Dan Smith
'Cowboy' Dan Smith was just one of the players who enjoyed a profitable PGT ARIA High Roller series, but did he make it into the current PGT Top 40?

There were four high roller events that took place over the weekend in Las Vegas as the ARIA played host to come of the world’s best poker talent. With only the top 40 finishers on the 2023 PokerGO Tour leaderboard making it to the PGT $1 million freeroll, there were six figure wins for four different poker bosses as Sin City saw some seismic shifts among the powerbase of poker players aiming to win big in the New Year.

Smith and Kempton Dominate Opening Two Events

The opening event saw Dan ‘Cowboy’ Smith and Isaac Kempton hogging the headlines as they both won over $119,000 across the two tournaments. Costing $10k to play, the opening event, officially the 16th ARIA high roller of the 2023 season, saw 26 entrants whittled down to just four money places. Andrew ‘Chewy’ Lichtenberger continued his excellent year with a min-cash worth $26,000.

Into the top three places, Japanese player Shunsuke Tokoo won $41,600 in third place. Isaac Kempton then came second, winning $72,800 as he cashed for 73 PGT points but just missed out on the win. Dan Smith took the top prize of $119,600 as he bagged 120 PGT points, which along with his other cash later in the series, was enough to raise him up to 39th place on the PGT leaderboard, meaning The Cowboy has a ticket to ride into the season-ending PGT freeroll in early January.

In the second event of the four, Isaac Kempton went one better than in the first, sealing the outright win for $115,000. Maxx Coleman was his closest rival, losing heads-up to finish second for $70,000, while Victoria Livschitz cashed for $40,000 in third place. Min-cashing for $25,000 in fourth place was one of the players of the year – Isaac Haxton.

Davies Dominates, Brewer Bumps

In the third of the four high rollers, Lithuanian player Vladas Tamasauskas won 116 PGT points and $116,000. He got the better of Chris Brewer heads-up, as the American won $75,400 in second place. That was enough to bump Brewer, who won two World Series of Poker bracelets in the summer, up to second on the PGT leaderboard, more than sealing his place in the season-ending $1m freeroll.

Also cashing in the third event were Andrew Lichtenberger (3rd for $46,400), Sean Winter (4th for $31,900) and Joe McKeehen. The former WSOP Main Event winner won a min-cash of $20,300 in fifth place as the world champion snuck into the money places.

Across the four high rollers, Lichtenberger was a standout performer and a big mover – he went into 37th place on the leaderboard. With Nacho Barbero (38th), the aforementioned Dan Smith (39th) and Ka Kwan Lau (40th) the only players more at threat of being usurped than ‘Chewy’, he’ll still likely need a couple more cashes to seal his place in the fun to come in January.

A Dozen Shots at Glory

With the WSOP Paradise festival and six ‘last chance’ high roller tournaments the only way players can now obtain PGT points, even more importance underlies what is happening out in The Bahamas. The WSOP Paradise events that contribute to the PGT Leaderboard are as follows: Event #3, the $25,000-entry GGMILLION$ High Roller, Event #5, the $25,000 buy-in PLO High Roller, Event #7, the $50,000 Super High Roller, Event #9, the $100,000-entry Ultra High Roller, Event #13, the $10,000 PLO Championship, and finally, Event #15, the $10,000 buy-in 6-Max High Roller.

In January, the PGT Last Chance series will feature six $10,100 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournaments. Taking place between January 2nd and 7th, 2024, at the PokerGO Studio in Las Vegas, the series will also give away two ‘Dream Seats’. These represent automatic entry into the PGT Championship $1,000,000 freeroll and will be won by the two players who finish highest on the PGT Last Chance leaderboard who don’t finish inside the Top 40.

With a race to the PGT points in Paradise and Las Vegas, there could yet be a player who sneaks under the wire who goes on to become the biggest winner of 2024 when the PokerGO Tour million-dollar freeroll takes place.