After battling for nine days, Germany’s Koray Aldemir emerged as the winner of the World Series of Poker Main Event on Wednesday. The 31-year-old poker pro scored $8 million and the championship gold bracelet for the victory.
“It’s just the dream of every poker player honestly,” Aldemir told PokerGO after his win. “I don’t know what to say. George was so tough, so I’m really happy that I could beat him.
“It was an incredibly stressful week for all of us I think. I’m sure I had lots of mistakes, but I just tried to stay calm and play as good as possible.”
Aldemir entered the final table with a massive chip lead and that continued this week when play reached the final three. He becomes the reigning world champion after the 2020 event was mostly played online.
WSOP Main Event action gets underway
Play resumed on Wednesday with Aldemir battling the United Kingdom’s Jack Oliver and George Holmes, of Atlanta, Georgia, and formerly of New Jersey. Oliver sat second in chips and Holmes in third.
Aldemir began with more chips than both of his opponents combined. However, Oliver and Holmes still had fairly deep stacks as well. Aldemir pressed the action early, making use of his big stack.
But both shorter stacks seemed ready to battle. Holmes rocketed up to second in chips after winning a few early hands from Oliver.
After about two hours, Oliver moved all in on a short stack of 36 million with A♣8♦ from the small blind. George Holmes eventually called from the bg blind with Q♠J♠.
Oliver looked to be in good shape on a flop of 8♥7♥5♠. But the J♣ followed by the 9♥ on the river game Holmes the pot. Oliver exited the tournament with $3 million for third place.
Heads-up battle begins
When heads-up play kicked off, Aldemir held 262 million chips with Holmes at 137.4 million. The matchup presented a real dichotomy of poker players.
Aldemir had more than $13 million in live tournament winnings coming into the event. Holmes is a recreational poker player and his only career tournament cash came in the 2019 Main Event for $50,855.
Both players had boisterous rails cheering them on throughout. Holmes’ wife was also in attendance and had never seen him play poker before following the final table on PokerGO.
Despite his inexperience in major tournaments, Holmes proved a tough opponent. He quickly chopped away at his opponent’s lead with some cagy play and an occasional bluff.
The two players clashed with some big hands at times, including an Ace-King versus Ace-Queen scenario. But both seemed to stay in control and willing to avoid some dangerous spots.
Aldemir caught some nice hands in the middle of heads-up play, including a straight flush, to maintain his lead. However, Holmes battled back and even took the lead for a time, including winning a nice pot after flopping a straight.
Despite some setbacks, Aldemir remained patient and steady. He picked off a big Holmes bluff to retake the lead, but that continued to go back and forth.
Securing the title
The final hand saw Aldemir with just a slightly bigger chip stack thn his opponent. Holmes raised the action to 6 million with K♣Q♠ and received a call from Aldemir, who held 10♦7♦.
The flop brought 10♥7♠2♥ and Aldemir checked. Holmes bet 6 million and Aldemir raised to 19 million.
Holmes called and the K♠ fell on the turn. Aldemir thought a bit before betting 36.5 million. Holmes eventually called, swelling the pot to more than 100 million.
When the 9♠ came on the river, Aldemir chose to check and may have been a bit surprised at the response. Holmes quickly moved all in for the last of his 133 million.
Aldemir faced an agonizing decision. He’d only have about 10 million left if he called and lost. After about three minutes however, he called with his two pairs. The tournament was over and Aldemir was embraced by a raucous rail of supporters.
For runner-up, Holmes scored $4.3 million and made a valiant effort against a tough opponent.
“Unbelievable, I still can’t put it into words,” Holmes said afterward. “It’s been a grueling week and a half. This guy was amazing, tough all night. Good game, well played.”
Here’s a look at all the final table payouts.
- 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
WSOP returns in a big way, moving to Strip for 2022
This is Aldemir’s first WSOP bracelet and vaults his career live tournament winnings to more than $20 million. The tournament brought in 6,650 entries for a $62 million prize pool and offered players the first live series since 2019.
The Main Event final table was timed with some other big WSOP news as well. Caesars Entertainment announced on Tuesday that the series would be shifting to the Las Vegas Strip in 2022.
The series also shifts back to its traditional summer time slot. Players can look for the series returning to the Bally’s and Paris casinos from May 31 to July 19 following a 17-year run at the Rio.
That puts the next WSOP only about six months away. This will be the first time in the series’ 53-year history that the festival will be held on the Strip.
“This year’s Main Event has exceeded expectations across the board,” WSOP Senior Vice President Ty Stewart said. “To see five countries represented at the 2021 final table was amazing, and after a classic battle, we’re looking forward to raising Koray’s banner this summer at Bally’s on the Strip.”
WSOP action continues
Despite the Main Event wrapping up, more tournament action continues at the Rio through early next week. This year continues the trend from 2019 of running events to complement the Main Event.
When counting two online bracelet events, including one for players in Pennsylvania, 10 events remain on the schedule. Two events kick off on Thursday, an $800 NLHE Deepstack and the $250,000 Super High Roller. Check back to USPoker next week for a complete look at other recent events.