to an end when his A3 clashed with the pocket nines of Hunter Cichy. Nguyen hit an ace right away, but the flop also brought a nine to give Cichy middle set. Nguyen improved to aces up by the river, but it was not enough and he hit the rail in fifth place with $154,885 for his strong showing.
Despite securing that knockout, Cichy remained the shortest stack at the start of four-handed action. Just ten hands later, Cichy was the one all-in and at risk. He held pocket sevens against the A9 of Albert Calderon. The flop and river kept Cichy ahead, but the A on the river gave Calderon a winning pair of aces. Cichy earned $205,330 as the fourth-place finisher.
With that, Calderon took the chip lead into three-handed play. Ajayi got the best of Calderon in a few early clashes, resulting in him overtaking the top spot on the leaderboard in time for the next key pot. Calderon limped in from the small blind with Q5 and Ajayi checked his option in the big blind with A2. The flop came down AA8 and Calderon bet 200,000 with his flopped flush draw. Ajayi raised to 650,000 with trip aces. Calderon called and the J hit the felt on the turn. Calderon checked. Ajayi bet 2,300,000. Calderon check-raised all-in for 12,825,000. Ajayi thought it over before making the call. The 5 on the river brought no help to Calderon, and he was eliminated in third place ($275,085). This was his second WPT final table of the year, having placed fifth in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown main event for $326,750 back in May.
Ajayi took almost a 3:1 chip advantage into heads-up play with Vo. The two went on to battle for more than 100 hands, with Vo even overtaking the lead during the middle of their clash for the title. In the end, Ajayi was able to regain control and build a sizable lead by the time the final hand was dealt. Vo shoved from the button for around five big blinds with Q3 and Ajayi called with KK. The board ran out 1052KQ and Vo earned $372,415 for his second runner-up finish in this event.
Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:
Photo credits: WPT / Joe Giron.