32-player field comes down to two poker legends in the $25,000 buy-in event
The selection of players that filled out the bracket for the WPT Heads Up Championship pretty much guaranteed a top-flight final for poker enthusiasts. Even the WPT and event sponsor Poker King probably couldn’t have asked for a more appealing matchup in today’s tournament final.
A pair of all-time poker icons square off in the championship finals today. Phil Ivey takes on Patrik Antonius in a battle of two of the biggest names in poker history.
Ivey and Antonius go to battle as familiar foes, going all the way back to the days of Railbird Heaven on Full Tilt Poker. The high-stakes games from the 2000s on Full Tilt resulted in some of the biggest pots in online poker history.
Ivey and Antonius were two of the stalwarts among the small group of elite players that frequented those games. The two high-stakes legends renew their rivalry once again today, with the WPT Heads Up Championship title on the line.
Coverage of the event begins at 3 pm EDT/12 pm PDT on the World Poker Tour Twitch channel.
Ivey shows the old form on the way to the finals
Phil Ivey’s path to the finals saw the 10-time WSOP bracelet winner go through about as tough of a path imaginable through the first four matches. Ivey defeated Manig Loeser and Anthony Zinno, two of the world’s most well-accomplished players.
Ivey’s reward for those two wins was a quarterfinal matchup against a man considered by many high-stakes pros as the world’s best tournament player. Stephen Chidwick faced Ivey in the round of 16, creating perhaps the most intriguing matchup in a tournament full of tantalizing pairings.
Ivey prevailed against Chidwick, then took down Chris Kruk in the tournament semifinals. One particular hand from the Ivey-Kruk matchup got the attention of many in the poker world:
Joey Ingram and Nick Schulman were on the call for a hand that began with the blinds at 500/1000. Kruk opened to 2,250 with 2♠2♥, Ivey three-bet to 7,350 with 9♥7♦, and Kruk called.
The flop came 3♣5♦T♠ and Ivey continuation-bet for 7,350. Kruk raised to 16,170, and Ivey three-bet shoved for 57,032, much to the amazement of Ingram and Schulman on commentary. Kruk folded, and Ivey went on to win that match, clinching a 2-1 win against Kruk in the best-of-three format.
Doug Polk, who bowed out against Antonius in the round of 16, couldn’t believe what he saw in that incredible hand:
“Honestly how does this guy always get away with this stuff. I feel like its 2005 again,” Polk tweeted.
Antonius gets past Stefan11222, Sam Greenwood in path to the finals
Ivey’s run to the finals pits him against Antonius, and the matchup between two of the game’s most popular players is a spectator’s dream.
The final round will feature a slower structure and a best-of-five format. All previous rounds played as a best-of-three sit & go format, with the blinds increasing after every seven hands.
Antonius drew Japanese music artist Gackt in the first round. After that, his path to the finals was equally challenging when compared to Ivey’s. Antonius topped Polk in round two, then had to get through online crusher Stefan “Stefan11222” Burakov and high roller tournament fixture Sam Greenwood to reach the final two.
Neither Ivey or Antonius is known to apply the solver-based, GTO-oriented strategies that have become the gold standard in the modern era. Both still make regular appearances on the high-stakes cash came scene in Macau. But the finals matchup between the two may come as somewhat of a surprise.
“The people they had to beat for this to be the final matchup is insane,” said Jamie Kerstetter on commentary during the Antonius-Greenwood match. “The people who live in the world of sims all got beaten on the way to this final.”
The WPT Twitch channel is scheduled to begin coverage of Tuesday’s final at 3 pm EDT/12 pm PDT.
Featured image source: Twitch