Playground Winter Festival: Ema Zajmovic Leads WPT Playground Final Table

Ema Zajmovic

For the second straight World Poker Tour (WPT) Main Event at Playground Poker Club, Ema Zajmovic is knocking on the doors of history. With Day 3 of the WPT Playground Main Event coming to an end, Zajmovic is on top and just nine players stand in her way of becoming the first female to win an open WPT event.

Much like back in November, during the WPT Montreal Main Event, Zajmovic will take the lead into the unofficial final table. Unfortunately, a win was not in her cards last time, falling in fifth place but giving way to a victory for poker legend Mike Sexton.

Zajmovic got an early boost to her stack when she got all in against the start-of-day chip leader Hendrik Latz. Zajmovic had one foot out the door running her ace-queen into Latz’s ace-king, but a queen on the board reversed her fortunes and propelled her up the leaderboard. From there, she climbed to the top, continuously stacking chips, including those of Pascal Lefrancois, who Zajmovic sent to the rail in 11th place.

A total of 28 players returned for action on Day 3, but at the end of five levels, only 10 were left. When play was halted, Zajmovic shoveled a stack worth 2,985,000 into her bag. Once again, Jean-Pascal Savard was able to bag the second-best stack at night’s end. Savard stayed relatively quiet for most of Day 3 and chipped up to the tune of 2,095,000.

When the day began, there were two WPT Champions Club members still in contention. Anthony Zinno’s bid for a fourth WPT title fell short when he busted in 24th place. Eric Afriat, on the other hand, is still in the mix and sitting pretty. Afriat bagged 1,135,000, good enough for fourth position.

The remaining field consists of Tam Ho (1,700,000), Jean Francois Bouchard (1,005,000), Carter Swidler (615,000), Henry Tran (525,000), Ryan Yu (520,000) and Danny Li (495,000).

Jordan Saccucci saw his stellar Winter Festival performance continue on Day 3 but his time in the Main Event would come to a halt in 14th place. Others to fall on Day 3 include partypoker qualifiers Alexandru Baron (12th) and Victor Adams (14th), as well as the start-of-day chip leader Hendrik Latz (20th), Samuel Gagnon (25th) and Jake Schwartz (27th).

Day 4 will begin at noon local time with a plan to play down to an official WPT final table of six.

Across the room, Day 1 of Event #13: $1,650 NL Hold’em Second Chance had kicked off Monday morning. With a storm making its way through Montreal, 108 players made it to their seat by the time late registration closed. After 15 levels of play, just 21 runners were left and leading the charge was Chad Coombs.

Chad Coombs
Chad Coombs

Coombs has a sizeable lead on the rest of the competition, backed in part by a big cooler against one-time chip leader Ted Doukas. A preflop raise war between the two ended with Doukas all in holding pocket queens only to find Coombs holding pocket aces. Coombs finished the night off with 341,500.

Alexandre Lavigne ended play with the second largest stack, firing 253,000 into the bag. Canadian Super High Roller Daniel Dvoress, also bagged a top stack, capping off a strong Day 1 with 222,500. Rounding out the top of the leaderboard was Winter Festival Omaha Champion Nicolas Le Floch (195,500), who also made a deep run in the WPT Playground, and Matthew Wantman (182,500).

As expected, a strong field gathered for the event. Some notable players to come and go include Maria Ho, Xuan Liu, Christian Harder, Mike Sexton, Kristen Bicknell, Chanracy Khun and two-time Second Chance champion Benny Chen.

When play resumes on Day 2, the field will be just seven eliminations from the money. Only the top 14 spots will earn a cash. A min-cash is worth $3,690 while a top prize of $47,140 awaits the eventual champion.

Later on in the day, Event #14: $330 NL Hold’em Mega Stack Turbo took the stage, boasting a $30,000 guarantee. A total of 147 entries gathered, boosting the prize pool to $42,777, and paying the top 15. After making a heads-up deal, Andrew Johnson came away with the champion’s trophy and a score of $9,500.

Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson

Final Table Payouts:

1Andrew Johnson$9,500
2Nick Nickoletopoulos$8,497
3Rishi Makkar$5,820
4Andrew Hansen$4,380
5Richard Sysko$3,300
6Alex Keo$2,490
7Behrooz Salemi$1,870
8Brian R Iseman$1,410
9Maria Ho$1,070
10Silvio La Palerma$800

According to the Playground live blog, Johnson’s heads-up opponent Nick Nickoletopoulos steamrolled the event, recording knockout after knockout. It is unknown how many bounties Nickoletopoulos made away with, but he was responsible for more than half of the final table eliminations, including Maria Ho, who entered as one of the chip leaders.

Johnson also entered as one of the leaders but took a backseat to the Nickoletopoulos show until he busted Andrew Hansen in fourth. Johnson then took out Rishi Makkar in a brutal beat. Makkar got his remaining chips in the middle holding pocket aces, in great shape against Johnson’s pocket threes. The board, however, cruel as it can be, had other ideas, dropping a three on the turn and sending Makkar to the rail.

With deal talks striking up while four-handed and again during three-handed play, the final two competitors removed a slice from the top prize to boost the second place prize. Play resumed with the two exchanging the lead a few times until Johnson had the edge and dealt the final blow.

After flopping trip tens, Johnson checked, allowing his opponent to catch top pair on the turn. Johnson led the turn which was met by a call from Nickoletopoulos. Johnson shoved on the river, and after a brief deliberation, Nickoletopoulos put his tournament life on the line, making the call and seeing the bad news.

Aside from Day 4 of the WPT Playground Main Event and Day 2 of the Second Chance, there is one side event for players to enjoy on Tuesday. Event #15: $550 NL Hold’em 6-Max gets underway at 7 p.m., featuring a $45,000 guarantee.

The Playground Winter Festival runs through Feb. 15 and PokerNews will bring you daily updates of all the happenings throughout the festival. For full coverage and details check out the Playground event blog here.

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