PGT Championship: Cho comes close but Smiljkovic takes the $500,000 win

Adam Hampton
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Posted on: January 11, 2024 6:59 am EST

The debate around the inclusion of ‘dream seat’ winners in the PokerGO Tour (PGT) Championship, as expressed by high stakes pro Alex Foxen yesterday, almost took an unexpected twist at the climax of the event.

Arden Cho, an actress and part-time poker player who won a dream seat courtesy of a protein bar promotion, almost went all the way in one of the toughest fields imaginable. Cho, who was also the only woman to take part, navigated shark-infested waters to make it to heads-up versus Germany’s Daniel Smijkovic.

Actress and poker player Arden Cho at the PGT Championship
Wildcard Cho enjoyed her best-ever result of $200,000

Though she ultimately fell short of the title, winning $200k for her runner-up finish, Cho’s performance thoroughly tested the notion that dream seat winners are simply there to make up the numbers. With a series of tough calls and brave bluffs – all while maintaining a relaxed and chatty disposition that was, at times, in contrast to the pros around her – Cho’s deep run was no fluke.

For his win in this $1 million freeroll, Daniel Smijkovic takes home the $500k first prize. The win caps a year in which he made multiple final table runs in high roller events from the WSOP to Triton to the EPT, yet missed out on any major trophy wins.

Smiljkovic presses home chip advantage at the final table

With more than 40% of the chips in play after an action-packed Day 1, Smiljkovic came into the final table as the favorite ahead of Cho, Darren Elias, Artur Martirosyan, Leon Sturm and 2023 WSOP Main Event winner Daniel Weinman.

Darren Elias at the PGT Championship, January 2024
Elias couldn’t run up his short stack at the final table

Elias was the shortstack and would be the first to fall, his A-K losing to Q-Q in a three-way pot and sending Elias home with $40k. Russia’s Martirosyan would be next, losing a flip to German Leon Sturm, whose pocket 5s made a set to see off Martirosyan’s A-K. Big slick would fall once again, and the Russian hit the exit $60k richer.

That hand saw Sturm take the chip lead, with Smiljovic now one of the smaller stacks. That state of affairs wouldn’t last long, as Smiljkovic played a limped pot with Weinman that ultimately saw off the WSOP winner. Weinman called from the small blind and Smiljkovic checked his option.

Smiljkovic: T♦️5♦️

Weinman: K❤️6♣

The pair checked the A❤️T❤️J♣ flop, before Smiljkovic overbet the T♠ turn, having made trips. The 6♦️ on the river gave Weinman a pair and enough to think about that he eventually called Smiljkovic’s all-in shove with the second-best hand. Weinman took $80k for his 4th place finish.

WSOP winner Daniel Weinman at the PGT Championship
WSOP champ Daniel Weinman finished 4th

Cho takes the lead into heads-up play

An all-German clash saw Leon Sturm eliminated in 3rd, when he shoved with T♦️2♦️ from the small blind and was called by Smiljkovic’s J❤️9❤️. The board brought him no help and the Vienna-based high roller was out, banking $120k for his troubles.

That left the pro Smiljkovic and the part-timer Cho, with the latter holding a chip lead of around 2.5 to 1. Cho was one flip from winning the whole thing, getting it in good with 9-9 versus Smiljkovic’s A-K only for an ace on the flop to dash her hopes.

PGT Championship winner Daniel Smiljkovic
Smiljkovic was all-in and at risk during heads-up play, but came back to win it all

A lengthy heads-up duel then followed, before a bruising hand decimated Cho’s stack.

Cho: J♦️4❤️

Smiljkovic: Q♣T♣

Smiljkovic called the small blind and Cho checked, only for the flop of 9♣8♠J♣ to deliver Cho top pair and Smiljkovic the nuts.

Cho check-called a bet from the German to see a 5♠ on the turn, which she checked once again. Smiljkovic made a pot-sized bet and Cho came over the top with an ill-timed shove, drawing dead and losing almost her entire stack. The 9♦️ completed the board and Cho was left with less than two big blinds.

There were no more shock twists left in her surprising and entertaining run to the final two, and she was out the very next hand.

A solid performance from Smiljkovic saw the German take the win and the $500k prize for first place, but many of the plaudits will rightly go Cho’s way. As the only female player in a field of 54, the only dream seat winner to make the money, and the only player subjected to possibly drunken comments about her appearance and sexuality, Cho is sure to have attracted numerous fans on her way to her best-ever result of $200k. We hope to see more of her at the tables during 2024.

Daniel Smiljkovic and Arden Cho, finalists in the PGT Championship

PGT Championship final results

1Daniel Smiljkovic$500,000
2Arden Cho$200,000
3Leon Sturm$120,000
4Daniel Weinman$80,000
5Artur Martirosyan $60,000
6Darren Elias$40,000

Images courtesy of PokerGO