When it comes to tournament reporting, I try to maintain as neutral a stance as possible. I've certainly befriended players over my years on the circuit but I strive not to let my friendships with them affect the coverage that I provide, to favor those players in any way over any other players. That being said, when heads-up play at the 2012 APPT Seoul Main Event started and we were left with only two Americans, I permitted myself one little thing.
"U-S-A! U-S-A!" With a fist pump. (Call me a homer if you must.)
Yes, heads-up play left us with Vincent Rubianes and Andrew Kim. Kim started with a 3-to-2 chip lead and through an hour of heads-up play, the stacks didn't change much. Rubianes shoved on Kim in one or two places but otherwise most of the pots were small, with few bets larger than 200,000 chips.
So of course the final hand was all in pre-flop for more than 40 big blinds each.
Rubianes started with the button and opened for the minimum 80,000. Kim three-bet to 230,000, a not uncommon tactic for him pre-flop. Rubianes frequently backed down from those three-bets but here he opted to four-bet to 505,000. Kim responded by moving all in, with Rubianes calling all in for 2.1 million. It was a flip, with Kim holding A♠K♦ and Rubianes a pair of tens. An ace on the flop paired Kim up, a pair which held through the river to crown him champion of the tournament.
It was a long road to the championship for Kim. When play started on Day 3, there were 15 other players left in the tournament. We saw a rash of dominated aces in the first hour of play and lots of big draws in the second. We reached our final nine players in about two hours, an unexpectedly quick pace.
The final nine players included three North Americans, three Europeans, two Asians and a Panamanian. One of the two Asians, 2012 Aussie Millions Main Event runner-up Ken Wong, was the first player eliminated from the final table. The other Asian, Japanese player Daisuke Endo, started the day as chip leader but blew up at the final table to finish in 8th place.
The next three eliminations all came in rapid succession, as Mike Kwon, Jose Severino and Sasa Zorc all knuckled under. Zorc has to be especially disappointed. He started the final table 2nd in chips but never made very much noise.
The final four players agreed to modify the payouts, leaving KRW 35,000,000 to the champion but otherwise agreeing to take between 90,000,000 and 110,000,000 each. With that deal in place, Moritz Ortmann and Rafael Sans each took their chances all in and busted out.
That left Rubianes and Kim to duke it out heads-up. In his winner's interview, Kim noted that the APPT Seoul Main Event was his first major live tournament and that he only played because some friends talked him into it. His goal from the beginning was just to take things one step at a time. By the time he got down to heads-up play, he claimed that he believed the skill component of the game didn't mean much.
"It's all luck at that point," he said.
That's some modesty right there. Kim displayed some masterful aggression and tactical skill to capture a deserving championship. For America, no less.
Photo credit: Ken and Long from Kenneth Lim Photography - http://www.kennethlimphotography.com