In early January, Aria Casino hosted a modest PGT Last Chance series. There were only 6 $10,000 buy-in tournaments on the schedule, with players making between 80 and 90 entries in each.
Formally, the stage took place in 2024 but became the end of the PokerGO Tour 2023. During the year, regulars of tournaments organized by PokerGO at Aria and other major series in Las Vegas competed for PGT Championship freeroll spots, with a prize pool of $1 million.
To get a place meant getting into the top 40 of the leaderboard at the end of the year. Two additional places were competed for in the final series. Points are awarded according to a simple scheme. In all qualifying tournaments, the prize money is multiplied by a factor of 0.001. Therefore, for example, back in the summer, all the finalists of the WSOP main tournament secured their places in the freeroll.
The main character of the PGT Last Chance series was Artur Martirosyan. Out of six tournaments, he became a champion in two, and got prizes from another.
First, Artur conquered tournament #2.
Artur personally eliminated all his opponents at the final table, except for Victoria Livshits.
At the very beginning of the final table, Daniel Smilkovic bluffed off his entire stack with A-high. Artur didn't throw away his top pair and sent Daniel away in 7th place.
Artur 3-bet, then called a 4-bet, and check-called on all streets. On the river, he spent three time bank cards.
Another key hand was played in the top 6.
Kristen Foxen (with a stack of 10 blinds) raised 80% of her stack with KQo, Vitaly Zavorotny called behind her with AKo and a stack of 48bb. Artur, with a chip leader stack of 70bb on the button, shoved with AJo, Vitaly thought for a long time, studied the stacks of his opponents, but folded.
This hand is WILD!— PokerGO (@PokerGO) January 4, 2024
Artur Martirosyan extends his chip lead after eliminating @krissyb24poker and getting Vitalijs Zavorotnijs to fold the winner!
📺 – Watch the PGT Last Chance Event #2 final table live here: https://t.co/rgk6ZVoy6B pic.twitter.com/paoTOVlqjX
Kristen was eliminated in 6th place. Artur did not lose his lead and confidently brought the tournament to victory. After this win, he moved from 60th place to 46th on the annual leaderboard and topped the separate Last Chance series leaderboard.
Victory in tournament #5 provided Artur with a coveted place in the top 40, first place in the series leaderboard (just in case!), and participation in the freeroll.
This final table also featured some impressive hands.
“You can just watch a masterpiece from Chino Rheem),” Artur announced the broadcast in his telegram.
Chino Rheem (@ChinoRheem) moves back into the qualifying top 40 for the PGT Championship with his run in PGT Last Chance Event #5.— PokerGO (@PokerGO) January 7, 2024
He exits in 6th place collecting $47,400 and 47 PGT points for his run.
📺 – Watch Live Here: https://t.co/VIEOgWNUJa pic.twitter.com/B6zuOm9cQT
When there were 4 people left in the game, Artur showed a master class to Alex Foxen.
Artur Martirosyan is on a complete tear at the PGT Last Chance series.— PokerGO (@PokerGO) January 7, 2024
Watch as he overbets both turn and river against @WAFoxen to get MAX value with four left in Event #5.
Foxen exited shortly after in 4th place.
📺 – Watch Live Here: https://t.co/VIEOgWNUJa pic.twitter.com/ikakg1e2JR
Foxen opened, Artur called from the small blind, the flop was checked, on the turn Artur overbet 600,000 into a pot of 390,000, and on the river he overbet 2 million into a pot of 1.6 million, leaving himself 135,000. Alex thought for several minutes, spent almost all the time bank cards, and made a call. In the next hand, he busted.
“This is one of the most talented hands I’ve ever seen,” one of the commentators admired. – Martirosyan is a real magician.
“It’s a very interesting hand,” Daniel Negreanu was also delighted. – There are a lot of unnoticed nuances – the cards that came out, the sizing, the texture of the board. It seems that it is possible to record an hour-long video just analyzing this hand. What would you do if you were Foxen? Could you play like Artur?
In the top 3, Artur won a huge pot by catching trips against Soverel's pocket kings.
It just seems like no one can put a stop to the red hot Artur Martirosyan right now.— PokerGO (@PokerGO) January 7, 2024
And that includes @SamSoverel who's kings are cracked in this massive pot.
📺 – Watch Live Here: https://t.co/VIEOgWNUJa pic.twitter.com/Ljk0zaH6MA
Having eliminated the short-stacked Chidwick, Artur began heads-up with a five-fold advantage. The duel with Soverel lasted only one hand.
Heads-up play lasts just one hand and Artur Martirosyan locks up his second victory of PGT Last Chance.— PokerGO (@PokerGO) January 7, 2024
This secures his seat in the PGT Championship $1,000,000 Freeroll and earns him $197,500 on top.
📺 – Event Replay: https://t.co/LIS6FfNHsF pic.twitter.com/HTaEQNqkVM
Daniel Negreanu also did not leave the series without a trophy. He became the winner of the very first tournament of the series.
“Winning the first tournament of the year is a great start,” Daniel shared his joy on Twitter . – As I promised in my video, in 2024 I am making a choice in favor of quality over quantity. I'm resting tomorrow and will only play when I feel rested and ready. The last hand turned out to be interesting. I'm very pleased with my performance today.
😲 OH... MY... GOD! 😲@RealKidPoker wins his first tournament of the year in astounding fashion, spiking a four outer to capture the title in PGT Last Chance Event #1.— PokerGO (@PokerGO) January 3, 2024
Negreanu earns $218,400 and 218 PGT points for his victory!
📺 – Event Replay: https://t.co/OZb0sz94sz pic.twitter.com/WdCN7LUSND
The final tournament of the series was won by Nick Shulman.
As a result, they took 2nd and 3rd places on the leaderboard and received places in the freeroll.
A total of 54 participants received invitations to the freeroll. Four people ignored the tournament and the expectation of approximately $20,000 – WSOP Main Event finalists Ruslan Pridrik, Orpen Kisacikoglu, Adrian Mateos, and Alex Kulev.
The stacks of players who entered the tournament through the leaderboard depended on the points accumulated over the year. The chip leader was Ike Haxton with a stack of 285 blinds, Artur Martirosyan received 122 blinds for 32nd place, andMax Coleman was given 114bb for the last 40th place. 14 people who were selected for other merits (tickets were awarded among PokerGO subscribers and in various sponsorship satellites and promotions) started with 100 blinds each.
One of these satellite entries, Jeff Lennon, greatly outraged the poker community. He came to the tournament in a not-very-adequate state, wasn't composed, and in every possible way pestered the only woman at the table – actress Arden Cho.
Arden did not pay any attention to the dubious signs, but the rest of the players clearly did not like Lennon’s behavior.
Alex Foxen, who rarely speaks out on social networks, could not restrain himself here :
– I love PokerGO, but this freeroll, which was supposed to be a reward for the best players of the year, turned into a complete clownery due to incomprehensible satellites. They not only took away some of the anticipation from the regs, but also turned the tournament into a mockery of the game itself. Leave this shameful pursuit of clicks to Hustler streams.
You can also join freerolls, though there aren't many with prize pools around $1,000,000. That being said, $400 Round the Clock freerolls on partypoker are still great value, especially when you think about not paying an entry fee. The lobby has various prize guarantees every other hour of the day (hence the name "Round the Clock").
Lennon crashed out in 22nd place, and Alex Foxen held on a little longer to finish in 19th place. Ike Haxton and Sam Laskowitz were eliminated on the bubble.
Artur Martirosyan entered the final table with the 5th stack, but in one of the first hands, he doubled up, catching two outs on the river.
What is that river card!?@DarrenElias hits the rail in 6th place after one of the most ridiculous river cards you could see!— PokerGO (@PokerGO) January 10, 2024
He'll earn $40,000 for his run in the PGT Championship.
📺 – Watch Live Here: https://t.co/pQQMg5epVX pic.twitter.com/xhmAOmUcV6
After that, he became one of the leaders but failed to rise above 5th place.
Arden Cho and Daniel Smilkovic came out heads-up. In the beginning, the actress was confidently in the lead, but in the key pot, she shoved with no chance of winning.
Daniel Smilkjovic takes a massive lead in the PGT Championship after flopping a straight against @arden_cho.— PokerGO (@PokerGO) January 11, 2024
Cho's top pair is drawing dead on the turn and she's left with just a handful of chips.
📺 – Watch Here: https://t.co/pQQMg5epVX pic.twitter.com/PKC9g7fr5L
However, most observers considered Cho and Martirosyan to be the main characters of the first tournament series in 2024.