Made for television
Two World Poker Tour (WPT) events concluded this week, both featuring delayed final tables of tournaments that began earlier this spring. And both tournaments – the 2022 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown (SHRPS) and 2022 WPT Choctaw – also featured first-time WPT champs: Mark Davis and Chance Kornuth.
filmed for television at the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor in Las Vegas
The final tables were played on a stage and filmed for television at the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor in Las Vegas. The SHRPS final table had been set since mid-April, while the WPT Choctaw final table was determined only about a week and a half ago.
In 2018, the year after the World Series of Poker ditched the “November Nine” concept, the WPT announced that it would delay the final tables of televised events, starting in 2019. It moved them to the HyperX Esports Arena, to be filmed on consecutive days.
Though the delayed WSOP Main Event final table never really worked out the way tournament organizers had hoped, it seems the idea behind the concept for the World Poker Tour was twofold: a) it’s a money saver, as television stages don’t have to be erected and broken down and multiple casinos, and b) the owner of the WPT at the time, Allied Esports Entertainment, owned the HyperX Esports Arena and likely wanted to turn it into a premier poker venue.
Mark Davis beats WPT’s best
Mark Davis took down the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown Wednesday night, cashing for just over $1m, tripling his all-time live tournament earnings. The bulk of the rest of his winnings came from a $334,678 victory in the WSOP Circuit Cherokee Main Event in February.
In addition to this being Davis’ first World Poker Tour title, it was also a memorable win because of who it came against. Davis defeated Darren Elias, who was attempting to extend his record of the most championships in WPT history. He is the only player with four titles to his name; six players have three championships. This was Elias’ 11th WPT final table appearance, but just his first runner-up finish.
“He is a phenomenal player – the best player I’ve ever played against.”
“I need to explain to you what a class act Darren is,” Davis told WPT.com afterward. “He is a phenomenal player – the best player I’ve ever played against. It took me running really good to be able to beat him, because everything his accolades say about him is what he is.”
Elias looked like he was in the driver’s seat early in the final table, holding more than half the chips with five players remaining. Going into heads-up, he had almost a 2-to-1 advantage on Davis. He grew it even more and had the lead for most of the heads-up match, but Davis persevered, took the lead, and never looked back.
“This is huge,” Davis said. “This is about as big as you can get outside of a couple other tournaments [in the world].”
Chance Kornuth had nine lives
On Thursday, it was time for the final table of the WPT Choctaw Main Event. On the ropes time and time again, Chance Kornuth – considered one of the best players to not have his name on the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup – finally nabbed his first World Poker Tour title.
Kornuth won just shy of half a million dollars, bumping his lifetime live tournament winnings to over $10m.
He began heads-up play against Steve Buckner with close to a 3-to-1 chip advantage. But this is poker, and it is unusual for a lead to hold up, even one that big. Buckner pulled even and then the two swapped the lead six times before Kornuth grew it to 3-to-1 once again. Buckner then got aggressive, doubling-up through Kornuth and then outkicking him in a huge pot to leave Kornuth with only five big blinds.
Kornuth doubled-up then fell to a tiny stack again and this time, he looked done when he was all-in with Q♦-9♦ against Buckner’s Q♣-T♥. The poker gods were on Kornuth’s side, though, as he hit a runner-runner flush to stay alive. He later regained the chip lead only to have Buckner double-up and snatch it back. Kornuth returned the favor, leaving Buckner extremely short, and two hands later, it was all over.
On his way to the championship, Kornuth eliminated Randy Gordon, a beloved poker dealer who won a seat in the tournament. Gordon is battling cancer and will have to quit his job in October to begin treatment. Kornuth gave Gordon a free 1% of his action after knocking him out and a few days ago, “a very generous person” covered an additional 4%.