The inaugural $25,000 buy-in World Poker Tour Heads-Up Championship invitational featured 32 players, ranging from top poker pros to online influencers and content creators. In the end, the final showdown for the title was contested between two living legends of the game: Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius. The pair have competed at the highest stakes games in the world, from nosebleed stakes online to the largest televised cash games ever. The have also both won tens of millions playing tournaments, with nearly $42.5 million in combined cashes between them.
In the end, it was Ivey who merged victorious with the title and the top prize of $400,000. The 44-year-old WPT champion and 10-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner now has more than $31 million in lifetime tournament earnings to his name. Below is a look at how this invitational event crowned its first champion.
Ivey’s Path To The Title Match
With 32 contenders, both Antonius and Ivey had to win four matchups in order to make the finals in this event. Ivey faced four professional poker players on his way to his matchup with Antonius, starting with tournament professional Manig Loeser in the round of 32. The German has more than $11.6 million in tournament scores to his name, including winning the 2019 European Poker Tour Monte Carlo main event. Ivey defeated Loeser, splitting the first two rounds and winning the deciding third round to set up a round of 16 match against 2015 Card Player Player of the Year award winner Anthony Zinno. Zinno is a three-time WPT main event champion and two-time WSOP bracelet winner with more than $10.3 million in prior cashes to his name. Ivey won the showdown 2-0 to move into the final eight players.
Ivey’s next opponent was another POY winner: 2019 champion Stephen Chidwick. The bracelet winner from Deal, England has accrued more than $35 million in tournament earnings, and was voted the best player in the world by a panel of high-stakes regulars polled in 2019. Ivey won two straight rounds to move into the semifinals.
Canadian online tournament professional Christopher Kruk was waiting for Ivey in the final four. The two traded wins in the first two rounds, setting up a rubber match for a seat in the finals. In the end, Kruk tried to run a big bluff only to run into a flush for Ivey. Kruk earned $100,000 for his semi-final showing.
How Antonius Earned His Finals Berth
Antonius drew one of several non-professional poker players in the field in his first match: Gakuto “GACKT” Oshiro, a Japanese musician and actor. Antonius did concede one match, but was able to secure a 2-1 victory to move on to the round of 16. There he was met by three-time WSOP bracelet winner, high-stakes heads-up specialist, and poker online content creator Doug Polk. Arguably the most hyped match of the first round saw Polk overcome Tom Dwan, known to many by his online screen name ‘durrrr’. Polk, who recently defeated Daniel Negreanu in a heads-up cash game showdown for seven figures, was unable to win a round from Antonius, who swept 2-0 to move into the final eight.
The quarterfinal matchup pitted Antonius against Stefan ‘Stefan11222’ Burakov, a high stakes player from Russia who made this same round in the 2020 WSOP Online $10,000 buy-in heads-up bracelet event. The two split their first two rounds. Antonius took a commanding lead in the deciding round when he made a full house and was able to extract value from Burakov’s flush draw turned into a king-high bluff catcher. Shortly after that, Antonius closed out the match to set up a semi-final showdown against Canadian high roller and bracelet winner Sam Greenwood.
Antonius won the first round in the semis, but Greenwood got out to a 3:1 lead in the second round and looked to be on his way to forcing a decider. Instead, Antonius mounted a furious comeback to take a lead of his own. The two then traded the advantage a few more times before Antonius was able to secure the final pot with pocket nines beating out A-7. Greenwood earned $100,000 as a semi-finalist.
The Finals: Ivey vs. Antonius
The finals featured a best-of-five format, meaning the champion would have to win three matches to secure the title and the top prize of $400,000. The first match saw Ivey jump out to an early lead, making trip sevens on the river to win the first pot of consequence against Antonius’ flopped pair of queens. Antonius battled back during the middle stages, but Ivey was able to take more than a 2:1 lead after successfully turning his bottom pair into a bluff to make Antonius fold top pair from the flop when the river brought a possible flush and an overcard. Not long after that the chips got in preflop with Ivey holding pocket nines to Antonius’ A8. Neither player improved and Ivey took a 1-0 lead.
The second match saw Ivey take another big lead, this time by picking off a bluff with trips when Antonius tried to represent a flush or better on a paired board with four cards to a heart flush.
Antonius doubled into the lead with a rivered broadway straight against the aces and tens of Ivey. All of the chips got in with Antonius as a slight favorite to even the match score, but his pocket sevens were unable to hold up against the KQ of Ivey. Antonius relinquished the lead in that hand, and was never able to regain it that match. He tried to run a multi-street bluff with an unimproved king high, but Ivey picked it off with pocket jacks to take a 2-0 lead.
The third round saw Antonius take a slight lead early on. In the key hand of the round,
Antonius raised to 2,140 from the button with A6 with blinds of 500-1,000. Ivey defended his big blind with 43 and the flop came down 652. Ivey checked with his flopped straight. Antonius bet 3,516 with top pair, top kicker. Ivey check-raised to 11,043 and Antonius made the call. The turn brought the A to give Antonius top two pair. Ivey bet 17,577 and Antonius called. The 2 completed the board and Ivey moved all-in for 65,041. Antonius called with his aces and sixes, only to find he had run into a straight Ivey took a commanding lead, leaving Antonius with less than nine big blinds. Antonius managed to double up twice to get back to a playable stack, but was unable to keep up the rally. He eventually called off his last 13 big blinds with QJ. Ivey held A10. The board ran out 95333 to secure the pot and the title for Ivey. Antonius was awarded $200,00 as the runner-up finisher.
Here is a look at the payouts awarded to the top four finishers and the completed bracket:
Check out a video replay of the finals via the WPT YouTube channel:
Main image credit: WPT / Poker King Media.