Ilyas Muradi won the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open in Hollywood, Florida, the first major live poker tournament in the U.S. since March. The final three players agreed to a chop with an extra $25,000 awarded to the winner.
Despite the arranged chop, three-handed play lasted more than four hours, far longer than usual. With three left in the field of 1,573, the remaining players agreed to split all but $25,000 of the entire pot. Each player received at least $545,500, and the winner took home $580,000 in the chop, plus an additional $25,000.
The final three players included a former contestant of the CBS reality TV show Survivor, Ronnie Bardah. Bardah infamously busted out of the ‘Survivor’ first during the 2019 Island of the Idols season just three days into the competition.
He fared much better at the $3,500 WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open, to say the least. Although he didn’t win it, he finished in third place and earned $545,500, his largest score as a poker pro. In 2012, he won a World Series of Poker bracelet in a $2,500 limit hold’em tournament for $182,088, and also ran deep in the 2010 WSOP Main Event, finishing in 24th place for $317,161.
Bardah wasn’t the only big name player to run deep at the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open, which took place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Darren Elias busted in 10th place, good for $79,455, his record-setting 43rd WPT cash to go along with his record 12 final tables and four WPT titles.
Elias ran into some bad luck late when his pocket jacks collided with Andy Hwang’s pocket queens. Had he won the hand, who knows, perhaps he would have become the first five-time World Poker Tour champion.
Heads-up match that would never end
Although the players had already agreed to a chop, none of the final three players were ready to just move all-in and get it over with. They all wanted to win their first WPT title, so they played as if money was still a factor.
After Bardah was eliminated in 3rd place, two inexperienced live tournament pros battled it out for the title — Ilyas Muradi and Robel Andemichael. Muradi wasn’t just seeking his first WPT cash. He had wrapped up his first ever recorded live tournament score, according to the Hendon Mob database.
Andemichael’s tournament resume isn’t much better, however. He only had about $30,000 in previous live tourney cashes. So, these players were in uncharted territory, which might be the reason they were so unwilling to finish it off quickly.
The heads-up match went back and forth for nearly three hours despite the competitors playing for just $25,000 extra. In the end, Andemichael found himself in a race with A-6 for his remaining 15 big blinds against pocket fours. The small pair held up as the board was no help to Andemichael.
Although he didn’t win the title, Andemichael still went home with $565,000, nearly 20 times his previous career live tournament winnings. Muradi is now a World Poker Tour champion and earned a spot in the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions, a $15,000 event each year open exclusively to past winners. No date has been set for that event to take place.
As it stands, the WPT is still trying to put together a regular schedule, but COVID-19 restrictions are making that difficult. The next event in the U.S. will take place March 4 at the Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip. After that, it’s anyone’s guess when the next World Poker Tour event will take place.
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