MicroMillions 5: Milchev94 outlasts late rally to conquer Event 66, $2.20 NLHE

It's not at all unusual to see a player who enters a final table with a big chip lead end up winning the tournament. As the blinds and antes go up and the shorter stacks become more desperate, having the big stack can allow a player to play weaker cards and try to benefit from a little bit of luck here and there against opponents who can't make them pay for it. And even when the short stacks double up, those losses can be made up for just by stealing a few sets of blinds and antes.

With all those advantages it's no wonder so many final-table chip leaders win tournaments. But just because the chip leader ends up winning in the end doesn't always mean it's an easy ride. The other benefit of having a big stack at a table full of desperate opponents is that it helps to weather all but the toughest storms. Challenges can pop up at any time - whether the table is full or even heads-up - and with a buffer to fall back on it's easier to withstand them.

Of course, before you can even think about trying to outlast a final table with the chip lead, you have to actually start playing. Event 66 of the MicroMillions 5 series, a $2.20 NL Hold'em tournament, got underway at 8:30 a.m. ET today with a $10,000 guaranteed prize pool. By the time late registration closed at 10:30 the prize pool had swelled to $27,488 thanks to 13,744 players showing up. Of them, 1,800 would collect at least $3.29, with $3,650.95 set aside for the winner.

By 6:43 p.m. ET this final table lineup was set with the blinds and antes at 200K/400K/62.5K:

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Seat 1: Rolandelo (8,454,858 in chips)
Seat 2: Milchev94 (26,319,842 in chips)
Seat 3: MICHALIS760 (2,181,852 in chips)
Seat 4: tony yangyu (3,679,264 in chips)
Seat 5: dontbesad01 (6,250,915 in chips)
Seat 6: parikmaxer43 (5,588,838 in chips)
Seat 7: Pavel Goshev (9,096,904 in chips)
Seat 8: brazerOK (4,161,684 in chips)
Seat 9: caravel123 (2,985,843 in chips)

Holding just over four big blinds, MICHALIS760 of Cyprus needed to pick up some chips quickly. Hand #4 was good news in that regard as the Cypriot player picked up Q♦ Q♥ in middle position and shoved for 1.96M. The Ukraine's brazerOK had J♦ J♠ in the small blind and three-bet to isolate, but the board fell 2♣ 8♠ A♣ 5♠ T♥ to ship the 5M-chip pot to MICHALIS760. That left brazerOK with just 1.57M chips. Five hands later the antes had whittled that down to 1.26M, which the Ukrainian bet all-in from middle position with J♣ T♥. Vietnam's caravel123 held K♣ K♥, though, and got in for 1.73M from middle position. Nobody else entered the pot, and the kings were good on a board of 3♥ A♥ 8♦ 8♣ 4♦ to knock brazerOK out in 9th place ($164.92).

That pot helped caravel123 to climb to 4.29M, squarely in the middle of the pack, but four hands later the player from Vietnam would move up into second place thanks to this pot against the chip leader, Milchev94 of Bulgaria:

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That pot was a boon to caravel123 but barely put a dent in Milchev94's stack. The incoming chip leader was game for taking on any short-stacked player who were feeling pressure from the 300K/600K/75K blinds and antes. On Hand #15 China's tony yangyu managed to double through Milchev94, after moving all-in from early position with K♥ Q♣ and outflopping the Bulgarian player's 4♦ 4♣. But losing that 2.01M still left Milchev94 with 21.86M, nearly 10M more than the nearest competitor, Lithuania's Rolandelo.

MICHALIS760 managed to double up for a second time on Hand #18, despite getting all-in before the flop with 5♣ 5♥ against parikmaxer43 of Latvia, who held 6♥ 6♣, thanks to a friendly turn card on a board of 9♥ 4♠ T♦ 5♠ 4♣. That left the Latvian player with just 1.58M. Two hands later, after playing the small blind, parikmaxer43 moved in for 1.13M on the button with A♦ Q♠ and got calls from both Russia's Pavel Goshev in the small blind and caravel123 in the big blind. Pavel Goshev got out of the way after caravel123 bet on the J♦ K♣ 9♥ flop, and caravel123 turned up Q♥ T♥ for the king-high straight. Any ten would have helped parikmaxer43, but the turn and river came 6♠ A♥ to knock the Latvian player out in 8th place ($247.39).

The shorter stacks remained tentative to commit for the rest of the level and Milchev94 and Rolandelo took advantage by stealing blinds and antes. On the second hand of the 400K/800K/100K level, Milchev94 shoved from the button with 7♦ 3♠, trying to pick up another pot uncontested. tony yangyu was in the big blind and thought for a while before finally calling all-in for a total of 5.1M with A♥ J♠. It was a misstep that could have dropped Milchev94 down to within just two big blinds of Rolandelo. But the 7♥ 8♣ 8♦ bailed Milchev94 out, and the turn and river came T♠ 4♥ to send tony yangyu to the rail in 7th place ($522.27).

That pot boosted Milchev94 up to 29.72M chips, just a few big blinds away from double the nearest stack. The Bulgarian player stepped on the gas then, stealing the pot on Hands #35 and #36 while in the blinds. On Hand #37 Milchev94 three-bet Rolandelo before the flop and took down the 8.2M-chip pot with a continuation bet on the 6♠ J♠ K♣, prompting Rolandelo to fold A♦ Q♣ face-up. Now up to 37.72M chips, the Bulgarian player had three times as many chips as anyone else at the table.

Short stack express

At the other end of the spectrum was MICHALIS760. The player from Cyprus had managed to double up a few times early on, but had been whittled down to 527K by Hand #40. With the big blind and 200K in antes looming in the next two hands, MICHALIS760 moved in under the gun with A♥ 7♥. No one else came along, leaving MICHALIS760 heads-up against Rolandelo's K♣ 4♥ in the big blind. The T♠ J♣ Q♠ flop gave Rolandelo an open-ended straight draw, and the 9♣ on the turn brought in home. The 3♦ on the river was a formality, ending MICHALIS760's run in 6th place ($797.15).

The next short stack to go was Pavel Goshev. By Hand #47 the Russian player was down to 2.12M and moved in under the gun with A♠ 9♦. caravel123, in the cutoff with K♦ Q♦, was the only caller. The K♠ J♠ 6♣ flop left Pavel Goshev in need of an ace or running cards to avoid elimination, but the 6♥ turn and T♠ river sent the Russian player packing in 5th place ($1,072.03).

That pot gave caravel123 12.32M chips, leaving the player from Vietnam less than the value of one ante behind Rolandelo for second place, but that was the last good thing that would happen for caravel123. After folding away blinds and antes for the rest of the level, the Vietnamese player was down to 9.73M and was dealt T♠ T♦ in the small blind on the first hand of the 500K/1M/125K level. Then the Ukraine's dontbesad01 moved all-in for 5.16M with 6♥ 6♠, making for a very easy call. The 8♠ 5♥ 8♣ flop and 5♠ turn were no danger, but the 6♣ river gave dontbesad01 a full house and the 11.82M-chip pot.

Seven hands later, on hand #60, caravel123 was in the big blind for 1M and called the other 1.16M chips off with J♠ 5♣ to end up facing Rolandelo's A♠ Q♥. The board ran out T♣ Q♣ 4♠ T♦ 5♦ and caravel123's run came to an end in 4th place ($1,346.91).

On the very next hand the field would shrink again:

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One tough fight

That bit of bad timing eliminated dontbesad01 in 3rd place ($1,896.67) and left Milchev94 with a strong chip lead going to heads-up play:

Seat 1: Rolandelo (14,422,239 in chips)
Seat 2: Milchev94 (54,297,761 in chips)

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Milchev94 put that chip lead to good use early, winning eight of the first 12 hands against Rolandelo. But on the 13th hand (the 74th of the final table), Rolandelo picked up Q♥ Q♣ and doubled up to 21.84M when Milchev94 called with A♥ 4♣ and the board fell 9♥ K♥ T♠ K♠ Q♠. The Lithuanian player won the next three pots, two of them with well-timed bets on the flop and on the turn, and would actually take over the chip lead on Hand #80:

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That gave Rolandelo 42.29M chips to Milchev94's 26.42M, but the lead didn't last long. On Hand #87 Milchev94 opened for 2M on the button and Rolandelo called to take a flop of 2♣ A♠ 8♠. Rolandelo check-called a 2M bet and then both players checked the Q♣ turn to see a river card of 3♣. Rolandelo led out for 6M into the 8.25M-chip pot but folded quickly after Milchev94 moved all-in for 20.55M. That moved Milchev94 back ahead by a little less than one big blind.

Rolandelo managed crawl ahead by four big blinds over the next couple of hands, but a case of poor timing reduced the Lithuanian player's stack to just that amount on Hand #95:

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One chance for Rolandelo to double up with A♥ K♥ against Milchev94's T♣ 9♣ was shot down a few hands later when the board ran out 6♦ T♠ A♠ 4♠ J♠ and the two players split the pot with a flush. But on Hand #104 the Lithuanian player was able to chip up to 15.58M after 9♣ 9♥ held up against K♠ T♣ on a board of K♦ 9♦ J♠ A♦ 2♣. But things didn't go as well on Hand #109, where Rolandelo shoved for 14.23M with K♥ T♠ after Milchev94 opened for 2.4M on the button with A♣ 9♥. The Bulgarian player called and caught top pair on the A♥ Q♠ 8♥ flop. Rolandelo's outs jumped from four to nine when the T♦ came on the turn, but the 7♦ on the river gave Milchev94 the pot and the tournament.

For finishing second Rolandelo earned $2,513.77, an all-time personal best. As for Milchev94, who came to the final table with a big chip lead and then survived a tough heads-up battle, the win was worth $3,650.95 - also a personal best.

MicroMillions 5 Event #66: $2.20 NL Hold'em
13,744 entrants
$27,488 prize pool
1,800 places paid

1st place: Milchev94 (Bulgaria) $3,650.95
2nd place: Rolandelo (Lithuania) $2,513.77
3rd place: dontbesad01 (Ukraine) $1,896.67
4th place: caravel123 (Vietnam) $1,346.91
5th place: Pavel Goshev (Russia) $1,072.03
6th place: MICHALIS760 (Cyprus) $797.15
7th place: tony yangyu (China) $522.27
8th place: parikmaxer43 (Latvia) $247.39
9th place: brazerOK (Ukraine) $164.92

Jason Kirk is a freelance contributor to PokerStars Blog.

Jason Kirk
@PokerStarsBlog in MicroMillions