Sean Winter finished as the runner-up in the U.S. Poker Open player of the series standings in the two most recent runnings of the USPO. With 10 of the 12 scheduled events of the 2022 USPO in the books, Winter had not yet registered an in-the-money finish. The Jacksonville, Florida native then managed to take down the penultimate event of the series, which gave him one single path to securing the series championship: outright victory in the $50,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em event that would bring the high-stakes tournament festival to a close. Incredibly, Winter emerged victorious from a field of 42 entries to secure back-to-back wins and the player of the series award, which comes with the Golden Eagle Trophy and a $50,000 championship bonus.
“It means a lot,” Winter told PokerGO’s Jeff Platt in an onj-air interview after securing the player of the series award. “I’m kind of speechless right now. I was just getting destroyed this series, obviously, and I was kind of grateful for that because it motivates me to do well and the buy-ins went up. I kind of just got lucky in that regard.”
Winter earned $756,000 as the champion of the series-ending event, bringing his total earnings for the series to $1,196,000. He ended with 718 total USPO rankings points, edging out runner-up Tamon Nakamura to secure that honor. Nakamura also won two titles, with both of his wins coming in smaller buy-in events earlier in the series. The Japanese poker pro made a total of six cashes during the series, with nearly $670,000 in total earnings along the way.
“Everyone was having a phenomenal series,” said Winter after his win. “Hats off to [Tamon Nakamura]. At the start of yesterday’s tournament, I had to be one percent to win, less? I don’t know. I wasn’t even thinking about having a shot at all.”
Winter’s seven-figure success during this series saw him increase his lifetime tournament earnings to $21,189,669. In addition to the money, he also secured plenty of rankings points as a result of these wins. The 510 Card Player Player of the Year points he earned for this most recent win were enough to move him into fifth place in the 2022 POY race, which is sponsored by Global Poker. He now has two titles, ten final-table finishes, and more than $1.85 million in year-to-date POY earnings.
Winter’s run at the USPO also saw him move into fourth place in the 2022 PokerGO Tour standings.
The second and final day of the $50,000 buy-in event began with seven players remaining and only six set to make the money. 2018 Card Player POY award winner Jake Schindler was ultimately knocked out on the money bubble. He committed the majority of his short stack preflop with K-10 suited and found himself up against the A-7 of Masashi Oya, who began the day in second chip position behind only Zhuang Ruan. Schindler failed to improve by the river was eliminated in seventh place, ensuring that the six remaining competitors would all cash for at least $105,000.
That sum ultimately went to Dan Smith, who four-bet shoved with K-10 from the small blind facing a three-bet from Ruan in the big blind. Ruan called with A-K suited and held to narrow the field to five contenders. Smith’s latest six-figure cash increased his career earnings to $38.5 million.
Shannon Shorr’s run in this event came to a brutal end, with his A-K running into the pocket aces of a surging Oya. The chips went in preflop and Shorr failed to find any help from the board. He earned $168,000 for his fourth cash of the series, including a win in the kickoff event. Shorr finished sixth in the player of the series points race.
Vikenty Shegal was left as the clear short stack heading into four-handed action. Winter, who was in third chip position at that point, managed to win several big hands to nearly move into a tie for the lead. He did eventually overtake the top spot on the leaderboard by winning a preflop showdown with Shegal. Winter’s A6 outran Shegal’s 77, making aces full by the river to take down the pot. Shegal earned $231,000 as the fourth-place finisher, the second-largest score of his career behind his runner-up showing in the 2021 World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic main event for $827,620.
Ruan was ultimately the next player to hit the rail. His final hand saw him run a multi-street bluff that was ultimately picked off by Oya. The hand began with Ruan raising from the button with 86.He was called by both Oya in the small blind with QJ and Winter, who held A10 in the big blind. he flop came down Q42 and it checked to Ruan, who checked behind. The 5 on the turn gave Ruan a gutshot straight draw. Oya value bet his top top as the first to act and Ruan came along. The 4 on the river paired the board and Oya made another value bet. Ruan raised all-in for roughly 1.5 times the size of the pot with his eight high. After plenty of time in the tank, Oya called with queens and fours with a jack kicker, winning the pot and sending Ruan home with $336,000. The score increased his lifetime tournament earnings to more than $2.8 million.
With that, Oya took 4,235,000 into heads-up play with Winter, who began with 4,170,000. Oya won a key pot with a turned broadway straight beating the trip aces of Winter. Winter won a crucial pot with turned two pair beating the pocket queens of Oya to overtake the lead.
Winter remained ahead from that point until the final hand of the tournament was dealt. Oya raised from the button with QQ and Winter called with A6. The flop came down 663 and Winter check-raised Oya’s continuation bet. Oya called and the 10 rolled off the deck on the turn. Winter bet around a third of the size of the pot and Oya moved all-in. Winter quickly called with his trips and the 3 on the end gave him a full house to lock up the pot and the title. Oya earned $504,000 as the runner-up finisher, the largest score of his career. He now sits just shy of $1 million in career earnings, with $615,600 of that coming from his two cashes during this series.
Here is a look at the payouts and rankings points awarded at the final table of event no. 12:
|Place||Player||Earnings (USD)||POY Points||PGT Points|
Here are the final top ten standings in the USPO points race:
Photo credits: PokerGO / Enrique Malfavon.