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Aram Zobian Crowned U.S. Poker Open Champion

High Roller Series Pays Out More Than $7 Million

by Erik Fast |  Published: May 15, 2024

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The 2024 U.S. Poker Open series champion points race came down to the final table of the last tournament on the schedule. Both Aram Zobian and Jesse Lonis were seated with a shot of securing the series title depending on how they finished, but Zobian’s path was the far easier of the two. Lonis would have to not only win the event but also have Zobian fail to make the top five.

When Lonis was knocked out in sixth place, that meant that Zobian had officially secured the USPO Golden Eagle trophy and the $25,000 PokerGO Tour passport.

Zobian went on to finish fifth. It was his fourth cash of the eight-event series. Along the way, he recorded a win, as well as a runner-up showing, a third-place finish, and the deep run in the finale. All told, the poker pro from Rhode Island cashed for $613,540, the most of any player.

This year’s USPO awarded $7,350,000 in prize money. There were 652 total entries made throughout the festival, which was again held inside the PokerGO Studio at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. 48 players recorded in-the-money finishes, with 26 players earning multiple cashes during the series. Nine players recorded four or more cashes, with Victoria Livschitz and Rodger Johnson being the only contenders to make the money in five events.

Zobian’s first deep run of the series saw him place second out of a 99-entry field in event no. 2, a $10,100 buy-in no-limit hold’em affair. He took home $163,350 and 163 PGT points as the runner-up. Two days later, he again navigated his way to the business end of a $10,100 buy-in in event no. 4. He ended up finishing third from a field of 83 entries, adding another $107,900 and 108 points.

Zobian’s title run came in event no. 6, the first of two $15,100 buy-ins at the series. He bested a field of 62 entries to earn $264,290 and 298 points, giving him the lead in the series-long points race heading into the final two events.

His sixth-place finish in the $25,200 buy-in finale for $78,000 and 47 points cemented his win in the USPO points race, giving him a 189-point margin over Chidwick (427 points) in the final standings. Lonis ultimately placed third with 400 points. Both Chidwick and Lonis won a title and cashed four times during the series.

Aram Zobian after winning USPO event no. 6Zobian climbed to third in the season-long PGT points race thanks to his success at this festival. Chidwick moved to sixth place and Lonis eighth place.

The $613,540 earned by Zobian at the USPO increased his career total to nearly $6.5 million in earnings. The World Series of Poker bracelet winner and 2018 WSOP main event sixth-place finisher has climbed to 15th in the Card Player Player of the Year race, with 2,512 points and $983,190 in POY earnings accrued across nine final-table finishes so far in 2024.

Let’s take a closer look at how this year’s USPO festival played out.

Big Names Shine In Early Events

The 2024 USPO began with one $5,100 buy-in, followed by four $10,100 buy-in no-limit hold’em events. Four of the five winners of these events have previously won either a World Series of Poker bracelet, a World Poker Tour championship, or both. The one champion without either one of those accolades just happens to be the current top-ranked player in the 2024 POY race standings.

The first title of the USPO was, fittingly, earned by an American poker legend. Erik Seidel, a ten-time bracelet winner and the 2008 WPT Foxwoods Poker Classic champion, outlasted a field of 116 entries, earning $145,000 and his 33rd career tournament title.

The 64-year-old Poker Hall of Fame member went on to later finish third in event no. 5 as well, adding another $110,400 and bringing his career cashes total to 400. Seidel now has more than $47.5 million in lifetime earnings, good for tenth place on the all-time money list.

Two-time bracelet winner Jesse Lonis was the last player standing in event no. 2. He overcame a field of 99 entries, scoring every knockout on the final day to earn $252,450 and his third PGT title. Lonis closed the event in style, taking down the final hand with a jack-high straight flush. (Check out pg. 34 for a closer look.)
Lonis went on to cash three more times, bringing his total haul for the series to $421,450 and 400 points. He now sits in second place in the POY standings, with two titles and 12 final-table finishes so far in 2024. His POY earnings already exceed $1.6 million, and he also moved into eighth place in the PGT season-long standings.

Like Seidel, Dan Smith is both a bracelet winner and a WPT champion. He bested a field of 84 entries in event no. 3, earning $235,200 and his fifth PGT title. Smith went on to finish fourth in the $25,200 finale for another $130,000. With $365,200 and 313 points piled up during the series, he ended up in eighth place in the USPO standings.

Smith now has more than $54.8 million in total scores to his name. His two titles and five final tables this year have catapulted him inside the top 20 in the POY rankings. He also moved to 23rd in the PGT points race.

After a title-free streak on the live circuit that stretched over more than a decade, David Coleman has been piling up the trophies in 2024.

Just a week into the new year he took down the Card Player Poker Tour Venetian $1,600 main event for $115,989. Since then, Coleman has been on an absolute tear. He has won four PGT titles in the interim, with his most recent victory coming in event no. 4 at the USPO. The 30-year-old poker pro based out of Las Vegas defeated a field of 83 entries in the $10,100 tournament to earn $202,300.

Coleman ended the series with three cashes for $313,100 and 322 points, good for sixth in the final standings. With 11 POY-qualified scores and 3,876 points, Coleman sits in pole position in the POY race.

Event no. 5 of the series was the fourth and final $10,100 no-limit hold’em contest on the schedule. The tournament attracted 92 entries, creating a prize pool of $920,000. After two days of action, it was Matthew Wantman who emerged victorious with the title and the top prize of $239,200.

This was the fourth-largest score on Wantman’s résumé. The WPT champion now has more than $6.4 million in lifetime tournament earnings to his name after this victory. This was Wantman’s first title and fourth final-table finish of 2024.

Zobian and Afriat Triumph After A Raise In Stakes

Aram Zobian was the last player standing from a field of 62 entries in the first of two $15,100 buy-ins at the USPO to earn $264,290 and his second career PGT title.

This was the third-largest score of Zobian’s career, trailing only the $1.8 million he earned as the sixth-place finisher in the 2018 WSOP main event and the $529,000 he secured for a fifth-place finish in a $25,000 high roller at the 2020 WSOP Online series.

Eric Afriat took down the second $15,100 event to add a PGT title to his long list of poker accomplishments.

The three-time WPT main event champion from Canada found the winner’s circle again from a field of 64 entries in event no. 7, earning $288,000. This was the 13th six-figure score on Afriat’s list of cashes, bringing his career earnings to more than $5.3 million.

Afriat also finished as the runner-up in the kickoff event of this festival. With 378 PGT points and $377,900 accumulated across those two cashes, he finished fourth in the series-long rankings.

Joey Weissman earned $187,200 as the runner-up. His three USPO cashes for $344,550 were good enough for fifth place in the final points standings for the series.

Chidwick Captures Finale Title

Stephen Chidwick won the first-ever U.S. Poker Open player of the series honors when the high-stakes tournament series debuted in 2018. More than six years later, the British poker pro once again scored a trophy, this time topping a field of 52 entries in the $25,200 tournament to walk away with $429,000.

This was his 44th recorded tournament title, and it brought his lifetime earnings to more than $57.6 million, good for third place on poker’s all-time money list. (See pg. 28 for a look at the current money list.)

This was already the 12th final table and the third title of 2024 for Chidwick. The two-time Card Player Player of the Year award winner secured 420 POY points for this latest victory, increasing his total to 3,236. As a result, he now sits in fourth place in this year’s standings.

The 34-year-old from Deal, England also earned 257 PokerGO Tour points for the victory. This was one of four cashes he made during the USPO. With 427 total points and $597,850 in total earnings for the series, Chidwick finished second in the points race for the festival. He also climbed to sixth in the seasonal PGT rankings, with eight qualified cashes so far.

Andrew Lichtenberger finished in second place for $273,000. The score saw his career earnings edge past $21 million. ♠