The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 brought the live poker scene to its knees with all of the top live poker events getting cancelled. Now, after more than a year, it’s business as usual for live poker players and fans as some of the world’s biggest poker festivals are finally back, among them is the US Poker Open (USPO).
The 2021 US Poker Open runs from June 3 to June 14 at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. The schedule is jam-packed with 12 high-stakes tournaments, featuring buy-ins of between $10,000 and $50,000. Apart from the huge prizes on offer in each tournament, the series also awards an additional $100,000 to the player who ends up at the top of the leaderboard. He or she will also be crowned as the 2021 US Poker Open champion.
The festival could prove to be a defining moment for a lot of players, especially for two poker greats in Ali Imsirovic and Daniel Negreanu.
Imsirovic Looks To Extend Winning Streak
2021 is shaping up to be a stellar year for Ali Imsirovic. In a span of just three months, the young poker pro managed to capture five high roller titles.
It all began back in February when he won two events at the Aria High Roller Series. He did it again in May, taking down an additional two events, and just over a week ago, he won another event at the DeepStack Championship Poker Series at the Venetian. Across those five victories, he amassed more than $1.3 million in total winnings.
Imsirovic is currently at the top of the PokerGO Tour standings, 200+ points ahead of his nearest rival, American poker pro Sean Perry. The USPO is a great opportunity for Imsirovic to widen that gap. If the Bosnia native maintains his strong performance and continues his hot streak at the USPO, it will increase his chances of clinching the PokerGO Player of the Year title.
Negreanu Seeking Big Break   
Unlike Imsirovic, things have gone the opposite way for Negreanu. The year got off to a bad start for the Canadian poker pro, as he was defeated by Doug Polk in their heads-up grudge match which ran for three months. Negreanu put up a good fight, but he ended up with a massive $1.2 million loss.
As if that wasn’t enough, the GGPoker ambassador is currently on the losing end of his ongoing heads-up battle against Phil Hellmuth. Both players have so far completed two rounds of heads-up action on PokerGO’s High Stakes Duel, both of which were won by Hellmuth. Negreanu was a strong favorite to win the match, but Hellmuth managed to shatter all expectations. The Canadian poker pro is currently behind by $150K.
Both are set to face each other again for Round 3, which will take place on June 23. Negreanu would need to pay another $200K for that upcoming bout. Whether or not the GGPoker ambassador will be able to redeem himself still remains to be seen.
For now though, he can shift his attention towards the USPO which could give him a big break. As we all know, Negreanu hasn’t won any major title over the past few years. His latest victory took place in 2015, when he won Shark Cage Season 2 for $966,000. His quest for a seventh WSOP bracelet has been a failed pursuit. He last won a WSOP event eight years ago.
Negreanu has already established a legacy. As a Poker Hall of Famer with multiple titles and more than $42 million in live tournament earnings, the Canadian poker pro has nothing left to prove.
Negreanu will always be considered one of the best poker players of all time, and definitely among the greatest ambassadors of the game, but if he really wants to prove himself, the USPO is offering him a huge chance. He doesn’t necessarily have to win a title; he just needs to put on a strong performance at the series. Can he do it? We will have to wait and see.