Mar 11, 2021
The WPT Gardens Poker Championship final table was originally scheduled for late March 2020. However, the final table was delayed because of the global pandemic. The wait was going to prove worthwhile for one of the six final tablists, and it turned out to be just that for Markus Gonsalves, besting the total field size of 257 entries to win his first WPT title.
“I can say I won one,” said a relieved Gonsalves after the victory. “I honestly don’t play that many tournaments compared to these other guys, I play mostly cash games. But I’ll come out for the bigger ones, maybe I’ll start playing a little more.”
In addition to the first-place prize of $554,495, Gonsalves also receives a WPT Champions Trophy, a Championship Belt from The Gardens Casino, a Hublot Big Bang Steel Watch, and a set of Baccarat Crystal. Gonsalves will also have his name engraved on the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup alongside every WPT Champion from all 18 seasons of the World Poker Tour.
Gonsalves’ path to the final table back at The Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens, California, in January 2020 was a relatively smooth one. After bagging an above-average stack on Day 1, Gonsalves was the overall chip leader of the remaining 48 players after Day 2. From there, he finished second in chips after both Day 3 and Day 4, bringing in the second largest stack to today’s final table.
Here were the chip counts to start The WPT Gardens Poker Championship final table at the PokerGo studio:
Seat 1. Straton Wilhelm – 435,000 (17 bb)
Seat 2. Markus Gonsalves – 2,370,000 (95 bb)
Seat 3. Qing Liu – 795,000 (32 bb)
Seat 4. Tuan Phan – 2,070,000 (83 bb)
Seat 5. Jonathan Cohen – 1,615,000 (65 bb)
Seat 6. Chance Kornuth – 2,995,000 (120 bb)
The first to fall was Qing Liu, who had just joined the WPT Champions Club the night before after winning the WPT at Venetian. Liu got his chips in with two pair after the turn, facing Tuan Phan’s overpair. However, Liu’s two pair was counterfeited on the river, ending his run for back-to-back titles on back-to-back nights in sixth place.
Straton Wilhelm was the next to fall. He began the final table as the short stack and managed to ladder up one spot before running ace-ten into Phan’s pocket aces. No help came for Wilhelm and he finished in fifth place.
Chance Kornuth began the final table as the chip leader, and despite chipping up a little bit at the start, he wasn’t able to find consistent momentum. As Kornuth began to slide down the counts, Gonsalves started to assert himself. Ultimately, Kornuth got his remaining 20 big blinds in with pocket sixes against Gonsalves’ ace-five. An ace landed on the flop and Kornuth couldn’t catch up, exiting in fourth place.
Jonathan Cohen hovered around the 1,615,000 stack that he started the final table with for the entirety of his 85 hands at the final table. He never eclipsed 1,970,000, but also never dipped below 1,185,000 until his elimination hand. On that hand, he picked up pocket nines and ran right into Gonsalves’ pocket tens. That was all she wrote for Cohen, ending his run in third place.
The ensuing heads-up duel was a lengthy one, lasting more hands (91) than had been played up until that point (85). Gonsalves began with a sizable 5-to-1 chip lead, but on the third hand of heads-up play Phan won a coin flip. His pocket deuces held against Gonsalves’ king-queen, prolonging the match for what would be another three hours.
The match predominantly consisted of small pots, with Gonsalves refusing to let Phan close the gap too much. On the other hand, Phan didn’t allow Gonsalves to chip away at his stack. 57 hands after Phan’s initial double up, he was able to double up again. This time, he got it in as a big favorite with ace-six against Gonsalves’ queen-six. Phan’s ace remained best, and for the first time in the heads-up match Gonsalves’ lead was below 2-to-1. Twenty hands later, for the first time at the final table Phan took the chip lead.
“I feel like he ran really well against me heads up,” said Gonsalves afterward. “I was getting frustrated, when he took the chip lead from me I started to get frustrated. I was more tired than anything.”
Phan’s chip lead was short-lived, however, as Gonsalves found a double of his own shortly thereafter. Gonsalves raised all in with ace-ten and Phan thought for a while, using two of his time-extensions before he called with queen-six suited. No help came for Phan, and his tournament ended not long after.
In a limped pot, Phan flopped bottom two pair and committed his stack on the turn. Gonsalves, however, had flopped a flush and called Phan’s all-in raise. A safe river card fell, and with that Gonsalves became the newest WPT champion.
Photo: Markus Gonsalves and Gardens Casino Tournament Manager Cavin Quintanilla
Final Table Results
1st: Markus Gonsalves – $554,495
2nd: Tuan Phan – $359,650
3rd: Jonathan Cohen – $263,090
4th: Chance Kornuth – $195,085
5th: Straton Wilhelm – $146,655
6th: Qing Liu – $111,795
Photography by Joe Giron / PokerPhotoArchive.com