“It does mean a lot”
It was perhaps more difficult than had been anticipated going into the night, but German-born poker pro Koray Aldemir finished what he started, becoming the 2021 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion. For finishing at the head of the 6,650-player field, Aldemir won $8m.
One of the most accomplished players to win the WSOP Main Event in recent years, the 31-year old resident of Austria now has over $20m in lifetime live tournament earnings. As skilled as he is, though, he never really thought he would win the Main Event.
I never expected to have a Main Event banner”
“I kind of had the idea of winning player of the series once because I’m just starting in mixed games and to have a Player of the Year banner,” he told PokerGO, “but I never expected to have a Main Event banner. It’s incredible.”
Being a pro poker player often means that people don’t really understand what you do or what in your career is important aside from earning money. But the World Series of Poker is something that rings a bell with everyone.
“It’s the one tournament family and friends know of basically,” Aldemir told the media after his victory. “It does mean a lot to me to win it.”
Aldemir was at or near the top of the leaderboard for the last few days of the Main Event, but went into the final table with an overwhelming chip stack. Going into the final night against just Jack Oliver and George Holmes, Aldemir had about two-thirds of the chips at the table. There was no way he would lose. Or was there?
It seemed as though Oliver and Holmes were effectively battling for second and when Holmes busted Oliver in third place, he went into heads-up against Aldemir facing an incredibly steep mountain to climb, about a 2-to-1 chip deficit. But climb it he did. The 49-year-old “home game hero” from Atlanta used a somewhat unpredictable and aggressive style of play to keep Aldemir off balance, eventually and remarkably taking the chip lead.
The two exchanged leads for some time and were nearly tied in chips when the surprising final hand happened. Aldemir had 205.1 million chips to Holmes’ 194.2 million and Holmes raised pre-flop to 6 million with K♣ Q♠. Aldemir, with T♦ 7♦, called (assume both players gave every move a lot of thought, so we don’t have to say one of them “went into the tank” every time). The flop was amazing for Aldemir: T♥ 2♥ 7♠, giving him top two pair. Holmes bet 6 million after an Aldemir check, then Aldemir raised to 19 million. Holmes made the call to bring on the card that did him in: K♠.
Aldemir bet 36.5 million and Holmes called, certainly not going away after calling the check-raise on the flop with nothing. The river brought the 9♣, clinching the hand for Aldemir, but there was betting to be made. Aldemir checked, but then Holmes shockingly moved all-in for his tournament life. After a great deal of thought, during which he said, “This might be it,” Aldemir finally made the call. Holmes showed his top pair and a perhaps stunned Koray Aldemir turned over his two pair.
Aldemir got up from the table, raised his arms in triumph and was swallowed up by his friends on the rail. As they mobbed him, Holmes stayed at the table for a few moments to make sure the chip counts said he was officially out. In the meantime, the moment finally got to Aldemir, who covered his eyes with his protective mask and broke down in tears.
More WSOP to come
With the conclusion of the Main Event comes the unofficial end of the 2021 World Series of Poker. There are still a few events left for anyone who wants to make a last minute trip to the Rio before the WSOP moves to Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas next year. The final event begins on November 22 and ends the following day.
Up next in WSOP land is the World Series of Poker Europe, which actually begins tomorrow at King’s Resort in Rozvadov, Czech Republic. A WSOP Circuit stop at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina starts a week from today.