The PokerGO Tour was first introduced in 2021. The high-stakes-focused tour was a rousing success in its initial run and still managed impressive growth in its second year. The 2022 PGT season featured 175 events, with 24,998 total entries made and more than $426 million in prize money awarded along the way. This season concluded with the first-ever running of the PGT Championship, a $500,000 winner-take-all freeroll.
The event saw the top 21 from the final PGT invited to partake in the final showdown. Another unique wrinkle for this event saw the starting chip stacks determined by the qualifying players’ final PGT point totals. For example, top-ranked Stephen Chidwick’s 3,412 points saw him begin with 342,000, while Benny Glaser, who qualified thanks to his runner-up finish in the WPT World Championship just a day before this event, began with 165,000 thanks to 1,646 points. A full listing of the final PGT leaderboard for 2022 can be found on the tour’s website.
After two days of action, Jason Koon emerged victorious, capturing the trophy and the top prize of half a million dollars. The 37-year-old poker pro now has more than $41.9 million in lifetime tournament earnings to his name, placing him seventh on Card Player’s all-time money list.
This win came just a few weeks after Koon defeated all-time World Series of Poker bracelet leader Phil Hellmuth in the largest High Stakes Duel match yet, with $1.6 million on the line.
“It’s always beautiful. I somehow run hot towards the end of the year. Do you remember the WPT at Bellagio when they had those two 25Ks and I won them back-to-back in late December? I just kind of run hot in December,” Koon told PGT reporters. “I don’t know if it’s Christmas time or what, but it’s beautiful.”
Koon came into the PGT Championship with the third-largest stack thanks to another strong year on the live high roller circuit. Koon cashed 18 times in PGT events, with three titles won and more than $6.7 million in qualified earnings accrued along the way. This $500,000 win was his fourth-largest cash of the year. His top payday in 2022 came when he took down the €150,000 buy-in short deck event at the Triton Series Madrid festival for $1,837,500. That victory saw Koon tie the record for the most Triton titles, joining Mikita Badziakouski with four wins on the high-stakes tour.
Koon may have started this event in third place, but he finished day 1 as the clear chip leader with nearly 57 percent of the total chips in play and just six contenders remaining.
“Almost every time, unless it’s a total dream, you come into a final table and you have all the chips but at some point, generally three-handed, stacks are going to converge and change hands, and you almost always lose the chip lead,” said Koon. “That’s why when I was hearing people say, ‘It’s your tourney to lose,’ I said, ‘Guys, I’ve got 57 percent of the chips and there are six people here and it’s the best players in the world. This is not my tourney to lose. I’m going to win it maybe half the time or whatever.’ I just embraced it, and then looked up and there was basically 100 big blinds in play three-handed. I knew that I’m not the chip leader, so I’ll just do what I can do and go from there. I took some beats and then I made some hands, and there I was.”
World Poker Tour Player of the Year Chad Eveslage was the first to fall on day 2, with his flopped flush running into a higher flopped flush for Koon. 2022 PGT Player of the Year Stephen Chidwick soon followed when his K-10 was unable to beat out the Q-8 of Koon. Chidwick shoved four big blinds from the cutoff. Koon called from the big blind, flopped two pair, and held from there to narrow the field to four.
Glaser’s run concluded when his K-Q suited was unable to come from behind against the A-4 suited of Sean Winter. Glaser flopped a gutshot straight draw, but Winter’s top pair held through the river to see him enter three-handed action with the second-largest stack.
Koon and Winter clashed multiple times during the next stretch of play, with Winter mostly coming out on top. Koon then slid to third place briefly after his AK was beaten by the A3 of two-time bracelet winner Nick Petrangelo in a preflop all-in.
Koon soon managed to move back into second place with his trip threes besting the queens and threes of Petrangelo. A preflop coin flip then set up heads-up, with Winter’s pocket sixes besting the K-10 of Petrangelo.
The final showdown, with the title and $500,000 hanging in the balance, began with Winter holding 2,035,000 to Koon’s 1,185,000. The pair went on to battle for nearly two hours. Fairly early on, Koon doubled up with a turned two pair besting the flopped top pair of Winter. His river shove was called to see him take better than a 3:1 chip lead.
Winter battled all the way back into the lead, but his final time on top was short-lived. Koon won a big pot with aces full besting the busted nut flush draw of Winter, who called the river with king high to go with the two pair on board.
By the time the final hand was dealt, Koon’s lead had grown to more than 6:1. Koon raised enough on the button to put Winter all-in. Winter called with J8 and was dominating the 108 of Koon, but a 106533 runout gave Koon tens and threes for the win.
Winter, who had 20 PGT cashes and three titles won in 2022, was sent home empty-handed in this winner-take-all tournament.
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Photo credits: PokerGO / Antonio Abrego.