Daniel Smiljkovic
Daniel Smiljkovic won the PGT Championship in Las Vegas for $500,000.

The German poker professional Daniel Smiljkovic lost heads-up to Daniel Negreanu in the first major tournament on this year’s live event calendar. A week later, Smiljkovic got his title as he outlasted 53 of poker’s finest to bag the half-million-dollar top prize in the PokerGO Tour Championship Freeroll. With a cool million up for grabs, the final six players battled to get the biggest slice of it, and Smiljkovic came out on top, beating Arden Cho heads-up for the title.

Elias Eliminated Early

Overnight, the opening field of 54 players had been whittled down to just six survivors. Gone were poker legends such as Daniel Negreanu (42nd) and Phil Hellmuth (32nd), while others, such as Stephen Chidwick (24th), Erik Seidel (17th) and Sam Laskowitz (7th) all busted just outside the final six places – and the money – on a dramatic first day of action at the PokerGO Studio at ARIA.

With six terrific players fighting to avoid becoming the first player out, it was perhaps the most decorated of them all who eventually became that unlucky victim. Four-time World Poker Tour Main Event winner Darren Elias was all-in with AdKh but in a three-way all-in was up against Smiljkovic’s AsKc and Artur Martirosian’s QdQc.

Hoping for a chop with some added Martirosian chips on the side, Elias looked good for that outcome on the KdJc6h flop which ended chances of anyone getting a backdoor flush. The 5h turn was fine too, but a two-outer Qs river shattered Elias’ dreams and sent him back to the East Coast with a score of $40,000, perfectly acceptable, especially for a freeroll event, but some way short of the ‘half-milly’ he’d woken up dreaming of.

Darren Elias
WPT legend and poker star Darren Elias made the money in the PGT Championship but was first to leave the final table felt.

World Champion Can’t Claim Second Crown

With five left, Russian player Martirosian had doubled up to over 1.6 million chips, and while he was still some way behind Smiljkovic’s stack of 2.23 million, had made some ground up. Of the remaining five, Arden Cho was considerably shorter than the others, with only 540,000 chips. The Hollywood actress had less than half of anyone else’s stack but took some from the Russian player and soon, Martiroisan was at the bottom of the chipcounts again.

Calling off his stack of 710,000 chips, Martirosian’s AhKc was flipping against the newest chip leader, Leon Sturm. The German held 5s5h but the flop of AdJh4c vaulted Martirosian’s hand into the lead. The Russian only had to fade two outs twice but the 5c on the turn immediately gave him cause to grimace and after the Js completed the river, he left wishing his friends good luck at the felt on his way to collecting $60,000 in fifth place.

It wasn’t long before the podium places were reached and it as the current world champion, the 2023 WSOP Main Event winner Daniel Weinman, who missed out on the top three places. Weinman moved all-in with Kh6c on the river of a board showing AhThJcTs6d. Smiljkovic was the man with the decision to call Weinman or not, but the German held Td5d and while there were scary straight cards out there, ultimately decided correctly that his hand was too strong to fold, sending Weinman to the rail for $80,000.

Daniel Weinman
World Champion Daniel Weinman came oh so close to another major title in Las Vegas.

Arden Undone by the Unsmiling Smiljkovic

Three-handed was a rollercoaster ride and none of the remaining players seemed to want to get off for the longest time. All three led the way at different points, with Hollywood actress Arden Cho at one point holding 4.75 million of the 7 million chips in play. Her strength contributed to Sturm’s short stack and the German missed out on the heads-up, cashing for $120,000 in third place.

Sturm shoved with Td2d but his ‘Texas Dolly’ hand was called by Smiljkovic holding Jh9h and the board of AsQd7h6c9s paid off the leading German in the counts. That gave Sturm a well-earned cash of $120,000 and sent the event heads-up with $700,000 still to be won. Heads-up, Cho held the lead with 4.99 million, but Smiljkovic was still a big danger with 1,875,000 chips to his name.

A big double-up came soon. Smiljkovic flopped trips and got it in on the turn, only needing to fade Cho’s open-ended straight draw, which he did to take a marginal lead. Cho retook the lead in a pot that didn’t go to showdown but soon the stacks were even again. Cho held a very slim lead when Smiljkovic’s QcTc hit gold on the Jc9c8s flop and after a 5s turn, his pot-sized bet of 500,000 was shoved on by Cho with Jd4h and Smiljkovic’s quick call and the 9d led to Cho saying “Oops!”.

Down to just under two big blinds, Cho shoved in the next hand with Ah9c and lost to the German’s Jd5c, the board of 7c6c4dJsQc ended the ‘Cho Show’ and proclaimed Daniel Smiljkovic the winner as the runner-up Cho claimed the biggest cash of her poker career to date. Smiljkovic, the runner-up a week earlier was finally a champion on PokerGO… and in the biggest tournament of the year so far!

Watch all the action here on PokerGO’s free YouTube streaming of the final table with Remko Rinkema, Donnie Peters, Jeff Platt, Brent Hanks and Natalie Bode.

PokerGO Tour $1m Championship Freeroll Final Table Results:
Place Player Country Prize
1st Daniel Smiljkovic Germany $500,000
2nd Arden Cho United States $200,000
3rd Leon Sturm Germany $120,000
4th Daniel Weinman United States $80,000
5th Artur Martirosyan Russia $60,000
6th Darren Elias United States $40,000