The 2021 World Series of Poker crowned a new gold bracelet winner at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino on Thursday as one of poker's biggest names finally joined the elusive winner's club. Out of a field of 57 entries in Event #11: $25,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em Championship, American poker pro Jason Koon came out on top of hard-fought duel with Hungary's Gabor Szabo to get the monkey off his back.
"I am another level of tired, honestly. The wife and everybody have been doing so much to help with the baby. We were up at 8:30 a.m. today taking him to a doctor’s appointment," said Koon, who welcomed his son, Calum, into the world just two weeks ago. "Then I came here and played a couple of studs. Heads-up is so intense, but yeah, we got it."
Koon, who was at his third final table of the series after finishing ninth in the $25,000 NLH High Roller and sixth in an online event the same day, admitted to a small bit of relief after finally capturing WSOP gold.
"It’s one of those things when you’re on an airplane and a person is like, ‘Do you have a bracelet?’ I’m just like, ‘Nope.’ At least I can finally say yes to that," he explained. "I love coming here. I think I’ll play poker forever, and when it’s all said and done I think it’s inevitable I’ll have several of them."
Event #11: $25,000 Heads-Up Championship Results
|Place||Winner||Country||Prize (in USD)|
|1||Jason Koon||United States||$243,981|
|4||Daniel Zack||United States||$89,787|
|6||Bin Weng||United States||$36,280|
|7||Benjamin Reason||United States||$36,280|
|8||Jake Daniels||United States||$36,280|
The top eight finishers out of the 32-player bracket earned a portion of the $721,625 in prize money while all those who won their match in the round of 64 also had their buy-ins refunded.
Eventual winner Koon was among them and came out on top of six heads-up matches to claim a top prize of $243,981. For Szabo, the runner-up finish came a consolation prize of $150,790 while the semi-finalists Henri Puustinen and Daniel Zack received $89,787 for their efforts.
"My expectations were low," said Koon. "The fatigue set in, but at no point was I feeling that fear of it might be another time I take second place like I have felt in the past for sure."
Prior to his final duel with Szabo, Koon said "I don't vlog, I don't stream, I just play the game," and that's exactly what he did throughout the three-day tournament. The freshly minted GGPoker global ambassador defeated Chris Brewer, Nicolai Morris, andJohannes Becker to reach the money stages. In the round of eight, he only needed 13 minutes to eliminate Jake Daniels and then came out on top versus Finnish heads-up specialist Henri 'buttonclickr' Puustinen en route to the final heads-up match.
|Road to the Final||Jason Koon||Gabor Szabo|
|Round of 64||Chris Brewer||Bye|
|Round of 32||Nicolai Morris||Johan Guilbert|
|Round of 16||Johannes Becker||David Peters|
|Round of 8||Jake Daniels||Mikita Badziakouski|
|Round of 4||Henri Puustinen||Dan Zack|
After getting past Brewer and Morris in the opening two rounds, Koon found himself on the ropes against German mixed game specialist and former heads-up player Becker. He needed multiple double-ups to remain in contention before closing out the duel with a superior ace. The next obstacle was Daniels and the duo built pots very early on, which then culminated in a successful flip with queens for Koon against the ace-king suited of Daniels.
In the semi-final, 21-year-old Puustinen put up a fierce fight and Koon once more needed some fortune on his side to remain in contention. He got it in with a double gutshot and flush draw versus two pair to then spike another diamond on the river. Puustinen doubled once but ultimately hero-called at the wrong time to bow out in the semi-finals.
The duel on the other side of the table between Szabo and Zack ended just moments prior. After a careful start, Szabo steamrolled to victory and won numerous big pots to decimate the stack of the only former gold bracelet winner in contention. The Hungarian turned broadway to leave Zack drawing dead and set up the duel with Koon for poker's most sought-after prize.
Koon's final duel was a roller coaster ride in which the lead changed several times. Fortune was on his side when he won a flip with pocket fives versus ace-queen suited and he then also came out on top with ace-queen against the ace-jack of Szabo for the vast majority of the chips in play. It was over soon after to finally get the monkey off his back. From now on, Koon's name will no longer be mentioned among the "best players without a WSOP bracelet."
As for what's next for Koon, his immediate plans were to get some rest and spend time with his family. Of course, getting back to the felt was already on his mind.
"I’ll play the $50Ks, the $100K and the $250K. I might play the Main Event, but that’s even pretty unlikely," he said when asked about his WSOP plans. "I’m going to hang out with the baby, and I think there’s a guy coming into town this weekend that wants to play between a $100K-$250K at ARIA, so I will oblige."
Congratulations to Jason Koon, winner of the 2021 WSOP Event #11: $25,000 Heads-Up Championship.