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Cary Katz Wins PokerGO Cup With Five Cashes In Eight Events

Winter, Foxen, And Haxton Find The Winner’s Circle During Series

by Erik Fast |  Published: Feb 22, 2023


Cary Katz is still thought of by many poker fans as primarily a businessman, despite his incredible accomplishments as a tournament player doing battle against the top contenders in the game. This could be chalked up to the 52-year-old’s massive success with his business endeavors, with his College Loan Corporation being among the largest student loan companies in the US and PokerGO being an industry-leading content source.

If his non-playing accomplishments didn’t loom quite so large, Katz’s résumé on the felt would clearly put him in the discussion as one of the most consistent high-stakes tournament grinders in the game. Katz now has $36.2 million in career cashes, making him the 12th-highest-earning player in poker history.

The father of six has won plenty of high-profile events before, including taking down the 2019 Super High Roller Bowl London and the 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 high roller, but he had never captured a PokerGO Tour series title, despite 48 cashes in PGT events over the first two seasons.

That all changed when Katz cashed in five of the eight high-stakes tournaments that comprised the 2023 PokerGO Cup festival, accruing $655,800 in earnings throughout the series to seize the cup and the $50,000 championship bonus that came with it.

Not only did Katz lead all contenders in earnings throughout the series, but he also had two more in-the-money finishes than any other player. Although Katz was not among the eight event winners, he did manage to make four final tables during the nine-day festival held at the PokerGO Studio at ARIA Resort & Casino.

He saved the best for last, coming up with a clutch runner-up showing for $364,000 in the final event that was essential to him securing the cup. Had Katz finished any lower than second in the $50,000 buy-in finale event, another player would have ended up with the series title.

With this hot start to the season, Katz not only won the first series title of 2023 but also took the lead in the early PGT season-long points race. His 460 points give him a slight lead over other top performers from the series, like Anthony Hu (454 points), Alex Foxen (393 points), Isaac Haxton (359 points), and Sean Winter (341 points).

Katz also moved inside the top 10 in the Card Player POY standings thanks to his performance. He has finished inside the top 50 for seven straight years, with six consecutive top-20 showings from 2016-2021. He is now well-positioned for another run at the POY award in 2023.

Cary Katz PokerGO Cup Results

Event Place Earnings PGT Points
Event #1: $10,000 NLH 10th $27,000 27
Event #2: $10,000 NLH 6th $49,800 50
Event #3: $10,000 NLH 4th $90,000 90
Event #6: $25,000 NLH 4th $125,000 75
Event #8: $50,000 NLH 2nd $364,000 218

The Race For The Cup Begins

The 2023 PokerGO Cup featured eight no-limit hold’em tournaments held between Jan. 11-20. Action kicked off with 90 entries made in the first event, building a prize pool of $900,000. In the end, 32-year-old PGT regular Sean Winter emerged victorious with the title and the top prize of $216,000.

Winter is no stranger to success at the PokerGO Studio. The Jacksonville, Florida native won back-to-back events in March of 2022 to win the U.S. Poker Open, and then followed it up in October by securing the Poker Masters Purple Jacket for his second PGT series title.

The second $10,500 buy-in event saw Aram Zobian outlast a field of 83 entries for the top prize of $207,500. This was the third-largest recorded score yet for Zobian, who finished sixth in the 2018 World Series of Poker main event for a career-high payday of $1.8 million. Zobian defeated rising Thai tournament star Punnat Punsri heads-up for the win, and both players went on to find further success later in the series.

The third $10,500 buy-in saw another 90 entries made by the time registration closed, creating a final prize pool of $900,000 that was paid out among the top 13 finishers. Ed Sebesta came away with the title and $216,000. This was the second-largest tournament score yet for the Texas resident, trailing only the $311,915 he earned as the winner of a $10,000 high roller at the 2022 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open. He now has more than $1.1 million in career earnings.

Event no. 3 saw Katz score his second final-table finish of the series. He topped his tenth-place showing in event no. 1 and sixth-place finish in event no. 2 by surviving to the final four before being eliminated in fourth for $90,000. That meant that Katz had gone three-for-three in the first few events when it came to making the money, adding $166,800 in combined earnings as he went.

The final $10,500 buy-in of the series saw Justin Saliba beat out a field of 78 entries for $195,000, the fourth-largest score of the two-time bracelet winner’s career. It was also the second of a trio of big scores for Saliba spread across a two-week stretch of January, sandwiched in between a fifth-place finish in the big $5,300 buy-in main event at The Return Poker Championship at Borgata in Atlantic City for $304,629 and a runner-up finish in the $25,500 high roller at the Lucky Hearts Poker Open in South Florida for another $353,175. Saliba defeated Anthony Hu heads-up for the win. This was Hu’s second cash of the series, but it was definitely not his last.

Upping The Ante

The very next event after falling one spot shy of his first PGT title, Hu made it all the way back to heads-up play with his sights set on a win. He ended up closing this one out, earning $268,800 as the champion of event no. 5, the lone $15,700 buy-in tournament of the festival. Hu overcame a field of 56 in the event to take home the hardware. This was the largest score of his career, and it brought his career earnings to more than $1.6 million.

This victory also saw Hu increase his series earnings to $454,200. With his seventh-place showing in event no. 1 ($54,000) and runner-up finish in event no. 4 ($140,400), Hu overtook the lead in the race for the cup heading into the final three events of the series.

Hu had to contend with living legend of the game Erik Seidel as his heads-up opponent. The nine-time bracelet winner bowed out when his pocket tens were outflopped by Hu’s pocket sevens, which spiked a set on the flop. Seidel earned $176,400 for his second cash of the series. The score increased his career earnings to more than $43.5 million, good for sixth place on poker’s all-time money list.

The first of a pair of $26,000 buy-in events saw Alex Foxen defeat a field of 50 entries to earn the title and $317,040. This was Foxen’s second big score of the series, following his runner-up finish in the kickoff event for $153,000.

Foxen’s two deep runs at this festival were worth a combined $470,040 and 870 Card Player Player of the Year points just a few weeks into the new year. As a result, he has already re-established himself as a top contender in the 2023 POY race, continuing his incredible streak of consistency in recent years. Foxen has lodged five consecutive top-10 POY finishes, with his lowest showing in that time span being eighth in 2020. His success at the PokerGO Cup also saw him end the series with the most PGT points accrued, making him a top contender in that points race yet again as well.

Aram Oganyan ($175,000) finished third in this event just days before heading to Florida to take down another $25,000 buy-in high roller event (see page 22). Katz placed fourth for $125,000, keeping his chances of securing the cup alive heading into the final two events of the series.

The penultimate tournament of the PokerGO Cup was another $26,000 buy-in. Punnat Punsri emerged victorious from a field of 31 entries, earning $310,000 for the win.

This was the third-largest live tournament cash ever for the rising high-roller star. Punsri came into 2021 with just shy of $80,000 in recorded scores. Now, less than a full month into 2023, he has more than $4.8 million in cashes to his name. With his runner-up showing in event no. 2 and this win, Punsri finished the series in sixth place in the points race.

Daniel Negreanu recorded his third cash of the series, pocketing $124,000. The score increased his lifetime earnings to more than $49.4 million, keeping him in control of the third-place spot on the tournament earnings list.

Isaac Haxton Wins The Finale, While Katz Clutches Cup With Runner-Up Finish

There were plenty of contenders alive with a shot at the cup when the series-ending $52,000 buy-in event kicked off. A total of 26 entries were made by the time registration closed in the two-day affair, resulting in a $1.3 million prize pool.

Day 1 came to a close after the six-figure money bubble burst. Bracelet-winner Brian Kim ran K-10 into the pocket aces of Katz to finish fifth, setting up the final four for day 2. That hand saw Katz take the second-largest stack into day 2, trailing only high-stakes regular Isaac Haxton.

Katz came in needing to either win the tournament outright or finish second to Haxton in order to capture the series title. Sean Winter and Daniel Colpoys, the other two players still in contention, both would have won the series title if they were the last player standing. Winter’s lone previous cash of the series was his win in the kickoff event, while Colpoys had a shot thanks to his runner-up finish to Punsri in event no. 7 for $201,500. Hu, who was the leader in the clubhouse with his three cashes and a title, would have locked up the player of the series honors if Haxton won and any player other than Katz finished second.

Winter ultimately finished third for $208,000, falling just a few spots short of securing his third PGT series title. He lost a big pot with rivered kings up facing the flopped trip sevens of Haxton. Winter bet half of his short remaining stack on the river, but folded to Haxton’s raise that would have put him all-in. Winter then committed 240,000 of his 245,000 stack preflop with K-7 from the small blind and Haxton called with A-9. The pair checked it down and Haxton rivered a straight to win the pot, leaving Winter on fumes. He was sent home in the next hand when Katz made a straight.

Heads-up began with Haxton holding 3,550,000 to Katz’s 1,650,000. The final two went on to battle for more than an hour, with Haxton maintaining the lead throughout. By the time the final hand was dealt, Haxton had extended his advantage to more than 14:1. Haxton open-shoved from the button for roughly nine big blinds effective with JDiamond Suit 4Diamond Suit and Katz called all-in with KSpade Suit 7Club Suit. The board ran out ADiamond Suit JSpade Suit 2Spade Suit QClub Suit AClub Suit and Haxton made aces and jacks to lock up the pot and the title.

Haxton banked $598,000, the 12th-largest payday in his career and his tenth recorded live tournament title. The win brought the 37-year-old poker pro’s lifetime live tournament earnings to $32.4 million, good for 15th place on poker’s all-time money list. He is one of just 17 players in the game’s history to rack up more than $30 million on the circuit. His biggest score ever also came at this same venue. In that event, he topped a field of 36 in the $300,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl V for more than $3.6 million.

Thanks to his clutch runner-up finish, Katz earned the PokerGO Cup series title. Hu ended up in second place on the final leaderboard, with Alex Foxen in third, Haxton in fourth, and Winter rounding out the top five.

The PGT points that players accrued in this series will count toward the year-long leaderboard which will determine the invite list for the 2023 PGT Championship. This year, the top 40 will qualify for a $1 million freeroll event with a $500,000 top prize. ♠

PokerGO Cup Standings

Place Player Wins Cashes Winnings Points
1st Cary Katz 0 5 $655,800 460
2nd Anthony Hu 1 3 $454,200 454
3rd Alex Foxen 1 2 $470,040 393
4th Isaac Haxton 0 1 $598,000 359
5th Sean Winter 1 2 $424,000 341
6th Punnat Punsri 1 2 $459,400 335
7th Aram Zobian 1 2 $291,500 292
8th Ed Sebesta 1 2 $258,000 258
9th Orpen Kisacikoglu 0 2 $399,460 212
10th Erik Seidel 0 2 $223,200 223