MicroMillion 7: Rituta.b01 wrestles to shock win in Event #5 ($3.30 NL Hold'em)
Back in the 1980s one of the most popular Saturday afternoon television programmes in the UK was wrestling. There was no competition in this "sport". It was scripted, not unlike its American cousin, and usually featured the sport's superstars taking on a string of anonymous runts in trunks who were paid a pittance to get their head locked in the armpit of a morbidly obese man wearing a leotard, who delighted the crowd in doing so.
After dispatching the man in trunks, and being towelled down by his corner man, he'd take on another, with the same result. The crowd would love it, delighting in their hero's victories, even though there was about as much chance of their man losing as there was his name being taken off the billboard outside the theatre.
The final table of Event 5
It was a similar story in Event #5 of MicroMillions 7, only this time with a twist. Ploutarxos51 had played the part of the big man in the leotard with aplomb, but it was to be the man in trunks, Rituta.b01 from Ireland, who would take the title, and a first prize of $5,622.39, much to the surprise of the 300 or so watching from the rail.
Let's be clear how big this lead was.
Seat 1. Ploutarxos51 (Cyprus) 29,144,626
Seat 2. Cardiaftw (Brazil) 1,482,027
Seat 3. Iswhatitis (Canada) 5,092,853
Seat 4. Rituta.b01 (Ireland) 12,853,456
Seat 5. Zrz3k201 (Czech Republic) 2,149,654
Seat 6. MagickBeast (Belarus) 1,508,962
Seat 7. Jakpot Juri (Germany) 3,469,444
Seat 8. Maxim23777 (Ukraine) 4,965,758
Seat 9. Bukwa9 (Slovenia) 13,496,970
It's not unusual for a player to have an enormous chip lead coming into the final table, but it's not exactly common. What's perhaps even more uncommon is that they would lose that lead only at the last moment, conceding titles that look so obviously theirs.
Ploutarxos51 had all the hallmarks of a natural winner. He had the chips, but was using them with the degree of dash you would expect from a winner. He never rested on his advantage, but instead sought to advance his cause. And it worked, for the most part. But he couldn't count on Rituta.b01 laying down a quietly brilliant performance.
Action from the start
MagickBeast moved in on the first hand for a little over 1.5 million. He was called all-in by Cardiaftw who turned over pocket eights against MagickBeast's ace-ten. MagickBeast though flopped two pair and rivered a full house.
Zrz3k201 then moved all-in on the next hand, doubling up through chip leader Ploutarxos51 with ace-king against Ploutarxos51's speculative jack-four of diamonds. More all-ins would follow, from Maxim23777 and Jakpot Juri, none of which were contested until MagickBeast tried a third time, departing in eighth place with ace-high against Rituta.b01's pair of threes.
Jakpot Juri would follow on the very next hand, out in seventh place when his pocket sixes were thwarted by Ploutarxos51's king-queen, the queen on the river putting an end to Jakpot Juri's morning.
Ploutarxos51 continued to throw his weight around, whether it was confined to a leotard or not. Not only that he rarely shied from taking on the bigger stacks among his opponents, who ran at him one after the other, only to be pushed over onto their backsides.
Bukwa9 tried once or twice, sometimes forcing a fold from Ploutarxos51 to earn sizeable pots. But Ploutarxos51 showed a habit of recovering well after these set-backs, encouraging a more cautious approach from the short stacks as the big blind inched up to the 400,000 mark.
But then you can't do that forever, as Iswhatitis discovered when he shoved for 2.3 million with ace-four off-suit. Ploutarxos51 looked down at king-ten of hearts and called, flopping the winning king and reducing the field to five.
An indecent lead
Ploutarxos51 continued in the same vein, even conceding a pot worth 11 million to Maxim23777, only to recover immediately to more than 40 million, considerably more than half the chips in play. He did the same when Zrz3k201 scored a modest double up soon after, only to end Zrz3k201's day minutes later.
With the big blind at 500,000 Zrz3k201, who had fought a creditable rear-guard action throughout, got his chips in with ace-ten, and paired the ten on the flop. But his caller Ploutarxos51, calling with seven-five off-suit, turned the straight, leaving three left, and taking his own stack up to 52 million.
A challenger emerges
True to British wrestling in the1980s, the popular chant of "Easy! Easy!" could now be heard coming from the 300 watchers on the rail, figuratively at least. Ploutarxos51 could almost be forgiven for strutting as he demolished challenger after challenger.
But he couldn't count on Rituta.b01 who had kept out of the chip leader's way up to now, but who was about to show flashes of talent that would ultimately lead to a MicroMillions title. It started with a carefully played hand with a flopped full house against Ploutarxos51.
This should have been the first warning to Ploutarxos51 that he was up against someone not in trunks, but in some elaborate outfit like himself.
Coming back from the break though it seemed like normal service had been resumed. Ploutarxos51 sent Bukwa9 to the rail who had shoved with ace-king. Ploutarxos51 had called with king-queen and had rivered the queen. Lucky perhaps, but no less than the others had come to expect.
But things changed when Rituta.b01 three-bet shoved with ace-queen of hearts. Ploutarxos51 called, this time ahead with ace-king. But Rituta.b01 got a queen on the flop. What's more he won the pot, the biggest of the tournament so far, and one that would take him into the lead.
There was no victory lap for Rituta.b01 though, who quickly found his advantage gone and back in the hands of Ploutarxos51, with the stacks as follows.
Ploutarxos51 - 40 million
Rituta.b01 - 22.6 million
Maxim23777 - 10.3 million
Maxim23777 would soon leave the others to it when he moved in with ace-eight off-suit. Rituta.b01 called with pocket tens which held up. The two giants of the final were now heads up, with Ploutarxos51 holding the advantage, 41.1 million vs. 33.6 million.
Rituta.b01 opened the doors for a deal but was roundly or absentmindedly ignored by Ploutarxos51. So Rituta.b01 dug in, watching Ploutarxos51 pull away only to then snatch the lead.
But again and again this happened but with Rituta.b01 unable to hold onto his advantage. Ploutarxos51 would soon recover, and even extend his lead; the proverbial outstretched hand on the opponent's forehead as they tried fruitlessly to land a blow.
But it was volatile and gripping stuff, two good players sparring, landing and taking blows in equal measure, but Ploutarxos51 always recouping his losses.
So when Rituta.b01 took the lead again after an hour of play it was expected that Ploutarxos51 would again recover. Only this time he didn't. Instead Rituta.b01 began to pull away until the chips went in for one last time.
The favourite, the man who had made things look so easy throughout the final, was finally beaten. A great performance from each player, topped by Rituta.b01. Congratulations to him.
MicroMillions 7: Event #5 $3.30 NL Hold'em
Prize pool: $44,892.00
Places paid: 2,025
1. rituta.b01 (Ireland) $5,622.39
2. ploutarxos51 (Cyprus) $3,919.07
3. Maxim23777 (Ukraine) $3,007.76
4. bukwa9 (Slovenia) $2,109.92
5. zrz3k201 (Czech Republic) $1,661.00
6. iswhatitis33 (Canada) $1,212.08
7. Jakpot Juri (Germany) $785.61
8. MagickBeast (Belarus) $404.02
9. cardiaftw (Brazil) $269.35
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.