Of all the rituals established for the end of a major poker tournament, the traditional winner's photo can be among the most grueling. As if it wasn't enough to be shoved this way and that by a bank of trigger-happy photographers, the tournament winner is also forced to pose while clutching the two cards that secured them the title. Consequently there are countless pictures out there of champions grimacing above unsuited jack-high, raggy aces or low connectors that just happened to have hit.
But every now and again, a poker dream comes true. You're heads up for the title, you have a chip lead, and you peek down to see two fine-looking aces. And then your opponent decides this is the time to shove all in, giving you the easiest click of your poker-playing life.
Such was the case this afternoon for Beat666ru from Russia, who sealed triumph in event 36 of the PokerStars MicroMillions while holding the best possible hand in hold 'em. If this had been in the live arena, you'd have now been looking at a photo something like this (as posed by Nicolas Chouity, champion of the EPT Grand Final):
As it is, we can offer you this:
It's not quite the same, but Beat666ru probably won't mind. He won $763.75 for his victory, a figure adjusted after the last four players, from a field of 9,251, made a deal. When the agreement was reached, Beat666ru had actually been the short stack, so took the smallest payday of the final quartet.
But when you add this detail -- event 36 of the MicroMillions cost the princely sum of $1 to enter -- there can surely be no complaints whatsoever.
This tournament largely followed a pattern established throughout this magnificent series: whopping field, maniacal play, then a very hasty race to the finish line when play reached the business end.
TRAVOLTA STAYS ALIVE. THEN DIES
With 10 players left, spread across two tables, all eyes were on Sir_Maciver, who had fewer than three big blinds. He was the odds-on favourite to be the final table bubble, but after he had doubled up for the second time, he was moved to type: "Call me travolta - cause im staying alive". He then did it again, to elicit messages of "aah aah aah aah staying alive" from the railbirds who had gathered to watch.
It was a compelling distraction for a while -- the survival against the odds of a short stack is always one of poker's cutest stories -- but the confidence didn't help much in this instance. Sir_Maciver had fewer than two big blinds when his J♦K♠ was outdrawn by bigbrumler's 8♣4♣.
That took us to out final nine - at least that was the idea. But wait! During the same hand over on the other table, FoRlan77 was all in for five big blinds. Vzhikus had called him, and FoRlan77's T♣J♠ couldn't beat K♦T♠.
So Sir_Maciver (aka Travolta) and FoRlan77 went out together (not like that), and our final table began with only eight seats filled. (It should probably be noted at this point, that all players had done better than Team PokerStars Pro Marcin "goral" Horecki, who went out in 4,414th.)
FINAL TABLE BEGINS
Vzhikus's elimination of FoRlan77 had put him at the top of the leader board as the final table began...
Vzhikus (Russia) 8,600,042
bigbrumler (Netherlands) 7,291,639
syavadee (Ukraine) 7,165,322
bprotj (Mexico) 6,358,483
Beat666ru (Russia) 5,949,139
iLWiNnRuN (Netherlands) 3,844,508
Barbara3720 (Portugal) 1,822,366
...but a quickfire spate of eliminations, and escalating blinds, muddled it all up very quickly.
The final was only a few hands old when the levels moved to 20,000-40,000 (50,000 ante), and the curse of the ironic user-name was soon responsible for our first elimination.
Behind the eccentric capitalisation, iLWiNnRuN's name promises two things: success and then hasty departure. But this time he was forced to renege on the first promise in favour of the second.
Folded to him on the button, iLWiNnRuN found Q♣K♣, which was a standard shipping hand. He probably would have got away with it too, if syavadee hadn't found 9♥9♦ and shoved in himself. The board was blank and syavadee claimed the first scalp.
SHOVE OUT, SHOVE OUT
Three hands later and Bárbara3720 was the player looking for the exit. She was in early position with A♥K♦, a monster holding by any standards. However, with a stack of not much more than four big blinds, there was no room for anything other than a shove. And bigbrumler's call with 4♣4♦ was standard.
They were racing again, and again the pocket pair won the day. Bárbara3720 headed out in seventh.
"It took you guys a while to get to the final table, but now players are dropping like flies!" chimed HostMickP, hovering around the table to offer support and the occasional observation. His words seemed to offer encouragement too, as once again the chips flew into the pot.
bprotj opened with a min-raise to 80,000 from early position, and one seat further round, persh600 shoved for 4,636,001. bprotj didn't have much to think about -- he was sitting with A♣A♥ -- and persh600's A♠Q♠ couldn't pull anything out of the fire.
(bprotj showed aces the next hand too, but this time everyone had folded pre-flop.)
THE FAMOUS FIVE
The fashion for pre-flop pushing had caught on, and bigbrumler was the latest to try out the move. In keeping with the three others before him, it turned out not to work as Vzhikus's A♥4♥, with which he made the call, connected rather well with the T♥Q♥4♠4♦6♥ board. bigbrumler's K♠5♥ had been behind all the time, and it was down to HostMickP to sum it up: "And another one bites the dust!"
It's fair to say that there wasn't a great deal of subtlety possible at this point, and no one could have blamed Beat666ru, the short stack, to join in with the rash of shoving.
However for the first time at the final table, he managed to win a called all-in, despite only having J♦8♦ to bprotj's T♠T♦.
HostMickP spoke for most of us. "Wow, nice flop sir!" he said.
DEAL OR NO DEAL
Almost immediately after that, syavedee suggested what most had probably been thinking. "Deal," he typed into the chat box, and almost immediately Beat666ru agreed.
HostMickP reached for the big abacus and returned with details of a chip-chop, leaving $100 on the table to play for.
HostMickP (Administrator): syavadee:$901.52
HostMickP (Administrator): bprotj:$800.30
HostMickP (Administrator): Vzhikus:$784.55
HostMickP (Administrator): Beat666ru:$663.75
HostMickP (Administrator): Left To Play for place 1: $100.00
This was followed by a chorus of "agree", and all seemed happy with their spoils. None more so than HostMickP, who was really easing into the compere's seat.
HostMickP (Host): Perfect!
HostMickP (Host): That is a deal guys!
HostMickP (Host): Congratulations!
HostMickP (Host): I will now process your deal.
HostMickP (Host): Have a good game! Hope to see you at another MicroMillions final table soon!
That left the matter of $100, and a straight winner-takes-all shootout for the c-note. In light of the sum the players had just agreed to share, $100 may have seemed quite small, but remember even this would still represent a return of 100 times the buy in. And if anything, the action grew more cagey than before.
bprotj made a big laydown on the following hand, showing top-pair as he yielded to Vzhikus's aggression on an all-heart board.
But then a big hand went in favour of bpotj, calling with over-cards against Vzhikus's straight draw. By the time the river was out, Vzhikus had whiffed and bpotj had filled the straight.
That left Vzhikus incredibly short, and he would get his last few chips in almost immediately, and find himself on the rail officially in fourth, but with third-placed money.
The three-handed counts were as follows:
Seat 2: syavadee (9860146 in chips)
Seat 5: Beat666ru (5977392 in chips)
Seat 7: bprotj (30417462 in chips)
But it quickly became the story of that man in seat five.
He doubled through syavadee and then with his big stack knocked out bprotj in third. Beat666ru found pocket tens to oust bprotj's A♥2♥.
Beat666ru, who had been the short-stack when they had negotiated a deal four-handed, entered heads up play with a dominant chip lead, and of the 13 hands he would play against syvadee, he only lost two of them.
One was a double up for syvadee and one was a blind steal. But when syvadee shoved for a little more than 8 million, with A♣4♣, Beat666ru couldn't have believed his luck. His A♠A♦ were never troubled, and Russia had another MicroMillions winner.
"Nice hand to finish it off!" understated HostMickP. Nice indeed.
Event #36: $1 NL Hold'em, $5,000 Gtd final table result:
Beat666ru (Russia) - $763.75*
syavadee (Ukraine) - $901.52*
bprotj (Mexico) - $800.30*
Vzhikus (Russia) - $784.55*
bigbrumler (Netherlands) - $336.73
Barbara3720 (Portugal) - $168.36
iLWiNnRuN (Netherlands) - $96.81
FoRlan77 (Russia) - $65.24
*denotes a four-way deal.
A week remains on the MicroMillions schedule which means you still have plenty of time to get in on the action. Check out the main page for all tournament and satellite information, as well as the leader board and statistics pages.