By Sean Chaffin
The last open tournament of Season XVIII wraps up on May 18 when the final table of the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown plays out at PokerGo Studio at Aria in Las Vegas. The television cameras will film everything for Bally Sports networks and the winner takes home almost $1.3 million and adds his name to the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup.
The final table should see plenty of action with several players returning with deep stacks. Here’s a look at the complete final table.
Seat 1: Brek Schutten – 31,350,000 (78 big blinds)
It’s been a huge run for this 32-year-old player from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He now has a cash and final table appearance in his first-ever WPT event. With a mountain of chips and sitting in second, he has the opportunity to make that an even bigger story. The married father of four boys isn’t a full-time poker player and works as a registered nurse when not battling it out at the poker table.
Schutten uses an aggressive style and mixes in some table talk as well. He’s been playing poker for six years and became interested in the game after hearing an ad on the radio for a poker tournament. While he may not be the most experienced, Schutten has some nice bullet points on his poker record including $646,000 in live tournament winnings.
His previous biggest score came in a World Series of Poker Circuit Hammond Horseshoe Main Event, finishing third for $135,214. He now has a chance to greatly eclipse that and score his first major title.
Seat 2: Ken Aldridge – 10,600,000 (27 big blinds)
While he may not be a full-time poker player, Aldridge has found plenty of WPT success. The 69-year-old business owner from Burlington, North Carolina, has $771,818 in tour winnings, which now includes two final table appearances. The best of those so far came in Season X, finishing runner-up in the WPT Legends of Poker for $365,800.
In a live tournament poker career stretching back to 2005, Aldridge has more than $2 million in winnings. That includes scoring a WSOP bracelet in 2009 in a $1,500 No Limit Hold’em Six-Handed event for $428,259. Married with two adult children and two grandchildren, “Teach” graduated from North Carolina State. He’s owned an auto dealership for 35 years and worked as a teacher before that. With one WPT runner-up finish already under his belt, a WPT title is now the goal. Sitting fourth in chips when play resumes, he has some work to do to get there.
Seat 3: Steven Snyder – 15,975,000 (40 big blinds)
This becomes Snyder’s second WPT cash and greatly exceeds his 27th-place finish at the WPT bestbet Bounty Scramble in Season XVII ($11,253). The father of two also has a WPTDeepStacks cash and has been playing poker full time for the last eight years after leaving his job as a machinist. Snyder, 41, lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and has an accounting degree from the University of North Carolina–Charlotte.
In the live poker arena, Snyder has $1.2 million in tournament winnings and plenty of experience. He’s been playing poker 15 years after getting into the game during the poker boom of the 2000s. Some of his best finishes come on the WSOP Circuit, where Snyder’s won three championship rings. The best of those came in 2016 at Harrah’s Cherokee where he won the $1,675 Main Event for $241,198. If Snyder can get some traction, he’ll certainly be a player to watch.
Seat 4: Viet Vo – 4,150,000 (10 big blinds)
After finishing runner-up at WPT Choctaw in Season XVII, Vo is hoping to improve on that but faces some challenges as the short stack. Originally from Vietnam and now living in Houston, Texas, the 39-year-old poker pro has $606,642 in WPT winnings and $2.2 million overall. Prior to his poker career, Vo worked as an X-ray technician.
The married father of four has plenty of nice scores in his career including two WSOP Circuit rings. The most recent came in 2019 at the Rio in Las Vegas when he won the $1,700 Main Event for $274,030. In June 2018, he finished third at the $1,675 WSOP Circuit Main Event at Choctaw for $151,248. In 2014, he took runner-up in the $1,675 WSOP Circuit Main Event in Hammond, Indiana, for $193,935. With numerous deep runs and plenty of experience, Vo will be bringing his best and can make some waves if he can accumulate some chips early.
Seat 5: Albert Calderon – 5,350,000 (13 big blinds)
In just his second WPT event, Calderon has notched his first cash and first final table appearance. He’s now hoping to turn his short stack into an even deeper run. Calderon, 34, hails from Tempe, Arizona, and works as a real estate investor and part-time cash game player. He has a bachelor’s degree in business and served seven years in the U.S Army.
This now becomes the best score of Calderon’s career. While many of his winnings have come in smaller events, one nice win stands out. In 2019, he took down the $1,100 Arizona State Poker Championship for $237,000. With only 13 big blinds, an early double-up will certainly help Calderon’s cause in progressing further up the payout ladder.
Seat 6: Sonny Franco – 31,900,000 (80 big blinds)
Already a WPTDeepStacks champion, this 31-year-old player from France is hoping to now add a Main Tour title to his resumé as well. In March 2020, he won the WPTDS Paris for $222,772 and also earned a runner-up spot at WPTDS Brussels in 2019 for $71,852. Now with the chip lead in the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown, Franco has a shot at an even bigger finish.
With $2.5 million in live tournament winnings, Franco has plenty of poker chops. Beyond the WPT he also has three WSOP International Circuit championship rings as well as several other big finishes and wins on other tours. When play resumes, he’ll have plenty of chips to apply pressure, but will also have to watch out for Schutten who has just a slightly smaller stack. If Franco can keep his massive run going, this would be a huge moment and the biggest win of his career.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.