The final battle for the title in event no. 9 of the 2022 U.S. Poker Open came down to a heads-up clash between two of the most accomplished and decorated tournament players in history. In the end, it was nine-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Erik Seidel who emerged victorious, defeating all-time bracelet leader Phil Hellmuth to secure the title and the top prize of $472,500 as the champion $25,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em event.
This was the third time that the pair of Poker Hall of Fame members squared off with a tournament title on the line. The first came in August of 1988, with Seidel besting Hellmuth to win the $1,000 buy-in 4th Annual Diamond Jim Brady event at The Bicycle Casino for $144,000. The legendary duo’s next heads-up battle took place with a gold bracelet on the line. Seidel came out on top in that meeting as well, topping the field of 168 entries to win the 1992 WSOP $2,500 limit hold’em event for his first bracelet.
“It’s pretty wild that the two of us got heads up. That’s the third time we’ve been heads up, so it was fun,” Seidel told PokerGO reporters after coming away with the win. “I don’t think there’s any extra meaning to it that we were heads up, as I would’ve been happy to win against anybody. It’s just nice when things go your way for a few hours in a critical period like this. It’s great.”
The 62-year-old poker pro increased his lifetime tournament earnings to $40,309,595 with this victory, becoming just the fifth player to ever surpass $40 million in career cashes. He remains in fifth place on poker’s all-time money list.
Seidel was awarded 504 Card Player Player of the Year points for taking down this high-stakes event. This was his first title and fifth POY-qualified final-table finish of the year. With 1,237 total points and $763,663 in year-to-date POY earnings, Seidel now sits in 40th place in the 2022 POY race, which is sponsored by Global Poker.
The 284 PokerGO Tour points he secured with this title run were enough to move him into 12th place in that points race, while he sits in fifth on the USPO player of the series leaderboard.
This event attracted 63 total entries to build a prize pool of $1,575,000 which was paid out among the top nine finishers. Day 2 began with just seven remaining, with Zhuang Ruan (9th – $47,250) and Shannon Shorr (8th – $63,000) having been eliminated late on day 1.
The day kicked off with a bang. Alex Foxen, who started with the chip lead, flopped bottom set with pocket sevens in one of the first hands of the day. Seidel had hit middle set with pocket nines. All of the chips went in on a two-spade flop and Seidel held to earn a crucial double up.
Alex Livingston was the first to fall at the final table, losing a classic race with A-K facing pocket queens to finish seventh ($78,750). This was the 2019 WSOP main event third-place finisher’s third final-table showing of the year, including a $745,749 score in the Wynn Millions main event. He now sits in 10th place in the POY race as a result.
Not too long after that, Ren Lin got all-in with top pair and was in trouble, with Sam Soverel having flopped top and bottom pair. Lin took home $94,500 for his fifth final-table finish of 2022.
Five-handed play continued for more than 90 minutes. During this stretch, an all-in and call took place that caused quite a stir on social media. Foxen raised with pocket nines from the button and Hellmuth three-bet with Q-4 offsuit out of the big blind. Foxen four-bet shoved for nine big blinds more and Hellmuth went into the tank.
“You caught me making a move,” said Hellmuth as he considered the call. He eventually stuck in the rest of his chips, saying, “I guess I better play to win.”
The board ran out KSpade SuitQHeart Suit7Club Suit5Heart SuitQClub Suit to give Hellmuth trip queens and the double up. You can check out a replay of the hand via PokerGO’s Twitter account below.
Two-time 2022 USPO event winner Tamon Nakamura’s A-K was unable to outrun the pocket fives of Seidel. Nakamura earned $126,000 for his fifth cash and fourth final-table finish of the series. He remains the leader in the USPO points race heading into the final three events.
The next big hand saw yet another cooler go Seidel’s way. He min-raised on the button with 8Heart Suit8Club Suit and Soverel, who was the only player at the time to have Seidel covered, three-bet from the small blind with ADiamond SuitJClub Suit. Seidel called and the flop came down JDiamond Suit8Spade Suit6Club Suit. Soverel bet nearly half pot and Seidel called. The turn brought the AHeart Suit to give Soverel top two pair. He bet the same amount as he had on the flop and Seidel called again. The 9Spade Suit completed the board on the river and Soverel moved all-in. Seidel called to surge into an overwhelming chip lead, while Soverel was left on fumes.
Soverel managed to spin his stack back up over ten big blinds, but then ran top pair into two pair for Seidel to finish fourth ($157,500).
Foxen got all-in with AClub Suit10Club Suit leading the KDiamond SuitQClub Suit of Hellmuth. Once again, Hellmuth made trip queens to win the all-in against Foxen, who earned $220,500 as the third-place finisher. He climbed into second place behind Nakamura in the USPO points race, and is now sixth in the POY standings and seventh on the PGT leaderboard, with two titles and ten final tables this year.
Seidel took 6,825,000 into heads-up play against Hellmuth, who had 2,625,000. Hellmuth closed the gap considerably when he rivered a ten-high straight against the queens and sevens of his opponent. Seidel was able to re-extend his lead, though, and sat with more than a 3:1 advantage when the final hand of the tournament was dealt. Seidel raised from the button with QClub SuitJSpade Suit and Hellmuth defended his big blind with JClub Suit9Heart Suit. The flop came down JHeart Suit3Club Suit2Spade Suit and Hellmuth check-raised for about a quarter of his stack. Seidel moved all-in and Hellmuth called. The turn was the 4Heart Suit to leave Hellmuth in need of a nine on the river. The 2Diamond Suit on the end secured the pot and the title for Seidel, sending Hellmuth home with $315,000. The score increased his lifetime earnings to more than $24.6 million, which moved him into 22nd place on the all-time money list.
Here is a look at the payouts and rankings points awarded to the final eight players:
|Place||Player||Earnings (USD)||POY Points||PGT Points|
Photos provided by PokerGO/ Enrique Malfavon.