Daniel Smiljkovic Rallies to Defeat Arden Cho Heads-Up for PGT Championship Title ($500,000)
Six players returned to the PokerGO Studio in Las Vegas on Wednesday chasing the $500,000 first place prize in the PGT Championship $1 million season-ending freeroll. It took about six hours of play for the start-of-day chip leader, Daniel Smiljkovic, to come out victorious.
Although Smiljkovic entered the final table with the largest stack, it took a massive rally during heads-up play to outlast Arden Cho, the only female in the field who also happened to be one of the "dream seat" entrants.
On Tuesday, 54 players were invited to compete in the tournament, the top 40 performers on the 2023 PokerGO Tour leaderboard and some "dream seat" winners.
PGT Championship Final Table Results
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Final Table Action
When the final table began, Darren Elias, the G.O.A.T. of the World Poker Tour (WPT), had the smallest stack by a wide margin. He never could build up his stack and make a run at the title, but he did exit the tournament with a $40,000 cash for sixth place.
Cho, an actress and model, started Day 2 with the second shortest stack. But, unlike Elias, she would go on to dominate the final table and quickly built up her stack. Before long, she wasn't just the chip leader, but held a significant chip advantage over the competition.
Artur Martirosyan, who has over $14 million in The Hendon Mob cashes, became the second player to exit stage left when he lost a race to Leon Sturm. Fifth place paid out $60,000 to the Russian poker star.
Daniel Weinman, who began the day second in chips, lost his stack to Sturm when he called off a small pair against trips. The 2023 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event champion busted in fourth place for $80,000. Sturm, on the other hand, jumped into the chip lead and was beginning to take over the match.
Cho, however, then took control of the final table and moved into the chip lead after winning a series of pots. At one point in three-handed play, she had approximately 70% of all the chips. Sturm, who briefly held the chip lead, had dropped down to around 10 big blinds and went all in with 102 against the J9 Smiljkovic had in the hole. Jack-high would hold up, leaving Smiljkovic and Cho to battle it out heads-up for all the glory. Sturm, a German player who lost his final all in to another German pro, received $120,000 for his third place finish.
Fireworks Early During Heads-Up Play
Right off the bat, Cho had an opportunity to end the match with trips against weakertrips, but she only called a large river bet instead of moving all in. This decision would later cost the talented recreational poker playing actress $300,000. Winning the hand put her in a 5-1 chip advantage, but she would lose a race soon after to double up Smiljkovic.
Still, Cho continued to have double her opponent's stack with around 75 big blinds, but she remained critical of her own play and verbally frustrated that she didn't jam on the trips-versus-trips hand. With first and second place separated by $300,000, the pressure was on and may have played a factor into Cho's decision to just call with trips instead of raising.
Then Cho had another misstep that was costly. On a board of 575J, Smiljkovic bet 350,000 with 85 for trips. With 64 for an open-ended straight draw, Cho moved all in on a semi-bluff. The river was a blank and Smiljkovic, who would have been out had his opponent shoved all in on the trips versus trips hand, moved into a slight chip lead for the first time since early in day.
Cho would then pick up the aggression and regain the lead. Heads-up play was starting to become a battle of attrition, with the chip lead going back and forth for quite some time. That was until Cho had a third misstep, which cost her the tournament, for all intents and purposes.
With the blinds at 50,000/100,000 on a flop of 98J, Cho checked with J4 and then called a bet of 125,000. The turn was the 5 and the action went check and then a 500,000-chip bet. Sitting on top pair, Cho moved all in but was drawing dead after Smiljkovic snap-called with Q10 for the nuts.
Left with less than two big blinds, the match came to its conclusion on the final hand for Cho as she was eliminated in second place for $200,000. Smiljkovic took home $500,000 and became the 2023 PGT Championship winner.
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