It’s Groundhog Day… Again as the US Poker Open Experiences Another Year of Winter

  • Sean Winter is the 2022 US Poker Open Main Event and Series Leaderboard champion
  • The American High Stakes pro is now the back-to-back Main Event champion
  • Winter and Japanese player Tamon Nakamura both won two events apiece during the festival 
  • Poker legend Erik Seidel took down event #9, defeating Phil Hellmuth heads-up 
  • The Poker Brat made three final tables in the event but went viral for an inexplicable call
Sean Winter with US Poker Open trophy
Sean Winter has won the US Poker Open Main Event and the Series title after completing back-to-back wins in the final stretch of the competition. [Image: Poker GO]

Winter goes back-to-back

If the phrase ‘America, f**k yeah’ could take physical form, that is what poker’s elite battled it out for in the PokerGO studio this past fortnight. That, and oodles of money of course,  as the US Poker Open crowned ten different winners across a dozen events. In the end, the 60-pound effigy of a golden eagle went to Sean Winter who went back-to-back in events #11 and #12. 

Winter pulled off an unlikely double

After failing to cash in the first ten events of the series, Winter pulled off an unlikely double in the $25,000 and $50,000 events. A win and only a win in the Main Event was required to deprive Tamon Nakamura of the Series Leaderboard victory and that’s exactly what he did. 

Winter banked $756,000 in the Main Event, taking his tally to $1.25m at the 2022 US Poker Open, a figure which includes the series’ $50,000 Championship Bonus. Nakamura proved the only other double-winner during a festival that pitted some of the best poker players in the world against one another. 

Nakamura shines during week one

Right out of the gate, Shannon Shorr booked a $213,900 win in the 93-runner Event #1: $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em, defeating Ren Lin heads-up on a final table that also included Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, and Joe Cheong. The next day, Justin Young emerged victorious in Event #2: $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha, besting a field of 77 entries to win $200,200.

“This means a million times more than anything I’ve ever done in this room, cash games or otherwise,” said an emotional Young in his post-match interview, adding: “Just to play with the best of the best in this room just means the world to me.”

the largest live tournament cash of Nakamura’s career

The next player to outlast the best of the best was Adam Hendrix who fought back from the short stack to win Event #3: $10,000 No-Limit and $211,200. Then it was the turn of Tamon Nakamura who beat 52 others to take down Event #4: $10,000 Big Bet Mix for $169,600. It represented the largest live tournament cash of Nakamura’s career:

Not to be outdone, Jeremy Ausmus won Event #5: $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em, taking home $178,200, a result which, along with his third place in Event #3 and eighth place in Event #4, propelled him to the top of the US Poker Open leaderboard. Ausmus defeated a field of 66 entrants to win Event #5, and at the final table, he defeated Chris Brewer heads-up.

Wrapping up the first half of the festival, Nakamura showcased his mixed-game prowess once again, defeating Phil Hellmuth heads-up in the 47-entrant Event #6: $15,000 8-Game for $239,700, breaking his own newly set personal best and vaulting himself above Ausmus into top spot on the leaderboard. 

Chino Rheem steals the headlines

In 2019, Chino Rheem won the Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure Main Event (a festival rumored to be making its return this winter). There were immediately jokes that the line at the cashout desk would feature Rheem followed by the dozens of people to whom he owes money. That $1.5m score hopefully settled some debts but it also put Rheem back in action in a big way. Results in Australia, Belgium, Estonia, Spain, the Netherlands, the US, and Uruguay followed. This past fortnight, he has been in the mix at poker’s top table once again. 

Foxen picked up $283,500 for his troubles

In Event #7: $15,000 No-Limit Hold’em, he got heads-up with eventual winner Alex Foxen and the very next day, in Event #8: $15,000 Pot-Limit Omaha, he went one better. Foxen picked up $283,500 for his troubles, a result which launched him into second place on the series leaderboard behind Nakamura.

In his post-match interview, Foxen pointed to his disappointing run in previous US Poker Open events. “This is definitely the highest level of tournament competition that exists and winning one of the overall trophies is something that I haven’t done yet. It’s definitely something I want to do. That Golden Eagle Trophy is pretty sweet, too.” Indeed. 

Rheem topped a field of 67 entries in Event #8 to claim victory, defeating Scott Seiver heads-up at the denouement of a very entertaining final table that included Phil Hellmuth in trademark brattish form:

With that $271,350 result, Rheem leap-frogged Nakamura, putting himself in the box seat with four events to go. 

The legend Erik Seidel wins Event 9 

There is something very special about Erik Seidel, a singular talent of his generation, a man who has consistently been one of the very best exponents of No Limit Hold’em in a career spanning five different decades. Fourth in the all-time live tournament money list, he has been consistency personified, posting seven figures in ten out of the thirteen years pre-2020. Last summer, he took down one of the toughest World Series of Poker tournaments of all time – the $10,000 Online High-roller – to claim his ninth bracelet. 

Seidel added yet another high roller title

In Event #9: $25,000 No-LimitSeidel added yet another high roller title when he defeated Phil Hellmuth heads-up after a tumultuous final table that also featured Alex Foxen and Sam Soverel. The result banked Seidel $472,500, the biggest payday of the festival so far and a third consecutive heads-up victory over the Poker Brat, a statistic he alluded to, possibly foreshadowing a future ‘High Stakes Duel’ challenge. 

“It’s pretty wild that the two of us got heads up… I don’t think there’s any extra meaning to it…I would’ve been happy to win against anybody… That’s the third time we’ve been heads up, so it was fun,” said a typically subdued Seidel. The result put Seidel into fifth place, directly behind Hellmuth whose run of 2nd-4th-2nd in Events #6, #8, and #9 propelled him into fourth. 

Hellmuth hand goes viral 

Hellmuth may not have made it to the winner’s enclosure but he did go viral after an inexplicably woeful 3-bet ‘induce’ with Queen-Four off-suit. During five-handed play, Alex Foxen raised with pocket nines and Hellmuth re-raised, committing six of his sixteen big blinds, 37% of his remaining chips. Foxen shoved and Hellmuth called it off, stating: “Yeah, I guess I better play to win.” 

Hellmuth doubled after the board ran out with two queens on it, much to the bewilderment of everyone watching and a politely stunned Foxen. Twitter immediately got to work critiquing the play. Kevin Martin led the way with a snap-shot of Hellmuth’s 3-bet/call range: 

Jason Koon leapt to Hellmuth’s defence:

Okay, not really, and he wasn’t the only one to satirize the Poker Brat. Phil Galfond went to the trouble of posting an epic four-page sarcastic defense of the donkaments:

Credit is also due to Jerrod Smith who won the game of fastest finger when he gave the hand new life a couple of days later in the wake of Slapgate:  

Winter has come

The final four days of competition were intense with it all still to play for in the last three events. Dylan Weisman crushed the dreams of 48 hopefuls in Event #10: $25,000 PLO, defeating Cary Katz heads-up to win $416,500. That result put him in the mix for Series champion as onlookers wondered who would emerge from the chasing pack to challenge front runner Nakamura. Would it be Foxen, Rheem, Hellmuth, Shorr or Seidel? The one name on nobody’s lips was reigning US Poker Open Main Event champion and two-time US Poker Open Leaderboard second-place finisher Sean Winter. That was all about to change. 

Defeating Ali Imsirovic heads-up moved him to 12th

In Event #11: $25,000 No-Limit Hold’em, he stormed to victory, bagging a tidy $440,000 payday in the process. Defeating Ali Imsirovic heads-up moved him to 12th place on the Leaderboard. That set up a dramatic finish as just 24 hours later, he was again heads-up, this time against Nakamura’s good friend Masashi Oya. 

After a brief battle, Winter was once again the last man standing, completing a famous victory with back-to-back wins down the homestretch. The bridesmaid of the US Poker Open in both 2019 and 2021, he got the job done in 2022. 

“It means a lot,” Winter told PokerGO’s Jeff Platt after the victory. “I’m kind of speechless right now. I was just getting destroyed all series, obviously, and I was kind of grateful for that because it motivated me to do well as the buy-ins went up.”

2022 US Poker Open Final Leaderboard

1st: Sean Winter – 718 points

2nd: Tamon Nakamura – 588 points

3rd: Alex Foxen – 488 points

4th: Chino Rheem – 481 points

5th: Phil Hellmuth – 464 points

6th: Shannon Shorr – 441 points

7th: Erik Seidel – 428 points

8th: Dylan Weisman – 414 points

9th: Masashi Oya – 414 points

10th: Adam Hendrix – 356 points

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