The Stars Are Out for the $25,000 WPT Heads Up Poker Championship

  • The field is a mix of old and new school, e-sports influencers, music stars, and qualifiers
  • Jamie Kerstetter and Joey Ingram have added massively to the quality of the production
  • PokerKing creative director Keeling has brought his flair and taste to the coverage of the event 
  • Doug Polk, Olivier Busquet, and others have provided high end poker entertainment 
  • The remaining rounds play out June 21 and 22 on the WPT Twitch channel 
Player across the table revealing two Aces
The WPT Heads Up Poker Championship wraps up Monday and Tuesday night, streaming on the World Poker Tour’s Twitch channel. [Image:]

A smörgåsbord of talent on show

If you’re a poker fan and you’re not watching the inaugural $25,000 buy-in World Poker Tour Heads Up Poker Championship, you should be. 

exciting, personality-driven knockout competition that takes the best from old and new formats

For this 32 player event, WPT and partner PokerKing have put together a smörgåsbord of talent, assembling an eclectic mix of poker beasts, sprinkling in a couple of qualifiers, and adding some notables from the e-sports and music worlds. The result is an exciting, personality-driven knockout competition that takes the best from old and new formats. 

Thirty best-of-three matches will be played in total, getting us down to two players who will then play a best-of-five final on Tuesday night. So far, 24 of those 30 have been played and the remaining field is eight poker titans. Over the next two days, Patrik Antonius, Phil Ivey, Sam Greenwood, Wictor Malinowski, Dan Smith, Stephen Chidwick, Chris Kruk, and Stefan Burakov will all be vying for the lion’s share of the $800,000 prize pool.

Kerstetter and Ingram shine on commentary

A hallmark of this event is the star-studded commentary line-up. WSOP commentator Jamie Kerstetter and Poker Life Podcast host Joey Ingram are on the mic nightly alongside participating players like Doug Polk, Andrew “Lucky Chewy” Lichtenberger, Olivier Busquet, PokerKing ambassador Tom Dwan, and commentary GOAT Nick Schulman. 

whip smart, but not in an intimidating or patronizing way

Kerstetter has been the breakout star of commentary over the last few years. Her raspy humor and sharp wit have been keeping WSOP stalwarts Lon McEachern and Norman Chad on their toes for the last few years, but the fun atmosphere she seems to create with ease actually belies her greatest asset. Kerstetter is whip smart, but not in an intimidating or patronizing way. She understands that the role of the commentator is interlocutor, a bridge between the action and the viewer. She is able to break down situations without talking down to the audience. 

Joey Ingram is the consummate hype man. A natural entertainer, he oozes showmanship from every pore of his body. He’s a people pleaser who wants the viewer to have a good time. For years, he has had an on again, off again love affair with poker content. It makes him happy to know that people are enjoying and appreciating his work, but making those shows doesn’t always bring him satisfaction. His star burns bright with an intensity that he undoubtedly finds hard to maintain. That makes it all the more special when he locks in for a commentary stint such as this, or an interview series like the one he is doing in association with PokerKing.

Keeling taps into the poker zeitgeist

The legendary writer, producer, and director Frank Capra once said: “There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.”

PokerKing’s creative director Thomas Keeling understands that and in many ways it is his creative force that is the linchpin of this WPT/PokerKing collaboration. 

One of the most gifted people in poker, Keeling aka “SrslySirius” has always had his finger on the pulse of what works. He was the head of multimedia for Bluff. He worked on Poker Night In America. He produced and edited all of the videos on the hugely successful Doug Polk YouTube Channel. 

For over a decade, the multi-talented Keeling has been entertaining us with his edgy takes, his hilarious song parodies and his razor sharp editing skills. So it’s no surprise that his uncanny ability to tap into the poker zeitgeist is evidenced again with the WPT Heads Up Poker Championship.

Speaking to VegasSlotsOnline News, the always modest Keeling kept it short and sweet. He insisted that the idea for the WPT Heads Up Poker Championship pre-dated his joining Poker King but there is no doubt that its rendering possesses that distinctive “SrslySirius” flavor.

My singular goal is to make cool shit.” 

“My singular goal is to make cool shit,” said the unpretentious Keeling, adding: “you can quote me on that.” (So I did.)

Round 1 results

The first round matches took place June 18-19.

There were several mouth-watering matchups in round one, none less than Doug Polk vs. Tom Dwan, with the former emerging victorious, despite going down 1-0. Olivier Busquet beat high-stakes heads-up cash game specialist Linus Loeliger. Chris Kruk defeated Nick Schulman, Wiktor Malinowski beat Nick Petrangelo, and in another clash of the titans, Stephen Chidwick bested Andrew Lichtenberger. 

Only one of the amateur players got through their first round matches. Dan Smith bested record producer and DJ Steve Aoki while Finnish poker legend Patrik Antonius defeated Japanese actor and pop star Gakuto “GACKT” Oshiro. In a battle of the influencers contest, Alexandra Botez progressed to the second round after defeating Rumay “Hafu” Wang.

Rounding out the Round 1 matches:

Stefan Burakov defeated Tim Adams

Ant Zinno defeated Danny Le

Jean-Robert Bellande defeated Lynne Ji

Tuukka Sevanen defeated “毛毛虫999”

Dan Dvoress defeated Brad Owen

Phil Ivey defeated Manig Loeser

Darren Elias defeated “KK国王KK1”

Sam Greenwood defeated Kevin Rabichow 

Round 2 results

The second round matches were all played on June 20. 

The match of the round was arguably Doug Polk versus Patrik Antonius. There was table talk aplenty for this one, ultimately swept by Antonius. Phil Ivey would claim some headlines, though, as he defeated Ant Zinno thanks to some trademark aggression and well-timed bluffs. 

Malinowski made some hands right out of the gate to put away the prodigious talent of Tuukka “ButtonClickr” Sevanen in just a few minutes. Sam Greenwood also made fast work of chess streamer Alex Botez who, to her credit, played fearlessly over her two matches. 

Credit must also go to Olivier Busquet, who left his steak dinner to join Jamie Kerstetter in the booth to analyze his own defeat at the hands of Chris Kruk. This one was a long match that ultimately ended up in a series of short stack, high variance contests. 

Rounding out the Round 2 matches:

Stephen Chidwick defeated Darren Elias

Stefan Burakov defeated Daniel Dvoress

Dan Smith defeated Jean-Robert Bellande

Poker entertainment is in safe hands 

With this WPT Heads Up Championship, poker is putting its best foot forward. Most of the players are all together in Cabo, creating a vacation atmosphere. By day, they play golf and tennis. Sitting by the fire pit at night, they play games and tell stories. The fun that they are all having is infectious and that translates into the coverage.

The reality is the class of 2010 has as much if not more about them than their predecessors. 

For years, old-school players have bitched and moaned about the new generation of poker pros. Extraordinary talents of our game have been written off as robots, unworthy of the limelight. The reality is the class of 2010 has as much if not more about them than their predecessors. 

Doug Polk, Daniel Dvoress, Dan Smith, Olivier Busquet, Andrew Lichtenberger, Stephen Chidwick, Chris Kruk, Sam Greenwood, and Manig Loeser have all come up in a much tougher and more competitive environment. They come from wildly diverse and interesting backgrounds. They are also teeming with personality. So, feeling the flames nipping at their heels, some of the old school pointed to the fact that they studied harder, like it was a bad thing.

No matter who wins the title on Tuesday, this show has once and for all put to bed the lazy accusation that the current crop are boring. With these players and others like them, plus tremendous people on the production side of things, poker entertainment is in safe hands for the foreseeable future. 

The remaining matches can be watched tonight and tomorrow night on the WPT Twitch channel

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