MicroMillions III: dark sta sees the light in Event 55 ($2.20 NLHE)

We're officially more than halfway through with MicroMillions III now, and it's fair to say that Russia has been the dominant country over the course of the first 54 events. With more than 17,000 cashes, 83 final tables, and 11 bracelets so far, Russian players are far and away the leaders in every major category of achievement during this series. It's both a demonstration of how far poker's popularity has come in Russia over the last several years and a testament to the time players there have invested in pursuit of excellence at the tables. So it was a surprise to see just one Russian player, TselishchevA, at the final table in Event 55. Several others had a chance to make it there but fell just short, leaving a nearly wide-open opportunity for the rest of the world to narrow the achievement gap.

Australian players haven't been able to turn out in nearly the same kind of numbers as the Russians; at less than one-tenth the population, basically every Aussie would have to show up to play. But where they've trailed in most categories, the Australians have come up big when it's counted; out of their 16 final table appearances, four have resulted in bracelet wins. As it turned out this event would account for two more final table berths and a fifth bracelet, thanks to a patient performance by dark sta, who walked away with the $2,890.08 top prize.

Before there could be a winner, though, there had to be a tournament. The field of 9,799 players took eight hours and 28 minutes to play down to the final table, which was populated by these nine players:

MM III Event 55 final table.jpg

Seat 1: ssb6688 (9,648,716 in chips)
Seat 2: PAKETA333 (4,371,624 in chips)
Seat 3: PrivateShow1 (12,547,263 in chips)
Seat 4: chris_liu (2,409,064 in chips)
Seat 5: arnikol (3,430,592 in chips)
Seat 6: Seejay (1,049,312 in chips)
Seat 7: TselishchevA (6,417,763 in chips)
Seat 8: dark sta (5,503,508 in chips)
Seat 9: dr4gos (3,617,158 in chips)

Adeus, arnikol

It looked as if there might be an elimination on the very first hand of the final table, after Australia's chris_liu moved all-in for 2.38M chips with K♠ 9♦ and was called by Brazil's arnikol, who held A♦ Q♦. But after the board came 3♠ 2♠ 9♥ K♥ J♣ to give chris_liu two pair, arnikol had become the short stack with just 1.02M chips remaining.

The next hand would turn out to be arnikol's last. The Brazilian called off those last five big blinds from the hijack with J♠ 9♠ after South Korea's ssb6688 moved all-in under the gun with A♥ J♦. The board came 4♥ T♥ 3♠ 5♦ 8♣, ssb6688 won the pot to stack up to 11.12M, and arnikol departed in 9th place ($151.88).

Down goes dr4gos

Newly flush after coming to the final with one of the shortest stacks, chris_liu didn't waste any time getting in the middle of the action. The Australian player stole the blinds, defended against blind steals with reraises, and tried to knock out the short-stacked Seejay, though the U.K. player stayed alive by flopping two pair with A♣ T♦ against chris_liu's A♥ 9♥. With all those chips moving around it was only a matter of time before there was a big showdown between chris_liu and someone else looking to chip up.

That moment came on the 125K/250K/31.25K level after Romania's dr4gos opened for the minimum bet of 500K in early position. Action folded to the button, where chris_liu opted to move all-in, and after everyone else got out of the way dr4gos made the call with A♠ J♦. That was close to even money against chris_liu's 6♠ 6♦, but the pair held up through the 5♣ 9♣ 5♥ 8♥ T♥ board to send dr4gos out in 8th place ($215.57).

A stall at seven

With that big stack and the chip leader, the Netherlands' PrivateShow1, sitting to the right, chris_liu stayed involved through the rest of the level and onward to 150K/300K/37.5K by trying to pick up nearly every pot in sight. That included plenty of blind steals, including one with Q♦ 6♦ that became an attempted knockout of TselishchevA after the Russian moved all-in with K♥ K♣. The cowboys held up to bring TselishchevA back up to 7.08M chips, good for fourth among the remaining seven players.

While chris_liu was flinging chips around like it was going out of style, the other Australian at the table, dark sta, was quietly chipping up. On the strength of three straight pots on the 200K/400K/50K level, dark sta climbed into second place with more than 12.1M chips. That was soon far ahead of chris_liu, who took a big hit in this pot against PrivateShow1:

RSS readers, please click through for replay

Two quick exits

After staying seven-handed for 27 hands, the table would finally shed another competitor on the very next hand. TselishchevA limped in for 400K under the gun, only to see PrivateShow1 raise to 18.8M on the button. Seejay called all-in from the big blind for 697K before TselishchevA got out of the way, setting up a coin-flip situation between Seejay's T♠ 9♣ and PrivateShow1's 4♦ 4♥. The A♥ A♦ 4♠ flop changed everything, with PrivateShow1's full house a lock as long as it could avoid running nines or tens. The 7♠ turn and Q♦ river didn't fit the bill, so Seejay went to the rail in 7th place ($391.96).

After just eight hands, another desperately short-stacked player would earn an early payout. Kazakhstan's PAKETA333 hadn't had much opportunity to make an impact on the final table; facing a 400K big blind on the next hand, the Kazakh player opted to move all-in for 693K with K♥ 6♥. PrivateShow1 made a minimum raise, but once the action got to dark sta in the small blind, the Aussie moved all-in for 12.3M. That cleared out PrivateShow1 and gave dark sta the chance to score a knockout with A♠ K♣. The 5♦ A♦ 7♥ flop left slim hope for PAKETA333, and the J♦ turn and 9♣ river sent the Kazakh out in 6th place ($587.94).

Kings let Russia down

The last hope for another Russian MicroMilions bracelet in this event rested with TselishchevA, who was on the short end of the leaderboard with five players left:

Seat 1: ssb6688 (2,536,744 in chips)
Seat 3: PrivateShow1 (21,528,065 in chips)
Seat 4: chris_liu (8,292,787 in chips)
Seat 7: TselishchevA (1,951,402 in chips)
Seat 8: dark sta (14,686,002 in chips)

Almost on cue, the Russian player would double through chris_liu in a situation similar to an earlier confrontation between the two. TselishchevA moved all-in under the gun holding K♥ K♣, and chris_liu called for another 1.4M in the big blind with 5♠ 6♣. The flop looked like it might run away from the Russian when it came 9♥ 8♥ Q♠, giving chris_liu a straight draw, but the T♣ turn and 8♦ were safe and TselishchevA stacked up to 4.15M just as the blinds and antes rose to 250K/500K/62.5K.

Seven hands later TselishcehvA, back down to 1.96M after two rounds of blinds, got another chance to score big with pocket kings. The hand began with ssb6688 moving all-in for 2.11M under the gun and PrivateShow1 calling on the button. TselishchevA called all-in as well, holding K♠ K♦ for the lead against PrivateShow1's A♦ J♠ and ssb6688's A♣ 2♥. But the lead was short-lived; the board fell 7♦ 5♣ 3♦ 4♠ 2♣ to make a wheel straight for both of TselishchevA's opponents. With that, Russia's last chance was extinguished in 5th place ($783.92).

Despite having split that pot, ssb6688 was still in dire straits with a stack worth less than seven big blinds. Desperate times call for desperate measures, which ssb6688 employed five hands later by moving all-in for 3M from the big blind after PrivateShow1 min-raised under the gun. PrivateShow1 made a quick call with A♠ K♣, which was well ahead of ssb6688's T♣ 3♠, and when the board ran out 5♣ 7♣ 5♦ 7♦ 8♥ the South Korean player exited in 4th place ($979.90).

Australia, or the Netherlands?

Though there were now three players left, they represented just two countries. The Netherlands' PrivateShow1 held the lead with 26.52M chips, while Australia's dark sta and chris_liu were trailing with 12.96M and 9.51M, respectively.

The three players kept each other at arm's length, with seven hands going by before the first flop was seen and even that pot being taken down with a continuation bet. Another five hands would pass before the next hand that saw a flop, with that pot going to chris_liu to temporarily lift the Aussie into second place as the blinds and antes rose to 300K/600K/75K.

Finally, on the fourth hand to see a flop, chris_liu and dark sta would clash in a battle of the blinds that resulted in the single largest pot of the tournament up to that point. The action began with PrivateShow1 folding the button, after which chris_liu raised to 5.4M from the small blind. After just a moment's thought dark sta chose to move all-in for 10.82M with A♦ 8♠, and chris_liu made the call with K♠ 4♠. The J♦ 7♦ 5♥ 9♠ 3♠ board was no help to either player, and dark sta claimed the 21.87M-chip pot with ace high.

That left chris_liu with just 1.83M chips, good for only three big blinds, so it was no surprise to see the Australian player move all-in from the button with A♦ 7♣ on the very next hand. PrivateShow1 called with 3♥ 3♣ and it turned out the two were in a coin-flip situation, but the board fell 3♠ K♠ Q♣ J♥ 3♦ to give PrivateShow1 four of a kind. After a long roller-coaster ride of a final table, chris_liu was out in 3rd place ($1,469.85).

The last two players were relatively close to each other in chips as the heads-up finale began, with PrivateShow1 holding 27.49M chips to dark sta's 21.49M and the blinds still at 300K/600K. They battled back and forth for the first 25 hands, with dark sta closing in on even a few times before dropping further back. But on hand #26 dark sta would take the lead for good after firing on all streets in this hand:

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After three more pots won before the flop, dark sta had increased the lead to almost 15M chips. That cushion looked like it would come in handy when all the money went in on the final hand of the tournament. PrivateShow1 raised on the button and dark sta shoved holding A♠ 7♣, only to see PrivateShow1 insta-call with A♥ K♠. But the favored preflop hand wouldn't hold up, as the board fell J♥ T♣ 8♥ 9♦ 4♦ to give dark sta a jack-high straight, along with the pot and the victory.

PrivateShow1 $2,106.78, a healthy return on a $2.20 investment that should help to ease the pain of finishing in second place after playing a nearly flawless final table. As for dark sta, first place was worth $2,890.08 - not to mention the satisfaction of helping Australia nudge a little closer to Russia in the overall standings for MicroMillions III.

MicroMillions III Event #55: $2.20 NL Hold'em
$10,000 guaranteed prize pool
9,799 entrants
1,260 places paid
$19,598 total prize pool

1st place: dark sta (Australia) $2,890.08
2nd place: PrivateShow1 (Netherlands) $2,106.78
3rd place: chris_liu (Australia) $1,469.85
4th place: ssb6688 (South Korea) $979.90
5th place: TselishchevA (Russia) $783.92
6th place: PAKETA333 (Kazakhstan) $587.94
7th place: Seejay (United Kingdom) $391.96
8th place: dr4gos (Romania) $215.57
9th place: arnikol (Brazil) $151.88

That makes five MicroMillions bracelets for Australia in the last week. You can check out the full standings for this series, both by player and by country, over at the MicroMillions stats page.

Jason Kirk is a freelance contributor to PokerStars Blog.

Jason Kirk
@PokerStarsBlog in MicroMillions III