As the 52nd annual World Series of Poker grinds to its completion, the bulk of the late-schedule tournaments are high buy-in affairs in lesser-played variants. One notable exception was Event #81: $800 No-Limit Hold’em Deepstack. The modest buy-in attracted an impressive field of 1,921 players, generating a prize pool of $1,352,384.
While the starting stacks were deep, an aggressive blind structure that was almost indecent in its haste ensured this was a turbo event. After a frenetic two days of play, it was Jason Wheeler who came out on top, taking home his first WSOP gold bracelet and the first prize of $202,274.
Based on his Hendon Mob results, it appears that Wheeler really enjoys playing tournaments at the WSOP. He participated in Event #3 (the Covid-19 Relief Charity Event) back on September 30th, in which he cashed in 27th place. Prior to Event #81, Wheeler had four other WSOP cashes this series, neatly distributed across the seven weeks of the festival.
Originally from Chicago, Wheeler now makes his home in Prague, Czech Republic. The city was the venue for his largest live cash of $671,718 back in December 2017, when he won the PokerStars championship event. His latest WSOP cash brings his lifetime live earnings to $4,324,723.
How Wheeler won
To outlast a field of this size, a player needs to win a few flips. When the 10-handed final table formed, Wheeler was at the back of the pack, with one quarter of the chips of leader Diogo Veiga. Wheeler quickly found himself all-in preflop with 99 against Antoine Goutard’s AJ. Fortunately for Wheeler, who was covered by Goutard, his pocket pair held, giving him the double up.
As the final table progressed, Wheeler quietly edged up the leader board as others busted out. With the play six-handed, Wheeler and Goutard again clashed. The rapidly increasing blinds were widening opening ranges, leading the two players to get all-in preflop with modest holdings. Goutard jammed around 20bb from the small blind with K5, which after some hesitation was called by Wheeler holding the K7.
These pots frequently chop, since the board comes higher than the small kickers. But that was not the case here, and Wheeler took down one of the biggest pots of the tournament when his lowly seven played on a J8243 run-out. The pot gave Wheeler the chip lead.
When the play got down to four-handed, Wheeler was sitting on 34bb, with all of his remaining rivals clustered on 13-14bb. Julian Velasquez pulled close to Wheeler when he busted Garry Gates in fourth. But Wheeler reestablished a sizeable 5-to-2 chip advantage when he knocked out Diogo Veiga in third, setting up the heads-up joust.
Undaunted by the deficit, Velasquez reclaimed the chip lead, largely thanks to a double-up when his QJs out-flopped Wheeler’s A4o. Velasquez then came within a card of winning the title. With the players again all-in, his A4s had flopped a wheel on a 325 flop. An innocuous turn King left Wheeler’s 66 needing a river four, and Velasquez had one of those outs. But a river four fell, vaulting Wheeler into an improbable lead.
The final hand saw Wheeler take the title in style. Limping the button with black aces, Velasquez shoved A2o and Wheeler naturally called. No wheel came to bail out Velasquez, and Wheeler was the winner.
Final table pay-outs
- Jason Wheeler: $202,274
- Julian Velasquez: $126,252
- Diogo Veiga: $93,627
- Garry Gates: $70,077
- Antoine Goutard: $52,943
- Shelok Wong: $40,376
- Ralph Massey: $31,087
- John O’Neal: $24,165
- Robert Hill: $18,968
Featured image source: Rachel Kay Miller/Twitter