From August 10th to 21st, the 2023 Card Player Poker Tour series at bestbet Jacksonville unfolded. Across the nine scheduled events, a total of 1,885 entries were recorded, leading to a collective prize payout of $1,033,755. The standout was the $1,700 buy-in CPPT bestbet Jacksonville no-limit hold’em mystery bounty main event, generating a substantial prize pool of $537,285 from its guaranteed $300,000, as 357 participants engaged in three starting flights and two further days of competition. The ultimate victor of this festival centerpiece was Heng Zhang, claiming the title and $74,010 from the main prize pool.
Hailing from St. Augustine, Florida, the 34-year-old poker professional secured an additional $51,000 from nine mystery bounty awards, a feat that propelled his total earnings for the event to $125,010. One of these bounties included the second-largest available, amounting to $25,000.
Remarkably, this marked the second time in Zhang’s nine-year poker career that he graced the final table of a CPPT bestbet Jacksonville main event. In 2015, he clinched the third-place spot, walking away with $69,252.
Zhang conveyed his composed approach to the final table: “I was actually feeling pretty chill coming into the final table. I wasn’t really focused on the win, I just focused on every hand,” he shared after his triumphant performance.
This victory constitutes the second-largest monetary gain in Zhang’s poker journey, trailing only his $81,000 earnings from a 75th-place finish in the 2021 World Series of Poker main event. In light of this recent win, his overall tournament earnings now total $450,431.
Beyond the accolades and monetary rewards, Zhang’s accomplishment also contributed 600 Card Player Player of the Year points to his profile. With this win, he inched closer to the top 1,000 ranks in the 2023 POY race standings, as presented by Global Poker.
The tournament commenced with three starting flights, each leading to the top 12.5 percent of participants. This narrowed the field to 47 players who progressed to day 2. The addition of mystery bounties at this juncture brought forth $178,500 in payouts, spread across 47 awards ranging from $500 to $50,000. Wendy Lu snagged the largest bounty, having previously secured second place in the series’ opening event, earning her $38,577.
Notable players who exited the competition on day 2 encompassed the likes of HPT Florida champion Jermaine Gerlin (45th), ladies event winner Kim Sukyung (39th), 2017 CPPT bestbet Jacksonville main event champion Jared Reinstein (28th), ladies event runner-up Mary Darnell (26th), 2021 CPPT bestbet Jacksonville main event champion Ben Scrogins (23rd), 2013 CPPT bestbet Jacksonville main event seventh-place finisher Eddy Mroczkowski (20th), 2022 WSOP $3,000 no-limit hold’em event runner-up Toby Boas (18th), WSOP Circuit ring winner Jason May (17th), Wendy Lu (14th), and 2018 CPPT bestbet Jacksonville main event fifth-place finisher Brian Arbaugh (13th).
As the final table took shape, Zhang held the second-largest chip stack, amounting to 1,530,000, trailing only Michael Jagroo’s 2,545,000.
Thad McNulty initiated the final table exits. Beginning as the short stack, McNulty’s efforts fell short, ultimately earning him ninth place and $7,401. Jamison Alford defied the odds to make the final table despite entering day 2 with the smallest stack. However, his journey ended in eighth place, rewarded with $9,374. Alan Franco’s seventh-place departure brought him $12,014. Chen’s sixth-place elimination garnered him $15,577, coupled with $3,500 in bounties.
Jagroo’s lead diminished as the final table progressed, culminating in his fifth-place finish and $20,432 prize, along with $12,000 in bounties. Kimpel’s fourth-place departure earned him $27,106, with an additional $27,500 from bounties.
Zhang’s reign endured, ousting Paul Chung in third place with $36,367 and $6,000 in bounties. As Zhang claimed the $25,000 mystery bounty, only two remained, each worth $5,000 and $2,000, to be won in the title-clinching heads-up showdown.
Entering the heads-up duel, Zhang held the advantage, securing a victory with $49,340 for runner-up Long, who secured a respectable second place.