After a ten-month hiatus, the live World Poker Tour Main Tour returned to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida for the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open. After a long day of play and a three-handed deal, Ilyas Muradi took home $605,000, a ticket to the 2021 WPT Tournament of Champions, and his first career WPT title.
For anyone questioning if live poker players were eager to get back in the action, the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open had the answer. Despite the state of the pandemic, playing behind plexiglass barriers, and the requirement to wear masks the tournament’s 1,573-entry field became the third-largest in the WPT’s eighteen-year history. It wasn’t just an outpouring of local players that made their way to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino as players traveled from all parts of the globe to participate in the first WPT Main Tour live event since the conclusion of WPT Rolling Thunder in March 2020.
There were plenty of notable names who made a deep run in the event but fell short of the final table. World Poker Tour champions Sam Panzica (189th, $6,150) and Kevin Eyster (167th, $6,300) made Day 3 as did Athanasios Polychronopoulous (125th, $7,025), Will ‘The Thrill’ Failla (103rd, $7,880), and well-known vlogger Johnnie Moreno (93rd, $8,230). Among those joining them in the money were Jerry Wong (90th, $8,230), Alex Keating (77th, $9,885), and worldwide current #2-ranked online pro from Croatia Ivan ‘zufo16’ Zufic (31st, $23,110).
The final three tables included some of the World Poker Tour’s biggest names including WPT winner Aaron Mermelstein (25th, $23,110), Scott Baumstein (24th, $27,660), WPT Deepstack Champion Justin Liberto (22nd, $27,660), and four-time WPT champion Darren Elias who finished in tenth place and earned $79,455 which brought his career WPT total to just under $3.9 million.
Day four started with the final seven players grinding for two 90-minute levels before reaching the official final table of six. Andy Hwang, the final WPT Champion Club member left in the field, started the day third in chips, however, a few hours into play he found himself grinding a short stack of fewer than 20 big blinds. After a raise from Francis Margaglione in early position with , Hwang three-bet shipped his stack with the . Folded back around to Margaglione, he made the call. The board ran out ensuring that a new WPT champion would be crowned as Hwang exited in seventh place for $115,630.
Roughly twenty minutes later, after an early position raise, Tsz Shing shipped his 22 big blind stack holding from the button. Ronnie Bardah made the call from the small blind with his and the early position raiser folded. The ran clean for the pocket queens and eliminated Brooklyn’s Shing in sixth place for a career-high recorded live cash of $168,990.
At five-handed, Jesse Lonis put in a raise from late position with . After it folded to Bardah in the big blind, Bardah put in a three-bet with the . With the action back on Lonis and 30 big blinds behind, Lonis four-bet shipped with Bardah snap-called. The flop left Lonis looking for one of two outs to save him. The hit the turn and the completed the board and ended Lonis’ tournament in fifth place for $223,895.
Margaglione started the day with the chip lead but his stack slowly dwindled during the day. Eventually, he made his move by raising from the button with only to be shoved on by the big stack of Bardah in the big blind holding . With just over 10 big blinds behind, Margaglione opted to make the call. The flop came giving Bardah top pair and leaving Margaglione looking for runner-runner help. The was of no use to Margaglione who was drawing dead to the river. Margaglione finished in fourth place for $293,510.
During a break, the final three players negotiated a deal for the remaining prize pool. Ilyas Muradi locked up $580,000 as the chip leader and Bardah, sitting in second, agreed to $566,135. Robel Andemichael secured $545,500 and all three agreed to leave $25,000 and a ticket to the WPT Tournament of Champions on the table for the eventual winner.
The three remaining players have agreed to a deal.
Ilyas Muradi – 25,000,000 – $580,000
Ronnie Bardah – 19,400,000 – $546,135
Robel Andemichael – 16,900,000 -$545,500
They will play for $40,000, which includes a $15K seat to #WPTTOC.
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) January 27, 2021
Even though a deal was in place, the pace of play stayed deliberate. After roughly two hours, Andemichael put in a raise on the button with and Bardah pushed his final twelve big blinds in the middle with . The flop gave Bardah the lead, which held through the turn. But the river gave the hand to Andemichael which eliminated Bardah in third place for his agreed-upon career-high score of $566,135.
Heads up play started with both Andemichael and Muradi practically even in chips. Another two hours passed without either player holding a significant lead. Finally, Andemichael moved all-in for his final 15 big blinds with and was called by Muradi holding . The board ran out giving Muradi’s pocket fours the pot and his first WPT title. Andemichael finished as the runner-up, taking home the$545,500 he locked up in the deal.
Ilyas Muradi added the $25,000 to his $580,000 portion of the deal for a total cash score of $605,000 plus a $15K ticket to the Tournament of Champions, and a date to have his name engraved on the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup.
Final Table Payouts
1. Ilyas Muradi – $605,000* + WPT Tournament of Champions seat
2. Robel Andemichael – $545,000*
3. Ronnie Bardah – $566,135*
4. Francis Margaglione – $293,510
5. Jesse Lonis – $223,895
6. Tsz Shing – $168,990