The second of three "High Roller" tourneys on this year's World Championship of Online Poker schedule, the $10,300 buy-in no-limit hold'em heads-up event, unsurprisingly attracted an elite field to battle for one of the more coveted bracelets on offer at the WCOOP.
Capped at 32 entrants, the prize pool totaled a handsome $320,000. Only the top four spots paid, meaning players had to survive three matches to realize a profit, and win five to take the bracelet. Those making it to the semifinals were guaranteed $48,000, the tourney's runner-up would earn $80,000, and the winner a cool $144,000.
Each match featured the same structure, with players beginning with 10,000 chips. Levels lasted 30 minutes, with blinds starting at 25/50, then moving to 30/60, 40/80, 50/100, 60/120, 80/160, and 100/200.
While match-ups beyond the first round weren't known until the completion of each round -- at which point the next round's pairings were randomly determined -- with hindsight a bracket can be reconstructed, thereby giving us an idea what sort of path each player potentially faced in Event No. 41:
Just before cards went in the air at noon Eastern time, two players pulled out (arxigos and TyIIuK), their spots taken by 26071985 and SkaiWalkurrrr. SkaiWalkurrr was looking to repeat -- or perhaps better -- his success in the $25,500 version of the NLHE Heads-Up event in last year's WCOOP when he finished runner-up to RaiseOnce.
And less than 10 minutes after play began, SkaiWalkurrr was the first one through to the round of 16.
SkaiWalkurrr and his opponent, iamadumbnoob, had only played a few hands when the latter opened with a 3x raise to 150 from the button, SkaiWalkurrr reraised to 550, and iamadumbnoob called. The flop came 4♥5♦T♠, SkaiWalkurrr bet 725 and was called. SkaiWalkurrr again bet the J♥ turn -- 2,250 this time -- and iamadumbnoob called again.
The river was the A♥, prompting an all-in shove for 6,425 from SkaiWalkurrr. iamadumbnoob called, showing Q♠T♦ for tens, but SkaiWalkurrr had made a heart flush with 9♥6♥. That left iamadumbnoob with but 200 chips, and they were gone one hand later.
Brian "$tinger 88" Hastings was the next to make it through just a few minutes later. Hastings took an early lead over Bernsden12, then took the last of his opponent's chips in a hand in which Hastings rivered a better two pair versus Bernsden12.
Others making it through early included 0Human0, who swiftly whittled down Crazy Elior's stack to advance. Similarly did WhatIsICM make short work of Dan "djk 123" Kelly, fresh off winning his third WCOOP bracelet.
chopi7 next wiped out OLD TIME GIN, the end coming in a hand in which a flop gave the latter a set of nines while giving chopi7 a nine-high straight. Then Shawn "buck21" Buchanan knocked out Bjoerni89, turning two pair (kings and jacks) then calling Bjoerni89's river shove with pocket tens.
At about the 45-minute mark, Siervos moved on after defeating mikki696. Siervos had built a 3-to-1 chip lead, then a preflop all-in confrontation resulted in Siervos flopping quad nines to win the match. Take a look:
akut was the next winner after flopping a set of sevens versus MatchBalla's aces and tens.
Richard "nutsinho" Lyndaker built an early advantage over Jonathan Duhamel of Team PokerStars Canada, and as the first hour came to a close Duhamel committed his last 3,658 before the flop with Q♥Q♠ against Lyndaker's 8♥8♣. An eight flopped, giving Lyndaker a set, and when Duhamel couldn't catch up nutsinho was in the round of 16.
A couple of minutes later, Duhamel's Canadian teammate Daniel "KidPoker" Negreanu was nearly even with his opponent, Eunjong Byun, when the pair managed to get it all in following a 8♣2♦3♣ flop. Byun had A♣2♣ for deuces and a flush draw, while Negreanu had A♠8♥ for eights. The turn was the 4♥ and river the 9♠, and KidPoker advanced.
Hour 2 of the first round began with six matches still in progress. Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier had slipped to less than 5,500 chips against pistons87, and soon committed them all with Q♦Q♠ versus pistons87's A♣K♣. ElkY's queens were good through the turn, but a king fell on the river, sending Grospellier to the rail and pistons87 to the next round.
Meanwhile, Maxim Lykov of Team PokerStars Russia was faring better against Brian "Ben86" Tollerene, having about a 2-to-1 chip lead when the pair got to the river with the board showing K♠A♣9♥J♦5♦, at which point Tollerene shoved his last 5,165 with A♠T♣ for aces. The Russian made the call with J♠9♦ -- two pair -- and Maxim Lykov had made the sweet sixteen.
Fishenzon next took the last of FiSHeYe1984's short stack, the end finally coming when Fishenzon's A♠J♠ held versus his opponent's A♦5♦.
Team PokerStars Pro John Duthie next made it through, taking a little over 90 minutes to beat Jonathan "Iftarii" Jaffe. Jaffe had led for much of their match, but Duthie seized the advantage, then soon after Jaffe was all in with Q♠Q♦ versus Duthie's A♣T♣ following a 7♣9♠8♣ flop. The turn was the 6♣, giving John Duthie the flush and making the river no matter.
They reached the two-hour break, at which point 26071985 enjoyed a 2-to-1 chip advantage over Timothy "Tim0thee" Adams while Also11 held a smaller lead over K_0_S_T_Y_A.
Both leaders gradually chipped up further as the third hour progressed. At the two-and-a-half-hour mark, 26071985 finally took out Adams. Tim0thee committed the last of his stack on a 6♥8♥T♣ flop holding 8♠7♠ versus 26071985's pocket kings, but couldn't draw out. Shortly after that, Also11 took K_0_S_T_Y_A's last 2,280 chips when his pocket fives held versus the latter's A♦K♣, thus claiming the final spot in Round 2.
While 26071985 had one of the longest first-round matches, that wouldn't be the case in his next match versus Siervos, which ended in just 22 hands.
Less than 10 minutes in, a hand developed in which the pair had built a pot of more than 6,000 by the time the river fell, making a board of 2♦3♥T♦J♠4♥. Siervos checked, 26071985 shoved, and after thinking a bit Siervos called with the 4,540 he had left. Siervos had T♣8♣ for tens, but 26071985 had J♥T♠ for two pair and just like that was onto the quarterfinals.
It would take Daniel "KidPoker" Negreanu just a few minutes longer to bust chopi7. Negreanu claimed a lot of chopi7's stack early on in a hand in which KidPoker flopped a set of eights versus chopi7's top pair of aces. Down to less than 3,000, chopi7 would put the rest in with 9♣5♠ on a flop of K♠9♥5♥, his two pair momentarily ahead of Negreanu's K♥J♥ (kings plus flush draw). But the turn was the Q♦ and river the T♣, making a straight for KidPoker and sending him into the next round.
Negreanu's teammate Maxim Lykov soon joined him in the quarterfinals after he took care of Also11 in less than 25 minutes. In their final hand, Lykov had 11,175 and Also11 8,825 when Lykov opened for 125 from the button. Also11 made it 450 to go, and Lykov called.
The flop came 9♣6♦5♠. Also11 bet 550 and Lykov called. Both then checked the 9♠ turn. The river then brought the J♦. Also11 checked, Lykov bet 1,350, Also11 check-raised all in for 7,825, and Lykov quickly called, showing 9♥8♠ for trip nines. That was better than Also11's 6♣4♣, and in less than half an hour three Round 2 matches were done.
Near the end of the first half-hour, pistons87 wiped out Shawn "buck21" Buchanan. They were fairly close in chips, but a hand arose in which Buchanan picked up J♠J♥ versus pistons87's K♥K♣, and after all the chips went in preflop the better hand held.
A few minutes later, Fishenzon bumped 0Human0. On their last hand, a short-stacked 0Human0 was all in for 3,515 total on the turn with 6♣6♥ on a 3♣4♣2♥2♦ board versus Fishenzon's T♣4♦. But the T♥ fell on the river, giving Fishenzon the better two pair and sending 0Human0 railward.
The rapid play continued with two more matches quickly concluding. SkaiWalkurrr had chipped away Brian "$tinger 88" Hastings, leaving him with 4,417 when the latter three-bet shoved on a T♠K♦8♥ flop with Q♦Q♠. Alas for Hastings, SkaiWalkurr held K♠Q♣, and two cards later SkaiWalkurrr had moved on. Meanwhile, John Duthie and WhatIsICM were nearly even when Duthie picked up K♣K♠ versus WhatIsICM's A♥K♦ and the pair got it all in before the flop. The cowboys held, and John Duthie had become the third Team PokerStars Pro in the final eight.
In less than an hour, seven of the eight matches had been completed, with just akut and Richard "nutsinho" Lyndaker left battling. akut had built a better than 3-to-1 chip lead on Lyndaker, and while nutsinho battled gamely for the next half-hour he couldn't cut into akut's lead.
The end at last came for Lyndaker near the end of the third level (blinds 40/80). In the final hand between the two, Lyndaker opened for 160, akut reraised to 480, and Lyndaker called. The flop came 5♥T♦8♣. akut checked, nutsinho bet 880, and akut called. The turn was the 7♠, and when akut checked again Lyndaker pushed for his last 2,416, getting a call from his opponent. nutsinho had Q♠T♠ for tens while akut held 9♥9♣ for a lesser pair. But the river was the 9♦, giving akut a set and making nutinsho the final elimination of the second round. With akut's win, they were onto the quarterfinals.
This was the bubble round, where the four losers would go home empty-handed and the four winners would be guaranteed at least $48,000. The remaining eight were pitted against each other thusly: akut vs. Fishenzon, Duthie vs. SkaiWalkurrr, Negreanu vs. 26071985, and Lykov vs. pistons87.
During the first half-hour of play, akut, SkaiWalkurr, and Lykov all jumped out to big chip leads quickly, better than 3-to-1 in each case, while Negreanu took a more modest advantage over 26071985.
The first half-hour level was just about to end when SkaiWalkurrr opened for 125 from the button. Team PokerStars Pro John Duthie, down to just 3,184 to start the hand, called the raise, and the pair saw the flop come monotone, A♦9♦6♦. Duthie checked, SkaiWalkurrr bet 175, Duthie minimum-raised to 350, SkaiWalkurrr made it 935, and Duthie called. The turn was the 9♠, at which point Duthie pushed his remaining 2,124 all in and SkaiWalkurrr called.
Duthie showed A♣7♥ for aces and nines, but SkaiWalkurrr had 8♦7♦ for a flopped flush. The river was the 2♠, and SkaiWalkurrr was the first one through to the final four.
Just a minute later Fishenzon, down to 4,800, opened by raising 2x to 100 and akut called. Just as had happened at Duthie and SkaiWalkurrr's table, the flop came all one suit: T♠4♠K♠. akut checked, Fishenzon bet 150, akut raised to 500, Fishenzon reraised to 1,500, akut shoved all in, and Fishenzon called with his remaining chips.
akut had Q♠6♠ -- like SkaiWalkurrr, he, too, had flopped a flush -- while Fishenzon was in fact drawing dead with but A♣J♠. akut was through to the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Negreanu added to his lead over 26071985, moving up to a 2-to-1 advantage with 13,362 to his opponent's 6,638. 26071985 was acting deliberately, prompting Negreanu to send out a tweet:
"@DNChips my opponent is putting me on tilt by playing very slow. Hope it doesn't make me do something stupid."
Just a moment later, KidPoker opened with a 3x raise to 180 and 26071985 called. The flop came 3♠6♦4♥ and 26071985 checked. Negreanu bet 300, then 26071985 check-raised to 876. Negreanu called.
The turn was the A♣. 26071985 checked again, and this time KidPoker bet 1,660. 26071985 paused -- as usual -- then shoved all in for 5,582 total.
Now it was Negreanu taking his time, trying to decide what to do. Finally he called, showing A♠3♥ for two pair. 26071985 had A♦T♣ for aces only, and after the K♠ river KidPoker had claimed the third spot in the final four.
In the last remaining quarterfinal match, Lykov still enjoyed a hefty chip advantage, but as they crossed into Level 3 (40/80) pistons87 began to close the gap and soon had pulled even with the 2009 EPT Kyiv champion.
Then followed a rapid sequence of four hands -- all won by pistons87 -- that spelled doom for Lykov.
First pistons87 grabbed the chip lead in a hand in which he drew A♥K♠, paired his king on the turn, then got Lykov to call a 2,150-chip river bet. The pair would get to the river on the following hand as well, where pistons87's pocket deuces remained good versus Lykov's ace-high. pistons87 then flopped a jack-high straight on the next hand, getting Lykov to pay off another river bet to take a more than 4-to-1 chip lead on the Team PokerStars Pro.
After that flurry, pistons87 just limped from the button, prompting a 4x raise to 320 by Lykov which pistons87 called. The flop came A♦Q♠T♥. Lykov bet 450, and pistons87 called. The turn was the 5♣. Lykov checked, pistons87 bet 600, and Lykov called, leaving himself but 2,460.
The river brought the 8♣. Lykov checked again, and pistons87 bet enough to put his opponent all in. Lykov called, showing A♥8♦ for two pair. But pistons87 had K♠J♠ -- he'd flopped a straight for the second straight hand. Lykov was out, and pistons87 had made the money and the final four.
The semis pitted Daniel "KidPoker" Negreanu against pistons87 in one match, while SkaiWalkurrr and akut went at it in the other. Negreanu grabbed an early lead in his match, only to see pistons87 quickly even things up and then push back out in front.
Meanwhile akut had control early versus SkaiWalkurrr, enjoying a lead for much of the first half-hour level. Then, on the final hand of Level 1, SkaiWalkurrr and akut had made it to the river with the board showing 6♣2♦A♥3♣6♦ and 5,100 in the middle. SkaiWalkurrr took about 20 seconds, then jammed all in with his last 4,404. akut called quickly, showing A♣T♥, but SkaiWalkurrr had him pipped with A♠J♣ and thus carried the chip lead into the second level of play.
They'd been playing about 45 minutes when they approached the event's six-hour break, and in the final hand before that break, the match between Negreanu and pistons87 came to an abrupt end.
KidPoker had 8,169 to start the hand, not too far behind pistons87's 11,831. Negreanu began with a 2.5x raise to 150 from the button, pistons87 made it 420 to go, and Negreanu called the reraise. The flop came K♦5♥8♠. pistons87 led for 480, and Negreanu called. The turn brought the 9♠ and another bet from pistons87, this time for 1,680. Negreanu called once more.
The river was the 9♣, pairing the board. pistons87 shoved all in, and after tanking Negreanu finally called, turning over K♥Q♦ for kings and nines. But his opponent had 7♦6♠ for the turned straight, meaning pistons87 had defeated a second straight Team PokerStars Pro -- and third overall! -- to claim a spot in the finals.
SkaiWalkurrr maintained his lead over akut after play resumed in the other semifinal match, and before long was betting enough to put akut all in with the board showing 9♠3♥3♠T♣J♠ and SkaiWalkurr holding K♣K♥. But akut called with K♠7♠, the rivered flush keeping him alive though still at about a 2-1 disadvantage.
The lead was about the same as the players moved into Level 3 (40/80), at which point akut decided with 7♣7♦ to call a four-bet preflop shove by SkaiWalkurrr who held A♠Q♣. The flop came 4♠T♥K♠, giving SkaiWalkurr a gutshot to go with his overs. Then the 9♠ turn added still more flush outs for akut's opponent. But the river was the 4♥, and suddenly akut was the one with the 2-to-1 chip lead.
SkaiWalkurrr quickly fought back, however, and the pair were soon roughly even again, remaining so for much of the rest of Level 3. akut then grabbed a couple of medium-sized pots to edge above the 15,000-chip mark and a 3-to-1 advantage.
More chipping away ensued, until SkaiWalkurrr was down to 1,795. Then, with the blinds 50/100, SkaiWalkurrr opened for 200 and akut responded by shoving all in, getting a quick call from SkaiWalkurrr.
akut showed 7♣7♠ and SkaiWalkurrr A♠Q♠. The five community cards came K♣9♣8♠3♠J♥, knocking SkaiWalkurrr out with another impressive run and cash in a High Roller NLHE HU event and sending akut to the finals.
The final match had just begun when pistons87 proposed a possible deal and akut said he was willing to talk. The tourney was paused, and after a brief discussion the pair agreed to an even split of $105,000 apiece, leaving $14,000 -- and the WCOOP bracelet -- on the table. The negotiation completed, cards were soon back in the air.
During the first half-hour, pistons87 seized the early advantage, grabbing several small pots to edge up over 13,000. But akut soon took the lead back in a hand in which he bet 2,000 into a 3,990-chip pot with the board showing 6♠8♣6♣7♠2♦ while holding Q♠8♠. pistons87 thought about it, called, then had to muck his worse hand.
They pushed onward into Level 2, and pistons87 again retook the advantage. A dramatic hand arose in which shoved his stack on the river with the board showing T♣5♣Q♠A♦T♥ and got a call, but both players held K J for the same Broadway straight and the pot was split.
They played on, and eventually akut edged back in front in a hand in which he rivered two pair. Then came a hand in which all of pistons87's chips went in the middle on the turn with the board showing K♥8♣2♣9♥. akut had 6♣5♣ a flush draw and a gutshot, while pistons87 had 8♥2♥ for a flush draw of his own, plus two pair. The 5♥ came on the river, giving pistons87 the flush and a 15,770-chip pot.
It wasn't long after that hand that akut found himself down to just 1,640 and calling pistons87's all-in preflop shove. akut had A♦Q♣, better than pistons87's K♣Q♠. But the flop came 6♦T♣K♠, pairing pistons87, and after the 5♠ turn and Q♦ river, pistons87 had won.
Congratulations to pistons87 for beating five tough opponents -- including three Team PokerStars Pros -- to take the coveted Heads-Up High-Roller bracelet!
WCOOP Event #41 ($10,300 NLHE High-Roller Heads-Up) Results (*reflects two-way deal):
1st place: pistons87 ($119,000)*
2nd: akut ($105,000)*
3rd (tie): SkaiWalkurrr ($48,000)
3rd (tie): Team PokerStars Pro Daniel "KidPoker" Negreanu ($48,000)
Still another week left in this year's WCOOP. Check out the remaining schedule -- including information about satellites -- over at the WCOOP site. And for even more information, interviews, and insight, check out Radio WCOOP, broadcasting in four languages!