Veerab Zakarian Wins Long-Delayed WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open

Veerab Zakarian won the World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Poker Open on Sunday night for $674,840. (WPT photo)

After 471 days of waiting, the six players who made the final table of the World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Poker Open in January 2020 finally got the opportunity to play for the title and mid-six-figure payday on Sunday night.

Veerab Zakarian clearly didn’t mind the wait.

Originally scheduled to be played in April 2020 in Las Vegas, the final table was one of three TV final tables postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The final six players, who last sat together on January 31, 2020 gathered at the PokerGO Studio on Sunday night and through seven hours of play, Zakarian eliminated four of his final five opponents to grab his first WPT title and nearly $675,000.

“Waiting this long, you didn’t know what to expect. You don’t know, you keep waiting for it,” Zakarian said after the tournament ended. “Most people, after the pandemic, they didn’t have anything to look forward to so I was glad to have something to look forward to.”

After all of the time waiting to play, Andrew Hanna only got to see 24 hands at the final table before his dream of winning his first career WPT title came to a sudden halt. Action folded to Hanna in the cutoff and he shipped his last 2,325,000 into the middle with 2c2d. Zakarian looked down at ThTs in the small blind and called. The flop came JcTc3h to give Zakarian middle set and leave Hanna drawing incredibly thin. The Js turn gave Zakarian a full house and as the 9h completed the board, Hanna was officially eliminated in sixth place.

Ten hands later, another all in preflop situation sent another player to the rail. Nathan Russler opened to 300,000 from UTG with KdQc before James Anderson made it 875,000 from Russler’s immediate left with KcKh. Bin Weng then moved all in for 5,550,000 with 9c9s. Russler threw his cards into the muck before Russler called. The KsJd8d flop gave Anderson top set. The 8h improved his hand to a full house and Weng suffered an unfortunate needle when the 9d river gave him a smaller full house as he was eliminated in fifth.

When the six players returned to play, Russler was by far the shortest stack. As Weng and Hanne went home in sixth and fifth place respectively, Russler laddered up. Any hope he had of getting any further went away just 14 hands after Weng busted. Zakarian raised to 400,000 with QcQh before Russler moved all in for 3,675,000 with KcJc and Zakarian called instantly. The KhQs6s flop gave Russler top pair but Zakarian improved to middle set. The 2h turn and As completed the board and Russler was out in fourth place.

Brian Altman had already locked up WPT Player of the Year honors before the final table even began. He finished tenth at the Legends of Poker in September 2019, third at the WPT Maryland at Live! Casino in October 2019, and won the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open in January 2020. His quest for a second win of the season, and third of his career, was derailed by Zakarian’s quest for his first. Altman raised to 400,000 with Ac3c and Zakarian defended his big blind with 4h2c. The flop came Qd5h3h and both players checked. The As turn improved both players’ hands and set Altman up for departure. Zakarian check-called Altman’s bet of 1,000,000 and then checked again when the 9d completed the board. Altman fired out a bet of 2,800,000 and Zakarian went into the tank. After burning one of his time bank cards, Zakarian moved all in for 21,225,000. That sent Altman into an even longer tank. He eventually called off his last 1,250,000 and was shown the bad news that resulted in a third place finish.

All told, Altman cashed for $1,011,103 during the season on his way to earning WPT POY.

Heads-up play began with the two players who started the final with the biggest stacks still in contention for the $678,840 first place prize. Zakarian led Anderson 28,375,000 – 23,125,000 and with more than 250 big blinds in play, the heads-up finale went longer than rest of the final table. It took nearly three hours before the 80th hand of heads up play settled things but the key hand came five hands earlier.

Anderson opened to 1,200,000 with Kh5c and Zakarian clicked back with a raise to 4,500,000 with 6c6h. Anderson moved all in for 25,500,000 and Zakarian instantly called all-in. The Jc9h3s2s6s runout failed to improve Anderson and Zakarian made an unnecessary set on the river to scoop the 51,400,000 pot. Anderson was left with just 100,000 chips – just 1/6 of the big blind ante.

Over the next five hands, Anderson built his stack up to 2,600,000 before seeing his luck run out with Jh4d against Zakarian’s Tc5d on a 8c6h4c7s3s runout to give Zakarian the title and $674,840 first place score.

Final Table Payouts

  1. Veerab Zakarian – $674,840
  2. James Anderson – $449,904
  3. Brian Altman – $333,012
  4. Nathan Russler – $248,913
  5. Bin Weng – $187,900
  6. Andrew Hanna – $143,264