The 2023 PGT Championship has concluded with Germany’s Daniel Smiljkovic defeating Hollywood actress Arden Cho heads-up to win the trophy and $500,000 first-place prize.
The PGT Championship was open to the top 40 players on the PGT leaderboard and 14 Dream Seat winners who were eligible to participate in the $1,000,000 freeroll tournament.
An assortment of the best players in the world made their way to the PokerGO Studio looking to score a piece of the seven-figure prize pool, including Isaac Haxton, Chris Brewer, Stephen Chidwick, Alex Foxen, Erik Seidel, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, and 2022 PGT Championship winner Jason Koon.
Dream Seat winners included PokerGO Annual Subscribers Albert Hart, Julio Clavell, Steve Kearney, and PokerGO social media winner Caleb Hancock. Other Dream Seat winners were selected from sponsor promotions, including Ian Steinman and Ryan Bell on behalf of GTO Wizard, Jeff Lennon on behalf of the RunGood Poker Series, and Cho, who qualified for the PGT Championship as the Eat Mezcla Dream Seat winner.
Starting chips were based on PGT points earned throughout the year and Isaac Haxton secured the top spot with 2,847 PGT points during the 2023 season, while Maxx Coleman rounded out the top 40 with 1,137 PGT points. Smiljkovic finished the year 16th on the leaderboard with 1,366 points comprised of one win and seven cashes, including a runner-up finish to Daniel Negreanu in the PGT Last Chance series.
Day 1 began with 50 of the 54 eligible players taking a seat, with the day playing down to the final table of six. The final table began with all players in the money and Smiljkovic was in the lead with more than 40% of the chips in play. A short-stacked Darren Elias was first to go in sixth place when he was in a three-way all-in with ace-king versus ace-king versus queens. An ace hit the flop, but a queen spiked the river and Elias was gone. Artur Martirosyan almost held the chip lead at one point during five-handed play, but he ended up being eliminated in fifth place. Martirosyan had become the short stack and got ace-king in against fives, and although an ace came on the flop, a five hit the felt on the turn, and the Russian high roller made his exit.
Reigning WSOP Main Event champion Daniel Weinman made a deep run, but he was eliminated in fourth place after he called off the rest of his stack on the river and ran into Smiljkovic’s trips. Germany’s Leon Sturm held the lead when three-handed play began, but Cho went on a run where she made successful bluffs and correct calls and surged into the lead while her entertaining and talkative nature provided an interesting contrast with the often reserved disposition of top pros playing for large sums of money. After Cho took the lead, she found a river call to leave Sturm short-stacked, and Sturm was soon eliminated in third place by fellow German Smiljkovic.
Cho held a chip lead of more than 2.5:1 when heads-up play began and had a chance to win when she got nines in against ace-king. However, Smiljkovic flopped an ace and a lengthy battle would ensue. The lead flipped back and forth before Smiljkovic doubled to get nearly even and then doubled again after flopping the nuts to hold an overwhelming lead. On the following hand, Smiljkovic got jack-five in against Cho’s ace-nine. A jack spiked the turn, and Cho was eliminated in second place, while Smiljkovic was crowned the 2023 PGT Championship winner.
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