Return of the G.O.A.T.: Phil Ivey wins the WPT Heads Up Poker Championship

Geoff Fisk
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Posted on June 23, 2021 4:48 pm EDT

Ivey tops Patrik Antonius in battle of poker icons in the tournament final

The organizers of poker’s most ambitious heads-up challenge of 2021 probably couldn’t have been more thrilled with the matchup that emerged for their tournament final.

The WPT Heads Up Poker Championship presented by Poker King took poker’s current heads-up craze to another level, inviting a 32-player field full of poker legends, top-tier modern players, and a few mainstream stars from outside of the poker realm.

From that eclectic 32-player field, the World Poker Tour and Poker King somehow got the gift of a Phil Ivey vs. Patrik Antonius final. That matchup ensured that the title of 2021 WPT Heads Up champion would be represented by one of poker’s all-time icons.

Ivey was the one to claim that title, wrapping up the WPT Heads Up Championship with a victory over Antonius on Tuesday. The $25,000 buy-in tournament took center stage in the poker world throughout the past week, and ended with a champion who’s well familiar with the limelight.

The $800,000 guaranteed event paid out four places, with Ivey adding a $400,000 champion’s payday to his legacy. Ivey swept Antonius 3-0 in the best-of-five sit & go final.

$25,000 WPT Heads Up Championship payouts

PlacePlayer NamePayout
1Phil Ivey$400,000
2Patrik Antonius$200,000
3Sam Greenwood$100,000
4Chris Kruk$100,000

Loaded field ends with two poker legends going heads-up

The 32 players that filled out the WPT Heads Up Championship bracket included a roster of poker’s elite, with a few recreational players and online qualifiers mixed in. Steve Aoki, Alexandra Botez, Hafu, Gackt, and Shiphtur made the list of high-profile public figures in the field, none of which claim poker as their primary profession.

The field also included a pair of online qualifiers. Of the non-poker entities and the online qualifiers, only one, chess player and YouTube star Botez, advanced to the second round.

Ivey didn’t get the luxury of competing against any of those players on the way to his WPT Heads Up Championship win. The 10-time WSOP bracelet winner went through what could very well be considered the toughest lineup of opponents out of anyone in the tournament.

On his way to the finals, Ivey had to topple Manig Loeser, Anthony Zinno, Stephen Chidwick, and Chris Kruk. The first three players on that list boast more than $56 million in combined live tournament earnings, while Kruk holds a well-earned reputation as a major force in the online poker streets.

Through a bracket full of poker’s top solver-based strategists, Ivey arrived in Tuesday’s final. Opposite of Ivey at the Cabo San Lucas, Mexico tournament location sat one of the only players with a tenure in the game and a reputation that could rival Ivey.

Antonius and Ivey have played plenty of big pots against each other over the past two decades. Both players were fixtures in the high stakes games of Full Tilt Poker in the 2000s, colloquially known as “Railbird Heaven.”

The WPT Heads Up Championship final harkened back to the golden era of poker, when logging into Full Tilt offered a front row seat at some of the highest-stakes cash games in the world. Antonius drew Japanese pop star Gackt in his first-round match, but after that the road to the finals was no easy task.

Antonius’ second-round match required a victory over Doug Polk, arguably the best heads-up No-Limit Hold’em player in the world. After that, Antonius topped Stefan “Stefan11222” Burakov and all-time great Sam Greenwood to reach the final.

Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius advance to WPT Heads Up Championship final
Image source: Twitch

The Antonius vs. Ivey match pitted two familiar foes, but in a brand new format that could become a staple in the poker world. All matches from the WPT Heads Up Championship played out on the Poker King online platform, with opponents sitting across the table from each other.

The WPT and Poker King brought in a world-class commentary team for the event, headed by Joey Ingram, Nick Schulman, and Jamie Kerstetter. Cabo San Lucas sat at the center of the poker universe throughout the past five days, and rightfully so.

With a unique format, all-star lineup of players and commentators, and a locale that can be used at any time of year, the WPT Heads Up Championship could become an annual tradition from the beaches of Cabo San Lucas.

Featured image source: Twitch