After more than six hours under the hot lights of the feature table in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure tournament room, Eugene Katchalov has won the $100,000 buy-in Super High Roller event, earning $1,500,000.
After three tortuous days of play, against 37 of the toughest opponents in the business, Katchalov overcame none other than Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu in an epic heads-up duel to take the first prize, leaving Negreanu to settle for the runner-up spot.
PCA Super High Roller Winner Eugene Katchalov
It was a bitter sweet day for Negreanu. While he was unable to get 2011 off to the victorious start he'd wanted, the $1,000,000 prize money he earned today puts him back ahead of Phil Ivey on the All Time Money list; a remarkable feat for the four-time bracelet winner. As Negreanu played, Ivey was in the Main Event, sitting just 100 feet away.
For all the talk of Negreanu's achievements it was easy to overlook Katchalov's own outstanding record. The combination of his World Poker Tour title, World Series final tables (three in 2010) and third place in the European Poker Tour London High Roller, amount to some $5,900,000 since he began playing in 2004.
Daniel Negreanu and Eugene Katchalov heads-up
The day started in quick fashion. Already seven-handed from the start, owing to the duel elimination on the last hand of Day 2, two players would be forced to leave empty handed. The first of which was Andrew Lichtenberger, who was first out in seventh. He was followed by a former Time Man of the Year, Hungarian Sandor Demjan.
Negreanu in action
That left the five remaining players the comfort of financial compensation. First to cash in this insurance was Team PokerStars Pro Humberto Brenes who, with toy shark making an appearance, had his ace-queen bettered by Bryn Kenney's pocket nines.
Busting in fourth place was Nick Schulman, a surprise departure given his commanding lead coming into the final day. It was Negreanu who sent the New Yorker to the rail with $400,000.
Following Schulman to the rail was Kenney, complete with uniform bling; putting right the disappointment he had in Barcelona six weeks ago to collect $643,000 for third place. It left Negreanu and Katchalov to do battle.
After Katchalov had seen off Kenney the two chip stacks had been about even at the heads-up kick off. But a brutal hand, one in which Negreanu turned the nut-straight only for Katchalov to river quads, the American's heads-up advantage was never worse than 3-to-1. For two and a half hours Negreanu's spirit was faultless as he pegged back the deficit, doubling up twice but never able to stop the indomitable Katchalov.
The winner's trophy
After a short pause to remove the paper bag from Viktor Blom's head, Negreanu eventually found he could do no more. When Katchalov put him all in Negreanu thought long and hard about calling with pocket fives. After several minutes of tightrope decision making, he called. It was a good move as Katchalov could only manage pocket fours. But a third four on the turn sealed Negreanu's fate.
"It brought back memories of my first big win back in 2007... but this is a very prestigious title"
His task had been made more difficult by the fact his good friend Nick Shulman had position on him. "He's the guy that knows my game the most so it was really tough having him drawn on my left."
It brings to a close the first of the big money events at this year's PCA. While you can read all the action from the Main Event elsewhere on the blog, detail of everything that happened today can be found below.
That's all from the Super High Roller. Coverage of the Main Event continues elsewhere on the blog, play in which will continue tomorrow when things finish for the night in about two levels time. In the meantime our thanks also to Neil Stoddart who provided photos of today's action.
From the Super High Roller, sung to the tune of Viva Las Vegas, it's good night.