When you get all-in with pocket aces in a hold'em game and find yourself up against a smaller pair, you're roughly a 4-to-1 favorite to win the hand. Most of the time you'll win the hand, but sometimes you'll find yourself looking at the board and realizing that the unlikely has just become reality.
Such was the case with today's tournament, a rare instance of a TCOOP overlay. Most of the tournaments during this series have broken their guarantees - often wildly exceeding them - but Event 36 became the exception to the rule. At 3,289 players, the field was about 50 players shy of breaking the guarantee. And so that guarantee - $250,000 - became the official prize pool, with $39,375 set aside for the winner.
The players fell away from their shorthanded tables fast enough that the money bubble burst just as the second break was beginning, with Hulk9950 of Brazil falling short and anarhist69 of Russia taking home $135 in 420th place for becoming the first player to bust in the money. The only member of Team PokerStars Pro to cash - Grzegorz 'DaWarsaw' Mikielewicz - busted shortly after play resumed, finishing 405th ($135).
A familiar name
A third hour of poker reduced the field to just 49 players. Sitting in the lead was Denmark's jojoha0999 with 963,554 chips, followed closely by 2009 WCOOP Main Event winner Daniel "djk123" Kelly with 919,666 chips. Kelly had been outside the top five just before the break but leapfrogged thanks to his proficiency at getting three streets of value out of top pair:
With blinds already up to Level 33 (8K/16K/2K) and a big stack to wield against his much-shorter-stacked opponents, Kelly was in exactly the kind of environment where he tends to thrive. Yet djk123 couldn't get a big confrontation to go his way for the next few levels - the closest was a coin flip with pocket fours that doubled up the United Kingdom's thekevilfish, who had shoved with J♥ 8♦. While Kelly managed to stay just ahead of the structure, his neighbor, the Ukraine's egor B52, charged into the chip lead thanks to two consecutive pots - one worth 539K with A♦ K♥ to knock out Australia's united3058 in 30th place ($1,000), and the other worth 882K when his A♣ J♥ spiked an ace on the river to send the UK's cianus-ie, holder of pocket queens, home in 27th ($1,000).
While egor B52 was busy contending with Kelly, the Netherlands' ullicha was busy climbing to the top of the leaderboard with three tables left, stacking up to 2.88 million chips thanks in part to picking up pocket aces when ARARATLI (16th, $1,650) held A♥ K♣. Poland's flaszeczka also spent some time in the top spot after picking up pocket queens against Norway's angellk1 (15th, $1,650), who was all-in for 389K holding pocket sevens.
The blinds had reached Level 39 (30K/60K/7.5K) when play reached the final two tables, with ullicha in the lead and egor B52 close behind. ullicha expanded that lead by knocking out the Netherlands' AfterBeatMSc (12th, $2,187.50) to jump over 3.5 million chips. Next out was Kelly (11th, $2,187.50), the former WCOOP champ who shoved for 608K under the gun with A♣ 4♣ only to run into k345's A♠ Q♠. Spain's Nyefated (10th, $2,187.50) then became the second player of the late game to fall to ullicha's pocket aces when A♠ Q♥ didn't get any help from the board. Then jojoha0999 reclaimed the chip lead for the first time in quite a while thanks to this hand against ullicha:
Spain's flan16 (9th, $3,000) became the next to bust after running A♦ K♣ into the A♠ A♥ of thekevilfish. Then another Spaniard, fontainerote (8th, $3,000), hit the rail after losing two consecutive pots - one worth 1.3 million chips and the other worth 1 million - to flaszeczka. That left seven players on Level 42 (50K/100K/12.5K) with just six seats waiting at the final table. Two of the players who had been fighting back and forth for the chip lead - ullicha and egorB52 - both suffered setbacks on the bubble, with egorB52 doubling k345 up despite being ahead when he called and ullicha dropping a 5.44-million-chip pot to jojoha0999 on a runner-runner flush. Neither would bust, though, as egor B52 made the final elimination when his pocket sevens held up against Kot_Spartac's A♠ 6♥ to send the Russian out in 7th ($3,000) and this event to a final table.
The final countdown
As the fourth hour drew to a close, the final table was set with 60K/120K blinds, 15K antes and this lineup:
Seat 1: flaszeczka (2,192,803 in chips)
Seat 2: egor B52 (2,577,656 in chips)
Seat 3: thekevilfish (1,627,737 in chips)
Seat 4: jojoha0999 (7,550,562 in chips)
Seat 5: ullicha (562,406 in chips)
Seat 6: k345 (1,933,836 in chips)
The first casualty was, unsurprisingly, the short-stacked ullicha, who called all-in for 509K on the big blind with A♠ Q♥ for a coin flip against the pocket tens of k345. The flop came T♥ 8♠ 2♠, though, and the set of tens was all it took to bust ullicha in 6th ($4,437.50). The other short stack, egor B52, was the next to go after having the bad fortune to pick up J♠ J♦ on the same hand that saw flaszeczka pick up Q♣ Q♥. With no help from the baord, egor B52 was out 5th ($8,705).
Three hands later the field was reduced further when the action folded to thekevilfish in the small blind; the UK player shoved for 2.33 million holding K♣ 9♥ and got called by jojoha0999 in the big blind with A♠ 9♠. As if being dominated preflop weren't bad enough for thekevilfish, the flop came down A♦ T♦ A♣. The 4♥ turn and 3♦ river were formalities that sent thekevilfish out in 4th place ($13,625).
That boosted jojoha0999's stack to 10.72 million chips with the blinds at 100K/200K and antes at 25K. That was far ahead of flaszeczka's 3.83 million and k345's 1.88 million, but things quickly turned around for the short stack. Seven hands later an all-in confrontation holding A♠ 2♦ against jojoha0999's A♥ 9♠ ended well after the board came 8♣ 4♦ 4♥ 2♠ K♦, bringing k345 up to 4.46 million chips. Another seven hands went by before the two players clashed again, the time with k345's Q♠ 9♥ running down jojoha0999's pocket sevens for a 4.875 million-chip pot, one which gave k345 the lead with 8.08 million chips.
Despite none of the players trying to make a deal, the play among the final three was far from aggressive. There were plenty of flops, most of them seen after one player had previously min-raised and another had called. After k345's survival hand in the early going, another 28 hands would pass before the next all-in confrontation. It came on the 200K/400K/50K level, when jojoha0999 shoved on the button for 3.6 million with Q♦ 5♣. K345 overshoved from the small blind holdingA♣ K♥, which stayed ahead only until the Q♥ 8♦ 6♥ flop. The 3♣ turn and J♠ river kept play three-handed; just four hands later, heads-up play was set after k345 (3rd, $21,000) shoved holding K♣ 8♥ but couldn't outrun jojoha0999's K♦ J♥.
Poland's flaszeczka was behind with just 4.66 million chips to jojoha0999's 11.77 million, but within moments that deficit had been erased. On the third hand, flaszeczka shoved with 8♦ 6♦, was called by jojoha0999 with A♥ 9♣, and caught enough of the 3♠ T♥ T♣ K♣ 8♣ board to jump into the lead with 10.46 million chips. Then, on the very next hand, came the final confrontation:
Congratulations go to flaszeczka, who came from behind to win the tournament through patience, perseverance, and a little bit of well-timed card luck. And congratulations as well to the rest of the final tablists, whose accomplishment in making the final table from a 3,289-player field shouldn't be underestimated.
TCOOP Event 36 - $82 No-Limit Hold'em (6-max)
3,289 entrants, $250,000 prize pool
1st place - flaszeczka (Poland) - $39,375
2nd place - jojoha0999 (Denmark) - $28,750
3rd place - k345 (Russia) - $21,000
4th place - thekevilfish (United Kingdom) - $13,625
5th place - egor B52 (Ukraine) - $8,705
6th place - ullicha (Netherlands) - $4,437.50
Just like that, another TCOOP tourney is in the books. If you blink you might just miss the rest of this tournament series - so go check out the full schedule for a rundown of this weekend's remaining events.