Canada’s Eric Afriat defeated a field of 1,244 entries to come out on top of the WPT Winter Poker Open Championship at the Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Afriat won his second WPT title, following up on his win in the Season XII Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown.
The Borgata Winter Poker Open featured a $3 million guaranteed prize pool. Afriat took home $651,928 for winning the title in his second final table of Season XVI. The Quebec native claimed a fifth-place finish at WPT Montreal last November.
Zach Gruneberg started the final table with half of the chips in play, but Afriat was able to overcome the giant stack and a group of formidable opponents on his way to victory.
Final table lineup
Seat 1: Eric Afriat – 2,280,000 (23 bb)
Seat 2: Zach Gruneberg – 17,600,000 (176 bb)
Seat 3: Joe McKeehen – 5,955,000 (60 bb)
Seat 4: Justin Zaki – 5,565,000 (56 bb)
Seat 5: Stephen Song – 2,740,000 (27 bb)
Seat 6: Michael Marder – 3,080,000 (31 bb)
The youngest falls first
Stephen Song entered the nine-handed unofficial final table as the chip leader but started Day 5 as the short stack. At only 22 years old, Song was a relative unknown in the pro-heavy WPT field. Song never got much going and his elimination started the rise of Afriat.
Song limped in the cutoff with ace-deuce of hearts and Afriat came in from the small blind with pocket threes. Afriat flopped a full house and Song the nut-flush draw. All the money went in with Song drawing nearly dead and he departed in sixth-place. Song earned his first ever six-figure tournament score.
Joe McKeehen falls short of first WPT win
After New Jersey pro Michael Marder’s fifth-place elimination, Joe McKeehen exited in the 72nd hand of the final table. Afriat claimed most of McKeehen’s chips and Gruneberg swept the rest up.
With the blinds up to 100,000/200,000, Afriat raised to 425,000 under the gun with queen-ten suited. Gruneberg called and McKeehen three-bet out of the small blind for 1,500,000 with two nines. Afriat put in a fourth raise to 2,675,000 and McKeehen called to a queen-high flop. Afriat bet 950,000 into a pot of six million and McKeehen folded.
McKeehen three-bet shoved with ace-jack offsuit the next hand over a Gruneberg open but Gruneberg held ace-king and eliminated the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion.
The final table is the second for McKeehen on the World Poker Tour and he matched his fourth place result from the Season XIV Winter Poker Open.
Gruneberg unable to claim Borgata redemption
Zach Gruneberg placed second to Jesse Sylvia in the Season XV Borgata Poker Open and was eager to best that finish. Gruneberg’s chip lead dwindled relative to the blinds throughout the final table and his run ended in third place.
Gruneberg four-bet shoved with ace-nine offsuit in a blind versus blind encounter with Justin Zaki, who held pocket tens. No help for Gruneberg and his third-place run came with a $321,533 consolation prize.
On Day 4, Gruneberg was all-in with ace-queen on a queen-high board against the flopped set of Chase Bianchi. Gruneberg went runner-runner for quads and spun that second life up into his podium finish.
Heads up battle
Afriat entered heads up play with a 2:1 chip deficit against Zaki. Thanks to some patient play and timely cards, Afriat pulled ahead of the Florida pro to win the title after a 100-hand match.
The chip lead switched hand numerous times during heads up before Afriat took control for good.
The big blind was a robust 1,000,000 and Afriat raise to twice that and then called an all-in of 17,300,000 from Zaki. Afriat had ace-king and a huge lead over Zaki’s king-eight. No help came for Zaki and Afriat closed out the tournament on the next hand.
Zaki’s second career WPT final table came with a career-best payout.
Final table results
1st Place: Eric Afriat – $651,928
2nd Place: Justin Zaki – $434,614
3rd Place: Zach Gruneberg – $321,533
4th Place: Joe McKeehen – $240,251
5th Place: Michael Marder – $181,329
6th Place: Stephen Song – $138,254
Afriat up to second in Player of the Year
There were no true challengers to Art Papazyan’s Season XVI Player of the Year rule until Afriat won on Friday. Afriat is up to 1,700 points, putting him 700 behind Papazyan. If Afriat makes another WPT final table this season he will have the chance to pass Papazyan and earn the Player of the Year title.
The next stop is…
Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, ON is the next stop on the World Poker Tour. The WPT will be there from February 10-12. Darren Elias won his third career WPT title in this event last year.
Lead image courtesy of WPT/Flickr