After three days of action in the $25,000 PokerGO Tour Heads-Up Showdown, the new tournament wrapped up on Saturday with Chino Rheem taking the title.
Rheem topped Darren Elias heads-up at the PokerGO Studio in Las Vegas for the title and scored $400,000in the process.
“I’m feeling good,” Rheem said after. “It’s a really good feeling. Honestly, it’s just a privilege and an honor to play in these events, especially given where I was at less than a year ago. I’m really grateful. It just feels good to be able to come and play and actually win.”
Tough road to victory
The tournament series attracted quite a bit of buzz last week as PokerGO looked to recreate the excitement of NBC’s National Heads-Up Poker Showdown.
The event featured 32 players with some of the biggest names in poker. Fans tuning in could check out action from the featured match as well as other tables throughout the room.
Getting to the championship wasn’t easy. Rheem defeated Nick Schulman in the first round followed by Jeremy Ausmus in the second. He then topped Bill Klein in the quarterfinals and Isaac Kempton in the semifinals.
Rheem now has $12.3 million in live tournament winnings. In March he also scored a US Poker Open title in a $15,000 Pot Limit Omaha event for $271,350.
Four-time WPT champion Elias also faced a tough path to the title match. He defeated Landon Tice, Erik Seidel, Daniel Negreanu, and Justin Young to reach the championship.
The final match took about an hour and 40 minutes before Rheem came out on top. Here’s a look at the final results.
PokerGO Tour Heads-Up Showdown
- Chino Rheem – $400,000
- Darren Elias – $200,000
- Isaac Kempton – $100,000
- Justin Young – $100,000
It's over!!! @ChinoRheem outlasts @DarrenElias in a hard-fought battle to claim the $400,000 top prize, the Golden Crown trophy, and the honors of becoming the first-ever PGT Heads-Up Showdown! pic.twitter.com/NQ3wiy8PNL
— PokerGO (@PokerGO) April 24, 2022
Sobriety meets poker skills for Rheem
Despite plenty of skill at the table, Rheem has been a controversial player at times. Many players reported being stiffed on debts by Rheem through the years.
Rheem now says he’s trying to do better and change his life. He’s playing sober for the first time in his life.
“It’s no secret in the poker world that I’ve had my ups and downs,” Rheem told PokerGO. “At one point in my life, I was in a really dark place. I’m just really, really grateful to have been shown the light and find god and the people that he’s put in my life to help me sustain a much more healthy, sober life. I owe it all to that, really.”
The win now becomes a big part of his turnaround and he enjoyed being involved in the new event.
“The cool thing about this, is when you come in on Day 1 you just have to win your first match,” Rheem said. “Then Day 2, it’s a little more pressure and you have to win two matches and get over that hump just to make the money.
“Honestly, once I made the money, once I won the first three matches, I was like, ‘whatever happens from here it’s all good.’ Like I said in the interviews with Jeff [Platt], things just went my way, and I’ll take it, obviously. I can’t complain at all.”
Hellmuth-Persson match brings plenty of back-and-forth fireworks
One of the biggest headlines from the Heads-Up Showdown involved 16-time World Series of Poker winner Phil Hellmuth. In the first round, Hellmuth battled Maverick Gaming CEO Eric Persson.
Maverick owns several casinos in Nevada, Washington, and Colorado. He certainly played the role of maverick in this matchup and came ready to scrap with Hellmuth.
The two traded barbs throughout with Persson shooting Hellmuth the “double bird” at one point.
“The truth is I’m going to whoop you,” Persson said at one point.
— PokerGO (@PokerGO) April 22, 2022
Things became more heated throughout the match. Persson seemed to rattle Hellmuth at times with the Poker Brat even calling the floor later in the match.
“You have no chance,” Hellmuth later said. “You’ve hit all those river cards and you’re still drawing dead.”
Hellmuth referred to Persson as a “narcissist” and “obnoxious.” He said Persson was “completely out of line.” The Poker Brat later questioned Persson, noting: “What is wrong with you?”
Many in the poker world took to Twitter to note that it was hypocritical for Hellmuth to complain about Persson, considering he’d been using similar tactics for years.
In the end Hellmuth thought better of his part in the verbal battles and returned for Day 2 to apologize. Persson also apologized for his part in the verbal exchanges as well.
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
* Lead image courtesy PokerGO