Phil Ivey, Poker’s Prodigal Son, Returns With a $400,000 WPT Win

  • The WPT and PokerKing came together to create an exciting new format for poker
  • The Heads-Up Championship boiled down to a battle between two old-school poker legends 
  • Sam Greenwood and Chris Kruk shared 3rd place
  • In the final, Phil Ivey swept Patrik Antonius 3-0 to take home the $400,000 first prize 
Pair of Aces
Phil Ivey swept Patrik Antonius in three games to win the $25,000 buy-in WPT Heads-Up Championship and the $400,000 first prize. [Image:]

WPT, PokerKing delivered engrossing hybrid event

For the past five days, an undisclosed resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico played host to the inaugural WPT $25,000 Heads-Up Championship. 32 players attended this invitational tournament, a mix of poker legends, high-stakes poker beasts, mainstream celebrities, e-sports stars, and two online qualifiers. 

taking each other on battleship style

The tournament itself had a hybrid quality with elements of live and online poker. While some of the players played from home, many of the participants were present in the makeshift studio, taking each other on battleship style with laptops and devices in hand across a table from one another. 

Aired on the WPT’s Twitch channel in association with PokerKing, the coverage of the event was superb, replete with player interviews, vignettes, and top-notch commentary throughout. 

Quarter- and semi-final matches

After three days of captivating poker action, the tournament boiled down to eight combatants. Patrik Antonius, Phil Ivey, Sam Greenwood, Wictor Malinowski, Dan Smith, Stephen Chidwick, Chris Kruk and Stefan Burakov all made the quarter-finals with just one more victory earning them a cool $100,000 cash. 

When the action got underway, Ivey defeated Chidwick to advance. Kruk bested Malinowski. In the other half of the draw, Antonius overcame Burakov while Greenwood beat Smith. 

In the semi-finals, Kruk took the lead against Ivey, but Ivey stormed back to complete a 2:1 victory, memorably putting it all on the line with 9-high, three-betting the flop with no pair and just a backdoor draw, and forcing the fold from Kruk’s pocket twos. 

Kruk took the defeat in good spirits, posting a choice bit of gallows humour to Twitter:

When Greenwood lost the other semi-final to Antonius, he hopped on Twitter himself to piggy-back Kruk’s good-natured post:

The organizers got their dream final 

With the mouth-watering old-school high-stakes clash of fan favorites Ivey and Antonius, WPT and PokerKing got their dream final. The format of the matches throughout the competition was best-of-three with eight hands per level but in the final, Ivey and Antonius played a best-of-five with 11 hands per level. 

Tuning in from every corner of the globe, the audience buckled up for what they hoped would be a battle for the ages. Jamie Kerstetter and Doug Polk were in the booth for the first two games, ensuring there was top notch analysis and laughs in equal measure. Joey Ingram paired up with Nick Schulman to take the coverage home. 

In the end, Ivey made short shrift of Antonius, closing out a 3-0 victory in about two hours. The title and the first prize payout of $400,000 was his, while Antonius got $200,000 for his efforts.  

If Ivey’s recent interview with Joe Ingram was a tug on the coat of the poker world, a gentle reminder that he is back, then this result is the ten-time WSOP bracelet winner kicking down the door.

Ivey is still a force

It’s tempting to think of Phil Ivey as the special one and to therefore view his unorthodox solver-unapproved lines as eerily well-timed diversions from the optimal based on soul reads and spidey senses. It’s also tempting to point to short term variance in a fast format where every single one of the 32 players who participated had some chance of emerging victorious. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. 

Ivey is undoubtedly one of the greatest exponents of the game. A master of all formats, he naturally intuits a lot of GTO lines while also possessing the ability to make exploitative adjustments that have a spookily high success rate. 

The back door beckons to a prodigal son.”

Michael Davidow famously said: “The back door beckons to a prodigal son.” After a complicated and controversial few years out of the poker limelight, this result is a reminder to the poker world that Ivey is still a force with which to be reckoned. 

One, of course, should not read too much into the outcome of a fast structured, small field, but nonetheless, as Kerstetter noted on commentary, most of the players in attendance “live with the sims,” yet it all boiled down to two old school legends and ultimately to one Phil Ivey, poker’s prodigal son. 

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