Chino Rheem achieved a redemption tale in Las Vegas as the poker professional triumphed in the PokerGO Heads Up Showdown for a top prize of $400,000. Over the course of a dramatic weekend, Rheem beat some of the best in the business as he eventually took the title, edging out Darren Elias for the victory.

Day 2 Dominated by Outsiders

While Day 1 saw some high-profile exits from the tournament, such as Phil Hellmuth, Sam Soverel, Shaun Deeb and Phil Galfond, Day 2 had even more surprises in store. With both the Round of 16 and quarterfinals taking place, players knew heading into the penultimate day that if they could win two heads-up matches, they’d be into the semifinals and, just as importantly, in profit.

In the Spades section, it was Justin Young who made the final four after several of the biggest name players made an early exit. Sam Soverel lost out in the first round to Sean Winter, but Winter himself went out in the Round of 16 to Alex Foxen. Foxen, however, could not overcome Young, who beat Sklar and Shorr — in an epic match after the latter also had a long battle against Deeb in the previous round.

It was a tough set of four players who remained from the opening flight in the Clubs section, with Daniel Negreanu, Tamon Nakamura, Erik Seidel, and Darren Elias battling it out. Both Nakamura and Seidel were beaten in the Round of 16, but it was Elias and not Negreanu who progressed from the quarterfinals to make a profit.

Over on the other ‘side’ of the draw, Hellmuth’s conqueror Eric Persson made it past Dan Shak in the next round, but couldn’t triumph against the talented youngster Isaac Kempton, with Chino Rheem the other player to make the semifinals. Rheem overcame Nick Schulman on Day 1, before beating both Jeremy Ausmus and Bill Klein to make the money.

Semifinal Superstars

The battle to reach the final was an intense one, with Darren Elias the first man to make the final showdown. Justin Young was short-stacked when he shoved over Elias’ three-bet with pocket threes and Elias made the call with ace-queen. The flop of K-T-T did nothing to help and neither did the jack on the turn, which gave Elias a Broadway straight.

Young still had a chance to save himself and double back into contention, needing one of the two remaining threes or two remaining tens to give himself a winning full house, but a queen on the river sealed his fate and sent him home in the semifinals for a score of $100,000.

In the other semifinal, Rheem got the better of Isaac Kempton. The latter was down to 86,000 chips and hoped to double himself up to almost level when he shoved with ace-three of clubs, but he ran into Rheem’s pocket queens, which survived a club-free king-high board with ease. That sent the impressive Kempton home for $100,000 too, with Rheem advancing to take on Elias for the title.

Darren Elias and Chino Rheem
Darren Elias (right( and Chino Rheem in action as they battle for the Showdown victory.

Rheem’s Redemption as Former ‘Addict’ Prevails

“I’m really grateful. It just feels good to be able to come and play and actually win.”

The final was a close affair between two players in red hot form. Elias has enjoyed a spectacular start to 2022, cashing for $912,000 this year alone, an amount that accounts for almost 10% of his lifetime live poker earnings. Rheem hardly came into the final showdown cold, either, winning $986,000 in just six cashes this year.

Rheem’s victory came after Elias ran short and then found himself way behind after having eight-seven on a flop of 7-5-4. Rheem only had ten-four, but a ten on the turn followed by a jack on the river saw the eventual winner pile up an 18:1 lead he would not relinquish. Elias claimed the $200,000 runner-up prize, with Rheem delighted to have won the $400,000 top prize.

“It’s a really good feeling,” said the man with over $12.3 million in live winnings following the event. “It’s just a privilege and an honor to play in these events, especially given where I was at less than a year ago. I’m really grateful. It just feels good to be able to come and play and actually win.”

Rheem spoke at length after his victory about his past as an addict and how the tournament left him feeling blessed and grateful. “I’m just really, really grateful to have been shown the light and find God and the people that he’s put in my life to help me sustain a much more healthy, sober life. I owe it all to that, really.”

PokerGO Heads Up Showdown Final Results:

Place Player Country Prize
1st Chino Rheem U.S.A. $400,000
2nd Darren Elias U.S.A. $200,000
3rd Isaac Kempton U.S.A. $100,000
4th Justin Young U.S.A. $100,000


Dave Consolazio

Dave Consolazio has been passionate about writing and sports journalism since his high school years. He has a degree in Broadcast Journalism from USC where he worked with the school's radio and television stations. His work has been featured in SportsbookReview, Sports Illustrated and SB Nation. Dave's experience ranges across multiple fields in the gambling industry. You can find his sports, casino, and poker articles in

Back To Top
Back To Top