As 2022 rapidly approaches, the final few major poker tournaments of the year are wrapping up in time for the Holidays. The latest gue event to come to a conclusion is the 2021 Wynn Winter Classic $5,300 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event. The tournament attracted a sizable field of 672 entries, blowing away the $2 million guarantee to create a final prize pool of $3,306,240.
After two starting flights and two more full days of action, the field was narrowed down to just one player: Eli Berg. The Newtonville, Massachusetts resident earned $626,499 and his first recorded live tournament title for the win. This was the largest poker payday ever, easily surpassing the $94,625 he earned as the fifth-place finisher in a $25,000 buy-in high roller at the 2018 L.A. Poker Classic. This huge six-figure victory increased Berg’s lifetime tournament earnings to more than $1.3 million.
In addition to the title and the money, Berg also earned 1,680 Card Player Player of the Year points as the champion. This was his second POY-qualified score of the year, having also finished eighth in a $5,200 buy-in progressive bounty event at this same series a week before taking down this event. With 1,776 total points, Berg now sits in 112th place in the 2021 POY race, which is sponsored by Global Poker.
The final day of this event began with 24 players remaining, with Berg in seventh chip position to start. Plenty of big names were knocked out as the field was narrowed to the official final table, including Tim Reilly (22nd – $26,491), World Poker Tour champion Pavel Plesuv (19th – $30,332), Mitchell Halverson (17th – $34,881), bracelet winner Romain Lewis (16th – $34,881), Katie Lindsay (15th – $40,114), and bracelet winner Boris Kolev (12th – $46,131).
Berg entered the nine-handed final table in second place, just a few big blinds behind bracelet winner Joseph Cheong who sat atop the leaderboard. 2021 WSOP main event 46th-place finisher Zachary Mcdiarmid knocked out Z Stein (9th – $63,024), before bowing out in eighth place ($74,853) at the hands of Germany’s Christopher Frank.
Berg surged up the leaderboard when his A-K held against the A-Q suited of another player. Garret Greer was sent to the rail when his AHeart Suit2Heart Suit was unable to outrun the ADiamond Suit6Heart Suit of Mark Ioli. Both players ultimately made a straight, but Ioli’s seven-high straight earned him the pot and eliminated Greer in sixth place ($112,412).
Frank’s run in this event came to an end when he shoved J-10 offsuit from the small blind, only to have Shannon Shorr pick up pocket aces in the big blind and make the quick call. The aces held up and Frank was eliminated in fifth place ($145,144).
Joseph Cheong was left as the short stack heading into four-handed action. He got the last of his chips in preflop with K-Q and found himself at risk and dominated by the A-K suited of Ioli. Cheong was unable to come from behind and was sent home with $196,391 for his fourth-place finish.
Ioli took a massive lead during three-handed action, thanks to flopping set over set on Berg. Ioli hit three nines on a AHeart Suit9Heart Suit5Spade Suit, and had Berg’s 5Heart Suit5Diamond Suit in rough shape after all of the chips went in.
Shorr was the next to fall, having lost a preflop showdown with the newly short-stacked Berg. He was left with just a couple big blinds, which he got into the middle with 6-5 offsuit. Berg called from the big blind and made a flush with 10-6 offsuit, with his 6Heart Suit finding four hearts on the board to make the winning hand. Shorr earned $278,749 as the third-place finisher. This was his seventh final-table finish of the year, with three titles won along the way. With 3,957 points and nearly $1.1 million in POY earnings, he now sits in 10th place in the overall standings heading into the final days of the year.
Heads-up play began with Ioli holding 19,800,000 to Berg’s 7,100,000. Beg managed to win two all-ins where he was ahead but up against live cards, doubling twice to overtake the lead in the process. In the final hand, the chips all got in preflop with Ioli holding AHeart Suit10Club Suit to Berg’s AClub SuitJSpade Suit. The board came down JDiamond Suit10Heart Suit8Club Suit3Club Suit6Spade Suit and Berg locked up the pot and the title with top pair, top kicker. Ioli took home $410,599 as the runner-up.
Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:
|Place||Player||Earnings (USD)||POY Points|