Despite a 12-year poker career with more than $4 million in live tournament earnings, Jason Wheeler’s extensive resume was without a World Series of Poker bracelet.
That changed Friday night at the 2021 WSOP when the Chicago native won the $800 no-limit hold ’em deepstack event for his first piece of WSOP gold. Wheeler defeated Columbian Julian Velasquez heads-up to top the massive 1,921-entry field and win $202,274 for his efforts.
Wheeler told WSOP reporters after the match that he has wanted a bracelet since his first near-miss 12 years ago when he finished runner-up in a $1,500 no-limit hold ’em.
“My first time I got heads-up for a bracelet was in 2009 and at the time, I didn’t truly appreciate what it was because it was my first series, you know?” said Wheeler. “It was so long ago. It takes so long to be back heads-up for a bracelet. I played almost every event that was on the series. I have been working hard and it feels good to be validated and play well.”
The two-day even returned 121 players for the final day, but with 30-minute levels, the field was trimmed to the 10-handed unofficial final table after about eight hours of play. At the time of the 10-handed redraw, Wheeler was the short stack, while Diogo Veiga was the chip leader.
Wheeler won a flip with 9-9 against Antoine Goutard’s A-J to start his ascent up the chip counts and then Veiga busted Maxwell Sabel in 10th to leave the final nine at an official WSOP final table.
Robert Hill was the first player to leave the final table when he moved all in with AJ and was called by Velasquez, who turned over KK. Hill couldn’t drill a three-outer and was out in ninth.
Goutard then won a flip against John O’Neal with J-J against O’Neal’s A-K. After a 7432Q runout, O’Neal was out in eighth.
Ralph Massey followed O’Neal to the rail just a few hands later when he shoved with A-6 and got looked up by Velasquez’s A-Q. Massey was dead on the turn as the board came AA7Q4 and he took home $31,087 for his efforts.
Wheeler stayed out of most significant showdowns but chipped up to 9,200,000. With blinds of 400,000-800,000, it was a battle of the blinds between Wheeler and Goutard. Goutard moved all in from the small blind and Wheeler called off his stack with K7 and was in great shape against Goutard’s K5.
Wheeler’s hand held up after the entire board was dealt which put him into contention for the chip lead with Velasquez.
Velasquez cemented himself as the chip leader when he eliminated She Lok Wong in sixth. Wong was all in preflop against both Velasquez and Veiga. Velasquez turned a pair of kings with K-4, bet the turn, and forced Veiga to fold and bested Wong’s A7.
Goutard hit the rail just a couple of hands later when he ran 10-10 into Veiga’s Q-Q to leave the table four-handed. But at the end of the level, Wheeler was the one in the chip lead ahead of Velasquez, Veiga and 2019 WSOP main event fourth-place finisher Garry Gates as the short stack.
Velasquez busted Gates in fourth when his A8 bested Gates’ KQ and Wheeler took care of Veiga in third when his top and bottom pair held up against Veiga’s nut flush draw.
By knocking out Veiga, Wheeler took a better than 2-1 chip lead into heads-up against his Colombian opponent.
Although heads-up didn’t even last the rest of the level, the chip lead changed hand twice thanks to a double up from both players. Velasquez doubled up with QJ against Wheeler’s A4 and then Wheeler retook the chip lead when his 6-6 held against Velasquez’s A4.
Ultimately, Velasquez got his last 11 big blinds into the middle with A-2, but ran into Wheeler’s A-A. Velasquez never had much of a sweat and earned $126,252 for his runner-up finish.
Final Table Results:
She Lok Wong
Photo Credit: WSOP/Rachel Kay Miller