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Daniel Smiljkovic Wins 2023 PokerGO Tour Championship For $500,000

German Poker Pro Tops 54-Player Field In Season-Ending $1,000,000 Freeroll

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The PokerGO Tour has completed its third season, which saw more than $352.4 million in total prize money paid out across 132 events. The 2023 season concluded with the second-annual PGT Championship freeroll featuring the top 40 PGT point earners across the season and 14 Dream Seat winners. The prestigious event sported a $1,000,000 prize pool, doubling the $500,000 that was awarded in last year’s winner-take-all debut.

The top prize of $500,000 this year was ultimately awarded to German poker pro Daniel Smiljkovic. This was the fourth-largest recorded score for the bracelet winner from Filderstadt. He now has more than $6 million in career cashes to his name after this latest victory.

Arden ChoSmiljkovic had to withstand an impressive display from actress Arden Cho, who came into the day with the shortest stack, but seemed like she might run away with the title at one point during the final day. Smilkovic was eventually able to turn the tides, overcoming a big chip deficit during heads-up play to capture the title.

2023 was Smiljkovic’s best year yet on the live scene. The longtime online grinder’s three largest scores all came this year, including a third-place finish in a $100,000 buy-in Triton Poker event in Vietnam for $1,450,000 and a third-place showing in the massive $25,00 GGMillion$ high roller at the World Series of Poker Paradise festival for nearly $1.2 million. With seven PGT cashes totaling more than $2.6 million in earnings, Smiljkovic ended the season in 16th place. He helped secure his spot in this freeroll event with three cashes during the PGT Last Chance festival.

The PGT Championship played out over the course of two days inside the PokerGO Studio at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. The $1,000,000 prize pool was allocated to the top six finishers, with day 1 seeing the 54-player field narrowed down to the money.

As one might expect, plenty of the biggest names in the game fell along the way, including 17-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, 10-time bracelet winner Erik Seidel, six-time bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu, four-time bracelet winner Nick Schulman, and many more.

The final table began with Smiljkovic in the lead, having 42 percent of the chips in play to start. It didn’t take long for a big hand to arise. Just a few minutes into the day, a three-way all-in saw Artur Martirosian’s pocket queens square off A-K for both Smiljkovic and four-time World Poker Tour main event champion Darren Elias. A king-high flop was bad news for Martirosan, but a river queen saw him make a set to win the main pot and surge into second place on the leaderboard. Smiljkovic remained out in front despite taking a loss in the hand. Elias, who ended 2023 in 30th place in the PGT standings, earned $40,000 as the sixth-place finisher. His lifetime tournament earnings grew to more than $13.1 million as a result.

Five-handed play continued for a couple of hours before the next elimination took place. In that span, young German bracelet winner Leon Sturm had battled his way into the lead, while Martirosian had fallen to the short stack. The two got involved in a clash that ended with all of the chips in the middle preflop. Martirosian’s A-K was flipping against pocket fives for Sturm. An ace on the flop tipped the scales in Martirosian’s favor, but a five on the turn left the Russian drawing dead. He took home $60,000 as the fifth-place finisher after finishing the season as the 32nd-ranked contender in the PGT race.

Daniel Weinman came into this event with only one qualified score. It just so happened to be a win in the largest tournament of the year: the World Series of Poker main event. Weinman topped the largest turnout ever for the big dance, besting 10,043 entries to earn $12.1 million and 2,300 PGT points. That ended up being good for 4th place in the final standings, earning the former poker pro a seat in this freeroll. He turned the opportunity into $80,000 with a fourth-place finish.

Weinman’s final hand began with a limp from the small blind with KHeart Suit6Club Suit. Smiljkovic checked his option with 10Diamond Suit5Diamond Suit andhit bottom pair on the AHeart SuitJClub Suit10Heart Suit flop. It checked to the turn and the 10Spade Suit improved Smiljkovic to trips. He overbet the pot when checked to, firing 200,000 into 120,000. Weinman called with his king high and gutshot straight draw and the river brought the 6Diamond Suit. Weinman checked again and Smiljkovic moved all-in. Weinman went into the tank with his tens and sixes, but ultimately made the hero call. Smiljkovic revealed his trip tens to win the pot and narrow the field to three.

This was only the third cash recorded by Weinman since his career-defining win this summer. He returned to his job at RF Poker working on RFID table technology for poker broadcasts and has not been playing many tournaments during the second half of the year. Despite that fact, he did manage a runner-up finish in a WSOP Circuit main event at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina.

Arden Cho and Leon SturmThe next big hand was between Sturm, who had overtaken the lead by then, and Cho, who had climbed into second chip position thanks to some well-time moves during short-handed play. Sturm attempted a triple-barrel bluff against the turned bottom two pair of Cho. After some time in the tank, Cho called Sturm’s overbet bluff with her fours and threes to take down the pot and move into the lead.

Sturm never recovered after that pivotal clash with Cho. He soon found himself all-in and at risk for his last six or so big blinds with 10Diamond Suit2Diamond Suit trailing the JHeart Suit9Heart Suit of Smiljkovic, who called Sturm’s small blind shove from the big blind. Smijkovic made a pair of nines by the river to win the pot. Sturm earned $120,000 as the third-place finisher and increased his recorded earnings to nearly $5.9 million. More than $5.2 of that has been earned since the start of 2023.

Heads-up play began with Cho holding 4,990,000 to Smiljkovic’s 1,875,000. Right off the bat, Cho extended her lead with the same turned trips and a better kicker than her opponent. Not long after that, though, Smiljkovic won a race with A-K against pocket nines to give himself some breathing room.

Cho was able to pull back out in front as the match continued, winning a big pot with top pair that turned into a backdoored nut flush to extend her lead to nearly 4:1. Smiljkovic soon bounced back yet again, with A-5 besting Cho’s A-2 after all the chips went in the middle preflop. He made a straight on the turn to take a slight lead.

The decisive pot of the match began with him limping with QClub Suit10Club Suit on the button. Cho, who had Smiljkovic covered by just 175,000 (1.75 big blinds) checked with JDiamond Suit4Heart Suit and the flop came down JClub Suit9Club Suit8Spade Suit, giving Smiljkovic the nut straight with an open-ended straight flush redraw. Cho check-called a bet of 125,000 with her top pair and the turn brought the 5Spade Suit. Cho checked again and Smiljokov bet 500,000. Cho check-raised all-in and Smiljkovic quickly called for his last 3,075,000. The 9Diamond Suit was a mere formality as Cho was drawing dead on the turn.

Cho picked up AHeart Suit9Club Suit and got her last 175,000 in leading the JDiamond Suit5Club Suit of Smiljkovic. The board ran out 7Club Suit6Club Suit4Diamond SuitJSpade SuitQClub Suit and Smiljkovic spiked a pair of jacks to win the pot and the title.

Cho earned a career-high payday of $200,000 as the runner-up. The actress is best known for her work on television shows like Teen Wolf, Partner Track, and the upcoming live-action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The cash-game aficionado based in Los Angeles now has more than $374,000 in lifetime tournament earnings. This deep run supplanted her previous top score of $71,400 earned for a 55th-place showing in the 2022 World Poker Tour World Championship.

Cho was one of the Dream Seat qualifiers who participated in this event, representing sponsor Eat Mezcla. Of the 14, she was the only one to make the money. Other Dream Seat winners included Albert Hart, Julio Clavell, and Steve Kearney, who got in via a drawing for PokerGO annual subscription holders. PokerGO also held a social media contest won by Caleb Hancock. Ian Steinman and Ryan Bell earned seats via a sponsored promotion by GTO Wizard, while Jeff Lennon qualified through the RunGood Poker Series.

Here is a look at the payouts awarded at the final table:

Place Player Earnings
1 Daniel Smiljkovic $500,000
2 Arden Cho $200,000
3 Leon Sturm $120,000
4 Daniel Weinman $80,000
5 Artur Martirosian $60,000
6 Darren Elias $40,000

Isaac Haxton Wins 2023 PGT Points Race

Isaac HaxtonIsaac Haxton fell just a couple of spots shy of the money in this event, finishing eighth. Haxton ended the season atop the PGT standings, with 2,847 total points and more than $7.2 million earned across 14 cashes. He also secured four PGT titles, including winning the Super High Roller Bowl VIII for $2,760,000 and his first bracelet in a $25,000 event at the WSOP. Haxton nearly won two SHRB titles, but ultimately fell just short with a runner-up showing in the first-ever pot-limit Omaha version of the nosebleed-stakes tournament.

Haxton now has more than $48.9 million in career tournament earnings after his incredible 2023 performance. For topping the leaderboard and becoming PGT Player of the Year, Haxton was awarded a $50,000 bonus.

Chris Brewer finished second with two qualifying titles and 24 cashes for more than $7.4 million. 2022 PGT points-race winner Stephen Chidwick placed third. The British poker superstar has now finished inside the top eight each of the first three years of the PGT, with an average finish of just better than fourth place.

Here is a look at the final standings for the top 40:

Rank Player Points Wins Cashes Winnings
1 Isaac Haxton 2,847 4 14 $7,243,295
2 Chris Brewer 2,490 2 24 $7,411,126
3 Stephen Chidwick 2,402 2 18 $3,935,653
4 Daniel Weinman 2,300 1 2 $12,180,000
5 Alex Foxen 2,103 1 23 $2,753,924
6 Ren Lin 1,987 1 23 $2,934,340
7 Sam Soverel 1,954 2 25 $2,280,987
8 Nick Schulman 1,709 3 22 $2,530,419
9 Steven Jones 1,700 0 1 $6,500,000
10 Jeremy Ausmus 1,695 0 20 $2,437,553
11 Erik Seidel 1,505 1 12 $2,495,941
12 Adam Walton 1,500 0 1 $4,000,000
13 Cary Katz 1,441 1 15 $2,965,303
14 Jan-Peter Jachtmann 1,420 0 2 $3,020,110
15 Jesse Lonis 1,385 2 11 $2,886,377
16 Daniel Smiljkovic 1,366 1 7 $2,643,876
17 Daniel Negreanu 1,335 1 25 $1,549,629
18 Alex Kulev 1,333 1 4 $3,802,478
19 Chance Kornuth 1,321 0 7 $3,071,620
20 Isaac Kempton 1,304 4 14 $1,619,986
21 Phil Hellmuth 1,304 2 9 $1,415,899
22 Leon Sturm 1,304 1 8 $3,143,766
23 Sean Winter 1,301 1 19 $1,704,091
24 Ruslan Prydryk 1,300 0 1 $2,400,000
25 Chino Rheem 1,281 2 17 $1,549,693
26 Adrian Mateos 1,262 1 11 $2,399,355
27 Max Neugebauer 1,250 1 1 $1,601,435
28 Dean Hutchison 1,250 0 1 $1,850,000
29 Lou Garza 1,246 1 2 $1,354,832
30 Darren Elias 1,244 2 11 $1,642,200
31 Masashi Oya 1,240 1 14 $3,757,719
32 Artur Martirosyan 1,218 2 8 $4,015,038
33 Josh Arieh 1,201 2 12 $1,647,991
34 Alexandre Reard 1,200 1 1 $1,057,663
35 Toby Lewis 1,200 0 1 $1,425,000
36 Juan Maceiras 1,200 0 1 $1,125,000
37 Arthur Morris 1,183 1 9 $1,183,418
38 Orpen Kisacikoglu 1,165 2 9 $1,845,208
39 Jason Koon 1,162 0 7 $3,278,449
40 Maxx Coleman 1,137 1 20 $1,366,916

Photo credits: PokerGO / Antonio Abrego.