They call it the Main Event for a reason, as it tends to stand tall even in the middle of the World Series of Poker, which is filled with amazing tournaments. And it tends to stand tall over the entire game of poker, as it is the one crown jewel that every poker player would love to have in their trophy case when all is said and done.
The 2021 version of the World Series of Poker Main Event concluded this past week. A new champion was crowned in Germany’s Koray Aldemir, a high-roller specialist who controlled the field for much of the final few days. He did it over a field of mostly unknowns (to casual fans anyway), and most of the past champions had long bowed out before the final table was reached.
Yet even though Aldemir was the leader for most of the last few days of Main Event play, it was by no means a cakewalk. Even though his advantage seemed insurmountable at times, he actually had to claw his way back from a deficit on the final day. The luck certainly went his way for much of the Main Event, but he showed his guts and skill when it came down to the nitty gritty.
The Hand of the Main Event
Part of the drama of the Main Event, and for poker in general, is how an inferior play on a hand could be rewarded with a lucky draw, hugely changing the fortunes of the players involved. Such a hand went down between Joshua Remito and Ozgur Secilmis, each of whom made the final table and eventually were among the last five players standing.
But the flop came out with two of the three cards being 10s, giving Remitio a set. That would eventually win out, and Secilmis, who had close to an 80 percent advantage going into the flop, took a massive hit. He ended up finishing fifth, while Remitio, boosted by the big win, sped past Secilmis on his way to fourth.
The Plucky Long Shot
While Aldemir would eventually prevail, he was taken to the absolute hilt by George Holmes, who earned the nickname “Home Game Hero” for his unlikely path to the final table. Holmes did cash two years ago in the Main Event. But he has no other cashed in major tournaments, mainly because he doesn’t try.
Instead, he plays with friends in a home game back where he lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Although he again put himself into cashing position in this year’s Main Event, it looked like he would be bowing out again in the middle of the pack. At one point, a loss in a big hand left him perilously close to going out once the big blind came around to him.
But playing with a savvy that belied his relative lack of experience on this stage, Holmes clawed his way back. At the final table, he showed a deft touch with bluffs. And in the end, it was just Holmes and Aldemir who were left standing to go for the winner’s prize of over $8 million.
Once Great Britain’s Jack Oliver went down to Holmes on an extremely tight race-type hand, there were only two remaining. And at that point, Aldemir still had the hammer. But then, for the first time in several days, his impenetrable lead started to crack behind the assault of the persistent Holmes.
Instead of getting tentative, Aldemir started firing off aggressive bets when the cards were in his favor, sending the challenger reeling. Aldemir took the lead back, although not with a huge advantage. The chip separation was only about 11 million when a final hand that will go down in the books took place.
The Last Hand
Holmes was dealt a king-queen off-suited, while Aldemir came out with the seven-ten of diamonds. Holmes raised slightly and Aldemir called to see the flop, which proved to be a wise move when another ten and seven came on the board. He had flopped two pair, and Aldemir’s next move was the key to the hand.
He bet just enough to show strength but not so much that he scared away Holmes, who likely looked on the board and saw cards that didn’t look too harmful. On the turn, Holmes saw a king and probably thought he was home free with top pair. Aldemir bet even heavier this time around and Holmes called again.
When a nine of clubs came on the river, Aldemir set the trap by checking. Holmes went all in and Aldemir quickly called to become the 2021 World Series of Poker Main Event champion. He walked away with the $8 million first prize, while Holmes had to “settle” for $4.3 million in what was a tremendous return to live action for poker’s signature event.
Hellmuth Breaks the Record
While he didn’t make it very far in the Main Event, Phil Hellmuth’s quick exit opened the door for him to do even more damage in some other events this past week. Hellmuth came into the week having reached five final tables while also having won his second bracelet. But he had much more in store for us in the past seven days.
That tied him for An Tran’s record in 1992. All he needed was one more appearance in a final table to break that record. And he got that chance in a star-studded, high-roller event that concluded late this week in what will go down as one of the more memorable battles in WSOP 2021.
The Brat, The Kid, and The Upstart
Not only did Hellmuth make the final table of the $50,000 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller, but he found himself in some heady company. Hellmuth’s main foe for 2021 WSOP Player of the Year, Josh Arieh, was there. Arieh, with two bracelet wins this year, was looking to go for three.
Also making his way to the final was none other than Daniel Negreanu. Kid Poker has been relatively quiet in this year’s WSOP, but he came in strong to this final table. Poker fans will remember that the Brat (Hellmuth) recently swept the Kid (Negreanu) in a High Stakes Poker Texas Hold’em battle.
With those two big names, along with Arieh, many were projecting one of those guys to come out on top. But it was Jeremy Ausmus, no slouch at all with two WSOP bracelets in the past, who won it all for a payout of over $1.1 million. Hellmuth finished second, Negreanu was third, and Arieh ended up seventh.
WSOP on the Move
While 2021’s World Series of Poker was making headlines with practically every new event, people were looking ahead to 2022 as well. It wasn’t a well-kept secret that the event was probably in its last year at the Rio. We know now where the WSOP is headed for future editions, starting with next year.
The big news is that the WSOP will now be on the legendary Las Vegas Strip. Bally’s and Paris will be the hosts, both of which are part of the Caesars Entertainment family of casinos and hotels. In addition, the WSOP will be moving back to its traditional home starting place in the spring, with the schedule tentatively being set from May 31 to July 19, 2022.
In addition, actor Vince Vaughn will be taking over as the Master of Ceremonies. That seems like about as good a choice as any, as the fast-talking actor has long been a poker aficionado and friend of the game. Having the glitz and glamour of the Strip as a backdrop should be an ideal setting for the stars of the game to show their stuff.
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