Phil Ivey is still the GOAT

Even with brutal draw, wins WPT heads-up challenge for $400K

Oops. he did it again.
Oops. he did it again.
Image: Getty Images

When it comes to poker, Phil Ivey proved he’s still the GOAT.

Ivey won the World Poker Tour’s star-studded 32-player $25,000 heads-up invitational tournament in Cabo on Tuesday, sweeping old-school rival Patrik Antonius in three games. Ivey earned $400,000 for his victory while Antonius took home $200,000.

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Ivey had a brutal draw throughout the bracket, as he faced wizards Manig Loeser, Anthony Zinno, Stephen Chidwick and Chris Kruk. He consistently stunned the stream’s highly knowledgeable and skilled commentators throughout the tournament, somehow managing to find zero-equity bluffs that are definitely not solver-approved. He broke poker Twitter on Monday in his match vs. Kruk with this airball bluff:

Antonius, also one of the GOATs, at age 40 is still probably the most handsome man in poker. The Finnish superstar got a break by drawing Japanese celebrity GACKT in the first round, but the rest of his run was impressive, as he beat favored heads-up boss Doug Polk, online pro Stefan112 and Sam Greenwood.

The match was anticlimactic as Ivey won the first two matches in uber-aggressive fashion. In the third and deciding game, Ivey coolered Antonius early with a flopped straight while Antonius turned two pair, giving Ivey a 25-1 chip advantage. Antonius fought back to make it only 3-1 but Ivey soon prevailed.

Hilariously, there was a moment where Antonius asked to take a bathroom break, and instead ended up playing the hand on his iPad in the bathroom.

Ivey was an end-game boss on Full Tilt Poker, with $20 million in earnings, but he has kept a low profile since, even skipping the World Series of Poker for several years. He is tied with Johnny Chan for second most WSOP bracelets, with 10, and has more than $7 million in lifetime WSOP winnings. Ivey, considered by many to be the greatest all-around poker player because of his mastery of all variants and formats, was also the top star of classic televised poker shows such as High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark, battling with Antonius, Tom Dwan, Phil Hellmuth and others in many memorable hands.

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The WPT championship signals that the living legend is still relevant as ever. Ivey has always kept his thought process close to the vest. Poker strategy has evolved since the days of Full Tilt Poker, with the advent of top players using solvers and simulation programs to come up with “game theory optimal” frequencies. It’s clear that Ivey’s done some work, and also, as commentator Nick Schulman, he seems to be able to “intuit” correct actions. Also, while the games were played online at Poker King, there was a live element as the players were sitting in the same room, receiving a feed of their opponent. While some top online players argue that live tells aren’t even a thing, Ivey has always been a guy who says he likes to “see your face.”

However, perhaps Ivey’s greatest skill was his ability to know when people are playing back at him too light, and understanding situations where his opponents don’t want to risk their entire stack. Even against well studied players who know Ivey is over-bluffing spots, he can still win pots with outright savagery.

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