MicroMillions 6: Carelo tops gigantic field in Event #95, $2.22 NLHE (Hyper-Turbo, Heads-Up)

There was a time when the only way to play heads-up in a poker tournament was to make it through an entire field to play for the championship. Online poker changed that, and heads-up tournaments have been a staple of series like the MicroMillions for some time now. But no other series offers a heads-up tournament with a format quite like the one played in Event #95.

"Blink and you'll miss it" could have been the slogan for this tournament. With its Hyper-Turbo format bumping the blinds up every two minutes, Event #95 was able to play through a bracket of 16,384 players in just three hours and 13 minutes. In that time the champion, the Netherlands' Carelo, played and won 14 heads-up matches. Even with breaks and downtime after defeating opponents included, that still came out to an average of just 13 minutes and 45 seconds per round.

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The tournament bracket for Event #95

The $35,717.12 prize pool was distributed among the top 2,048 finishers. The big money was, as always, at the top: the four players who ran the gauntlet to the semi-finals were guaranteed $837.56 each, and more than three times that much was just two wins away for the last player standing.

Semifinal #1: tygaie007 (Romania) vs. WTFDinoD (Australia)

WTFDinoD had progressed to the seminfinal from the round of 64 by defeating FARAON AL81 (Russia), szaty173 (Hungary), Shokhrukh.S (Uzbekistan), and lucovca (Russia). tygaie007's path included wins over boarrder (Czech Republic), Mucho Daora (Brazil), logkina (Russia), and cbkjjbenson (Germany).

WTFDinoD was aggressive from the start, taking the first five pots in a row to move up to 5,480. But tygaie007 played position well and extracted a little vaue with trip queens on the river of a Q♣ 8♠ A♠ K♥ Q♠ to bring the two players back to within two big blinds of one another. WTFDinoD's response was to hit the gas again and win the next six of the next seven pots, including one worth 960 chips where the Australia player three-bet out of position and then continued on a 4♣ J♣ 5♣ flop.

That run had WTFDinoD up 5,800-4,200 as Hand #14 of their match began. The Australian had 80 chips posted in the big blind and called another 80 to build a pot worth 320 and see a 9♠ 4♥ 2♥ flop. WTFDinoD check-called tygaie007's bet of 320 there, and a bet of 480 on the 3♠ turn, to bring the A♥ on the river. Now WFTDinoD led for 500 to build the total pot to 2,420. tygaie007 responded with a quick all-in for 3,240 and put the decision to WTFDinoD, who would be left with just 1,600 chips if the call was wrong. In the end the Australian couldn't find a fold with 5♥ 5♠, which lost out to tygaie007's heart flush with K♥ 3♥.

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tygaie007 won the next three pots with no resistance and gave up the fourth to a pre-flop raise before the 19th and final hand of their match played out:

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With that WTFDinoD was gone in 4th place and tygaie007 awaited the winner from the other semi-final.

Semifinal #2: nicupintea (Romania) vs. Carelo (Netherlands)

The path from the round of 64 to the semi-final for nicupintea was composed of wins over Henrikcfc (United Kingdom), oSOH (Latvia), mactimo (Germany), and Podar0k (Russia). Carelo got there via victories against Katzo666 (Germany), Ochi147 (Brazil), satriales3 (United Kingdom), and buvaisar (Russia).

Both players were content to play stay at arm's length in the beginning, trading blind steals with the occasional small pot won on the turn or river. On the 20th hand of their match there was finally a sizable pot after nicupintea min-raised to 240 on the button and Carelo three-bet to 600 in the big blind. nicupintea called to see the 9♣ 4♦ 4♣ flop, and then called another 720 chips on the A♥ turn. That brought the J♥ on the turn, and Carelo check-folded to an all-in bet of 2,140 from nicupintea.

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The Romanian now had 6,960 to Carelo's 3,060, which is roughly where the stacks remained over the next 11 hands until Carelo brought them back to within two big blinds of each other with this win:

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Carelo took a small lead with a pre-flop three-bet on the next hand, a turning point which would be the final lead change of the match. Hand #41 began with the blinds at 100/200 and Carelo holding a 5,400-4,600 advantage, one the Dutch player expanded after opening for 400, having nicupintea three-bet to 800, and moving all-in to win the 1,600-chip pot. That win and a blind steal on the next hand after the blinds rose to 150/300 gave Carelo a lead of 6,350-3,650.

Hand #43 saw Carelo open the betting for 600 on the button, and the Dutch player called after nicupintea moved all-in from the big blind. Carelo's call with A♠ J♠ came quickly, and that hand was in great shape against the Romanian's A♦ 6♦. The board came 8♣ A♣ 5♦ 2♦ 5♠, nicupintea finished in 3rd place, and the final match was set.

Final: tygaie007 (Romania) vs. Carelo (Netherlands)

There was brief discussion of a possible deal when the final match began, but Carelo cited heads-up skill as the reason for wanting a larger share. "i'm running toooooooo hot let's play," tygaie007 said, and the match continued.

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The Romanian's hot run cooled off on just the third hand. Carelo opened for 100 on the button and tygaie007 called to see the K♣ 7♦ 8♦ flop, which both players checked. tygaie007 led for 144 on the 7♣ turn and then called Carelo's raise to 520 to bring the A♣ river. tygaie007 check-called Carelo's 720-chip bet but mucked when Carelo showed 7♠ 5♣ for trips sevens to win the pot.

That pot gave Carelo a 6,140-2,860 lead and the Dutch player put those chips to good use, winning 15 of the next 20 pots. Most of them were small and taken before the flop, but the three largest (two worth 960 and another worth 800) all went to Carelo for a 7,680-2,320 lead. Then tygaie007 mounted a comeback, winning seven of nine pots including a near-double to get back to within 10 big blinds:

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Another strong run winning seven of eight pots directly after that not only brought tygaie007 back into the contest but gave the Romanian a chip lead of 5,480-4,520 on the 100/200 level. But that would be the high point for tygaie007, who would win just one of the tournament's last nine pots. Both players hovered near where they began for the first three of those before Carelo started to gain some momentum and expanded the lead to 6,120-3,880.

That set the stage for Hand #41, when one strong heads-up hand ran into the strongest of them all. Carelo opened for a minimum raise to 400 on the button with A♦ A♥ and tygaie007 moved all-in with A♠ 8♦:

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tygaie007's runner-up prize was $1,658.34, the third-highest score of the Romanian player's career and the biggest win on anything less than an $8.80 investment. Carelo's $2,612.62 prize as champion was smaller than many of the Dutch player's past accomplishments, including a 2009 Sunday Warm Up final table, but at $2.22 and three hours' investment, it was also probably one of the best bets Carelo ever made.

MicroMillions-095: $2.22+R NL Hold'em (Hyper-Turbo, Heads-Up)
Entrants: 16,384
Prize pool: $35,717.12
Places paid: 2,038

1. Carelo (Netherlands) $2,612.62
2. tygaie007 (Romania) $1,658.34
3. nicupintea (Romania) $837.56
4. WTFDinoD (Australia) $837.56

Jason Kirk is a freelance contributor to PokerStars Blog.

Jason Kirk
@PokerStarsBlog in MicroMillions