WPT Prime Championship

One of the highlights for many players was the WPT Prime Championship, the season finale of the WPT’s mid-major tour. Last year’s Prime finale set a high bar, but this year doubled attendance and prize money.

In the end, Calvin Anderson – also known as cal42688 in the online poker realm – stunned the poker livestream audience with a must-see-it-to-believe-it hand to get to heads-up play and went on to win his first WPT title and nearly $1.4M.

WPT Prime 2023 heads-up

In 2022, the World Poker Tour transformed its WPTDeepStacks mid-major series into WPT Prime. That newly-branded tour began midway through the year and culminated in the inaugural WPT Prime Championship during the WPT-Wynn series in December. And it was an unmitigated success. The $1,100 buy-in tournament boasted of a $2.5M guarantee, but the field grew to 5,430 entries and an actual prize pool of $5,267,100.

This year, the second WPT Prime Championship doubled up. The buy-in remained the same at $1,100 but the guarantee doubled to $5M. Players responded in kind.

The final tally for the 2023 WPT Prime Championship was 10,512 entries and a corresponding $10,196,640 prize pool. Historic.

Daily Strong Finishes for Anderson

Calvin Anderson was one of the players near the top of the chip counts going into Day 2. There was a total of 1,309 players who survived their respective starting flights and made it into the money. All were guaranteed at least $1,700 for their work.

By the time Day 2 ended, the field had thinned down to just 128 players, and Anderson led the way with a 10.75M chip stack. Behind him was Valeriy Pak with 10.15M and Mukul Pahuja with 9.375M.

All three survived Day 3 to make the final table of nine, but it wasn’t yet the official final table. Jon Glendinning sat atop the leaderboard with 72.6M chips, with Jay Lu second with 67.9M and Anderson third with 61.2M, followed closely by Pak and his 60.2M.

Day 4 wasn’t a long one but changed the chip counts. Pahuja was the seventh-place finisher, bubbling the official televised final table, and his ouster, Lu, ended the afternoon in the lead with 123.2M chips. Anderson trailed with 99.5M.

Final Table Fireworks

Everything started on Day 5 normally, except for the audience and lights and cameras. Other than that, the six men were ready to play with the following chip stacks:

  • Jay Lu: 123,200,000
  • Calvin Anderson: 99,500,000
  • Bob Buckenmayer: 76,000,000
  • Jon Glendinning: 44,400,000
  • Valeriy Pak: 39,700,000
  • Aaron Pinson: 38,600,000

A few rounds into the action, Anderson and his pocket kings eliminated Pak and his A-9. Seven hands later, Anderson and Lu tangled in a pot, which Anderson won by turning a queen-high flush. That put Anderson in the lead, though Lu took it back a bit later.

Pinson doubled through Glendinning, and the latter then quadrupled up to stay in the game with 10.2M chips. He then doubled through Lu and subsequently through Pinson. Pinson busted Buckenmayer in fifth place, as Pinson closed in on Anderson’s second-place chip count. But Anderson then eliminated Glendinning in fourth place to take over the lead.

Three-handed play was serious, and Lu took back the lead and kept going, crossing the 200M mark by the 70th hand of the night. The three continued to battle, and Anderson fell into third as Pinson climbed all the way into first place. Lu didn’t let that stand for long, but Anderson then doubled through Lu to put the latter on the shortest stack of the three.

That particular hand was the talk of social media, as it went down in extraordinary fashion:

  • Lu limped from the small blind. Anderson raised to 10M from the big blind, and Lu called.
  • The flop was Qh-3d-3c.
  • Lu checked, Anderson bet 6M, and Lu check-raised to 14M. Anderson called.
  • The turn was 6c.
  • Lu bet 19M, and Anderson eventually called.
  • The river was 7s.
  • Lu pushed all-in, and Anderson called for his tournament life.
  • Lu showed 4-3 of hearts, but his trip threes couldn’t beat the 5s-4d.

 

Anderson took a significant lead over the others, but Pinson took over that spot by the 100th hand of the night. A few rounds later, Lu made a move with A-3, but Pinson called with A-T, and his kicker played to oust Lu in third place.

Hefty Heads-Up Battle

The initial heads-up chip counts to start the 116th hand of the night were:

  • Pinson: 301,100,000
  • Anderson: 120,300,000

Anderson began a slow but steady accumulation of chips until one big hand, wherein Anderson took a 200M-chip pot with a nine-high straight that beat Pinson’s eight-high straight. Pinson tried for a patient comeback and did eventually even the stacks on the 160th hand. Anderson regained the upper hand, so to speak and relegated Pinson to a 100M-chip stack.

Finally, Pinson shoved his last 70M chips with K-Q, which appeared to dominated Anderson’s Q-7. But the board of J-9-7-7-6 delivered those lucky sevens and the win for Anderson.

This is Anderson’s first World Poker Tour Title. He has numerous online poker scores from his time as one of the top-ranked MTT players in the world, and he possesses four WSOP bracelets, two from online series and two from live WSOP events.

Jennifer's poker journey began with the World Poker Tour in the early 2000s, leading her to a prolific freelance writing career by 2006. With nearly two decades of experience, she has become a poker expert, specializing in writing for publications like Poker Player Newspaper, Poker Pages, PokerStars, and Mediarex. Beyond her writing, Jennifer has managed poker news aggregation at PokerScout and undertaken ghostwriting for poker pros and gambling executives. Her preference lies in interviews and opinion pieces, but her in-depth industry knowledge often guides her towards reporting on legislative and legal developments in poker and the broader gambling landscape. Notably, Jennifer is a passionate advocate for women in poker, working to promote gender diversity in a traditionally male-dominated field. Her impact on the poker community extends from her expertise to her advocacy for greater inclusivity.
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