The 2021 U.S. Poker Open wrapped up Tuesday with David Peters earning his second consecutive USPO leaderboard title. The 12-event series at the PokerGO studios at the Aria in Las Vegas drew 837 total entries and awarded $11,084,000 in prize money. Throughout the two weeks of action, a number of familiar faces made their way to final tables while some less-than-well-known players seized a piece of the spotlight against some of the best players in the world.
Peters’ Personal Poker Playground
Peters put on a performance for the ages on his way to winning the U.S. Poker Open leaderboard for a second consecutive year. He scored three wins plus another cash and walked away with $832,950 in winnings. The 2016 GPI Player of the Year has been a model of consistency over the three years of the USPO. He cashed three times in 2018, including one victory, for $508,500, and then three more times in 2019, including taking down the $100,000 buy-in Main Event to secure his first USPO leaderboard title.
All told, Peters has cashed in 10 of the 30 U.S. Poker Open events and earned a total of $2,926,250 for his efforts.
Everything Old is New Again
Modern poker is allegedly a young man’s game, but this year’s event featured a handful of players eligible for the World Series of Poker Seniors Event – and even the Super Seniors event – taking on the young guns and standing tall.
Steve Zolotow, a spry 76 years old, kicked things off for the old school by making the final table of Event #1 ($10,000 NLHE). He posted a fifth-place finish there and then finished third in Event #3 ($10,000 NLHE), and finished runner-up to Eli Elezra in Event #6 ($10,000 8-Game Mix). Those three cashes gave the man dubbed ‘The Eagle’ $288,000 in winnings.
Dan Shak is a regular on the high roller scene and the 62-year-old almost walked away with the USPO leaderboard title. Heading into the second-to-last event, Shak was 247 points behind leader Ali Imsirovic and had a chance to take over the top spot with a victory. Shak finished fifth on the leaderboard thanks to four cashes and walked away with $888,850 in earnings.
Elezra only had one cash, but the 60-year-old definitely made it count. The four-time WSOP bracelet winner took down Event #6 came and pocketed a $183,600 score.
Meanwhile, the young buck of the group, 51-year-old Cary Katz also made three final tables, posting a fourth-place finish and two third-place finishes.
New Faces Emerge
The 12-event schedule might have given some members of the old guard a chance to remind the poker world of what they’re capable of, but a number of relatively new faces used it as an opportunity to show off their own chops.
Maxx Coleman‘s biggest career win came in 2015 when he won the $2,500 WinStar River Poker Series Main Event for $750,000. Coleman made an early splash in this U.S. Poker Open, making three final tables and banking $230,800, more than half of which came from his runner-up finish in Event #8 ($10,000 PLO).
Months after taking down a career-changing $1.5 million score in the PokerStars Sunday Million, Vanessa Kade stepped into the PokerGO studios and continued to impress. She earned $94,050 for finishing fourth in Event #9 ($10,000 NLHE) and then made the final table of Event #11 ($25,000 NLHE) before busting in fifth place for $138,000.
Last summer, Ivan Zufic became the first Croatian player to win a World Series of Poker bracelet when he beat out 15,204 other entries to win Event #63 ($500 NLHE Mini Main Event) for $855,460. Had it not been for Peters, Zufic might have left Las Vegas with a pair of U.S. Poker Open titles. Zufic finished sixth in Event #7 ($10,000 NLHE) which Peters won. He then finished runner-up to Peters in Event #11. He ended up with $404,400 in consolation prize money.
Frank Funaro, the #1-ranked online poker player in New Jersey, picked up a pair of final table appearances. He finished fifth in Event #5 ($10,000 NLHE) for what was then a career-best live score of $68,000. He bested that a week later, earning $103,500 for a sixth-place result in Event #11.
After winning over fans on the most recent season of High Stakes Poker, Jake Daniels promptly showed up at the USPO and took down the opening event. Daniels, whose previous live earnings included five six-figure scores in mostly non-televised high roller events, picked up $218,500 for winning Event #1.
Not surprisingly, Peters sits atop the all-time USPO earnings leaderboard with $2,926,250 in total earnings over the three years. Stephen Chidwick, who won the inaugural USPO leaderboard, is the only other player to have broken the $2 million earnings mark with $2,591,300. Keith Tilston sits third on the all-time money list with $1,725,100 despite being absent from the 2021 event
Despite his dominance over the last two years, Peters doesn’t hold the record for most cashes. That honor belongs to Chidwick. The British pro has amassed 12 cashes; five in 2018, four in 2019, and another three this year. Peters is tied with Katz with 10 cashes. Shak sits third all-time with nine cashes.