Ilyas Muradi is the first player to win a live World Poker Tour main tour title since the COVID-19 outbreak began in 2020. Muradi reportedly missed a flight out of town and decided to take a shot at a $400 buy-in satellite into the $3,500 buy-in WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open no-limit hold’em main event. He won a seat into the event and managed to navigate his way through the 1,573-entry field to secure his first WPT title and the top prize of $809,515.
“This is amazing, it’s making me want to cry,” Muradi told WPT reporters after coming out on top. “Anyone’s dream can come true.”
In addition to the title and money, Muradi was also awarded 1,620 Card Player Player of the Year points as the champion of this event. That was enough to see him surge into first place in the 2021 POY race standings, which are sponsored by Global Poker.
This event featured a $1,000,000 guarantee which was absolutely blown away when 1,573 entries were made across the two starting flights. The top 197 finishers ultimately made the money in this event, with a min-cash being worth $6,150. The top eight finishers in the tournament all earned six-figure paydays. Four-time WPT main event champion Darren Elias fell just short of extending his advantage as the tour’s all-time
title leader, finishing 10th for $79,455.
The final day of action in this event resumed with seven players remaining. 2013 WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open main event champion Andy Hwang was the first to fall when his A-K failed to outrun the pocket sevens of Francis Margaglione. Hwang earned $115,630 for his seventh-place finish.
Tsz Shing was the next to hit the rail. He ran K-Q into the pocket queens of WSOP bracelet winner Ronnie Bardah and failed to come from behind. He took home $168,990 for his sixth-place showing. Bardah scored his second knockout of the day with another big pocket pair. This time he picked up pocket kings against the pocket tens of Jesse Lonis. The superior pair remained the best hand through the river and Lonis settled for $223,895 as the fifth-place finisher.
Bardah held the lead during early four-handed action until a key hand arose that shifted the balance at the final table. Bardah and Muradi were heads-up in a three-bet pot with a flop of 532. Bardah checked and Muradi bet 1,550,000. Bardah check-raised all-in and Muradi called for 9,150,000. Muradi held AA, while Bardah showed KQ for a flush draw. The 4 on the turn and 10 on the river kept Muradi’s aces in the lead and he doubled up to climb to the top of the leaderboard.
Francis Margaglione spent much of the day as one of the big stacks but saw his chips dwindle during short-handed play. In the end, he got all-in with Q9 and was called by Bardah with AK. Bardah made a pair of aces on the flop and held from there to send Margaglione home with $293,510 for his fourth-place finish.
Bardah’s run in this event came to an end when he got his last 13 big blinds into the middle from the small blind with A2. Robel Andemichael called with A9. The board came down K42109 and Bardah was eliminated in third place ($392,430). This was the largest tournament cash of Bardah’s career, and it brought his lifetime earnings to just shy of $1.7 million.
With that Andemichael took a slight lead into heads-up play with Muradi. The roles were quickly reversed, and Muradi was able to extend his lead to nearly a 2:1 chip advantage by the time the final hand of the tournament was dealt. Andemichael moved all-in from the button with A6 and Muradi called from the big blind with 44. The 10983Q runout secured the pot and the title for Muradi, while Andemichael took home $529,690 as the runner-up.
Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:
Winner photo credit: WPT / Joe Giron.