WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open champ Veerab Zakarian wins $674,000

Jon Pill
Posted on: May 17, 2021 11:59 PDT

The World Poker Tour 's Borgata Winter Poker Open event finished up yesterday. The tournament kicked off on January 26, 2020. Over the next few days, the field played down to the TV final table of six. It took almost a year-and-a-half to bring the players back together to shoot the final table.

Yesterday, finally, the win went to a 25-year-old Canadian called Veerab Zakarian.

"Waiting this long, you didn’t know what to expect. You don’t know, you keep waiting for it," Zakarian said in his post-game interview . "Most people, after the pandemic, didn’t have anything to look forward to so I was glad to have something to look forward to."

Zakarian took down $674,840. This triples his lifetime winnings total in one fell swoop.

The WPT tweeted a quote from Zakarian. "When you think of poker on the East Coast, the first thing you think of is Borgata [...]."

Falls the shadow

The Borgata Winter Poker Open was one of three WPT titles that suffered from this kind of strange delay . To streamline production and reduce costs, the WPT batches their final tables. The host casinos hold the events and hit pause when the TV final table is reached.

Once there are a few FTs in the chamber, the players for that batch of tables all ship out to Vegas. Then in back-to-back shoots, the final tables play out for the cameras. The Borgata Poker Open FT was scheduled to shoot on April 1, 2020. But between January 26 and le Poisson d'Avril, fell the shadow of COVID.

The WPT set was mothballed. Then the whole set was eventually moved from the HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas to the PokerGO studio at the Aria. Eventually, the set was cracked back open in March this year to finish off the WPT Gardens Poker Championship .

A few weeks separated the Gardens Poker Championship from the Borgata Winter Poker Open in January 2020. The final tables were spread out a little wider by a few months.

For Zakarian and his five cohorts, it took ten days shy of 18 months to get from the Atlantic City Borgata to the WPT set in Vegas.

The table will be broadcast on Bally Sports. "When I watch, it will be something nice,” Zakarian says about his first TV appearance. “Everyone asks if you’ve been on TV. It’s going to be interesting to watch and be able to have forever.”

Clock shot

The initial field was 1,290 players deep. From that field there were a few notable names left at the final table.

Anderson had taken second place before in the Borgata Winter Poker Open of 2013. Plus, Brian Altman, who eventually took third, was looking to round out his WPT hat-trick. Altman already has two WPT titles to his name.

“Everyone always wants the bracelet," Zakarian said. "But these days it looks like the WPT is what everyone is chasing."

To the Canadian pro, the WSOP bracelets have lost a lot of their shine thanks to inflation.

"The bracelets," he says. "There’s so many of them. But the WPT is special, especially Borgata."

The players that sat down at that table were not the same as the players who got up from it last year. Zakarian took those months and applied himself to studying final table play . No doubt his opponents did too. But for Zakarian, the study paid off to the tune of $674k.

His heads-up opponent James Anderson took $449,904.

Heads-up action

The key hand came at the 300,000/500,000 level, with a 500,000 big blind ante. Effective stacks were about 35 million. Anderson min-raised to 1 million. Zakarian called with Kc-5h.

The flop came Q-5-2 with two clubs. Anderson c-bet 600,000, Zakarian check-raised to 2 million, and Anderson called.

The turn paired the 5 and gave Zakarian a king-high club flush draw to go with his trip-fives. He bet 2 million, and Anderson raised it to 5 million. Zakarian called again, slow playing his hand.

The river of Jc completed Zakarian's flush. Zakarian risked winning nothing with those cards and checked. Anderson took the bait and moved in with the rest of his stack. It was a big overbet. With the Ac still out there along with a bunch of plausible full houses on the board and his tournament life on the line, Zakarian had to sit back and think.

After using two of his time extension chips, Zakarian called. Anderson showed the 9-8 of diamonds, an almost-naked three-street bluff.

That left Anderson short-stacked. A few hands later, Zakarian got lucky in a flip with T-5 against Andersons J-4, and the game was over.

Zakarian has big plans for his newly swollen bankroll.

"Poker is starting to pick up," he said. "With so many more tournaments and cash games around Vegas for the next month or two. Maybe the WPT here in July at Venetian or Tampa [is next]. I hope the WPT will go back to Borgata or Fallsview since I’m close to Canada. I’ll try my luck again and see what happens."

WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open 2020 final table results

Position Player Name Prize
1st Veerab Zakarian $674,840
2nd James Anderson $449,904
3rd Brian Altman $333,012
4th Nathan Russler $248,913
5th Bin Weng $187,900
6th Andrew Hanna $143,264

Featured image source: Flickr by WPT