James Carroll Wins Second WPT Title in Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown
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It was a stacked final table in the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown held at the Luxor HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday, May 30 with WPT Champions Club member James Carroll and Maria Ho coming in as the frontrunners, the only two players to start with over 100 big blinds.
Ho with over $3 million in live earnings was still looking for her first major title while Carroll already had a WPT title from winning the 2014 $7,500 Bay 101 Shooting Star for seven figures. Ho's bid for her first major career title would end in a third-place finish, while in the end, it would be the only two former WPT champs left to battle for another title in the $3,500 World Poker Tour Showdown Championship.
$3,500 World Poker Tour Showdown Championship Final Table Results
*Includes entry to $15,000 Baccarat Crystal WPT Tournament of Champions
WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown Final Table Action
One of the shorter stacks to start the day was former November Niner Jerry Wong, who found a lucky queen on the river to double early through Carroll with ace-queen versus ace-king., according to the WPT live updates.
Another short stack to start the day, two-time WPT champ Eric Afriat had to find some doubles in the early levels of play to avoid being the first player eliminated. He did so first when his ace-jack suited bested Ho's king-queen and after losing a flip to double up Chad Eveslage, Afriat was at risk again. This time he was behind, but he found an ace on the river with ace-queen to pull ahead of Carroll's pocket kings and stay alive.
"The first one felt good, but I’ve been through some super tough times for the past five years, so this feels good.”
The well-known Circuit grinder Eveslage rode the short stack for nearly 70 hands before losing a flip to Ho to hit the rail in sixth place for his largest career score at $148,380. Soon after, the only non-American finalist, Canada's Ami Alibay got his last 11 big blinds in with pocket nines and was at risk against Wong's pocket eights after Afriat folded jacks. The board ran out with four hearts though to give Wong a flush and end Alibay's tournament run in fifth.
Four-handed, the short stacks fought for their lives, Wong first doubling through Ho, who then doubled through Carroll both in blind versus blind confrontations. As Carroll's stack continued to swell as he applied pressure on his opponents, Wong slipped to eight big blinds and got them in flipping with ace-nine against Afriat's pocket fours, which held up.
The Hunt for the Title
The three-handed battle commenced with Ho trailing, but she found a double through Afriat by winning a big flip with pocket tens versus ace-queen. They couldn't shake Afriat, who found a call for his tournament life against Carroll's triple-barrel queen-high bluff with second pair to soar back into contention and close the gap for the chip lead.
As Afriat chipped up further, Ho treaded water and got her last 16 big blinds in with ace-five. Carroll looked her up with king-queen and made two pair on the turn to take down Ho's flopped pair of aces. She adds $344,960 to the $277k she earned in March for taking down the $25k LAPC High Roller. Ho now has over $3.7 million in earnings and more shots at a major title right around the corner with the WSOP freshly kicked off.
Afriat started the heads-up battle with a two-to-one chip lead over Carroll and the match went back and forth, with both players taking the lead multiple times. The third time Carroll took the lead from Afriat would be the last as he would close it out, winning a flip in the final hand by flopping trip kings with king-eight against Afriat's pocket sixes.
After just missing out on the televised WPT LAPC Main Event final table in March with a seventh-place finish, Carroll got to more than make up for it in this one. Compared to his first WPT victory which brought an even bigger payday, Carroll told WPT reporters: “This one is actually somewhat sweeter. The first one felt good, but I’ve been through some super tough times for the past five years, so this feels good.”
Carroll's win put him third in the WPT POY race and he'll have the chance to carry his momentum into the $15,000 WPT Tournament of Champions that kicks off Saturday, June 1, entry for which was included in his prize money.
Images courtesy of WPT.