Five Things to Watch For at WPT Choctaw

Before action kicks off Friday for the ninth edition of WPT Choctaw, we dig into the history and records at one of the signature stops on the World Poker Tour, including a look back at a wild week in 2023.

Tim Fiorvanti
May 2, 2024
Jared Jaffee became a two-time World Poker Tour Champion with his victory at WPT Choctaw in 2023.

The World Poker Tour is Oklahoma-bound this weekend, as Choctaw Casino Resort plays host to what’s become a Main Tour staple starting on the morning of May 3.

It’s the ninth time WPT has stopped in Durant since its debut in 2015, and this year’s event continues a North American swing that began at the Port of Miami for WPT Voyage, ran through South Florida during the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown and now stops at the crossroads of the American South, West and Midwest before a scheduled northbound destination in Montreal later this month.

The goal of every player who walks into WPT Choctaw will be the same – claim one of six seats at the televised WPT final table that’s set to take place later this month at HyperX Arena in Las Vegas, joining their six compatriots who already punched their tickets at SHRPS

Cards go into the air for Day 1A of the $3,800 buy-in event at 11 a.m. Friday morning, with live updates and coverage from the first hour all the way down to the final six players. There’s a lot of WPT history in Choctaw and more to be made this week, so before cards go into the air let’s dig into what we’re keeping an eye out for.

Looking Back at a Wild 2023 in Choctaw

Coming out of South Florida last May, all anyone could talk about was the dominance of Bin Weng, a player with a handful of big results who was largely still a mystery to most who weren’t deeply ingrained in the Northeast United States’ poker scene. After securing a massive chip lead heading into the final table spot at SHRPS, Weng then proceeded directly to Oklahoma and cut through a field of 612 to bag the chip lead heading into the final table of WPT Choctaw as well.

Weng finished his story in Las Vegas, won his second seven-figure payday of 2023, and added his name to the Mike Sexton Champions Cup by winning the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown. He didn’t have long to prepare to try to make history, as the WPT Choctaw final table was set to play out the following night at HyperX Arena.

Ultimately, Weng ran into a buzzsaw at the final table, running a major bluff headfirst into Jared Jaffee’s turned full house while the action was still six-handed. Weng never fully recovered his momentum or his chips, holding on to finish fourth at WPT Choctaw. Jaffee would go on to win the event for $400,740 and a seat to the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas – his second career title on the World Poker Tour, following a victory at bestbet Jacksonville in 2013.

After back-to-back WPT final tables in May, Bin Weng won over $2.2 million and the WPT EveryOne for One Drop title in Las Vegas in July.

How the Final Table Players at WPT Choctaw Fared After it Ended

There has been a lot of digital ink dedicated to Bin Weng’s exploits in the poker world since the start of 2023, but if you need a healthy reminder, here it goes. After making back-to-back WPT final tables, Weng was largely quiet over the course of the summer until the very end. After striking out during most of the 2023 WSOP, Weng headed over to Wynn Las Vegas and proceeded to win the WPT EveryOne for One Drop event for a cool $2.22 million, another career-best. He’d go on to win two more tournament titles at the property in the months that followed, including a $958,279 cash for winning a $25,300 High Roller during the WPT World Championship festival in December. After a few sweats late in the year, Weng also held on for WPT Season XXII Player of the Year honors.

Among the other five players at the WPT Choctaw final table, only one recorded an additional six-figure cash through the rest of 2023 – Mike Vanier, who won a $2,200 No Limit Hold’em event during the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open festival in August.

Is WPT Choctaw a Ticket to POY?

It might not be the first thing on the mind of players at the outset of WPT Choctaw, but the honor of being crowned WPT POY will be front and center as Season XXIII reaches its climax in Las Vegas in December. So it’s only right to ask how big a factor this event could play in shaping the WPT POY race once the year pushes on and the opportunities run low.

Weng is not the only winner of the award to have Choctaw play a major factor in his victory. Back in Season XV, Benjamin Zamani’s Season 15 POY run began at WPT Choctaw with a second-place finish. Zamani would go on to make two more WPT final tables and recorded a second runner-up finish at WPT Legends of Poker to secure his place in WPT history.

Will we get Becker vs. Tice Round Two?

In Florida, we got a small preview ahead of this summer’s highly publicized summer-long crossbook bet between Landon Tice and Jeremy Becker. Both players cashed in the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown but it ended with a major edge for Tice, who will kick off his summer in Las Vegas with a chance at a career-best $839,300 cash and some serious momentum heading into the summer at the WPT SHRPS final table. With Becker recording multiple cashes in Texas in the lead-up to WPT Choctaw, including a pair of runner-up finishes in Houston, it seems likely that he’ll be Oklahoma-bound. Tice is already locked into being at HyperX Arena in late May, so an attempt at following in Weng’s footsteps doesn’t seem too big a leap. And whether or not they tangle directly at WPT Choctaw, Becker making a run to a WPT final table of his own should be a story to watch.

Viet Vo is a two-time WPT Choctaw runner-up and currently holds the No. 1 spot on the all-time money list at Choctaw Casino & Resort with $1,060,320.

Everyone Chasing Viet Vo at Choctaw

Over eight editions of WPT Main Tour stops at Choctaw, some familiar faces continue to pop up. Three different players have made multiple WPT Choctaw final tables; Craig Varnell was the first to pull it off, finishing third in 2016 and returning in 2019 to be crowned champion. James Mackey won that 2016 Choctaw event and then came back to finish sixth in 2022. But according to The Hendon Mob, the only player ever to break the $1 million mark at Choctaw to date is Viet Vo, who finished second in both 2018 and 2021.

Last year’s champion Jared Jaffee bubbled the inaugural WPT Choctaw final table in 2015 before coming back to win his second career WPT title last season. With the $400,000 first-place prize from 2023 as a benchmark, we’ll have to keep an eye on whether Vo can make another run and pad his lead, or Varnell, Mackey, Jaffee or one of the others near the top of that list can close the gap.