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Ankush Mandavia Wins 2021 Card Player Poker Tour Venetian $2,500 Main Event

by Erik Fast |  Published: Mar 24, 2021


The 2021 Card Player Poker Tour Venetian $2,500 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event attracted a field of 652 total entries, blowing away and nearly tripling the $500,000 guarantee to create a final prize pool of $1,467,000. The event ran from Feb.19-22, and when the dust settled it was 33-year-old poker pro Ankush Mandavia who emerged victorious with the title and the first-place prize of $260,000.

“It’s amazing. This is actually my first tournament back,” said Mandavia, pointing out the long layoff between live events. “When I went to register and got a player’s card, they told me it had been exactly one year since I last played here. That’s kind of crazy, but it feels good.”

This was the fifth-largest score of the World Series of Poker bracelet winner’s career, and it brought his lifetime earnings to just shy of $5.4 million. Here is a look back at how this event unfolded.

Starting Flights Draw Huge Numbers

It didn’t take long for the prize pool guarantee to be surpassed, as 249 entries were made in the first starting flight alone. That meant that the prize pool had already grown to $560,250, with registration and re-entry still available to players for the entirety of day 1B and the early levels of day 2.

Ali Imsirovic bagged up the biggest stack among the 86 players to make it through day 1A. The high-roller tournament regular with more than $9.4 million in career tournament earnings ended with 484,500 in chips, which was good for a whopping 242 big blinds when action resumed. Day 1B drew another 310 entries to bring the total for the tournament up to 559. After 12 levels of action, just 110 players made it through the day. Karapet Galstyan bagged up the largest stack, ending the night with 392,000.

Day 2 saw registration officially close for the event, with 93 entries made during the early levels of the day to bring the final total to 652. The $1,467,000 prize pool was paid out among the top 72 finishers.

Setting Up The Final Day

The money bubble officially burst when TK Miles cracked the pockets queens of an opponent holding A-J. With that, the remaining 72 players all ensured themselves at least a $5,135 payday in this event. The final few levels of the night saw a flurry of bustouts, with plenty of highly accomplished players hitting the rail as the field was narrowed down to just 27 players. Notables who were eliminated after making the money included 2020 WSOP $10,000 main event ‘Domestic Tournament’ champion Joseph Hebert (69th – $5,135), bracelet winner Erik Cajelais (64th – $5,575), Shannon Shorr (55th – $6,015), start-of-day chip leader Ali Imsirovic (48th – $6,748), bracelet winner Joseph Cheong (42nd – $6,748), Tim Reilly (36th – $8,069), and Mid-States Poker Tour Venetian champion Korey Payne (33rd – $8,069).

WSOP bracelet winner James Anderson held the chip lead among the final 27. The 2019 Little One For One Drop event champion bagged up a massive stack of 3,256,000, having added to his already sizable stack during the final few hands of the night by winning a massive preflop race with pocket queens against the A-K of 32nd-place finisher Manuel Labandeira.

Deciding A Champion

The action was fast and furious during the early levels of the final day, with 17 eliminations in the first four hours after cards got back in the air. Among those who were eliminated during the chaos were Justin Lapka (25th – $9,682), Scott Stewart (24th – $11,589), Frank Marasco (23rd – $11,589), Jordan Cristos (19th – $11,589), TK Miles (17th – $11,589), Stanley Lee (13th – $16,137), and start-of-day chip leader James Anderson (11th – $19,071).

By the time the official eight-handed final table was set, Tim Capretta had worked his way into the chip lead, with Ankush Mandavia sitting on the next-largest stack. Kristen Bicknell and her boyfriend, Alex Foxen, both made the final table as well.

The poker power couple have amassed plenty of accolades during their poker careers, including winning back-to-back GPI Player of the Year and Female Player of the Year awards in 2018 and 2019. (Bicknell won it in 2017 as well.) Foxen has a World Poker Tour title under his belt, taking down the Five Diamond World Poker Classic main event in 2019. Bicknell, a former SuperNova Elite online player, has won three World Series of Poker bracelets.

Bicknell and Foxen are no strangers to playing against each other, and in fact, this was not the first time the pair made a final table together at the Venetian. In 2018, they ruffled some feathers in the poker community by making the final table of a $5,000 buy-in MSPT event together, ultimately finishing in first and second for a combined total of $439,000.

Qing Liu was the first to be eliminated at the final table, taken out on a bad beat when his pocket aces were cracked by Bicknell’s pocket jacks. Liu earned $24,939 while Bicknell climbed into the middle of the pack. Seven-handed action continued for quite a while, with multiple short-stack double-ups along the way. Mandavia overtook the lead during this stretch, winning a massive pot with a flopped straight against the turned set of Capretta.

Yosif Nawabi’s run in this event came to an end when his ASpade Suit 9Spade Suit ran into Foxen’s pocket queens. This came just moments after Foxen had spiked a gutshot to double up through Nawabi. Nawabi earned $35,208 for seventh place.

Foxen was the short stack when the next key hand arose. Foxen raised as the first to act, and Capretta called from the hijack. The flop brought the 10Diamond Suit 8Diamond Suit 2Heart Suit. Foxen shoved for 550,000 and Capretta called with AClub Suit JDiamond Suit. Foxen rolled over the JSpade Suit 8Club Suit for a leading pair of eights. The 10Club Suit on the turn kept him ahead, but the ADiamond Suit on the river gave Capretta the winning hand. Foxen earned $45,477 for his sixth-place showing. The score increased his career earnings to $17 million.

A preflop race determined the next player to be eliminated. Derek Gregory called all-in from the big blind facing a shove from Bicknell out of the small blind. Gregory held the QDiamond Suit JClub Suit, while Bicknell had 3Spade Suit 3Diamond Suit. Gregory failed to improve and was knocked out in fifth place to bank $60,147.

Bicknell climbed into the chip lead early in four-handed action, while Mandavia had fallen to the bottom of the leaderboard. He found a double-up with pocket eights against Bicknell’s A-7 offsuit to give himself some breathing room. Bicknell, on the other hand, continued to see her stack dwindle as short-handed action continued. In the end, she got all-in with pocket fives racing against the AClub Suit KClub Suit of Anselmo Villarreal. The flop brought a king, and Villarreal sent Bicknell home with $90,954 for her latest deep run, bringing her career tournament earnings to $5.5 million.

Mandavia picked off a multi-street bluff from Villarreal to regain the lead during three-handed action. Villarreal was left quite short but doubled through Capretta to regain his footing. Not long after that hand, the two clashed again. With the flop showing AHeart Suit ADiamond Suit 9Heart Suit, Capretta bet and Villarreal called. The turn brought the 3Spade Suit, and Capretta moved all-in. Villarreal made the call, having his opponent covered by a single 25,000 tournament chip. Villareal showed a nine for aces and nines, and it was enough as Capretta had been making a move with KDiamond Suit 10Club Suit. The river brought the 3Diamond Suit and Capretta was knocked out in third place, earning $132,030.

With that, Villarreal entered heads-up play with 13,855,000 to Mandavia’s 12,225,000. The two paused the action to discuss a deal. They ultimately agreed to redistribute the remaining prize pool, with the more-experienced Mandavia taking home $260,000 while Villarreal would earn $253,441. The two agreed to run a flip for the title, and Mandavia’s 10Club Suit 8Club Suit beat out Villarreal’s ASpade Suit 3Club Suit. The board came down QClub Suit 7Heart Suit 3Diamond Suit 8Spade Suit 10Heart Suit to give Mandavia two pair for the win.

In addition to the title and the money, Mandavia also earned 1,260 Card Player Player of the Year points. This was his first cash of the year, but it alone was enough to catapult him into fourth place in the 2021 POY race, which is sponsored by Global Poker.

Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:

Place Player Earnings POY Points
1 Ankush Mandavia $260,000 1,260
2 Anselmo Villarreal $253,441 1,050
3 Tim Capretta $132,030 840
4 Kristen Bicknell $90,954 630
5 Derek Gregory $60,147 525
6 Alex Foxen $45,477 420
7 Yosif Nawabi $35,208 315
8 Qing Liu $24,939 210

DeepStack Extravaganza I Series Attracts Impressive Fields Throughout

The CPPT Venetian main event was the centerpiece of a 35-event tournament series that spanned the month of February. A total of 8,465 entries were made across the 33 non-satellite events on the schedule, with $5,203,973 in total prize money awarded along the way.

The series schedule featured something for every tournament player, with a variety of formats, including bounty events, survivor tournaments, multi-day and single-day tournaments. Tournament buy-ins ranged from as low as $200 to as high as the $2,500 buy-in for the CPPT main event.

Highlights from the series included:

• Blake Whittington won back-to-back events, taking down the $400 buy-in no-limit hold’em MonsterStack kickoff event for $13,000 and then coming out on top in a $600 buy-in MonsterStack event just a day later for another $16,189.

• Johnny Oshana earned $130,000 for outlasting a field of 908 entries in the $1,100 buy-in MSPT Poker Bowl event.

WPT main event winner and WSOP bracelet winner Pat Lyons took down a $200 buy-in bounty event for his 12th career tournament victory.

WPT Championship winner Asher Conniff earned his seventh recorded live tournament title by taking down the $800 buy-in no-limit hold’em UltimateStack event, earning $98,669 after overcoming 965 entries, the largest field of the series.