The final table of the 2020 World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Poker Open was set back on Jan. 30 of that year in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The field of 1,290 total entries was narrowed down to just six players, who were scheduled to wait roughly two months before they would make their way to Las Vegas to play down to a champion as part of the WPT’s delayed final table format for televised events. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, those plans were put on hold last spring and the expected delay was extended dramatically as the event was put on hold indefinitely. Eventually, the final table was finally rescheduled for May 16, 2021. After a 471 day layoff, Canada’s Veerab Zakarian emerged victorious to capture his first WPT title and the top prize of $674,840.
“Everyone always wants the bracelet but these days it looks like the WPT is what everyone is chasing. Because the bracelets, there’s so many of them. But the WPT is special, especially Borgata,” said Zakarian after the win. “When you think of poker on the East Coast, the first thing you think of is Borgata. Winning something like this.”
This was by far the largest score of Zakarian’s career, blowing away the $63,340 he earned as the 2018 Mid-States Poker Tour Seneca Niagara Casino $1,100 main event champion. This latest victory increased his lifetime live tournament earnings to just over a million dollars.
In addition to the career-best payday, Zakarian was also awarded 1,440 Card Player Player of the Year points as the champion. This was his first POY-qualified score of 2021, but it alone was enough to catapult him into 12th place in the overall standings.
Zakarian entered the long-delayed final table as the chip leader, having bagged up roughly 100 big blinds over a year ago. Wooster, Ohio resident James Anderson was the next-largest stack. Anderson won his first World Series of Poker bracelet in the 2019 $1,111 Little One For One Drop event and was well-positioned to add a WPT title to his resume. Two-time WPT main event champion Brian Altman was hot on Anderson’s heels. Altman recently locked up the Hublot WPT Player of the Year award, having secured four cashes, three final-table finishes (including this event) and a title during the tour’s most recent season, which spanned from 2019-2021 due to the live poker shutdown that extended through much of 2020.
Andrew Hanna was the first player eliminated at the final table. He lost a chunk of his stack with a flopped top pair against the turned set of Bin Weng, and then ran pocket deuces into the pocket tens of Zakarian to hit the rail in sixth place ($143,264). Despite having won that sizable pot against Hanna early on at the final table, Weng was the next to fall. He got all in with pocket nines against the pocket kings of Anderson. Both players made a full house by the river, but Weng’s was second best. He earned $187,900 for his fifth-place finish in this tournament, while Anderson surged into the lead.
Nathan Russler had come into the day as the shortest stack, but he managed to maneuver his way to the final four players. His run came to an end, though, when he three-bet all-in with KJ for roughly 18 big blinds from the small blind. Zakarian had raised from under-the-gun with QQ. He made the call and flopped middle set to take the lead. Russler was drawing dead by the turn. He was awarded $248,913 for his fourth-place showing, while Zakarian regained the top spot on the leaderboard.
While Zakarian and Anderson had added to the stack in the early action, Altman had fewer chips than he started with by the time three-handed action began. Just ten hands after Russler was knocked out, Altman got involved in what turned out to be his final hand of the event. Altman min-raised to 400,000 from the button with A3 and Zakarian called from the big blind holding 42. The flop brought the Q53 and both players checked. The A on the turn improved both players, giving Altman aces up and Zakarian the wheel. Zakarian check-called Altman’s bet of 1,000,000 and the river brought the 9. Zakarian checked again and Altman bets 2,800,000, leaving himself with just 1,250,000 behind. Zakarian moved all-in and Altman went into the tank before calling. His aces up were no good, and he was eliminated in third place ($333,012). The score increased his career earnings to more than $4.8 million. The 960 POY points he earned were enough to see him move into 11th place in the standings, with three final tables, 1,488 total points and $401,101 in year-to-date earnings.
With that Zakarian entered heads-up play with 28,375,000 to Anderson’s 23,125,000, meaning that they each had over 115 big blinds to start with limits of 100,000-200,000 and a big blind ante of 200,000. It took 80 more hands for a winner to be decided. Anderson was able to battle his way into the lead ever-so-briefly before the decisive hand of the match was dealt. Anderson raised to 1.2 million from the button with the K5 and Zakarian three-bet to 4.5 million holding 66.Anderson four-bet all-in for 25.5 million and Zakarian quickly called with his pocket pair. The board ran out J9326 and Zakarian made a set of sixes to secure the massive pot.
Anderson was left with a single 100,000 tournament chip, less than a small blind. He won the next four hands in a row to get all the way back to 2.6 million, but in the fifth consecutive all-in his J4 failed to edge out the 105 of Zakarian, who turned an eight-high straight to secure the pot and the title. Anderson took home $449,904 as the runner-up. This was his fourth POY-qualified final table of 2021, with two titles won along the way. With $558,939 in earnings so far and 2,256 points, Anderson has shot up the standings to land in second place on the overall POY leaderboard.
Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:
Photo credits: WPT/ Joe Giron.