The recent PokerGO Heads-Up Showdown featured 32 of the best poker players on the planet. After three days at the felt, it was Chino Rheem who emerged victorious to claim $400,000 and the title as the end of an important chapter in his chequered poker career was brought to the happiest of conclusions.
Daniel Negreanu is in Pre-WSOP Form
Though he missed the money, Daniel Negreanu came into the PokerGO Tour Heads-Up Showdown with a tough path ahead of him. In the first round, Kid Poker took care of Jared Bleznick on the feature table, building a sizeable lead before finishing off his opponent and progressing to a meeting with Tamon Nakamura.
Nakamura provided a stiff challenge, but an early pot for Negreanu when his pocket tens turned top set against the Japanese player’s inside straight draw and flush draw worked the Canadian to almost level in chips and he would eventually prevail at the feature table. He may have lost to Darren Elias, but Negreanu is warming up for the World Series of Poker nicely.
Elsewhere on Day 1, in the ‘Spades’ section, there were unexpected defeats for Sam Soverel and Shaun Deeb, who slid out after a dramatic and high-quality defeat to long-time rival, Shannon Shorr.
Darren Elias Knows How to Close
The four-time World Poker Tour winner Darren Elias had an excellent run in the event, making it all the way to the final showdown, where he eventually lost out for the runner-up prize of $200,000. It could be argued, however, that Elias’ performance was the strongest in the entire Showdown, with his opponents among some of the best players ever to have looked down at hole cards.
In the opening round, Elias took care of Landon Tice in the first match to conclude, with the final hand seeing Elias’s ace-king beat Tice’s dominated ace and ease the former’s progress. The second round didn’t get any easier for Elias, however, as he faced – and beat – Erik Seidel. The former WSOP Main Event runner-up proved a tricky opponent, but Elias again prevailed, only to face Daniel Negreanu in the next round, with his Round of 16 and quarterfinal opponents having won over $85 million in tournaments between them.
Elias got the better of Negreanu and then took on the impressive Justin Young, who had beaten two of the favorites for the trophy on his way to the semifinals. Now in profit, Elias once again came out on top, making the final when he had worked himself 3:1 up in chips before winning a flip with ace-queen against Young’s pocket threes.
The Big Guns Are Out for Hellmuth
“My opponent gave me the double bird, and was out of line [with] his verbal attacks.”
~ Phil Hellmuth
There was no question about the most dramatic fall-out from the opening round inside the PokerGO Studio at ARIA. Phil Hellmuth was the favorite to progress against Eric Persson in the $25,000 buy-in event. That result didn’t materialize, however, and when Persson won, a disgruntled Hellmuth trudged off complaining of the behaviour of his opponent.
Rough day for me! My opponent gave me the double bird, and was out of line w his verbal attacks, but then, I engaged (I’m sure @DougPolkVids can find a clip making me look bad). I should have been the better man, taken the abuse, and found a way to win our match… #POSITIVITY pic.twitter.com/Dbh6UZYmOO
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) April 22, 2022
While the verbal sparring had been even, Hellmuth perceived Persson’s flipping of the[ ‘double bird’ to be over the line, leading to a small explosion on Poker Twitter. Eventually, however, Hellmuth, ever the bigger man after the event, made a live apology during Persson’s next round victory over Dan Shak.
I sincerely apologized (now) to Eric Persson for my part in our extreme “Verbal Jousting” during yesterdays heads up match. Eric sincerely apologized to me as well, and we shook hands. Eric played well to beat me #POSITIVITY pic.twitter.com/AklVCgJ7W0
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) April 22, 2022
Persson might have triumphed against the Poker Brat and much-fancied Shak, but couldn’t make profit as he lost out to the whirlwind that is Isaac Kempton.
Favorites Can Still Lose to Underdogs
Many of the PokerGO Heads-Up Showdown games went against the favorite pre-match. Ali Imsirovic came into the Showdown on the back of perhaps his most difficult week in the game and exited immediately after being busted by Jake Daniels in the opening round.
Others faced the same fate, with stars of the game such as Alex Foxen losing to Justin Young in the quarterfinals, Scott Seiver falling in the opening round to Isaac Kempton and Jeremy Ausmus losing inside the PokerGO Studio as he became one of Chino Rheem’s many victims on route to the title being decided.
By the time the event reached the semifinal stage, it was one where every player was guaranteed a return of $100,000 on their stake of $25,000. Darren Elias was the only player of the four to have put his action on sale on Pocket Fives, once again making huge profit for investors.
Chino Rheem is on the Redemption Trail
“We’re back on the right track. God willing.” ~ Chino Rheem
Chino Rheem’s victory came with more than a heavy dose of irony in a week overshadowed for many by the cheating allegations that have peppered Twitter all week. Rheem, who openly admitted many of his problems early in his career came down to his reliance on drink or drugs, credited his sponsor and his many supporters in helping him turn his life around.
“We’re back on the right track. God willing, thank God, if I can just stay there,” he said after the final victory against Darren Elias. “Honestly, once I made the money, once I won the first three matches, I was like, ‘whatever happens from here it’s all good.’ Things went my way, and I’ll take it, obviously. I can’t complain at all.”
In achieving some inner peace, Rheem has proved something of a redemption story in the game and during a period in poker where many are being asked to look for the same sort of redemption by acting in good faith in the here and now, Rheem’s win confirms it can be done.
With one of the toughest sets of players to win against, his victory against Darren Elias saw a superb tournament close out in dramatic fashion as four men made the money and in Rheem’s case, win his 14th ranking tournament victory across a rollercoaster poker career.
PokerGO Heads Up Showdown Final Results:
- Chino Rheem – $400,000
- Darren Elias – $200,000
- Isaac Kempton – $100,000
- Justin Young – $100,000