Rheem Wins Inaugural PGT Heads-Up Showdown
This was a new tournament for Season 2 of the PokerGO Tour. The PGT (PokerGO Tour) Heads-Up Showdown was a $25K buy-in affair capped at 32 players. This created a prize pool of $800K and would pay out the top four finishers, reserving $400K for the winner.
The field was selected, in a way. The top 16 on the PokerGO leaderboard after the US Poker Open qualified to play. However, only nine of them accepted the invitation to play in this Heads-Up Showdown. PokerGO chose the other 23 participants.
The action kicked off with the draw for the 16 matches. PokerGO streamed the random draw process with Aria Tournament Director Paul Campbell doing the honors. He simply wrote the names of the players on cards, shuffled, and chose cards at random. This determined the players and their opponents in order of the draw for the first round of play.
All were put into four brackets for clarity: spades and clubs on one side, hearts and diamonds on the other.
The initial round of 32 players played out at the PokerGO Studio on April 21. Two of the four suits (brackets) played at a time.
Round of 16 and Quarterfinals
On April 22, all 16 remaining players took their seats and battled it out for places in the quarterfinals.
Those eight players then competed for their spots in the semifinals and in the money. Here’s how it happened:
Semifinals in the Money
The semifinals brought the final four back on Saturday, April 23. Darren Elias was ready to take on Justin Young, and Chino Rheem was prepared to face Isaac Kempton.
The first match to finish had Young all-in preflop with pocket threes and Elias calling with A-Q. The board of T-K-T-J-Q only helped Elias, and Young exited in fourth place with $100K.
Next up, Kempton pushed his stack all-in with A-3 suited, but Rheem snap-called with pocket queens. That pair held up to the 8-K-2-6-7 rainbow board, and Kempton busted in third place with $100K.
Rheem and Elias each started with 250K chips, blinds at 1K/2K.
Elias took the first pot of 18K with a rivered pair. Rheem took the next one for 42K. A half-hour into the match, Rheem had 303K and Elias slipped to 197K. Elias used patience to get the stacks back to even, and he took charge in Level 3 with 2K/4K blinds. He took the lead and then took a big pot when Rheem missed the board, that pot putting Elias up to 337,500.
One hour into the match, Elias put a bit more space between he and his opponent. But with blinds up 2,500/5K, Rheem began his comeback. With A-J on a board of A-6-K-3-8, he moved all-in, putting Elias to a decision with his K-T. Elias thought for a long time, using several time banks, before he finally called. Rheem doubled up to 347K. That changed the momentum.
Rheem started to use his stack to apply more pressure, but Elias did find a spot to move. He pushed with pocket kings, and Rheem called with pocket sixes. The board blanked and gave Elias the double-up to 263K.
The two took a quick break and resumed with blinds at 3K/6K. It didn’t take long for the two to tangle again. Rheem moved all-in with T-4 of diamonds on a 7d-5d-4h board for bottom pair and a flush draw. Elias called with 8-7 for top pair and a straight draw. The Th on the turn gave Rheem two pair, and the Jh on the river gave Rheem the double.
Elias had only 26K behind. He won two small hands to add 12K to his stack. He then woke up with pocket deuces and shoved. Rheem called with K-T, but the board blanked and doubled Elias to 76K. Two hands later, Elias moved all-in with A-5, and Rheem called with A-8. The dealer delivered T-J-7-2-9, and Elias finished in second place for $200K.
Rheem won the first-ever PGT Heads-Up Showdown for $400K.
In a post-game interview with Jeff Platt, Rheem called the win special and the experience a great one. “Honestly, I’m really grateful,” he said, “to be able to just be where I’m at in my life and be able to play poker with these guys and have fun and actually win. It’s a really good feeling.”
Rheem also revealed that this was the first time he played a tournament sober. And he shouted out his mom and told her he loved her as he held his crown.
— PokerGO Tour (@PokerGOTour) April 24, 2022