After taking second in the past two U.S. Poker Opens, Sean Winter finished on top in 2022.
All the Jacksonville, Florida, resident had to do was win the final two events of the 12-tournament series at the PokerGO studio by the Aria.
After failing to cash in the first 10 events, Winter won the $25,000 buy-in No-limit Hold’em event for $440,000, then reached the final table of the $50,000 buy-in No-limit Hold’em series finale.
Facing a must-win situation to wrest the Golden Eagle Trophy from Tamon Nakamura’s grasp, Winter beat Masashi Oya, Nakamura’s good friend from Japan, in heads-up play Monday night to win $756,000 and the title of U.S. Poker Open champion.
“It means a lot,” Winter said. “I’m kind of speechless right now. I was just getting destroyed all series, obviously, and I was kind of grateful for that because it motivates me to do well, and the buy-ins went up. I kind of just got lucky in that regard.”
Winter, who placed second to David Peters in each of the past two series, not only took home the 60-pound Golden Eagle Trophy but also was awarded the series’ $50,000 championship bonus.
Overall, Winter won $1.246 million at the event, pushing his career tournament earnings to $21.1 million, according to The Hendon Mob.
Entering the final day of play, Nakamura had the points lead and needed to hold off Winter and Shannon Shorr, the only two players who could overtake him. Shorr went out in fifth place before Winter won it all.
“Everyone was having a phenomenal series,” Winter said. “Hats off to (Nakamura). At the start of (the final) tournament, I had to be 1 percent to win. … I don’t know. I wasn’t even thinking about having a shot at all.”
It was the second straight year that Winter has won the final event of the series. Last year, he topped a field of 42 entries to win $756,000.
Oya won $504,000 for second place in the finale, which featured 42 entries. He had built a sizable chip lead into four-handed play before he doubled up Winter, who flopped a set to beat Oya’s pair of sevens.
At the start of heads-up play, Oya had a slight chip lead over Winter, who entered the final event in 12th place in the race for the U.S. Poker Open title.
Oya had a 3-1 chip lead before Winter went ahead after check-raising the river with two pair. Oya called him with a pair of pocket queens.
On the final hand, Oya had pocket queens again. Winter had ace-six and flopped a set on the six-six-three flop. The three of a kind held up.
Nakamura placed second in the series, followed by Alex Foxen, Chino Rheem, Phil Hellmuth, Shorr, Erik Seidel, Dylan Weisman, Oya and Adam Hendrix.
Winter ascended to fourth place on the 2022 PokerGO Tour leaderboard, while Nakamura and Oya climbed into the top 20 at 14th and 17th, respectively.
The top 16 point earners on the leaderboard after the U.S. Poker Open are invited to play in the first PGT Heads-Up Showdown from April 21 to 23 at the PokerGO studio.
The top 21 point earners on the PGT leaderboard will be invited to a winner-take-all freeze-out tournament at the end of the season, with the winner taking home $500,000.