The 2021 World Series of Poker $500 Salute to Warriors no-limit hold’em tournament attracted a field of 1,738 players, building a $782,100 prize pool while also raising $64,827 for the USO Organization. This was the second running of this event, which first debuted at the 2019 WSOP. After three full days of action, Eric Zhang came out on top to secure the $102,465 top prize and his first gold bracelet.
The amateur player from San Francisco made the trip to Las Vegas to play this tournament as his one WSOP event for the year, according to PokerNews live updates.
“I always loved poker but I only started playing a couple years ago, mainly cash games, not really tournaments. But the WSOP is always a very special occasion and I took some time off work because I really wanted to come here,” said Zhang. “This is the one event I planned of playing. It’s an affordable event, plus a great cause, and I’m going on vacation to Morocco and Europe right after.”
In addition to the hardware and the money, Zhang also earned 540 Card Player Player of the Year points for his first recorded tournament score.
The final day of this event began with nine players remaining and Zhang in second chip position behind only Bradley Rogoff. Anthony McCurdy was the first to fall, with his pocket eights running into the pocket kings of Chulhan Choi. McCurdy was unable to come from behind and was eliminated in ninth place ($9,857).
Zhang surged into the lead during eight-handed action thanks to winning a huge preflop race with pocket jacks against the A-K of Rogoff. Christopher Corbo was the next to be sent to the rail, with his K-Q clashing against the A-10 of Mitch Garshofsky. A ten-high board secured the pot for Garshofsky, while Corbo settled for $12,471 as the eighth-place finisher.
Zhang earned his first knockout of the day when he flopped bottom set of deuces against the top two pair, aces and fives, of Hlib Kovtunov. Zhang improved to quads on the river to send Kovtunov home in seventh place ($15,943).
A battle of the blinds saw the end of Marty Zabib’s run in this event. He earned $20,592 for his sixth-place showing. Mitch Garshofsky followed around ten minutes later, with with 10-9 running into the pocket queens of Rogoff. Garshofsky failed to come from behind and was awarded $26,866 as the fifth-place finisher.
Choi Chulhan also shoved right into a big pair for Rogoff. His Q9 had at least one overcard to the pocket tens, but the board improved neither player and Chulhan was eliminated in fourth place ($35,406).
Despite scoring those two knockouts, Rogoff was ultimately the next to fall. He shoved from the small blind with A7 and Guy Hadas called from the big blind with AQ. Rogoff spiked a seven on the flop to take the lead, but the river brought a queen to send him home with $47,125.
Heads-up play began with Zhang holding 23,500,000 to Hadas’ 17,300,000. Zhang was able to extend that advantage even further before the final hand of the event was dealt. Hadas limped in for 500,000 on the button with A5 and Zhang raised to 2,000,000 with KJ. Hadas called and the flop came down Q102. Zhang bet 1,400,000 and Hadas called. The turn brought the K to give Zhang top pair to go along with his straight draw. He bet 2,600,000 and Hadas, who had picked up the nut flush draw and a gutshot, moved all-in for around 10,400,000. Zhang made the call and the A on the river gave him the broadway straight to lock up the pot and the title. Hadas earned $63,344 as the runner-up finisher.
Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:
Winner photo credit: WSOP / Hayley Hochstetler.