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[caption width="640"] James Mackey won his first World Poker Tour title in Choctaw, Oklahoma (Photo courtesy Joe Giron/WPT)[/caption] Just over nine years ago James Mackey joined the rare group of 21-year-old players to win a WSOP bracelet. On Tuesday night in Choctaw, Oklahoma, he joined another exclusive group when he won the World Poker Tour Choctaw event, earning $666,758 in the process. Mackey began the final table third in chips but thanks to an early double-up, found himself in the driver’s seat for most of the night. Matthew Smith came into the final table with the shortest stack and barely made through the first hour of play before busting. Benjamin Zamani opened to 350,000, Jack Duong called from the cutoff before Smith moved all in for 1,725,000. Zamani folded but Duong called and tabled [poker card="kc"][poker card="ks"] while Smith showed [poker card="9c"][poker card="9s"]. The [poker card="7c"][poker card="5d"][poker card="4d"] flop offered Smith no relief and after the [poker card="3h"] turn and [poker card="8d"] river he was out in sixth place. Duong’s run didn’t last much longer after a big clash with Mackey. Action folded to Duong in the small blind and he raised to 400,000 and Mackey defended his big blind. After the [poker card="kc"][poker card="5d"][poker card="4d"] flop Duong bet 425,000 and Mackey raised to 900,000. Duong moved all in for 3,555,000 total and Mackey called all in. Duong tabled [poker card="ad"][poker card="jd"] for the nut flush draw and Mackey showed [poker card="ks"][poker card="jc"] for top pair. The [poker card="6s"] turn and [poker card="4h"] river both missed Duong and he was left with just 275,000 while Mackey doubled-up. Duong was eliminated on the next hand by Craig Varnell. Varnell claimed another victim just an hour later when he opened to 450,000 from the button and then called Bastian Fischer’s small blind shove for 3,500,000. Varnell showed [poker card="qh"][poker card="qs"] which put him ahead of Fischer, who showed [poker card="ad"][poker card="8c"]. The board ran out [poker card="kc"][poker card="6d"][poker card="2d"][poker card="8s"][poker card="tc"] to eliminate Fischer in fourth and send Varnell back into the chip lead. His spot at the top of the chip counts didn’t even last a full level though and Varnell found himself on the outside looking in when heads-up play began. Varnell’s fate was sealed in an all in preflop confrontation with Mackey. After a raised to 600,000 from Mackey, Varnell made it 1,825,000. Mackey announced he was all in and Varnell called all in for just under 9,000,000. Mackey showed [poker card="9d"][poker card="9s"] and Varnell was behind with [poker card="ac"][poker card="7s"] The [poker card="kc"][poker card="8s"][poker card="6s"] flop didn’t help Varnell and neither did the [poker card="jh"] turn or [poker card="2s"] river and the former WPT500 champ was out in third place. That hand propelled Mackey into a better than 3-1 chip lead over Zamani when heads-up play began. It took 37 hands of play over less than an hour for Mackey to emerge victorious. On the final hand of the night Zamani limped fore 300,000 before Mackey raised to 1,000,000. Zamani responded by putting his entire stack of 7,400,000 at risk and Mackey called. Zamani tabled [poker card="5c"][poker card="5h"] but found himself behind the [poker card="8d"][poker card="8h"] of Mackey. The [poker card="8s"][poker card="7s"][poker card="6s"] flop gave Zamani more outs for a win, but neither the [poker card="js"] turn or [poker card="6h"] river were of any help for Zamani and he was out in second place. The win pushed Mackey’s lifetime earnings to $3,575,959 and the $666,758 first place payout is the second largest of his career behind only the $730,740 he earned for winning his WSOP bracelet. The closest he had come to winning a WPT prior to this was a third place finish at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown in April 2014. He’s also won $3,874,095 online and won a PocketFives Triple Crown in 2006. Final Table Payouts James Mackey - $666,758 Benjamin Zamani - $412,234 Craig Varnell - $306,346 Bastian Fischer - $230,300 Jack Duong - $175,122 Matthew Smith - $134,720
[caption width="640"] The World Poker Tour, with Mike Sexton, Lynn Gilmartin and Vince van Patten will be on FOX Sports networks through Season XIX.[/caption] Fans of the World Poker Tour are going to be happy to learn that FOX Sports and the tour have come to terms on a deal that will see FOX Sports continue to be the broadcast home of the WPT for the next five years. The extension means that FOX Sports will broadcast WPT events through Season XIX. "This unprecedented, five-year deal with FOX Sports elevates WPT into an elite and exclusive group of shows that have aired on television for nineteen seasons," said Adam Pliska, WPT President and CEO. The WPT debuted on the Travel Channel in 2003 and moved to Fox Sports fro Season VII in 2008. Since then it has become a staple of FOX programming, averaging more than 900,000 viewers per week. "WPT remains a highly rated, regularly scheduled program on FOX Sports Regional Networks, and it's a key part of our primetime lineup each Sunday," said Josh Oakley, Executive Director, Acquisitions and Programming, FOX Sports. "WPT is the perfect complement to our other sports programming, including MLB, NBA, NHL, and college football and basketball. We are excited to have this partnership through 2021." In 2015 the WPT broke their own record when Episode 22, the final table of WPT Fallsview won by Anthony Zinno, drew 1.6 million viewers to become the most-watched episode in tour history. As part of the new agreement, Fox Sports Regional Networks will air two WPT marathons each season with the first coming on Labor Day. "This announcement is great for fans of the WPT and provides extensive, guaranteed exposure for our mainstream sponsors, including Hublot, Monster Headphones, Royal Caribbean International, and FIAT," said Pliska. "We are proud of our new deal with FOX Sports, and we thank the network for its continued support and promotion of our content across its television and digital platforms." World Poker Tour mainstays Mike Sexton, Vince van Patten, Lynn Gilmartin and Tony Dunst will continue to be a part of the broadcast. Season XV began two weeks when James Mackey beat Benjamin Zamani to win WPT Choctaw. The World Poker Tour is broadcast each Sunday night on FOX Sports Regional Networks.
[caption width="640"] The World Poker Tour prepares to trek to Choctaw to start the US portion of Season XVI. (WPT photo)[/caption] The World Poker Tour’s new season gets into full swing this week when it returns to Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, OK. This is the third time the WPT has made its way to Choctaw and is the only stop in the Midwest in Season XVI. In 2015 and 2016, the fields reached the 1,000 player mark and expectations are similar for 2017. Set about 90 miles north of Dallas, TX, Choctaw has been a poker hotbed for the entire decade. The World Series of Poker Circuitrecently added a second stop there for the upcoming season while other tours including Poker Night in America and Card Player have made stops in years past. Inside of the Choctaw Grand Theater sits one of the best environments to play poker in the entire country where over 100 tables sit with the banners of previous Choctaw Main Event winners swinging from the rafters. The fields at Choctaw are consistently in the four-figures not only because of the large overall demand for poker, but also the satellites run. For any players looking for as many opportunities to qualify for less than the $3,700 buy in and play a WPT event, Choctaw is the place to do it. The Choctaw WPT stop offers the familiar price point of $3,700 and has one starting flight available on Friday, August 4 and Saturday, August 5. The $2,000,000 guaranteed event includes unlimited re-entry and players have the option to register as late as the start of Day 2 on Sunday, August 6. As with last year, all levels for the four days are 60-minutes up until heads up play, where they go to 30 minutes. The tournament is scheduled to take place over the course of four days with the six-handed final table being filmed for television on Day 4. This event is also the first use of the Action Clock in Season XVI following an announcement made by WPT last week of its implementation across all Main Tour stops for this season. Choctaw has been the setting for top-heavy fields at the final table in both years of the WPT event. In 2015, Jason Brin defeated the likes of Andy Hwang, Jake Schindler, and three-time WPT Champion Darren Elias. Last year, James Mackey beat eventual WPT Season XV Player of the Year Ben Zamani heads up to win his first WPT title while also conquering Craig Varnell and Jack Duong, who were among the final six. After a long summer in Las Vegas, most of the professional ranks have had time in the last two weeks to recharge themselves for a busy stretch of upcoming events with the first leg of that trip coming at Choctaw. WPT fields are always tough to conquer and Choctaw will be a great test for those hoping to start the new season off on the right foot.
With the successful season-opening WPT Gardens Poker Festival in their rearview mirror, the World Poker Tour rolls into Oklahoma for WPT Choctaw. Taking place from August 3-7 at the Choctaw Casino & Resort, it’s the fourth year in a row that the WPT has traveled to the Sooner State as a part of their main tour. The Main Event The 5-day Main Event is a $3500 + $200 buy-in, the same as it has been in years past. This year, it comes with a $1 million guaranteed prize pool, which happens to be the lowest guarantee on the Main Tour. But take note, unless something goes drastically wrong, that guarantee is merely a marketing tool. In the three previous years, WPT Choctaw has never had a prize pool less than $3 million. Every player to make ever make a WPT Choctaw six-handed final table have earned themselves a six-figure payday. Even though attendance for this event has been drifting slightly lower year-over-year, with 2017’s field dropping below 1,000 runners for the first time since they started holding it, they are still very likely to see a multi-million dollar prize pool. To get a piece of that prize pool players can choose from two starting flights. The first flight kicks off at 12:00 pm CT on Friday, August 3 and the second the next day at the same time. This tournament is unlimited re-entry and players can play both flights and fire away as many times as they need to. The catch is, this is not a best stack forward tournament so participants that bag at the end go Day 1A but would rather take a shot the next day would need to forfeit their stack. As players have come to expect from the WPT, the structure is deep. Players start with 40,000 in chips (400bb) and 60-minute levels. New To Choctaw While the buy-in and structure may be familiar to those who have played in the past there are a couple new wrinkles to enhance the Oklahoman experience. The wildly popular big blind ante format is in play. The big blind pays the antes for the entire table, helping speed up the rate of play and taking a little bit of the burden off the dealer. Additionally, once the tournament is one table out of the money a 30-second shot clock will be adopted. Players have 30 seconds to act on their hand, with four "time extension" chips that can be used for those tough spots. Once a player is out of time extension chips and the clock runs out, if the player has not declared an action they will be forced to check their hand, or, if facing a bet, fold. A Look Back Choctaw has been an early-season stop on the WPT since Season 14. In its first year, 1,175 runners helped create a prize pool of nearly $4 million. Jason Brin won it all and walked with $682,975 for a career-high cash. Brin’s final table featured some of poker’s top talent including Andy Hwang, WPT Garden's runner-up Jake Schindler, WSOP 2018 Final Tablist Alex Lynskey and 4-time WPT Champion Darren Elias. In Season 15, poker pro James Mackey took the Choctaw title for his first WPT victory. The $666,758 was second largest payday of his esteemed career helping him to $4.1 million in lifetime earnings. Then, just last year, it was the recreational player from Austin, Texas Jay Lee who won $593,173 for just his third career recorded cash. Are You Qualified? For those looking to take a shot at getting into the Main Event for the minimum, Choctaw offers plenty of opportunities to satellite into the Championship Event. Beginning on July 28, there are $100 Super Satellites into any of the $300 tournaments. Then on starting on Tuesday, July 31 the casino offers as many as 15 opportunities for players to win a seat into the $3500 + $200 Main Event. Most are of the Mega Sattliest are of the $300 variety, with a few $500 Megas to ensure that as many qualifiers as possible can grab a seat in the field. WPT Choctaw Main Event gets underway on August 3 with daily live updates provided by the World Poker Tour.