Gershon Distenfeld won his first World Series of Poker bracelet Wednesday night at the 2021 WSOP, but the New Jersey native won’t take home a penny of the $204,063 he won in the $1,500 no-limit hold’em shootout.
Instead, Distenfeld said that he was donating the entire first-place prize money to charity. Multiple charities will be the recipients of the six-figure score. In a move that was similar to what Poker Hall of Famer Barry Greenstein did during the heyday of the poker boom, Distenfeld told WSOP live reporters he hopes that the act will inspire others in the poker community to donate the money they earn.
“I’d love to offer a challenger to every bracelet winner to give away 1% of their money to the charity of their choice,” said Distenfeld. “There’s no lack of needs out there. If I could have a lasting impact on the poker community, it would be that.”
Distenfeld bested an 800-entry field and Jordan Schumacher heads-up to earn the title. In accordance with the shootout format, he essentially won three single table sit n’ goes to secure the six-figure payday. There were 80, 10-handed tables on Day 1 with every winner securing a spot in the money. The 10 players that won their eight-handed Day 2 table would then earn a seat at the final table.
Two-time WSOP bracelet winner and 10-time WSOP Circuit ring winner Ari Engel was at the final table, as was three-time ring winner Sohale Khalili and veteran tournament grinder Orson Young.
Given the format, everybody started out with nearly identical chip counts at the final table. It didn’t take long for Distenfeld to separate himself from the pack, however. With blinds of 15,000-30,000 Distenfeld and Craig Trost were all in preflop for just shy of 2,000,000.
As Trost called Distenfeld’s five-bet shove, he joked that he “hoped it wasn’t a cold deck.” But it was with Trost’s pocket kings up against Distenfeld’s pocket aces. The runout was clean for Distenfeld and Trost was out in 10th while giving Distenfeld a distinct advantage with the early knockout.
The final nine players spent nearly two full levels jockeying for position on the leaderboard as AP Garza became the short stack. In a button vs big blind battle between Garza and David Tran, Garza four-bet all in and Tran called.
Garza tabled A2 and was in trouble against Tran’s AK. The KK7J6 runout left Garza drawing dead on the turn and was eliminated in ninth. The knockout sent Tran into the chip lead with Distenfeld close behind him.
Two middling stacks got into a preflop confrontation during the next level as Thomas Boivin three-bet shoved from the small blind and got called by Schumacher in the hijack. It was a race with Schumacher’s A-Q up against Boivin’s 8-8. The flop was safe for Boivin and so was the turn, but the Qd fell on the river to send Boivin home in eighth.
Distenfeld then disposed of the most accomplished player at the table as he got rid of Engel in seventh. The two were in late position and got all the chips in the middle preflop with Engel’s 10-10 up against Distenfeld’s J-J.
Engel was drawing dead on the turn as the board came J9245, which moved Distenfeld back into the chip lead.
Khalili busted next when he three-bet shoved from the small blind for just shy of 17 big blinds with 4-4 and Jonathan Betancur eventually called with J9. Like Engel, Khalili was dead on the turn on a board of K99KQ board.
While the table shrank from seven-handed to five-handed, Tran’s chip stack shrank as well. He failed to win any significant pots over a couple of levels and then Young doubled through him. Young finished the job later in the level as they got all in preflop cutoff vs. button with Tran’s A5 up against Young’s KQ.
Young flopped top two pair and eliminated the once-chip leader in fifth. The final four players took a short break with Betancur and Distenfeld at the top of the counts, while Young and Schumacher were on the bottom.
Schumacher made his way back up the standings as he doubled through Young with A-A against K-K and won a sizable non-showdown pot against Schumacher.
Following the cold deck against Schumacher, Young was the clear short stack. He was eliminated in fourth when he moved all in on the button for his last eight big blinds with A8 and got called by Schumacher in the big blind with QJ.
Schumacher flopped top pair on a Q106 flop to make the best hand and eliminate Young in fourth.
Schumacher took a nearly 2-to-1 chip lead into heads-up play by eliminating Betancur in third. Betancur was on the button, raised, and four-bet all in against Schumacher’s three-bet in the big blind. The Belgian called with K-K and was in great shape against Beancur’s 5-5.
The board ran out clean for Schumacher and he started a roughly four-hour heads-up match against Distenfeld.
The eventual champion won a flip with A-10 against Schumacher’s 2-2 which also flipped the chip counts and moved Distenfeld into the lead. He never relinquished it and just continued to grind Schumacher’s stack down into the five-big blind range.
Schumacher stayed alive for quite some time, but eventually, he got three-outed to finish second. Schumacher was all in preflop with Q-10 against Distenfeld’s Q-4. The 4 came on the turn to vault Distenfeld into the lead. The river was clean, which made Schumacher settle for second-place and the $126,133 that came with it.
“Johan was incredible. Such a good player,” Distenfeld told reporters after his victory. “He just had an instinct. He called my hand a couple of times. I thought he was a better player than me to be perfectly honest.”
Final Table Results:
Photo Credit: WSOP/Danny Maxwell