Meet the Final Four of the 2024 WSOP $25K Heads-Up Championship

Former WPT Player of the Year Faraz Jaka and Artur Martirosyan, who made the final table of the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas, headline the final four of the World Series of Poker’s annual $25,000 Heads-Up Championship.

Tim Fiorvanti
Jun 1, 2024
Artur Martirosyan (left) and Faraz Jaka (right) headline the final four of the 2024 WSOP $25,000 Heads-Up Championship.

There are a handful of tournaments on the World Series of Poker schedule that are unlike anything else on offer on the poker calendar, and thus become must-watch events.

Near the top of that list sits the annual $25,000 Heads-Up Championship, with 64 players battling it out in one-on-one heads-up matches in a single elimination bracket until only one player remains. On Friday, the field for the 2024 edition of this heads-up tournament was whittled down from 16 players to four, each two wins away from a coveted gold bracelet and a first-place prize of $500,000.

Two players very familiar to WPT fans are still in the running for the title. Season VIII Player of the Year Faraz Jaka, who has made six career WPT final tables, hopes to win his second career WSOP gold bracelet after finally breaking through on that front in 2023.

Artur Martirosyan, a regular presence in the biggest buy-in tournaments in the world, is fresh off finishing sixth in the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas last December. He also won two WSOP bracelets in 2023, and hopes to add a third in a format that he’s quite comfortable in.

Jaka will face off with Nikolai Mamut, who won his way into this tournament in a $2,700 satellite held the night before the event kicked off. Martirosyan’s opponent is Darius Samual, an English pro with only a handful of career live results.

“This is just one of the purest forms of poker,” said Jaka. “It’s so fun to battle and just go to mental warfare with everyone.”

Each of these four players hopes to join an impressive champions gallery in this event’s history. In 2023, WPT Champions Club member Chanracy Khun added his name to a list of Heads-Up Championship winners that includes fellow Champions Club members Dan Smith (2022) and Jake Cody (2011), as well as Jason Koon (2021).

In other years, when the Heads-Up Championship ran as a $10,000 event, it was won by players like Justin Bonomo (2018), Adrian Mateos (2017) and Brian Hastings (2012). The heads-up format debuted at the WSOP in 2007 with a $5K buy-in, and in 2012 there was a one-off $3,000 Heads-Up event run with half No Limit Hold’em and half Pot Limit Omaha, won by Leif Force.

Action resumes on Saturday with the semifinal round of the tournament kicking off at 12 p.m. local time in Las Vegas (3 p.m. EST). Ahead of the finale, let’s take a closer look at each of the four remaining contenders.

Artur Martirosyan

Artur Martirosyan

Age: 26
Hometown: Voronezh, Russia
Lifetime Live Tournament Earnings: $15,045,012
Total WSOP bracelets: 2
Biggest Lifetime Cash: $3,281,666, 2nd, 2023 WSOP $250,000 Super High Roller
Other Notable Results: 1st. 2021 Super High Roller Bowl Europe $100,000 No Limit Hold’em for $1,400,000; 6th, 2023 WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas for $1,207,000; 3rd, 2023 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event for $677,400; 1st, 2021 EPT Sochi Main Event for $325,316

Path to the Final Four:
Round of 64: Defeated Nick Marchington
Round of 32: Defeated Stephen Chidwick
Round of 16: Defeated Cary Katz
Round of 8: Defeated Patrick Kennedy

The last few years of Artur Martirosyan’s career have been as good as almost any poker player on the planet. He has an EPT Main Event title and two WSOP bracelets, a number of final tables in major high roller events and a final table appearance in last year’s WPT World Championship that netted him one of the biggest cashes in his career.

Most notably in regards to the tournament he currently finds himself in, Martirosyan secured one of his two 2023 WSOP bracelets in last year’s WSOP Online series. Last September Martirosyan outlasted a field of 128, twice the size of this $25K championship, in a $10,000 online heads-up tournament.

Entering Saturday’s finale, Martirosyan is confident that it could very well be his day to secure another major career milestone.

“I’m the champion of this tournament online,” Martirosyan said. “I play a lot of heads up and I like this format, I think it’s one of my favorite formats in poker. Every year I wait. Before this year’s, I busted in the first or second round. But now it’s my time.”

Darius Samual

Darius Samual

Hometown: Grimsby, England
Lifetime Live Tournament Earnings: $93,747
Total WSOP bracelets: 0
Biggest Lifetime Cash: $9,598, 45th, 2024 WSOP $5,000 Champions Reunion

Path to the Final Four:
Round of 64: Defeated James Chen
Round of 32: Defeated Ian Matakis
Round of 16: Defeated Matthew Wantman
Round of 8: Defeated John Smith

Samual was a wild card among this field from the very beginning and remains so heading into the semifinals. His largest live cash came in the event just happened, as Samual made Day 2 of the $5,000 Champions Reunion event just prior to the Heads-Up Championship. That career-best live result represents less than 40 percent of the buy-in for the tournament he’s currently in, but that number will be multiplied many times over.

Samual’s run in this tournament has gone through some true heavyweights. In the round of 32, Samual dispatched reigning WSOP Player of the Year Ian Matakis. Then, to clinch a spot in the money, Samual defeated WPT Champions Club member Matthew Wantman. Then, in what was far and away the longest match of the quarterfinals, Samual bested two-time WSOP Heads-Up Championship runner-up John Smith.

His reward for all of those wins is another heavy hitter in Martirosyan, but Samual has proven that he can hang with everyone who’s been put in front of him so far.

Faraz Jaka

Faraz Jaka

Age: 38
Hometown: San Jose, California
Lifetime Live Tournament Earnings: $7,368,439
Total WSOP bracelets: 1
Biggest Lifetime Cash: $774,780, 2nd, 2009 WPT Bellagio Cup
Other Notable Results: 3rd, 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event for $755,000; 3rd, 2009 WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $571,374; 2nd, 2018 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown for $454,496; 1st, 2023 WSOP No Limit Hold’em Shootout for $237,367

Path to the Final Four:
Round of 64: Defeated Rob Hollink
Round of 32: Defeated Ignacio Moron
Round of 16: Defeated Sam Soverel
Round of 8: Defeated Owen Messere

Faraz Jaka has been recording live tournament cashes since 2007, when he was 21 years old. His first ever recorded tournament result came at the 2007 WSOP, and despite some close calls and millions of dollars worth of results worldwide, it wasn’t until 2023 when Jaka finally broke through for his first career WSOP bracelet.

The former WPT Player of the Year hopes to add his second gold bracelet on Saturday afternoon, and Jaka appreciates the difficulty of the path he traveled to get to this point in the tournament.

“Just now I played a guy who’s one of the best heads up and crushes high stakes,” said Jaka. “Earlier I played another guy who crushes high stakes online, $300/$600 No Limit. So you’re really battling the best, and you just gotta adjust to everyone and understand their strengths and their weaknesses, and your own strengths or weaknesses, and try to put yourself in the best position to win.”

Jaka was a bit wary to share how he’ll prep with a little over 12 hours to get ready for the semifinals, but he’s confident that he’ll be putting forth his best effort as he looks to win two more matches.

“I’m going to do my same routine I would do if I was at any other final table, and just do what I need to do to get in the zone and put myself in the best chance to win,” said Jaka.

Nikolai Mamut

Nikolai Mamut

Home Country: Russia
Currently Resides: London, England
Lifetime Live Tournament Earnings: $475,641
Total WSOP bracelets: 0
Biggest Lifetime Cash: $101,520, 2nd, 2023 Lodge Championship Series $10,000 No Limit Hold’em
Other Notable Results: 31st, 2023 WPT EveryOne for One Drop for $74,300

Path to the Final Four:
Round of 64: Defeated Henri Puustinen
Round of 32: Defeated Michael Shi
Round of 16: Defeated James Gorham
Round of 8: Defeated Marko Grujic

Nikolai Mamut is perhaps the biggest true underdog story in the field of 64, and his run to the semifinals has been an impressive spin-up that began the day before the official start of the tournament.

“The only reason I played is because I won the satellite for $2.7K into this one,” said Mamut. “Honestly, I can’t believe that I got to the final four. It’s a bit out of my reach because I don’t play these stakes – more like $1K to $5K tournaments right now.

“I came off the plane and I registered the tournament,” said Mamut. “Like I came from the airport at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. was the satellite. The last 48 hours has been really surreal.”

Mamut is primarily playing live tournaments these days, with his best results coming in 2023, including a deep run in last year’s WPT EveryOne for One Drop. But the foundation for his poker game was forged in 100 big blind-deep heads-up online cash games.

He’s already turned his $2,700 investment into a minimum cash of $180,000, with the chance to win $500,000 and the bracelet if Mamut can win two more matches. In the semifinals, he’s drawn a seasoned pro in Jaka.

“Faraz is obviously a very strong player and he’s got much more live experience,” said Mamut. “I won’t underestimate him for sure. I was watching a little bit the match that was happening on the table next to us. He played against a very good player, and Owen [Messere] is a very good online player. So if he beat him, he can be anyone.”