Chance Kornuth fought back from the brink multiple times Thursday night to win the WPT Choctaw Championship for $486,600 at the HyperX Arena Las Vegas at the Luxor.
Kornuth faced multiple all ins for his tournament life during heads up play against Steven Buckner, but Kornuth ultimately prevailed to secure the first WPT title of his illustrious career. The victory also pushed Kornuth’s career live tournament earnings to over $10 million.
Kornuth started heads up play with a nearly 3-to-1 chip advantage. But Buckner pulled even when his overpair TsTd held against Kornuth’s straight and flush draws with 9s3s – all in on a 7d6s5s flop. They’d trade the chip lead six times, before Kornuth pulled out to a second 3-to-1 lead. But Buckner doubled back to even a second time when his Ah8d held off Kornuth’s Kh8s, all in preflop.
On the very next hand, Buckner nearly put Kornuth out when his Qd9s outkicked Qc8h on a queen-high flop. Kornuth was left with just five big blinds. But Kornuth doubled up twice, and soon enough everything was even once again. As Kornuth started to pull away, Buckner picked off a bluff and called all in with AsJd – holding against Kornuth’s Qs5h. Buckner then made four of a kind to put Kornuth on a perilously short stack once more.
Buckner had the title within reach when Kornuth called all in with Qd9d and Buckner showed QcTh. The Jh4d3c flop changed little. But the Ad turn and Jd river gave Kornuth a runner, runner flush and another chance for a comeback. Kornuth rolled his way back into a significant chip lead, only for Buckner to double back into the chip lead one final time by turning QcJh into a Broadway straight.
That would be Buckner’s final push, though. On the very next hand, Kornuth doubled up into a dominant position as his pocket sevens held against Buckner’s Ah5d. And two hands after that, Kornuth called Buckner’s all in with AsTd. Buckner showed 9h6d, and as it ran out Kc5s5hAd9d, Kornuth leapt from his seat in celebration.
It was the third trip to a WPT final table for Kornuth, who made this run count. But beyond coming from behind for victory during heads up play, Kornuth had to fight his way through a distinctly talented final six players.
The group that locked up a final table spot at the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma earlier this month included Ray Qartomy, who was at his fifth WPT final table. Kristen Foxen, a three-time WSOP bracelet winner, was at her second career WPT final table; she also had a near-miss seventh place WPT finish in 2017.
Then there was James Mackey, the 2016 winner of this very event, who was at his third WPT final table. Buckner and James Hundt each broke through with their first WPT final table appearances in this event, but each had gotten close before; Buckner finished 12th in Hollywood, Florida in November 2021, while Hundt’s previous bests were 15th and 16th place finishes.
1st: Chance Kornuth – $486,600
2nd: Steve Buckner – $320,000
3rd: Ray Qartomy – $235,000
4th: James Hundt – $175,000
5th: Kristen Foxen – $135,000
6th: James Mackey – $101,000