By its very nature, the world of tournament poker is highly unpredictable. The people who inhabit the strangeness know only to expect the unexpected.
It wasn’t entirely outside the borders of believability when Vladimir Geshkenbein appeared on the rail of the Super High Roller tournament at the Asia Championship of Poker (ACOP) earlier this week, dressed in a velvet smoking jacket, but he also wasn’t the first person we expected to see. The former EPT champion is most commonly spotted in the card-rooms of Europe or Las Vegas; to see him in Macau seemed a little out of place.
However Geshkenbein knew what he was doing. He immediately seemed right at home. He railed his friend Tobias Ziegler to a big score at the final table of the Super High Roller event and then today went even better himself. Ziegler was on the rail as Geshkenbein took his seat as the chip-leader of the $100,000 Main Event, and he was still there when Geshkenbein was crowned champion about eight hours later.
This 28-year-old Swiss player beat Neel Murphy heads up to claim the $5,643,000 first prize and the coveted “Spadie” trophy after a deal between the last two. He becomes the only man to win a title on both the European Poker Tour and the Asia Pacific Poker Tour, and it’s very long odds against any one else managing the feat. Both tours have only one more stop until they are rebranded.
“It’s awesome,” Geshkenbein said. It really was.
Geshkenbein had the lead coming into the final day, but even the shortest stack at the table, belonging to Murphy, still represented plenty of play. Murphy was the most active player as he set about moving out of the danger zone, leaving Bryan Huang most under threat.
The Team PokerStars Pro ascended from short stack at the start of yesterday to chip leader at one point, but he couldn’t pull off the same move today. Huang became the first player to hit the rail when he lost a race with J♦J♥ against Kahle Burns’s A♦Q♥.
The popular man from Singapore has now been to three APPT final tables but is yet to seal the deal.
The big win for Burns drew him all but neck-and-neck with Geshkenbein at the top of the counts, but Geshkenbein kept managing to win enough pots to keep himself narrowly ahead. He had the cushion in what was still a deep-stacked final to sit back and let others take chunks out of each other.
The next player to perish was Shinobu Tanaka, the last representative from Japan. Tanaka had been on a bit of a tear since late last night, where he recovered from a short stack to have enough to get to the final. But he had only 9♣9♠ when he got his last chips in and Jimmy Zhou’s J♦J♠ were not in any threat.
At this stage, Murphy was the favourite to bust next. He had the shortest stack for long periods. However Jimmy Zhou, the defending champion, had also dwindled and eventually he saw his spectacular ACOP run end in fourth place. He doubled Murphy, when J♠J♣ lost to A♦6♦, and then Geshkenbein flopped the nut flush with A♠J♠ to beat Zhou’s A♦J♥.
Zhou added a prize of $2,101,000 for fourth place to the $5,885,000 he won last time. He is some player.
Yet again, it was Murphy with the short-stack when three-handed play started, and still it was Geshkenbein with the lead. But Murphy found his aggression again to win a series of pots and assume the big stack. Having made some tremendous plays to take the lead, Murphy then coolered Burns to knock the last Australian out in third.
Both players flopped top pair jacks, then turned trips. But Murphy’s kicker was better and Burns saw the bad news. He took $2,662,000 for third.
The heads-up battle was split into two distinct phases. The first was a long period of on-off deal negotiations, which seemed more likely to end in acrimony than equanimity. Murphy had a three-to-one lead when negotiations stalled for the first time, but Geshkenbein doubled up almost immediately to get them level, and then they negotiated again.
After going back and forth for a bit, they decided an even chop with $500,000 left on the side, plus the ACOP seat and the trophy to play for.
The best way to relive a short but entertaining heads up battle is to head over to the live coverage page and flick through that. The most significant fact is that eventually Murphy got it in as a short stack with top pair, up against Geshkenbein’s flush draw.
Geshkenbein, just to add a final cherry on the top of this wildly unpredictable ride, missed the flush draw but turned a bigger pair instead. That was the end of that.
Geshkenbein was last seen still sporting his smoking jacket and supping from an enormous cocktail, the latest (and penultimate) champion on the Asia Pacific Poker Tour. We have not seen the last of him, I’m sure.
2016 Asia Championship of Poker Main Event
Date: November 7-12, 2016
Buy-in: $100,000 (95,000+5,000)
Prize Pool: $28,116,200
*Denotes heads-up deal. Winner also gets buy-in to next year’s ACOP Main Event.
Click for full payouts information.