Stephen Song tops record field in WPT Prime Championship

Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: December 20, 2022 06:46 PST

Las Vegas-based pro Stephen Song has added to his growing list of poker accolades by taking down the WPT Prime Championship, the largest-ever "Prime" event in World Poker Tour history. Song's victory over a massive 5,340-entry field was worth $712,650. It's Song's largest career payday and pushes his lifetime poker tourney winnings over the $5 million mark.

Song's run to the win wasn't exactly a wire-to-wire tale, as he came back from short-stack status on multiple occasions. "Honestly, it’s incredible," he told the WPT after the win. "There were so many points in this tournament where I was under 10 bigs from Day 2 until the end of the tournament. "You have to run insane to win a 5,400-person field, there’s no getting around that. Just super blessed to have my friends and family here.

Song, a prior WSOP bracelet winner, had to fend off another WSOP bracelet owner, 2021 Ladies Championship winner Lara Eisenberg, during heads-up play; Eisenberg collected $481,500 in second-place money. For Song, this was his first major WPT triumph, adding to his successes on several other tours, Besides the WSOP bracelet, Song, a native of Connecticut, has also claimed three WSOP Circuit rings, a Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open main event title, and a win in an EPT prelim event.

Song also collected a Rockstar room package from Virgin Voyages worth $8,000 as part of his winner's prize. Eisenberg and the four other TV-final players received Sea Terrace room packages from Virgin worth $2,400 each. The final was filmed for later broadcast and will air in early 2023 on Bally Sports.

Prime Championship smashes guarantee, sets records

The WPT's Prime Championship ran as part of the weeks-long WPT World Championship festival at the Wynn, which is nearing its conclusion. Within that framework, the Prime Championship was likely to set new high-water marks for the mid-level, WPT-branded series, but the extent to which this event succeeded turned many heads.

For example, the WPT Prime Championship carried an $1,100 buy-in and was created with a $2 million prize-pool guarantee. That significantly underestimated the actual turnout, where the prize pool of $5,267,100 was more than two and a half times the announced guarantee.

From the "Prime" standpoint, it was an even greater success. The previous largest turnout for a WPT Prime tourney was just over a thousand entries. This event at the Wynn, with its 5,340 entries, more than quintupled the previous mark, and also drew more entrants than all of the other 2022 Prime stops combined.

"The overwhelming turnout allowed the Prime Championship to set the tone for what turned out to be an electrifying festival," said WPT CEO Adam Pliska. "Congratulations to Stephen for capping off yet another amazing story in our 20th anniversary season."

Prime series to return in 2023

The World Poker Tour has already announced that the WPT Prime series will return in 2023. After its debut in May, the 2022 Prime season visited Vietnam, Australia, Cambodia, Spain, and Taiwan before its highly successful conclusion in the United States, in what Pliska and the WPT termed as "exclamation point" to the year's series.

The 2023 Prime tour will be larger. Seven stops have already been announced, in Paris, Australia, Cambodia, Amsterdam, Slovakia, Vietnam, and Italy. More may follow, including another likely season-ending spectacular in the United States.

Final-table results:

  1. Stephen Song - $712,650
  2. Lara Eisenberg - $481,500
  3. Young Eum - $354,000
  4. Alon Messica - $265,000
  5. Albert Nguyen - $200,000
  6. Giorgii Skhulukhiia - $153,000

Other top finishers included Tom Middleton (11th place), 2022 Poker Hall of Fame finalist Kathy Liebert (13th), Tyler Patterson (15th) and prior WPT champions Jared Jaffee (17th) and Taylor Black (18th).

Featured image source: World Poker Tour