Koray Aldemir, the 31-year-old professional tournament grinder from Germany, outlasted the field of 6,550 runners in the 2021 World Series of Poker Main Event to win his first career gold bracelet, the enormous $8 million first-place prize, and the title of World Champion.
For the better part of three days, Aldemir was in control of the final table. He finished Day 7 with a healthy chip lead and only extended it during the first day of the final table as the final nine played down to three-handed. It wasn’t until heads-up play against eventual runner-up George Holmes that he lost the lead for the very first time. But after a back-and-forth battle with Holmes, it was Aldemir who relied on his extensive experience in high-pressure spots to make a tough call to walk away as the World Champion.
“It means a lot as you can tell,” an emotional Aldemir said immediately after his win. “It’s the dream of every poker player. I don’t know what to say, it feels great.”
Although he was obviously thrilled to celebrate the win, Aldemir was quick to praise Holmes in the aftermath.
“George was so tough to play against, he played really, really well so I’m very happy that I could beat him,” Aldemir said. “It was an incredibly stressful week for all of us, I think. I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes, everybody did probably, but I just tried to stay calm and play as good as possible.”
As the runner-up, Holmes earned his fair share of fans over the course of his time in the Main Event with fearless plays and his “home game hero” persona.
“Unbelievable,” George Holmes said of his runner-up finish. “I still can’t put it into words. Maybe a week from now I’ll be able to tell you how I feel. It’s been a grueling week-and-a-half and [Koray Aldemir] was amazing, tough all night. That’s about it.”
The final table action started on Monday evening and it was just five hands into play before the first elimination of the night took place.
With the blinds at 400,000/800,000 (800,000 ante), Jack Oliver opened to 1.6m holding the and George Holmes called from the small blind. Then Chase Bianchi three-bet jammed his final 9.7m in from the big blind with his . Oliver, four-bet shipped forcing Holmes to fold and the cards were on their backs. The board ran out [8d shipping the pot to Oliver and sending Bianchi home in ninth place for an even $1 million.
The very next hand, PocketFiver Jareth East open-shipped his final eight big blinds holding . This time Holmes wouldn’t fold as he three-bet shipped his stack with his . Holmes spikes a set on the flop and it held through the turn and river. East was eliminated in eighth place for $1.1 million.
The next bust out will be one that will be discussed for quite some time. Nearly two hours after East departed, a clash between the two of the biggest stacks at the table got set the poker world abuzz. The blinds climbed to 500,000/1,000,000 (1,000,000 ante) and Alejandro ‘Papo MC’ Lococo made it 2,000,000 to go with . From the cutoff, Aldemir made it 5,600,000 to go with his and Lococo called. The flop came giving Aldermir a flopped full house. Aldemir fired 3,900,000 on the flop and Lococo made the call with his tens. The hit the turn and Lococo added a straight draw to his outs. Lococo checked it over to Aldemir who continued to fire, this time for 11,400,000 and again Lococo called. The completed the board and after Lococo checked for the third time, Aldermir shipped enough to put Lococo all-in for his remaining 46 big blinds. In an instant, Lococo called it off and was shown the winner. Aldemir soared to more than 220 million in chips and Lococo exited in seventh place for $1,225,000.
Aldemir went back to work in the next level. After a short break, the blinds were at 600,000/1,200,000 (1,200,000 ante) and Day 6 chip leader Hye Park was down to under 20 big blinds. When it folded to Park in the small blind, he completed holding and was quickly raised by Aldemir in the big blind to 3,800,000 with his . Park then three-bet shipped for just over 20,000,000 and Aldemir quickly called putting Park at risk. The flop came keeping Park in the lead. But the on the turn, flipped the script. When the came on the river, Park was saying his goodbye, eliminated in sixth place for $1,400,000.
Ozgur Secilmis had a wild ride in the Main Event, from his instant classic quads-over-quads hand right before the money bubble to nearly being eliminated on multiple occasions only to hit the very card he needed to stay alive. It looked like he was on the verge of another dramatic comeback when he got his in against the of Joshua Remitio, but after the board ran out , Secilmis was on the short stack instead of the ladder up. Just a few hands after that clash, Secilmis found himself all-in preflop with against Aldemir’s . He showed some life after the flop. But the heart draw was taken away with the on the turn. It was all over when the hit the river and the jovial Secilmis’ run ended with a fifth-place payday of $1,800,000.
Play was supposed to end for the night with four players remaining, but WSOP officials insisted that the four complete the level. After a short break it was determined that the four would play on. In the extra time, with the blinds at 800,000/1,600,000 (1,600,000 ante) a huge hand took place. Oliver moved all in from the cutoff holding the for 20,500,000. Remitio reshoved from the small blind for just over 27,000,000 with his . Then Aldemir woke up with and, covering the table, also moved all-in with the opportunity for a double knockout. The flop came giving Oliver middle pair and an open-ended straight draw. Remito held the same straight draw and an overcard while Aldemir kept the lead with his pocket queens. The turn, added a flush draw for Oliver which came in on the river. Oliver tripled up, but the river gave Remitio a straight so he was left with a short stack.
The very next hand, Oliver took Remitio out when they got their stacks all-in preflop. Remitio held and Oliver had him covered with his . The board ran out ending Remitio’s tournament in fourth place for $2,300,000 and it ended play for the rest of the night.
The final three players returned the next afternoon to determine a winner with Aldemir holding a massive chip lead. The three players finished off the level from the night before, plus another two hours after which Oliver has slipped to just under 20 big blinds.
The end for Oliver came just a few hands after the first break when, with the blinds at 1,000,000/2,000,000 (2,000,000 ante), he open-shipped his final 35,700,000 holding from the small blind and Holmes opted for a call with his . The flop came giving Oliver top pair, but leaving Holmes with two overs and a backdoor flush draw. When the came on the turn, Holmes improved to top pair and left Oliver looking for help to survive. However, the river was the and Oliver’s dream of being the first Main Event champion from the UK came to an end in third place for a massive $3,000,000 payday.
“I can’t complain can I?” Oliver said in his exit interview. “There are six thousand something other people that didn’t make it this far so what have I got to complain about? I think I played well and that kind of all that matters really. That’s all you can do in this game.”
At the start of heads-up play, Aldemir held a two-to-one chip advantage over Holmes. But it wasn’t long before Holmes closed the gap and took over the chip lead. After that, it was hours of back-and-forth play with each player taking turns seizing control of the chip lead.
With the blinds at 1,200,000/2,400,000 (2,400,000 ante) and Aldemir with a slim lead, Holmes opened to 6,000,000 off his 94 million chip stack with the . Aldemir made the call and the pair took a flop of . Aldemir checked and Holmes slid out another 6,000,000. Aldemir check-raised to 19,000,000 and, after a moment, Holmes made the call. The hit the turn and Aldemir put out 36,500,000 and, now having top pair, Holmes again called. The river came the and Aldemir checked it over to Holmes who moved in for the remainder of this stack.
Aldemir spent roughly three minutes in the tank before deciding to call for it all. As Holmes turned over top pair, Aldemir showed down his two pair, and just like that it was all over. An emotional Koray Aldemir ran to celebrate with his rail as the new WSOP Main Event World Champion and winner of the $8 million first-place prize. Aldemir returned to shake hands with George Holmes whose incredible run fell just one spot short, finishing as the runner-up for $4,300,000.
2021 WSOP Main Event Final Table Results
Koray Aldemir – $8,000,000
George Holmes – $4,300,000
Jack Oliver – $3,000,000
Joshua Remitio – $2,300,000
Ozgur Secilmis – $1,800,000
Hye Park – $1,400,000
Alejandro Lococo – $1,225,000
Jareth East – $1,100,000
Chase Bianchi – $1,000,000