For nearly a full 14 seasons now, the World Poker Tour has missed out on having a female champion in an open event of the main tour. Maria Ho became the latest competitor to look to end the long historical drought, reaching the official WPT final table of six in the Bay 101 Shooting Star $7,500 Main Event. But, the groundbreaking achievement failed to be realised when Ho fell in sixth place. It was Ho's first WPT final table, and she earned $179,930.
After the dust had settled just before 11 p.m. PT on Friday night, German Stefan Schillhabel captured his first major poker title and the $1.298 million first-place prize that came with it.
For Schillhabel, the enormous seven-figure score dwarfed his previous best, which came in March 2015 when he took fourth in the European Poker Tour Malta €5,300 Main Event for €260,500 ($281,792).
The entire last day of play took 102 hands, according to the WPT's live updates, but more than half of those hands were from heads-up play alone.
The first elimination was Ho, who fell on Hand #23, but it was on Hand #13 that she lost nearly half of her stack that she began the final table with to Adam Geyer.
On that hand, Geyer opened from under the gun with the blinds at 30,000/60,000/10,000 to 135,000. Schillhabel called from middle position, Ho called from the cutoff seat, and Bryan Piccioli called out of the big blind. The flop was , and Piccioli checked. Geyer stayed on the gas with a bet of 300,000, Schillhabel folded, Ho called, and Piccioli folded. The hit the turn, and both players checked to see the pair the board on the river. Geyer bet 850,000, and Ho tank-called. Geyer showed the , and Ho mucked.
Coincidentally, Geyer busted Ho with aces not too long after.
With the blinds at 40,000/80,000/10,000, Geyer raised from the cutoff seat to 175,000, Schillhabel reraised on the button to 460,000, and then Ho moved all in for 1.735 million. Geyer tanked for a little bit — a ploy aimed at hopefully enticing Schillhabel to come along — then called, and Schillhabel quickly folded. Ho had the , but she was crushed by the for Geyer. The flop, turn, and river ran out , and Ho was gone.
Collecting the chips from Ho gave Geyer a lead of around 3 million and over 42 percent of the chips in play with five players remaining.
As if Geyer's day couldn't have improved anymore after such a positive start, he went from worst to first in a three-way clash that eliminated both Griffin Paul and Andjelko Andrejevic.
Paul, already a WPT champion after winning the 2015 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown for $1 million, moved all in from under the gun for 610,000. Geyer smooth-called on the button, and then Andrejevic reraised all in from the big blind for 1.13 million. Geyer called the additional amount with his holding, but his hand was in third place against the of Andrejevic and the for Paul.
Geyer could do no wrong, though, as the flop jolted him into the lead with two pair. The on the turn and the on the river kept him in front, busting Paul in fifth place for $231,310 and Andrejevic in fourth place for $331,500. Andrejevic was awarded the higher finish because he had more chips to start the hand.
Additionally, Andrejevic's finish bumped him into second place on the WPT Player of the Year leaderboard. He now trails only Mike Shariati by a mere 200 points. You can view the current leaderboard here.
Piccioli went bust on Hand #48 when his couldn't come from behind against the dominating for Schillhabel. Piccioli earned just under $500,000 for his third-place finish and set up a near-even heads-up match between Geyer with 11.47 million in chips and Schillhabel with 11.12 million.
After the two traded jabs for the early portion of the match, Hand #57 saw Schillhabel scoop a pot of 6.75 million from Geyer to move to a near 2-1 chip lead. Geyer fought back to even, then took a slight lead on Hand #66, but a pot of 9 million went Schillhabel's way on Hand #74 that really did some damage. Before that, Hand #73 saw the two players get all in with for an uneventful chop.
Unlike he did prior in the match, Geyer was never really able to gain footing after Schillhabel scooped the big hand on Hand #74. When Hand #100 rolled around, Geyer was under 10 big blinds and in the extreme danger zone. Just two hands after that, on Hand #102, he was eliminated.
Geyer moved all in for 1.85 million on the button with the blinds at 150,000/300,000/50,000. Schillhabel called with the , and Geyer had the . According to the PokerNews Odds Calculator, Geyer was a 63-percent favorite to stay alive. After the , Geyer's chances improved to an astounding 96 percent. Even after the fell on the turn, Geyer was over 88 percent to double up. But the miracle came in for Schillhabel came in when the hit the river to give the German trips.
Geyer was eliminated in second place for $752,800, the largest live score of his career.
The 2016 WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star was a record-breaking event with 753 entries. On top of the title and the money, Schillhabel also earned a Hublot King Power Unico watch, a pair of gold Monster 24K headphones, and an entry into the WPT Tournament of Champions.
*Photo courtesy of the World Poker Tour.