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Daniel Negreanu Shakes Off Rough 2023 At PokerGO Tour Last Chance Series

Artur Martirosian Wins Twice While Sam Laskowitz And Dylan DeStefano Earn Dream Seats

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Feb 07, 2024


One would be hard-pressed to find a more concise and fitting description for a tournament festival than the aptly named PokerGO Tour Last Chance series. The six-event series at the PokerGO studio at Aria Las Vegas well and truly was the final opportunity for players to try to win their way into the season-ending $1 million PGT Championship freeroll, and more than a few players took advantage.

The schedule consisted entirely of $10,500 buy-in no-limit tournaments that offered contenders a chance to either earn enough points to make the top 40 in the final PGT points standings, or be among the top two finishers in the series points race who had not yet qualified for the final two Dream Seats into the PGT Championship.

Those Dream Seats ultimately went to Sam Laskowitz and Dylan Destefano, who finished second and third respectively on the series leaderboard after each scoring a win and multiple cashes. The red-hot Artur Martirosian, who won two of the six events offered, accrued the most points of any player, but had already won enough points to qualify with his 32nd-place finish in the final standings.

Negreanu Kicks Off New Year Strong After A Rough 2023 Outing

Daniel Negreanu is seventh on poker’s all-time money list, with more than $50.9 million in lifetime earnings to his name, but even legends of the game can have down years. The six-time bracelet winner and two-time WPT champion released a YouTube video early in the new year detailing his results for 2023. According to Negreanu, he lost $2,228,174 on the felt across the 12-month span.

The 2022 Super High Roller Bowl champion went on to say that he plans on playing less frequently, with the goal essentially being ‘quality over quantity’ when it comes to his 2024 schedule.

The 49-year-old poker pro got off to a fast start by taking down event no. 1 at the PGT Last Chance series. He overcame a field of 91 entries, defeating a final table that included Nick Schulman (8th), Isaac Haxton (7th), David Peters (6th), Justin Bonomo (4th), and Masashi Oya (3rd).

Negreanu beat Daniel Smiljkovic heads-up in dramatic fashion to secure the title and the top prize of $218,400.

The final hand of the event saw Negreanu limp in from the button with ADiamond Suit KHeart Suit. Smiljkovic checked his option with JDiamond Suit 2Diamond Suit and hit trips with the JHeart Suit JClub Suit 10Diamond Suit flop. He check-raised the continuation bet, and Negreanu stuck around to see a 4Club Suit turn.

Smiljkovic sized up with a nearly pot-sized bet, and Negreanu moved all-in. Smiljkovic called for his tournament life, and was looking good to scoop the pot worth 80 percent of the chips in play. Negreanu could only win the hand with a queen on the river. The QHeart Suit fit the bill, filling his straight to earn him the pot and the title.

Smiljkovic earned $150,150 as the runner-up. He went on to record two more in-the-money finishes during the festival and secured a spot in the PGT Championship thanks to a final ranking of 16th. Although the German bracelet winner had to endure a bad beat for this title, he would ultimately have the last laugh in the PGT Championship, (which you can read about on pg. 24.)

Artur Martirosian Captures Two PGT Last Chance Titles

While Negreanu had a down year on the live circuit in 2023, Artur Martirosian had his best yet, with 16 final-table finishes, two big wins, and more than $8.3 million in POY earnings for the year.

Martirosian secured his spot in the PGT Championship thanks to an impressive run during the middle of this PGT Last Chance series. He topped a field of 88 entries in event no. 2 to earn $211,200. Two days later he finished ninth in event no. 4 for another $31,200, and then he rounded out his series with a second victory, outlasting 79 entries in event no. 5 for another $197,500.

All told, he cashed for $439,900 while accruing 440 PGT points, enough to move him into 32nd in the final rankings.

The Russian poker pro is also now an early leader in the 2024 Card Player Player of the Year race thanks to his strong performance at this festival, having already accrued 900 points. Martirosian now has more than $15.7 million in recorded earnings to his name, with more than half of that coming since the start of 2023.

His recent hot streak began with two major final tables at the 2023 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for more than $1.5 million, and then added another $1.8 million combined after seven final tables at Triton Vietnam and EPT Monte Carlo. In the summer he finished second in the WSOP $250,000 high roller for $3.3 million, and then won a bracelet in the WSOP Online series in September for another $425,000.

He ended up with three titles in the span of a month, having also won a bracelet in the $800 Flip&Go event at the inaugural WSOP Paradise series in the Bahamas. In that span he also made a deep run in the WPT World Championship main event, banking $1,207,000 for a sixth-place finish. He ended the year in 11th place in the POY standings.

Dream Seat Qualifiers Sam Laskowitz and Dylan DeStefano Score Wins

Event no. 3 drew a field of 82 entries, creating a prize pool of $820,000. The final 12 players made the money, earning at least $16,400.

After finishing seventh in event no. 1, Issac Haxton continued his assault on the high roller community with a second-place showing for $139,400. This score helped Haxton lock up the top spot on the standings heading into the PGT Championship, with four wins and 14 cashes for more than $7.2 million in PGT-qualified events. (More on the PGT 2023 rankings next issue.)

In the end, the title went to Sam Laskowitz, who banked $205,000 for the win. The American pro has been on a bit of a tear, winning the NAPT Resorts World $5,000 event in November for $180,850 and taking second in the Wynn Fall Classic mystery bounty for another $133,820 in October.

The fourth event of the series attracted 78 entries to battle for the $780,000 prize pool. Laskowitz followed up his win with another final table, taking seventh for $39,000.

Masashi Oya, Ren Lin, and Jim Collopy were all making their second cash of the series. Collopy’s third-place finish for $101,400 was just enough to see him move into 40th place in the PGT rankings as the race winded down, but he would ultimately get passed at the last moment to finish just outside on the bubble for the PGT Championship.

The heads-up showdown featured American pros Joey Weissman and Dylan DeStefano. DeStefano was able to get the best of the bracelet winner, dragging the final pot for the $195,000 first-place prize. Weissman settled for $132,600 as the runner-up.

DeStefano finished fifth in event no. 5 as well, bringing his total haul for the series to $275,800 and 276 points. As previously mentioned, this ended up being good for third place in the series leaderboard, earning him one of the two Dream Seats awarded during the festival.

Laskowitz, who also finished fifth in event no. 6, locked up the other Dream Seat with $307,200 in earnings and 307 points during the festival.

Nick Schulman Takes Down The Final Event

The final tournament of the series came down to Nick Schulman and Chino Rheem, two players who had performed well all week long, and who were sitting on similar chip stacks. One was a four-time bracelet winner with $18 million in tournament earnings. The other was a three-time WPT champion with $15 million in cashes of his own. The heads-up match could go either way.

In the end, with the clock showing 2 a.m., the two friends decided to let fate decide, chopping the prize money based on stack sizes and flipping for the title. It ended up taking six flips, actually, with the short stack getting the better of it on the first five shuffles. Ultimately it was Schulman who got to drag the last pot, earning the trophy and the $161,500 payout he negotiated for.

Schulman cashed in four of the six series events, accruing $249,000 along the way. Despite officially finishing runner-up, Rheem earned more money with a payout of $170,300. This was his third cash of the series, having finished ninth in event no. 2, and sixth in event no. 5 for a total of $252,900. Both players had already locked up a seat in the season-ending PGT Championship, having finished in the top 40 players on the year-long leaderboard.

The $10,000 buy-in tournament drew a field of 79 players, creating an overall prize pool of $790,000. The final 12 made the money, earning at least $15,800. Among them was Kristen Foxen, who like Schulman, made her fourth cash of the series taking home a total of $111,100 minus her buy-ins. Her husband, Alex Foxen, also made the money, cashing in fourth place for the second consecutive day for $79,000.

Stephen Chidwick finished sixth, capping off another productive week for the British poker star. Chidwick had previously finished fourth in event no. 2 and third in event no. 5, giving him a total of $238,100 in earnings. He now has $56.5 million in career cashes, good for fourth on the all-time money list. ♠