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Aleksejs Ponakovs Denies Phil Ivey, Wins WSOP $100,000 High Roller

The Online High-Stakes Star Beat The 10-Time Bracelet Winner Heads-Up, Securing His Second Bracelet and $1,897,363


Aleksejs Ponakovs was already an accomplished and respected player coming into the 2022 World Series of Poker, with millions in tournament earnings and a high roller bracelet he earned last fail on during the WSOP Online series. The 30-year-old Latvian poker professional’s success had primarily come online, though. In fact, he had not yet secured a title in the live arena before making his way to Las Vegas this summer. He crossed that goal off of his to-do list in style, defeating 10-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Ivey heads-up to take down the 2022 WSOP $100,000 no-limit hold’em high roller event for his second career bracelet and a career-best payday of $1,897,363.

“I never had victory in live tournaments,” Ponakovs told PokerGO reporters after coming out on top. “Finally I did it. Nothing could be better at the moment.”

Even though he was up against a living legend of the game with the title on the line, Ponakovs was not afraid to square off against Ivey, who had 31 live titles and more than $35.4 million in career scores under his belt before entering this event.

Phil Ivey“I’m battling the best players all over the world, all the time. It’s another legend, but still beatable,” he said.

In addition to the bracelet and the money, Ponakovs also scored 720 Card Player Player of the Year points for the win. This was his second live final-table finish of the year, having also placed fourth in the €100,000 buy-in event at the Triton Series Madrid festival in May for $932,400 and 540 points. With 1,260 total points, Ponakovs now sits in 120th place in the 2022 POY race sponsored by Global Poker.

This six-figure buy-in tournament drew a total of 62 entries, building a prize pool of $5,998,500 that was paid out among the top 10 finishers. The bubble burst early in the afternoon on day 2, with reigning WSOP main event champion Koray Aldemir being knocked out in 11th place by Ponakovs to ensure the remaining players all earned at least $162,623 for their performance in this event.

Ponakov’s further added to his stack by busting Eric Worre (10th – $162,623) when his pocket queens held against K-J. Pocket queens were also the winning hand in the next big preflop confrontation. This time, bracelet winner Ben Heath held QDiamond SuitQHeart Suit in a three-way all-in that spelled the end of two-time bracelet winner Nick Petrangelo (9th – $181,068) and Masashi Oya (8th – $210,485). Petrangelo had gotten his last few big blinds in with J-9 preflop, while Oya moved all-in after the flop in the side pot with the but flush draw. Heath’s overpair remained best by the end to see him surge up the leaderboard.

Heath continued to climb thanks to his KDiamond SuitJDiamond Suit besting the QSpade Suit8Diamond Suit of bracelet winner Mikita Badziakouski after all the chips went in on a 8Club Suit6Diamond Suit3Diamond Suit flop. The 5Heart Suit turn was of no help to Heath,butthe 2Diamond Suit river gave him a winning flush to knock Badziakouski out in seventh place ($255,001). The Belarusian star increased his career earnings to more than $37.8 million with this cash.

Talal Shakerchi picker up pocket aces against the pocket kings of Ponakovs, but was unable to hold after the chips went in. Ponakovs flopped top ten and turned quad kings to leave Shakerchi drawing dead heading into the river. He was awarded $321,437 after his aces were cracked to leave just five contenders remaining.

Play was originally scheduled to last three days in this event, but the decision to play down to a winner on day two was made when the final five were set at roughly 6:00 PM local time. The PokerGO live stream was moved forward a day as a result, with Ponakovs holding the lead and Ivey in second chip position when the action got back underway for the broadcast.

Recent $1,500 limit hold’em bracelet winner Michael Moncek is apparently not afraid to push his boundaries. He won that event despite not having ever played limit hold’em before entering. He then decided to parlay a large chunk of the $145,856 he won in that event into this six-figure buy-in high roller. He managed to survive to the final five, but was eventually eliminated when his A-4 suited lost to the pocket tens of Ben Heath. He earned $420,944 for his deep run, more than doubling his lifetime live tournament earnings in the process.

Gregory JesnenGregory Jensen was the next to be eliminated in this event. The co-Chief Investment Officer at the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates had only played in one high roller event before entering this event. He finished sixth in that tournament, the 2013 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 event, and donated all $286,200 that he earned to victims of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which is located roughly half an hour from his hometown of Westport. In his final hand in this tournament, Jensen min-raised holding ASpade SuitJSpade Suit from the button and was met with a three-bet to 1,650,000 from Heath and his QSpade SuitQHeart Suit. Jensen responded with an all-in move for 5,275,000. Heath made the quick call and the big pocket pair held to send Jensen home in fourth place ($571,896).

Ivey was the shortest of the three remaining players but managed to jump into the lead when he got all-in with a king-high flush draw against the pocket aces of Heath and won. Heath’s stack dwindled further before he eventually shoved from the big blind with ADiamond Suit8Diamond Suit after Ponakovs and Ivey had limped. Ivey made the call for 11 big blinds total with QHeart SuitJHeart Suit and the board came down 6Spade Suit5Spade Suit3Heart SuitQDiamond Suit9Heart Suit to eliminate Heath in third place ($805,024). The British player now has more than $12/7 million in lifetime cashes.

With that, Ivey took roughly a 4:3 lead into heads-up play with Ponakovs. He extended his advantage when he picked off a bluff from the Latvian. Ponakovs was soon able to close the gap in an interesting hand where his low two pair from the turn were possibly counterfeited on the river with jacks pairing on the board. Ivey bet as a bluff on the end, only to have Ponakovs shove all-in after plenty of consideration. Ivey released his air and Ponakovs took down the crucial pot.

Ponakovs regained the lead when he made trips kings in a healthy pot. He moved ahead just a few hands before the final deal of the tournament. Ponakovs min-raised to 800,000 with ADiamond Suit9Spade Suit on the button and Ivey three-bet to 2,800,000 holding 8Diamond Suit6Spade Suit. The flop came down JHeart Suit7Spade Suit3Heart Suit and Ivey checked. Ponakovs checked behind and the 9Club Suit gave Ivey an open-ended straight draw. He checked again and Ponakovs bet 3,000,000. Ivey check-raised all-in for around 11,000,000. Ponakovs went into the tank before making the call. Ivey needed a five or a ten o the river to stay alive in this event. The 8Heart Suit was of no help and Ivey was eliminated in second place ($1,172,659). He now has more than $36.5 million in earnings to his name, placing him in 10th place on poker’s all-time money list.

Ivey has now made nine final tables and won two titles in 2022, with nearly $4.5 million in earnings so far this year. As a result, he now sits in eighth place in the overall POY standings heading into the second half of the year. He also scored 400 PokerGO Tour points, enough to move into third place on that leaderboard.

Here is a look at the payouts and rankings points awarded at the final table:

Place Player Earnings POY Points PGT Points
1 Aleksejs Ponakovs $1,897,363 720 450
2 Phil Ivey $1,172,659 600 400
3 Ben Heath $805,024 480 242
4 Greg Jensen $571,896 360 172
5 Michael Moncek $420,944 300 126
6 Talal Shakerchi $321,437 240 96
7 Mikita Badziakouski $255,001 180 77
8 Masashi Oya $210,485 120 63
9 Nick Petrangelo $181,068 60 54

Photo credits: PokerGO / Antonio Abrego, Enrique Malfavon.

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