Ankush Mandavia has won the 2021 Card Player Poker Tour Venetian $2,500 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event. The 33-year-old poker pro from Kalamazoo, Michigan defeated a field of 652 entries to earn the title and the top payout of $260,000 after striking a heads-up deal with Anselmo Villarreal. This was the fifth-largest score of Mandavia’s career, and it brought his lifetime earnings to just shy of $5.4 million.
In addition to the trophies and the money, Mandavia was also awarded 1,260 Card Player Player of the Year points as the champion of this event. This win alone was enough to catapult him into fourth place in the POY race standings.
“It’s amazing. This is actually my first tournament back,” said Mandavia after coming out on top. “When I went to register and got a player’s card they told me it had been exactly one year since I last played here. That’s kinda crazy, but it feels good.”
The huge turnout of 652 entries for this event saw the $500,000 guarantee nearly tripled, with a final prize pool of $1,467,000 paid out among the top 72 finishers. Just 27 players made it to the final day of the event, with Mandavia sitting in 18th place when action resumed.
The action was fast and furious during the early levels, with 17 eliminations in the first four hours of the day. Plenty of big names hit the rail as the field was quickly narrowed down to a final table, including Justin Lapka (25th – $9,682), Scott Stewart (24th – $11,589), Frank Marasco (23rd – $11,589), Jordan Cristos (19th – $11,589), TK Miles (17th – $11,589), Stanley Lee (13th – $16,137), and start-of-day chip leader James Anderson (11th – $19,071).
By the time the official eight-handed final table was set, Tim Capretta had worked his way into the chip lead, with Mandavia sitting on the next-largest stack. Three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Kristen Bicknell and World Poker Tour main event winner Alex Foxen, who are a couple, both made the final table. This was not the first time the pair achieved that feat here at Venetian. In 2018, the two poker pros made the final table of a $5,000 buy-in Mid-States Poker Tour event together, finishing in first and second for a combined total of $439,000.
Qing Liu was the first to be eliminated at the final table, with his pocket aces being cracked by Bicknell’s pocket jacks. Liu earned $24,939 while Bicknell climbed into the middle of the pack. Seven-handed action continued for quite a while, with multiple short-stack double-ups along the way. Mandavia overtook the lead during this stretch, winning a massive pot with a floped straight against the turned set of Capretta.
Yosif Nawabi’s run in this event came to an end when his A9 ran into the pocket queens of Alex Foxen, just moments after Foxen had spiked a gutshot to double up through Nawabi. The pocket pair held up and Nawabi was knocked out in seventh place ($35,208).
Alex Foxen was the short stack when the next key hand arose. With blinds of 80,000-160,000 and a big-blind ante of 160,000, Foxen raised to 680,000 as the first to act. Capretta called from the hijack and the flop brought the 1082. Foxen shoved for 550,000 and Caprett called with AJ. Foxen rolled over the J8 for a leading pair of eights. The 10 on the turn kep him ahead, but the A on the river gave Capretta the winning hand. Foxen earned $45,477 for his sixth-place showing. The score increased his career earnings to $17,395,831.
A preflop race determined the next player to be eliminated. Derek Gregory called all-in from the big blind facing a shove from Kristin Bicknell out of the small blind. Gregory held the QJ, while Bicknell had 33. Gregory failed to improve and was knocked out in fifth place ($60,147).
Kristen Bicknell climbed into the chip lead early in four-handed action, while Mandavia had fallen to the bottom of the leaderboard. He found a double-up with pocket eights against Bicknell’s A-7 offsuit to give himself some breathing room. Bicknell, on the other hand, continued to see her stack dwindle as short-handed action continued. In the end, she got all-in with 55 racing against the AK of Anselmo Villarreal. The board came down K63710 and Villarreal’s pair of kings sent Bicknell home with $90,954 for her latest deep run, brought her career tournament earnings to $5,525,426.
Mandavia picked off a multi-street bluff from Villarreal to regain the lead during three-handed action. Villarreal was left quite short but doubled through Capretta to regain his footing. Not long after that hand, the two clashed again. With the flop showing AA9, Capretta made a bet of 1,000,00. Villarreal called and the turn brought the 3. Capretta moved all-in for 3,400,000. Villarreal made the call, having his opponent covered by a single 25,000 tournament chip. Villareal showed Q9 for aces and nines. Capretta had been making a move with K10. The river brought the 3 and Capretta was knocked out in third place, earning $132,030.
With that, Villarreal entered heads-up play with 13,855,000 to Mandavia’s 12,225,000. The two paused the action to discuss a deal. They ultimately agreed to redistribute the remaining prize pool, with Mandavia taking home $260,000 while Villarrael would earn $253,441. The two agreed to run a flip for the title, and Mandavia’s 108 beat out Villarreall’s A3. The board came down Q73810 to give Mandavia two pair for the win.
Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table: