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Ema Zajmovic Becomes First Ever Female World Poker Tour Open Event Champion

Montreal Cash Game Tops 380-Entry Field To Win The 2017 WPT Playground Main Event


On June 1st, 2002 Gus Hansen became the first ever World Poker Tour main event champion when he took down the inaugural Five Diamond World Poker Classic. In the nearly 15 years that have followed no female player had ever won an open WPT main event title. That all changed when Canadian cash game pro Ema Zajmovic emerged victorious from a field of 380 entries to capture the 2017 WPT Playground $3,500 CAD no-limit hold’em main event title.

“Honestly, I am really happy that I proved women can do it. The funniest and nicest part of this experience was all the women who came and were so supportive of me. It was amazing,” Zajmovic told World Poker Tour reporters after it was all over. “When I started playing poker, there was so much competition between girls. It was hard to be good and be supportive of each other. Now it has evolved so much and it is nice to see I had support from older women, younger women.”

For the win Zajmovic added her name not only to the history books but also to the WPT champions cup. She was also awarded a championship belt from the Playground Poker Club, the top prize of $261,000 CAD ($200,769 USD) and 900 Card Player Player of the Year points. As a result of the win Zajmovic was catapulted into 27th place on the POY leaderboard, which is brought to you in 2017 by Commerce Hotel & Casino.

Zajmovic finished fifth in the WPT Playground Poker Fall Classic that was eventually won by longtime WPT commentator and Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton last November. Sexton had some words of praise for the Montreal native.

“I have the greatest respect for her. This is no fluke, in my opinion. We’re gonna be seeing a lot more of her in the future. She’s that good,” Sexton told WPT reporters.

Zajmovic came into the final day of this tournament as the chip leader with ten players remaining. By the time the official WPT six-handed final table was set she had increased her chip count but had fallen behind Tam Ho on the leaderboard.

Zajmovic was able to regain the chip lead during five handed play when she flopped a set holding the 10Diamond Suit10Club Suit on a 10Spade Suit3Spade Suit2Heart Suit board. She got all on against 2014 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown champion Eric Afriat’s pocket aces after a 7Heart Suit turn and secured a huge double up. Shortly afterward she knocked out Mekhail Mekhail in fifth place with her pocket kings holding up against his AClub SuitJClub Suit.

Zajmovic sent Tam Ho to the rail in fourth place and then stacked Afriat’s last big blind after he was left crippled in a massive pot against Jean_Francois Bouchard. With that Zajmovic set up a heads-up showdown with Bouchard, who would begin with a 3-to-2 chip advantage.

The final two players battled it out for 62 hands. Zajmovic overtook the lead midway through and never looked back. On the final hand the two got all in preflop with Zajmovic holding the KSpade SuitQSpade Suit and Bouchard the ASpade Suit9Spade Suit. The board ran out KClub Suit10Heart Suit7Club SuitQHeart Suit5Spade Suit to give Zajmovic two pair and the pot. Bouchard was eliminated in second place, earning $169,270 CAD ($130,208 USD) for his deep run.

While Ema Zajmovic is the first ever female player to win an open field WPT main event, she is not the first ever female WPT event winner. Nine years ago Van Nguyen won the WPT Celebrity Invitational, a 445-entry event in 2008. For the win Nguyen took home $125,500 in that invitation-only event.

Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded in this event:

Place Player Earnings (USD) POY Points
1 Ema Zajmovic $200,769 900
2 Jean-Francois Bouchard $130,208 750
3 Eric Afriat $83,608 600
4 Tam Ho $55,131 450
5 Mekhail Mekhail $42,462 375
6 Jean-Pascal Savard $35,146 300
7 Danny Li $29,446 225
8 Carter Swidler $24,000 150
9 Ryan Yu $18,554 75

Winners photo courtesy of Joe Giron / World Poker Tour.