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David Peters Earns Back To Back U.S. Poker Open Championships

High-Stakes Pro Returns To The Felt With Three Titles In Five Days

by Erik Fast |  Published: Jul 14, 2021

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David Peters just narrowly pulled out his 2019 U.S. Poker Open Championship victory with a last second, come-from-behind win in the final tournament of the series to unseat then-points leader Sean Winter with a buzzer-beating title run.

This time around, it was Winter with the final event win, and Peters was the one hoping to hold onto the series lead. Sam Soverel had a chance, needing a win to overcome Peters in the standings, but ultimately fell in fifth place to see the former Card Player Player of the Year champion lock up the back-to-back USPO championship victories. For besting a shark-infested player pool, he was awarded $50,000 in added prize money and the Golden Eagle Trophy.

“It feels great… especially going back-to-back after winning last time. It feels great to do well versus so many great players and it was a very exciting week,” said Peters not long after securing the win. “It’s something that’ll be really cool to look back on someday, to remember that I had back-to-back trophies like this. It’s pretty exciting.”

The USPO wasn’t held during the live poker shutdown of 2020, which made Peters the defending champion when the tournament series returned to the PokerGO studio at Aria with a 12-event high roller festival in early June. The 34-year-old Las Vegas-based poker pro went on a tear during the second half of the series, winning three titles and making four final tables in a five-day span to give himself the lead with one event remaining.

The quiet and reserved Peters racked up a total of $832,950 in his four cashes, somehow managing to win a quarter of the events that were played despite record-breaking fields.

Peters didn’t even play every single event on the schedule, instead opting to skip the mixed games and one of the two pot-limit Omaha offerings. While he didn’t cash in any of the first six events of the series, he emerged victorious from a field of 99 entries to win event no. 7, a $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament. The two-time WSOP bracelet winner earned $217,800 and 218 USPO points for his victory in that event, which was the largest ever field in a USPO tournament. The day after, he finished eighth in the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha event for another $25,200 and 25 more USPO points.

He got back in the winner’s circle by emerging atop a field of 27 entries in the $10,000 short deck tournament. He added $124,200 and 124 USPO points for his second title of the series and hopped straight into late registration for the lone $25,000 buy-in tournament of the series. Even though he got a late start, Peters went on to defeat the field of 69 entries to earn $465,750 and 279 USPO points. This win catapulted him ahead of then-leader Ali Imsirovic, who had five final-table finishes and one title during the series and at one point looked uncatchable.

“It’s been a crazy week. I actually ran pretty well,” Peters admitted. “I haven’t played live poker in over a year and a half, but it feels good to be back. It was good to jump back in there, playing against all these great players that I’ve battled with all these years. It was a very fun week and obviously things went well, and I’m happy to win.”

After an extended break from live poker, Peters was eager to get back to the high-stakes live events that have helped him establish himself as one of the most consistent players in the game.

“I definitely missed it. I hadn’t gone that long without playing live poker since I was 18,” said Peters. “It was definitely fun and exciting to get back in there and see all these familiar faces.”

Peters now has more than $35.4 million in career tournament earnings, good for sixth place on poker’s all-time money list. He has finished inside the top 50 in the Card Player Player of the Year race seven times from 2010 to 2020, with a win in 2016 and four other finishes of 13th or better.

On the subject of awards and titles, Peters admitted they were “probably not nearly as important as [that kind of thing] is to someone like [Phil] Hellmuth. But it’s nice having those accolades, securing your legacy, or just having those memories to look back on when I’m 70. I can look back and think about how cool that was [to achieve]. It means something to me, for sure.”

When asked how he has been able to remain a top tournament player, year-in and year-out for the last decade, Peters noted his hunger for greatness.

“I think it’s my work ethic, my passion for the game. Never losing that drive to get better and better and better and just compete at the highest level,” he offered. “I think that has never really faded away. That’s kept me very fresh and motivated to keep battling and grinding.”

Peters’ success at the USPO has put him in contention in the PokerGO Tour standings, with his 646 rankings points good for sixth place at the time of publishing. He got a later start than some of the competition, but is planning on trying to make up for lost time.

“I think I’m going to play a lot. I missed a good chunk of the PokerGO Tour the last couple of months, but I’m ready to get back in there and grind a lot of these and hopefully I can accumulate some points and catch Ali [Imsirovic]. He has a huge lead right now in that, but we’ll see what happens.”

Here is a closer look at how the series played out and how Peters came to secure the second of his back-to-back USPO championships.

Jake Daniels Captures First Title of 2021 USPO

The first ten events of the 2021 USPO all featured $10,000 buy-ins, with a selection of no-limit hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, and a few mixed game-tournaments on the agenda. The series kicked off with no-limit hold’em, with a 95-entry field building a prize pool of $950,000. This was the first of a few record-breaking turnouts for the USPO, which first debuted in 2018.

In the end it came down to a heads-up battle between 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 buy-in high roller winner Dan Shak and Jake Daniels, a poker pro from Katy, Texas with more than $1.3 million in prior tournament winnings to his name.

Shak had busted Barry Hutter in third place to take roughly a 3:2 chip lead into heads-up play, but the two saw their roles reversed due to a cooler, with Daniels making a queen-high straight over the jack-high straight of Shak to double up into the lead. Not long after, Shak shoved his last 10 big blinds with K-7 and ran into A-3 suited for Daniels. Both players flopped a pair, but Daniels’ aces were best by the end and Shak settled for $152,000 as the runner-up finisher.

Daniels earned $218,500 as the champion, along with 219 USPO and PokerGo Tour rankings points.

Place Player Payout POY Points PokerGO Tour
1 Jake Daniels $218,500 540 219
2 Dan Shak $152,000 450 152
3 Barry Hutter $114,000 360 114
4 Stephen Chidwick $95,000 270 95
5 Steve Zolotow $76,000 225 76
6 Sergi Reixach $57,000 180 57
7 Tim McDermott $47,500 135 48

Omaha Bracelet Winner Sam Soverel Tops Event No. 2

The second event of the series saw the game shift to pot-limit Omaha. The $10,000 buy-in event drew 65 players to grow the prize pool to $650,000.

High-stakes poker pro and WSOP pot-limit Omaha bracelet winner Sam Soverel came away with the victory, his second title, and seventh final table of 2021. The 2019 Poker Masters champion earned $175,500 for the win.

Soverel soared during the money bubble, ramping up the aggression to build a big stack. He entered the final table with nearly 45 percent of the chips in play, and added to his lead by busting Maxx Coleman in fifth place and Dylan Weisman in fourth place. Jordan Cristos eliminated Marc Brody in third place, setting up a heads-up match for the title with Soverel holding roughly a 2:1 lead.

Cristos was looking to earn his second title in a USPO PLO event, having won a 2019 running for $179,200. He was unable to overcome his chip deficit, though, and was sent to the rail in second place for $130,000. Cristos was awarded 300 Card Player Player of the Year points for his fourth final-table finish of the year. By the time the series ended, Cristos sat in 21st place in the overall POY race.

Soverel was awarded 360 POY points and 176 PokerGO Tour points, but was far from done for the series.

Place Player Payout POY Points PokerGO Tour
1 Sam Soverel $175,500 360 176
2 Jordan Cristos $130,000 300 130
3 Marc Brody $84,500 240 85
4 Dylan Weisman $65,000 180 65
5 Maxx Coleman $52,000 150 52
6 Matthew Ploof $39,000 120 39
7 Alex Foxen $32,500 90 33

Joe McKeehen Continues 2021 Hot Streak With Title-Run In Event No. 3

2015 WSOP main event champion Joe McKeehen has been one of the most successful winners of the big dance in the modern era, having cashed for more than $10 million outside of his victory in the largest poker tournament in the world. The three-time bracelet winner has had a particularly strong start to 2021, finishing runner-up in the $5,000 buy-in WPT Venetian main event for $491,960 and winning at the $10,000 high roller event at the Wynn Spring Classic for another $224,100.

McKeehen’s strong form continued at the USPO. He kicked off his run during the series by taking down event no. 3, defeating a field of 77 players in the $10,000 no-limit hold’em event to earn $200,200 and 420 POY points.

Barry Hutter and Steve Zolotow made their second final tables of the series, but bowed out to leave a three-handed showdown between McKeehen, Ray Qartomy, and the red-hot Ali Imsirovic, who had already won five titles and made 13 final tables in 2021 prior to this deep run. On the final hand, both Imsirovic and Qartomy were all in against McKeehen’s pocket jacks, and the board brought the remaining two jacks to give McKeehen quads to secure the double knockout for the title.

Place Player Payout POY Points PokerGO Tour
1 Joe McKeehen $200,200 420 200
2 Ray Qartomy $146,300 350 146
3 Ali Imsirovic $100,100 280 100
4 Steve Zolotow $77,000 210 77
5 Jake Schindler $61,600 175 62
6 Justin Saliba $46,200 140 46
7 Barry Hutter $38,500 105 39
8 Andrew Lichtenberger $30,800 70 31

John Riordan Takes Down Big Bet Mix Tournament

The first of two mixed-game events on the schedule was the $10,000 buy-in big bet mix, which featured a trio of games in no-limit hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, and no-limit 2-7 lowball. The tournament attracted 48 players to create a total prize pool of $480,000. The top seven finishers made the money, with the first day of action ending when high-roller regular Sean Perry eliminated Jeremy Ausmus in seventh place.

Perry took the chip lead into the final six, and knocked recent event no. 2 finalist Maxx Coleman out in fourth place to set up a three-handed showdown with Alex Foxen and Florida-based poker pro John Riordan, whose largest prior cash came in a 2011 WSOP Circuit main event win at Palm Beach Kennel Club.

Riordan busted Foxen to take a lead into heads-up play with Perry. The son of WSOP bracelet winner Ralph Perry has won two titles and made ten final tables since early March, cashing for more than $1.8 million along the way.

Riordan was able to convert his chip lead into a win, winning the final hand in deuce-to-seven. The chips went in pre-draw and Riordan took one card to end up with a pair of sixes. Perry drew two and picked up a pair of jacks to hit the rail in second place. He earned $105,600, 250 Card Player POY points, and 106 PokerGo Tour points to help him close the gap somewhat on Imsirovic. Perry now sits in second on that leaderboard and fifth in the POY race.

Place Player Payout POY Points PokerGO Tour
1 John Riordan $163,200 300 163
2 Sean Perry $105,600 250 106
3 Alex Foxen $72,000 200 72
4 Maxx Coleman $52,800 150 53
5 Brian Okin $38,400 125 38
6 Jim Collopy $28,800 100 29
7 Jeremy Ausmus $19,200 75 19

Joey Weissman Wins Event No. 5 For First USPO Title

Event no. 5 drew 85 entries, building a prize pool of $850,000 in the $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament. The top 13 finishers made the money in this event, with the largest cut going to eventual champion Joey Weissman. The Las Vegas resident earned $204,000 and his first live poker tournament title of the year as the champion of this event.

This was the fourth-largest score of Weissman’s career, and it increased his lifetime live tournament earnings to more than $3.7 million. His top cash came when he defeated a field of 1,607 entrants in a 2012 WSOP $2,500 no-limit hold’em event to earn $694,609 and his first gold bracelet.

In addition to the title and the money, Weissman was also awarded 480 Card Player POY points for what was his fourth POY-qualified final table finish of the year. His most noteworthy cash of the year came in a runner-up showing in the Wynn Spring Classic $1,600 buy-in main event for $230,090 and 800 points. With 1,500 points and $501,990 in year-to-date earnings, Weissman now sits inside the top 30 in the POY standings.

This victory was Weissman’s first cash of the USPO, and his second high roller score of 2021 that saw him earn PokerGo Tour rankings points. The inaugural running of this high-stakes tour is tracking results in hundreds of events with buy-ins of $10,000 or higher. He earned 204 rankings points for this win after defeating a tough final table that included Cary Katz and Joe McKeehen, who were both at their second final tables of the series.

Place Player Payout POY Points PokerGO Tour
1 Joey Weissman $204,000 480 204
2 Adam Hendrix $144,500 400 145
3 Joseph McKeehen $102,000 320 102
4 Cary Katz $85,000 240 85
5 Frank Funaro $68,000 200 68
6 Brock Wilson $51,000 160 51
7 Vicent Bosca $42,500 120 43
8 Nick Schulman $34,000 80 34

Four-Time Bracelet Winner Eli Elezra Takes Down Eight-Game Mix Event

Eli Elezra defeated a field of 68 entries to win the $10,000 buy-in eight-game mix event at the midway point of the series. The four-time WSOP bracelet winner earned $183,600 after overcoming a final table that included several other bracelet winners like Steve Zolotow and Daniel Negreanu.

The 60-year-old poker pro and businessman, who was born in Israel but now resides in Las Vegas, now has more than $3.9 million in lifetime live tournament earnings to his name. This was Elezra’s first live score since the summer of 2019. In addition to the title and the money, he was also awarded 360 Card Player POY points and 184 rankings points for both the USPO and PokerGO Tour standings.

Elezra was joined by his fellow multi-bracelet winners in the final three. Negreanu earned $88,400 for his third-place showing, which was his second cash of the series. Zolotow took home $136,000 and 136 USPO rankings points for his third cash of the series, having placed fifth in the kickoff event for $76,000 and fourth in event no. 3 for another $77,000. With $289,000 in earnings and 289 total points, Zolotow climbed into second place in the USPO series standings at the time, behind only Joe McKeehen.

Place Player Payout POY Points PokerGO Tour
1 Eli Elezra $183,600 360 184
2 Steve Zolotow $136,000 300 136
3 Daniel Negreanu $88,400 240 88
4 Richard Sklar $68,000 180 68
5 Erik Sagstrom $54,400 150 54
6 Nick Guagenti $40,800 120 41

Peters Begins His Championship Defense With Victory In Event No. 7

Event seven saw 99 entries made in the latest $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament, surpassing the high-water mark set by the kickoff event for a new record as the largest field in the USPO’s young history. The strong turnout built a prize pool of $990,000, the largest chunk of which was ultimately awarded to David Peters when he came away with the title at his first final table of the series.

In fact, this was Peters’ first final-table finish in any live poker tournament this year, having waited longer than some of his fellow high-stakes tournament players to return to in-person play. He was awarded 540 Card Player POY points and 218 USPO rankings points for the win.

Alex Foxen earned $79,200 as the fourth-place finisher. This was his third cash of the series, and it helped him maintain his spot inside the top 20 of both the Card Player POY and PokerGo Tour leaderboards.

WSOP bracelet winner Andrew Lichtenberger was at his second final table of the series, and joined Peters and Jared Jaffee in the final three. Jaffee, a bracelet winner and WPT main event champion, was able to survive to heads-up play, but could not overcome the 2:1 chip deficit.

Place Player Payout POY Points PokerGO Tour
1 David Peters $217,800 540 218
2 Jared Jaffee $158,400 450 158
3 Andrew Lichtenberger $118,800 360 119
4 Brock Wilson $89,100 270 89
5 Alex Foxen $79,200 225 79
6 Ivan Zufic $59,400 180 59
7 Dan Shak $49,500 135 50
8 Kristina Holst $39,600 90 40

Jared Bleznick Wins The Second PLO Event Of The Series

Jared Bleznick has focused largely on high-stakes cash games throughout his professional poker career. The vast majority of the New York-native’s 34 tournament cashes have come in either pot-limit Omaha or mixed-game variants, with both of his two live tournament titles taking place in those disciplines.

The sports cards aficionado earned the most recent of those titles by taking down the second $10,000 buy-in pot-limit Omaha event of this USPO series. He topped a field of 63 entries to secure a $189,000 payday, increasing his lifetime tournament earnings to more than $1.8 million in the process. Bleznick’s lone prior tournament victory also came in a PokerGO event at the 2019 Poker Masters $10,000 eight-game mix event.

David Peters notched his second final-table finish of the series by finishing eighth in this event. Ali Imsirovic was at his third final table of the series. He finished fourth for $63,000, along with 180 POY points and 63 points towards both the USPO standings and the PokerGO Tour. Maxx Coleman finished runner-up, earning $126,000 for his third and largest score of the series.

Place Player Payout POY Points PokerGO Tour
1 Jared Bleznick $189,000 360 189
2 Maxx Coleman $126,000 300 126
3 Christopher Usude $88,200 240 88
4 Ali Imsirovic $63,000 180 63
5 Joseph Sanders $50,400 150 50
6 Frank Crivello $37,800 120 38
7 Dylan Weisman $31,500 90 32
8 David Peters $25,200 60 25

Ali Imsirovic Wins Event No. 9 For His Sixth Title of 2021

Event no. 9 was the final $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament of the series, and it tied the field-size record set by event no. 7, with 99 entries creating a prize pool just shy of seven figures.

In the end it was Ali Imsirovic who emerged victorious, earning $217,800 for his sixth title run of 2021. The score saw him take the lead for the year in the three major categories for measuring tournament success: money earned ($2.3 million), titles won (6) and final-tables made (14).

The victory saw Imsirovic earn another 540 Card Player POY points, which was enough to catapult him into the top spot in the 2021 POY race with 3,708 total points accrued through the first half of the year, surpassing Qing Liu, who had led since the early weeks of March.

Imsirovic also extended his lead in the PokerGO Tour standings, and temporarily moved into first place in the USPO points race, with 218 rankings points earned.

Andrew Lichtenberger finished second for $158,400 and 158 USPO points. This was his third and final cash of the series. With $308,000 in total earnings and 308 points, he finished the series race in eighth place overall.

Place Player Payout POY Points PokerGO Tour
1 Ali Imsirovic $217,800 540 218
2 Andrew Lichtenberger $158,400 450 158
3 Cary Katz $118,800 360 119
4 Vanessa Kade $94,050 270 89
5 Erik Seidel $74,250 225 79
6 Thomas Winters $59,400 180 59
7 Jake Schindler $49,500 135 50
8 Mazen Abdallah $39,600 90 40

Peters Defeats Imsirovic Heads Up For Second Title Of The Series

The final $10,000 buy-in event of the series was a short deck tournament. It attracted 27 entries, with only the top four finishers cashing, and Daniel Negreanu bubbling.

The first player eliminated inside the money was Thomas Kysar, who notched his first recorded five-figure score by taking home $27,000 as the fourth-place finisher. Cary Katz was ultimately the next to fall, placing third for $43,200. This was his seventh final-table finish of 2021 and his third at the USPO, having finished third in back-to-back events. His $270,100 in earnings and 270 points for the series saw him finish in 11th place.

Katz’s exit left a showdown between Ali Imsirovic and David Peters for the title. Imsirovic was at his third final table in as many days, while Peters was at his third final table in four days. The two streaking players ended up clashing heads-up for the title, with Peters ultimately coming out on top for $124,200 and 124 USPO points.

Peters moved into second place in the USPO standings as a result, just 116 points behind Imsirovic with the two largest-buy-in events remaining.

Place Player Payout POY Points PokerGO Tour
1 David Peters $124,200 180 124
2 Ali Imsirovic $75,600 150 76
3 Cary Katz $43,200 120 43
4 Thomas Kysar $27,000 90 27

Peters Completes The Trilogy To Overtake The Lead

Just one day removed from his win in the short deck event, Peters managed to defeat a field of 69 entries to complete a series hat trick as the champion of the $25,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em event. He earned $465,750 for his latest title run, the 36th victory of his tournament career.

Peters picked 279 USPO rankings points for the win. He became the only player with more than one victory at the series, and his 646 points gave him a 163-point lead over Imsirovic with just one tournament remaining.

The final table featured a number of players who had previous deep runs during the series, including 15th Anniversary Sunday Million winner Vanessa Kade, who backed up her $1.5 million score in that online event this spring by finishing fourth in event no. 9 for $94,050 and fifth in this tournament for another $138,000.

Like Kade, Jake Daniels was also at his second final table of the series. He earned $172,500 for his fourth-place showing, finishing sixth in the USPO points race by the time it concluded with $391,000 in total scores made. Dan Shak was at his fourth final table of the series, including a runner-up finish in the kickoff tournament. Shak finished third for $224,250 and 135 points, enough to see him finish fifth in the points race.

Place Player Payout POY Points PokerGO Tour
1 David Peters $465,750 504 279
2 Ivan Zufic $345,000 420 207
3 Dan Shak $224,250 336 135
4 Jake Daniels $172,500 252 104
5 Vanessa Kade $138,000 210 83
6 Frank Funaro $103,500 168 62
7 Christopher Brewer $86,250 126 52
8 Randy Kaas $69,000 84 41

Sean Winter Wins The Final Event, Peters Survives Final-Table Sweat

The USPO came to a conclusion with its 12th and final event, a $50,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em high roller. A turnout of 42 entries saw a $2,100,000 prize pool created, with $756,000 going to the eventual champion. In the end, Sean Winter overcame a stacked final table that included several of the top tournament players in the world.

This was Winter’s second USPO title, having won the $10,000 short deck event in 2019. He earned 454 rankings points for his victory in this event, which when combined with his one prior cash of the series, was enough to see Winter finish in second place in the USPO points race.

Sam Soverel came into the final day as the only person with a chance to surpass Peters for the series title. He was the shortest stack, but could take the lead if he were to finish in first place in this event. His run ultimately came to an end in fifth place, and with that, Peters officially locked up the USPO championship, securing $50,000 in added prize money and the Golden Eagle Trophy.

Card Player columnist and two-time WPT main event winner Jonathan Little finished fourth for $231,000. This was his first cash in a tournament with a buy-in of $50,000 or higher. Little’s elimination set up a three-handed showdown between Winter and two of the highest-earning tournament poker players ever in Jason Koon ($32.4 million) and Stephen Chidwick ($35.7 million). Koon finished third for $336,000 while Chidwick earned $504,000 as the runner-up finisher.

Place Player Payout POY Points PokerGO Tour
1 Sean Winter $756,000 510 454
2 Stephen Chidwick $504,000 425 302
3 Jason Koon $336,000 340 202
4 Jonathan Little $231,000 255 139
5 Sam Soverel $168,000 213 101
6 Bill Klein $105,000 170 63

Final USPO Series Leaderboard

Place Player Points Wins Cashes Earnings
1 David Peters 646 3 4 $832,950
2 Sean Winter 484 1 2 $785,700
3 Ali Imsirovic 483 1 5 $482,000
4 Stephen Chidwick 427 0 3 $628,700
5 Dan Shak 371 0 4 $459,750
6 Jake Daniels 323 1 2 $391,000
7 Sam Soverel 316 1 4 $382,300
8 Andrew Lichtenberger 308 0 3 $308,000
9 Joe McKeehen 302 1 2 $302,200
10 Steve Zolotow 289 0 3 $289,000

If you’d like to check out the final table action from each and every event of the 2021 U.S. Poker Open, you can do so and more at PokerGO.com.