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If the season concluding $1 million Championship Freeroll did anything for players on the high roller PokerGO Tour circuit, it told them that they needed to be in the Top 40 players in 2024. The rewards for the last 12 months were obvious, as German player Daniel Smiljkovic won the $500,000 top prize just last week, crowned the winner of a tournament he didn’t even pay to enter. Qualifying points are everything for players and the PGT Kick Off – the first tournament series which qualifies for PGT Points – saw some of the best in the world hoping to get their year off to the strongest start possible.
The opening event of the series saw a terrific field of 89 players pay the $5,000 buy-in and take their seats. Only 13 players were paid, including a seven strong final table. With Coleman holding a marginal lead overnight from British-born and Vegas-based legend Stephen Chidwick, Coleman opened the eliminations by busting the Russian player Viktor Ustimov.
Next to go was Clemen Deng in sixth before another Russian, Nikita Kalinin, lost his stack in fifth place. American superstar Jeremy Ausmus busted in fourth his ace-eight lost to Coleman’s ace-ten. Coleman now had a massive lead, with 60% of the chips in play and just two players between him and victory. Soon, that was only one as Chidwick’s king-ten lost to Aram Zobian’s ace-queen, cashing for $55,625.
Heads-up, Zobian and Coleman took turns having the chip lead but eventually Coleman doubled up with another dominating ace. Zobian, now behind, shoved with queen-eight, but once again he was dominated, Coleman’s queen-nine proving to be the winning hand when a board of A-J-6-T-7 proclaimed Coleman the winner of the opening event.
The second event of the PGT Kick Off series saw a familiar name at the top of the payouts, as Dylan Weisman claimed his latest PGT title. The Mixed Games series winner in the past won his first No Limit Hold’em title on the tour as he defeated Russian player Sergei Kislinskii heads-up for the top prize of $121,500.
A total field of 90 players – the biggest of the series in pure entrant-terms – saw players such as Joao Simao and Jeremy Ausmus both cash outside the final table of seven players. After Sean Winter bubbled the final table in eighth place, Victoria Livschitz busted in seventh place for $18,000 after Jeremy Becker won a coinflip when his pocket nines held against Livschitz’s ace-ten.
After Jesse Lonis busted in sixth place for $22,500, David Coleman busted in fifth place for $31,500 for his second score in two events. He wasn’t able to win this time, however, and was followed from the felt by two ore high-scoring Americans in Matthew McEwan (4th for $40,500) and Jeremy Becker (3rd for $56,250) as Weisman cut through the short-handed field.
With a huge lead of 10-to-1 in chips, Weisman didn’t take long to finish off Kislinskii, the Russian all-in with king-three, which was unlucky to be dominated and beaten by Weisman’s king-four. It’s a chop half of the time, but that never looked like happening after a dramatic flop of 4-4-2 landed. Both men were on their feet after the three of hearts landed on the turn and the nine of spades closed out the tournament.
It’s hard to think of too many more popular players than Justin Young. Blessed with the kind of ready with that comedians need ghost writers for, Young showed his experience as he took home the top prize of $105,850 at Coleman’s expense as the Event #1 winner finished as runner-up, taking a big lead on the PGT 2024 Leaderboard as a result.
Playing the third of the first four events that cost $5,000 to play were 73 entrants. Only 11 players were paid this time, with Dylan Weisman (10th for $10,950) making consecutive money finishes. With Dylan Linde (8th for $14,600) and Ryan Riess (7th for $14,600) just missing out on deep runs, Young began his ascent to the top of the payouts when he ousted Dylan DeStefano in fourth place.
With three remaining, it took just one sensational hand to end the entire event. Young got it in pre-flop with the biggest stack and pocket eights. Kristen Foxen called off her stack with pocket queens and Coleman – second in chips at the time – called his stack off with pocket kings. A flop of T-8-6 sprung Young into the lead in the hand and after no paint on turn and river, he had the title and a six-figure top prize. Foxen, all-in and at risk with pocket queens, hadn’t even made the heads-up battle… this time.
The fourth event saw 41 players enter the fray, with six players paid. Another cash for Victoria Livschitz came in sixth place for $12,300. Losing to the ever-present David Coleman at his fourth final table, Livschitz lost with the dominating hand, her ace-jack falling to Coleman’s ace-three when a board of Q-8-3-9-2 landed to send her to the rail with her min-cash.
Out in fifth was Justin Bonomo, who won $16,400 for his efforts when his pocket queens started and ended the day behind Jeremy Becker’s pocket kings. Becker then busted Nikita Kalinin in fourth for $22,550 before Becker himself was busted in third place for $30,750.
When just two players remained, David Coleman held a strong lead, holding around 70% of the chips in play. Russian player Viktor Ustimov was another quality heads-up opponent, but in the key battles between American and Russian players in the series, the home crowd got the better of their enemies, and sure enough, Coleman’s king-three won against Ustimov’s ace-king when a three landed on the flop and nothing came to spike his tyres on another race to the finish line in first place.
“My spidey senses say this isn’t good for me.”
The final event of the PGT Kick Off series saw players put up a $10,000 entry fee, double the cost of the buy-in in the first four events. Heading out before the money this time were Event #2 winner Dylan Weisman (10th) and bubble boy Jim Collopy. Battling over the prizepool of $500,000 were the final eight, led by Daniel Negreanu with 2.5 million chips, with Aram Zobian (1.63m) and Sam Laskowitz (1.49m) his closest rivals.
Late on the penultimate day, Dylan Linde (8th for $20,000) and Eric Baldwin (7th for $20,000) busted, as the remaining half dozen players reconvened the next day to play down to a winner and the $165,000 top prize. The player who busted in sixth place was Japanese professional Masashi Oya, who began with just a handful of blinds and lost with king-ten to Alex Foxen’s ace-five when a five landed to send him home with $30,000.
One of the most entertaining clashes was between two players who woke up together as the day began, Kristen and Alex Foxen. One bet from the latter on the river saw Kristen toss her cards away… in her husband’s direction.
“It feels like you’re taunting me,” he laughed, and Kristen joined in. Alex busted soon after, cashing for $40,000 when his pocket aces were unlucky to fall when the chips were committed pre-flop… against Kristen’s pocket queens. A board of Q-5-4-2-8 saw Alex depart, and in busting her other half, Kristen rocketed to the top of the leaderboard along with Negreanu.
Aram Zobian departed in fourth for $50,000, before Sam Laskowitz lost to Kristen Foxen too, busting in third place for $70,000. Two Canadians remained but only one could win. With the stacks fairly even, a board of K-T-3-Q-8 saw Foxen bet 1 million chips. Negreanu, holding king-nine, wasn’t feeling confident.
“My spidey senses say this isn’t good for me,” he said. “[But] if I fold this, they’ll laugh at me. Man, I’m so dead. How can I be dead, though?”
Eventually, Negreanu made the call but although he had the right instinct when talking through the hand, he couldn’t find the right fold, which was shown to him when Foxen turned over king-three for a flopped two pair. Losing in the final hand with king-nine again, Negreanu saw Foxen’s jack-six hit a jack on the flop to win the top prize of $165,000.
After the battle Negreanu congratulated Foxen on X, formerly known as Twitter. Well, sort of.
Not too bad… “for a girl”😂😂😂All seriousness, Kristen is tough as nails and deserved the win, she played a great final table and I enjoyed the fun hands we had in the heads up matchHope those of you that tuned in enjoyed the show https://t.co/B9NCoYciwA— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) January 17, 2024
Not too bad… “for a girl”
All seriousness, Kristen is tough as nails and deserved the win, she played a great final table and I enjoyed the fun hands we had in the heads up match
Hope those of you that tuned in enjoyed the show https://t.co/B9NCoYciwA
— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) January 17, 2024
Five PGT Kick Off events produced four winners, with David Coleman taking two of the titles on offer. That means that Coleman has a strong lead over the field, with double the PGT Points of everyone on the Top 10 Leaderboard with only Foxen remotely close to the America at the top of the leaderboard.
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