The $25,000 heads-up no-limit hold'em championship brought together the maximum possible number of player – 64, who played in the knockout bracket. All matches, including the final, were played only once. No consolation or best-of-3; the chips ran out – goodbye.
Last year's winner Dan Smith took on the young and ambitious Landon Tice in the first round. The match was held in a stubborn struggle and was one of the last to finish, but Smith was behind almost all the time and was never able to lead even a little. Well, he was clearly not the strongest Smith in this tournament.
The main opening round matchup, no doubt, was Phil Ivey and John Smith. These heroes faced off in the heads-up championships for the second time, and the stern grandfather won again. They played for a long time, the advantage passed from hand to hand. In one late hand, Ivey raised to 9,000, Smith 3-bet to 35,000 leaving himself with just over 80,000 in his stack, and Ivey thought about it.
“Go all in,” the opponent prompted. Ivey followed his advice and showed ATo. Smith flipped AQo and doubled up. Now try to remember who ever beat Ivey with the help of conversations.
After some time, a key hand took place. Ivey limped, Smith checked. On the flop Smith put in 5,000 and was called. Turn , Smith bets 20,000, Ivey calls. River . Smith continues to bet – now 40,000. Ivey calls leaving himself 66,000 and Villain flips the winning hand – . Phil knocks respectfully on the table...
He didn't give up and soon doubled with all-in preflop, then shoved 100,000 with ATs and got called by KQo.
The flop showed two queens.
“Nice flop for you,” Ivey remarked.
“A very good flop indeed,” Smith said.
The turn and river had already been revealed, and Ivey had already shaken his hand and left, but John Smith clearly felt that not everything had been said.
– That was the flop! He finally said to the World Series staff who were packing up his chips and happily walked off for a break.
The strongest possible opponent went to Justin Bonomo – Henri Puustinen, aka buttonclickr. One huge pot decided everything: on the flop Justin maximized his variance by making a big raise and calling all-in with . The Finnish high roller showed a pair of nines and held.
Doug Polk was caught by an aggressive young opponent from Japan. Having lost about a third of the stack, Doug apparently figured out the optimal adjustments. The match ended when the Japanese player called the turn with a flush draw and on the river, which put a fourth card to a straight, decided to go all-in in response to Polk's check. He failed to knock out a one-card straight from Polk.
Arthur Martirosyan unexpectedly lost in the first round to Tyler Gaston. Two other players from the countries of the former USSR were opposed by stars. Alexey Ponyakov defeated Spin&Go specialist Adria "Adriia18" Diaz. At the critical moment, Adria had 60bb against his opponent's 10bb, but Alexey was on the right side of two coolers: against preflop and against on the flop .
In 2018, Adria played a 24-hour marathon of $100 spin n gos on a bet and won $4,708 in profit over 380 tournaments, showing an EV ROI of 12.39% (92 chips per tournament). To win a bet, he had to show an EV ROI above 3%. The graph suggests that it took the Spanish pro about five hours to warm up, and then he caught fire.
Thomas Ishan, a professional from France, defeated Mikita Bodyakovsky. Ever heard of Ishan? It’s probably worth taking a closer look at Ishan: since June 1, 2021, he has been engaged in severe grinding as part of the bankroll challenge “from 10 euros to a million” and successfully completed it on February 3 of this year.
In the second round, Ishan ran into Polk. It was not possible to cope with the star. Doug won a lot on the pots. In one hand, Ishan bet 22,000 on the turn , leaving behind 120,000. Polk moved all-in and after the opponent's fold showed .
“The shorter the stacks, the less useful the position is,” Doug shared his wisdom.
Soon this hand happened: Ishan limped and called a 10,000 raise. On the flop the Frenchman called a micro-bet of 6,600. On the turn Polk increased the sizing to 24,000, but Ishan still called. River – made what could have been a tougher decision easier on the river. And so an all-in Polk with was followed by a confident call from Ishan.
After some time, the stacks of the players evened out completely, when Polk in a 3-bet pot bet three barrels with an all-in on the river and ran into trips.
– "Crap! We must stop with these bluffs," – said the American.
The next time Doug bet the opponent all-in and got called, he showed trips himself.
Polk's opponent in the third round could have been buttonclickr, but the dream match was prevented by Japanese professional Reiji Kono, who destroyed the Finn in one go.
Alexey Ponyakov played with Sean Winter, and this match did not last long. In a bloated pot (3-bet or 4-bet, we don't know) the flop was laid , Alexey had , and Winter – . Winter slowplayed as best he could, called the flop, and the turn . On the river Alexey pushed all in about half of the pot.
Are you going to play like this? Winter inquired after several minutes of agonizing thought. But then he satisfied his curiosity by calling and went to the next round.
Two matches dragged on almost to the push-fold stage. In a tense fight, Landon Tice broke the resistance of Stephen Chidwick.
And John Smith lost a coin flip after the flop to Chris Brewer.
On the second day, there were 16 left:
Daemon Richardson – Eric Wasserson
Sean Winter – Kevin Rabichow
Chanracy Khun – Gabor Szabo
Landon Tice – Chance Kornuth
Joshua Heinzl – Anthony Zinno
Chris Brewer – Tyler Gaston
Doug Polk – Reiji Kono
Isaac Kempton – Roberto Perez
Making the Quarterfinal was worth $74,648, so the participants started the second day on a huge bubble.
The fate of the match between Zinno and Heinzl was decided by an ace-king preflop cooler against two jacks – Zinno caught the king on the flop and held. Heinzl, who was left with 77,000 chips, however, dragged out the fight for a long time – so long that he outlasted almost all the other comrades in misfortune.
Having taken a picture with his Japanese opponent, Polk quickly began to break away, making money with passive lines with weak bluff catchers.
Unaccustomed to retreat, Kono somehow ended up with a hand in a 120,000-chip pot on the turn (how exactly this happened, we aren't sure). He bet almost the pot – 110,000. Doug called.
On the river Kono bet 200,000 leaving himself a stub of 77,000. After clarifying the amount, Doug immediately paid with and gave an oral assessment of the opponent's game:
– Very aggressive play!
Kono got the last chips in good – AJs against ATo, but Polk was already unstoppable, and two tens came on the flop.
This match ended almost simultaneously with the duel between Tice and Kornuth: Landon did not give his opponent a single chance, and even in the last hand he fell into a trap with a dominated hand (Kornuth limped ATo with a short stack and called the push), but Tice caught a three on the river.
The next quarter-finalist was Sean Winter, who defeated HU specialist Kevin Rabichow in a no-showdown matchup. Big pots between these players ended up folding more often than usual. In the final preflop all-in, Winter went with Negreanu's favorite hand – , and made a straight on the river.
The winner of the Gaston-Brewer match was also determined by a clash preflop. Chris Brewer made the standard raise with A8o and suddenly faced an all-in for 385,000.
“I don't like this,” Chris said, leaning back in his chair, and then called and saw A5o from the opponent. The kicker still played before the river, and an eight came to seal the hand.
A little unlucky for Daemon Richardson. He 3-bet with , check-called a tiny bet on the flop , caught an ace on the turn. He checked, saw a 100,000 bet into a 280,000 pot, and decided to shove 365,000. Alas, the moment turned out to be unsuccessful – Wasserson called with and held.
And after another half an hour, Anthony Zinno finally advanced to the next round, winning another coin flip.
Roberto "DavyJones" Perez finished his online top reg match in style: he had top pair on the flop, trips on the turn, and a four-of-a-kind on the river. The opponent, who caught a low full house, did not fold on the flop, bet on the river himself, and called all-in.
In the last match, Gabor Szabo could not break the resistance of the stubborn Canadian Chanracy Khun. Sabo had 2-3 times more chips all the time, Khun was all-in a couple of times, but desperately clung to the tournament life.
In the next hand, Khun limped sixes. Sabo went all-in with K8o and Khun called. The made hand held, and the Canadian took the lead for almost the first time in the match.
After the next increase in the blinds, the average stack fell to 15 bb, and it was getting to push or fold mode. Khun shoved T9s, Sabo called with A7o with 10 blinds, and Khun won the showdown with a straight.
Eric Wasserson – Sean Winter
Chanracy Khun – Landon Tice
Anthony Zinno – Chris Brewer
Doug Polk – Roberto Perez
The fastest match in the round was Sean Winter vs. Eric Wasserson. The latter was short and went all-in with Q9o after Winter's limp.
"I'm sure we're gonna chop," Winter said and turned the A5o over.
“It’s time for me to catch a pair for the first time today!” Wasserson joked, but the pair did not come.
Landon Tice was the next to leave the tournament. His opponent played very aggressively and took a lot of pots without a showdown, but at the decisive moment, he played a strange but situationally very good line, playing a check-raise flop with two pair and checking a blank on the turn. How did he know Landon was stubborn with ace-high? How did he foresee the ace coming on the river? After the ace, Khun went all-in and was paid in full.
Chris Brewer, who lost a big pot to Anthony Zinno at the very beginning of the round, gradually seized the lead and crushed his opponent with aggression. With a 3:1 chip advantage, Chris allowed himself to gamble a little, and with 4-bet in response to the opponent's limp-reraise. Zinno showed A5o, but for once he could not hold.
Doug Polk created some lead in his match where he 3-bet , check-call the flop , checked the turn , and bet 2/3 of the pot on the river . Then Perez opened J5o and bet three streets with trips fives, and then he led by more than double. Doug had to use the classic "4-bet with terrible cards": when Perez sent his hand to the muck, Polk showed him a two of spades. The match had evened out.
In the next hand, Polk paid 25,000 on the flop in position. Turn was checked, and on the river Perez bet 50,000. Polk raised to 165,000. Perez folded very quickly. Doug flipped and asked:
– I got a bluff through!! Polk shouted gleefully, and the friendly crowd burst into applause.
This bluff completely turned the tide of the match. Doug won another big pot, after which the opponent, as they say, hung on the ropes. Soon Doug went all in preflop with AQo against 75s. The flop was empty , but the turn was unpleasant for Polk...
– I really need a three! Polk ordered loudly.
Dealer opened , and the winner celebrated his success with a few high jumps.
Chanracy Khun – Sean Winter
Doug Polk – Chris Brewer
At the main table, which was broadcast on PokerGO with open cards, Polk and Brewer were seated, of course. The first large pot was won by Brewer, Polk was slowly recouping, but on the whole, there was a respectful vicious struggle. And on the other table... it all ended instantly.
Winter raised to 30,000 and Khun raised to 125,000. Winter called.
On the flop Khun c-bet 55,000. Winter raised to 220,000. Call.
The turn was the , and Khun checked called the 370,000 bet.
River – . Khun – check. Winter – 520,000. After spending one of the timebanks, Khun went all-in. Winter took off his glasses, thought, and said that he beats one hand – . However, he couldn't fold the straight and called with . Hung showed a higher straight – .
“I don’t understand where I could have played differently,” Winter told his opponent. – Is it possible to put a 4-bet preflop?
“I wouldn’t throw it away anyway,” Khun smiled. – No, there's nothing you can do. They just put a very unfortunate runout for you.
In an interview with PokerGO, he added that he was ready to call a big bet on a blank river.
Polk, meanwhile, flopped and slowly played the flush (checked the flop, called the turn, raised the river), after which the stacks almost evened out. It was then that the key hand took place.
Polk's screams and physical displays of emotion looked a little fake, but that's up to the observer.
Brewer had a few blinds left. He doubled once but lost the second all-in.
Finals: Polk – Khun
Doug Polk, no doubt, came for the bracelet. Especially against not the most famous opponent: although Chanracy Khun regularly plays expensive live cash games, he lives in Canada, where poker isn't very popular, and does not play online with top opponents. PokerGO journalists generally presented him as a restaurateur from Quebec, but according to the depth of Khun game, it is reasonable to assume that the restaurant was bought with poker money, and not vice versa.
His results in tournaments are not impressive – a lot of cashes in the WSOP Main Event (7 out of 11!), that's all. The biggest cash happened 10 years ago – 1st place in the WPT Barcelona tournament brought the Canadian $232,000. Maybe it was worth noting that on that day, Khun beat former November Niner Benjamin Pollack heads up.
The course of the match in the first 40 minutes was completely dictated by the cards. Khun didn't turn down aggressive 3-bets with hands like 87o, Polk didn't go overboard with bluffs and generally played respectfully post-flop and tried not to go far beyond ranges. This segment was in favor of Doug mainly due to the fact that he had better cards. Then Khun won his first big pot.
Blinds 20k/40k. Doug raises 90k with . Khun calls with . On the flop Khun check-called the 80,000 c-bet. Turn – . On the paired board, Khun makes a small lead of 75,000 into a 340,000 pot. Polk calls.
River – . Khun bets 350,000 into a 490,000 pot.
Doug decides to call.
Khun soon made a thin addition on the river: on a texture with four cards to the straight and three to the flush, he made a big bet with two pair against Villain's top pair. This allowed him to take the lead for the first time. Kevin Rabichow, commenting on the final day at PokerGO, praised him for his attentive play and added that he himself would likely have checked such a river card, as the board was too scary.
In one pot where the players checked the flop and the turn, Khun tried to steal chips with an almost double pot overbet.
– Oh, I'm such a calling station ... – Doug sighed, checking his cards, quickly threw his chips into the pot, and regained his lead.
The counter bluff didn't work either, and the players switched places.
In the next level, Polk tried to decide the bracelet's fate by relying on a cooler. Khun 3-bet preflop with jacks, check-called the flop with one overcard, the players checked the turn, and Doug overbet big on the river with two pair. Apparently aimed at .
Khun, of course, calmly folded his pair.
The ace on the river gave Doug a lead of about a million chips. However, the next two notable pots were won by Khun, and he already had a million more.
The Canadian finalist felt so comfortable that he even check-raised lightly against the pre-flop raiser:
The gap grew to two million chips, but then Doug had a big bluff, and the stacks were evened out.
At the new level, the effective stack fell below 50bb and Doug decided to limp Q9o. Who knows – perhaps it cost him the bracelet: if there was a bigger pot, the opponent might not have rebounded!
Khun raised with AKo and c-bet the flop with an ace. But on the turn...
Khun checked. On second thought, Polk bet a third of the pot, 700k. And the Canadian quite quickly and confidently folded his cards!
He made another tight fold at the next level when the effective stack was less than 40 blinds.
“Now there was a very big fold,” he told his opponent.
– What, you folded a queen?
– Even stronger.
But to bluff Polk, you need a miracle. His next call startled even the most seasoned spectators.
Doug's advantage after this hand reached 2.5 million.
At the next level, the players went all in for the first time. But in a boring hand: Ako vs. Ako – chopped.
After that, Polk stopped hitting the boards altogether, but his opponent periodically fed him chips through tight folds.
But even angelic patience sometimes comes to an end.
After thinking for 15 seconds, Khun called.
“Nice hand,” Doug complimented.
Stacks after the hand: Khun – 7,110,000, Polk – 2,490,000.
This pot was checked to the end.
“10-high,” said Khun, but he showed the cards anyway. Polk nodded, showed an ace, and got ready for the next hand.
– Oh, you have a flush, – the young lady, who was dealing cards, said.
"Oh my God, what's going on?" Khun started blinking and shaking his head frequently. – Uff! Well, at least I didn’t throw it away.
Doug spent the entire ending of the match completely without a big hand. And when he got kings, Villain had a pathetic 94o, that checked preflop, and check-folded the board with an ace.
At the next blind level, Polk's stack fell below 10bb. He pushed JTo and took it. He folded to an all in from the BB. Pushed J7o – took it. Got all in again.
Doug looked at his cards – K8o. Looked at the stack – seven blinds.
– Okay, all-in.
The fourth bracelet will have to be on hold for now.
“In the end, I completely lost concentration and made two mistakes,” the winner admitted. – Apparently, I succumbed to psychological pressure, yet the situation is very unusual. Fortunately, they did not interfere with me, because I managed to collect big cards in other hands. I am very glad that I was able to defeat such an outstanding opponent as Doug Polk.
Congratulations to Chan Khun on his first big win!