Much like the World Series, the Spring Championship of Online Poker offers not just a variety of games and buy-ins, but the chance for players to pick and choose events according to field size.
While some like the challenge of trying to negotiate their way through thousands of opponents to land one of many cash prizes, others prefer smaller-field events where the number of places paying are fewer, but perhaps the chances of winning outright are greater.
Of course, such smaller-field events often feature higher buy-ins. And, in many cases, much tougher opponents. Such was the certainly the case for SCOOP Event #10-High, the $3,150 buy-in seven-card stud event, which attracted a cozy group of 23, among whom were many of the world's elite.
Three Tough Tables
In addition to Team PokerStars Pros Pat Pezzin and Alex Kravchenko, no less than five SCOOP watch winners were among the field for this one: McMang, Kirbynator, villepn, Sorel "zangbezan24" Mizzi, and James "Andy McLEOD" Obst.
Obst has a WCOOP title to his credit as well. So do Richard "CHUFTY" Ashby and Matthew "MUSTAFABET" Ashton, also part of today's field. Others present included Alexander "joiso" Kostritsyn, Jose Raul "head27" Severino, Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky, Mickey "memento_mori" Petersen, and Hernán "HN Kakaroto" Novick.
Indeed, looking around the three eight-handed tables, every single spot -- save the lone empty chair at Table 3 -- appeared occupied by a difficult opponent. skalexjung, who final tabled both the $320 and $3,150 versions of SCOOP stud events in 2009 (finishing fourth in both), was there. And the rest of the field featured a number of names often seen atop the online rankings and/or making deep runs in high buy-in events as well -- moggiii, snize07, Hood_Ace, lucas, el_batong, elvis-senior, Wing-Tsun, and Zimmy86.
Together those 23 created a prize pool of $69,000, beating the tourney's $40K guarantee. Only the top three finishers would be dividing the loot, with $34,500 going to the winner, $20,700 to the runner-up, and $13,800 for third.
Slow and Steady
With 30-minute, slowly rising levels, 5,000-chip starting stacks, and stakes starting at 20/40, it would take a few hours for players' stacks to differentiate from one another. As the original 23 pushed past the three-hour mark, skalexjung, McMang, and moggiii emerged as leaders, while Kravchenko, lucas, and Matthew" MUSTAFABET" Ashton found themselves becoming the short stacks.
Finally, at about the three-and-a-half-hour mark, Ashton became the first elimination, followed shortly thereafter by lucas. Another half-hour passed, during which period Team PokerStars Canada member Pat Pezzin saw his stack slide. Soon a series of bets saw Pezzin putting his remaining stack in the middle by third street with K♦J♦Q♠ against Koistrytsyn's 3♣3♠5♥. Pezzin paired his king on fourth, but a third trey on seventh gave "joiso" trips, knocking out the Canadian in 21st.
With 20 left, el_batong and skalexjung were the only players with more than 10,000, with moggiii not far behind in third. Those 20 continued to battle for the next hour, during which time skalexjung and moggiii fell back down near the bottom of the counts while Wing-Tsun and Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky rose to the top.
The Field Shrinks
Suddenly several found themselves with short stacks, and over the next 45 minutes a flurry of eliminations followed: elvis-senior (20th), moggiii (19th), villepn (18th), James "Andy McLEOD" Obst (17th), Mickey "memento_mori" Petersen (16th), Jose Raul "head27" Severino (15th), Zimmy86 (14th), and skalexjung (13th).
The six-hour break arrived, giving the remaining dozen players a longer (15-minute) respite to refresh and regroup. At that point, Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky led with 21,314, Hernán "HN Kakaroto" Novick was next with 18,927, and Kravchenko was third with 14,142. Of the remaining nine, only kirbynator -- sitting with less than 1,000 chips -- was in immediate danger.
Shortly after their return, kirbynator was forced all in on third against McMang. The latter drew a king-high straight by sixth, and kirbynator was out in 12th.
A half-hour later, Sorel Mizzi was in danger of being the next to go, finding himself all in on sixth street with no pair and a double-gutter versus HN Kakaroto's pair of split aces. But "zangbezan24" filled his straight on seventh to survive. Then Mizzi would make it through another all-in situation, this time versus Wing-Tsun. Behind and all-in on sixth with a pair of nines to Wing-Tsun's kings, both players would make second pairs on seventh, but Mizzi's was better as Wing-Tsun made kings and treys, but Mizzi caught the case king for kings and nines.
Mizzi's luck would finally run out, however, with Wing-Tsun exacting some revenge to send "zangbezan24" out in 10th. snize07 soon followed in ninth, then Wing-Tsun survived an all-in versus HN Kakaroto, drawing two pair to beat the latter's aces. That made Richard "CHUFTY" Ashby the short stack, and when he failed to outdraw McMang after going all in on third, the final table was set.
Seat 1: HN Kakaroto -- 26,653
Seat 2: el_batong -- 22,824
Seat 3: McMang -- 14,045
Seat 4: Kravchenko -- 7,382
Seat 5: joiso -- 21,759
Seat 6: Sauce123 -- 10,047
Seat 7: Wing-Tsun -- 3,862
Seat 8: Hood_Ace -- 8,428
With eight left Hernán "HN Kakaroto" Novick had the advantage followed closely by el_batong and McMang. Novick had seen his share of SCOOP success before, including a runner-up in last year's $5,200 PLO 6-max. (Event #34-H). Looking to improve on that finish, Novick here hoped to become the first from Uruguay to capture a SCOOP watch.
Here's a shot of Novick from a couple of years ago following another successful day of poker:
From 8 to 2
It would take just one hand at the final table for the eight to become seven. With the stakes 500/1,000, the table's shortest stack Wing-Tsun led the betting with the A♥ up versus chip leader Novick who showed the 6♣, the betting being capped on third. The rest of Wing-Tsun's stack then went in on fourth after he drew the 6♥ and HN Kakaroto the 9♥.
Their down cards revealed, Novick turned over a pair of buried kings for (K♥)(K♠)6♣9♥ versus Wing-Tsun's (8♥)(J♠)A♥6♥. Novick would pick up a third king on seventh to finish with trips while Wing-Tsun never improved, going out in eighth.
Alex Kravchenko of Team PokerStars Russia would be the next to depart. Down to 4,732, Kravchenko raised and then called fellow Russian Alexander "joiso" Kostritsyn's reraise on third, check-called fourth, then led both fifth and sixth. By then Kravchenko showed (X)(X)A♥K♥A♦3♣ and Kostritsyn (X)(X)J♣K♣9♠4♦. Seventh street was dealt, and this time Kravchenko check-called.
Kostritsyn revealed (T♠)(9♣)J♣K♣9♠4♦(4♣) -- a busted draw that had become two pair -- and Kravencko mucked, down to just 132 chips.
The fourth-place finisher at the 2007 WSOP Main Event would be all in versus three opponents on the following hand, and soon Kravchenko was out in seventh.
With six left, the next to slip into short-stacked status would be Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky, down to 3,753 with the stakes at 600/1,200. A three-way hand developed in which Sulsky led the action until he ran out of chips on sixth. On seventh the board looked as follows:
Kostritsyn check-called el_batong's seventh-street bet, and when el_batong showed (Q♦)(9♦)7♦2♦3♣6♣(5♦) for a diamond flush, both of his opponents mucked, and Sulsky was out in sixth.
McMang was the next to flirt with elimination, surviving one all-in situation before finding himself again all in by third street versus Hood_Ace. McMang couldn't improve on his buried ace, ending the hand (A♦)(T♣)Q♣8♥3♠2♠(J♥) while Hood_Ace had trip nines with (9♠)(A♥)9♦7♦T♥3♦(9♣), sending McMang out in fifth.
With just four remaining, the money bubble had been reached. Hernán "HN Kakaroto" Novick enjoyed a big advantage with more than 64,000 -- more than half the chips in play. Alexander "joiso" Kostritsyn was his nearest foe with about 19,600, el_batong with third with a little more than 18,600, and Hood_Ace last with just over 12,600.
A few hands later el_batong had fallen to just 2,534 chips -- just over two big bets -- and would be all in by fourth street against joiso. Three streets later el_batong held (K♦)(A♦)6♥5♥4♦A♣(T♠) for a pair of aces, not enough against Kostritsyn's two pair with (7♣)(K♣)7♦6♣4♣4♥(9♠).
They'd reached the money.
A half-dozen hands later Hood_Ace called joiso's raise on third, both checked on fourth, then began firing on fifth where the betting was capped. The last of Hood_Ace's chips went in on sixth, at which point he held (3♣)(6♣)8♣A♣6♦7♠ and was needing help to beat Kostritsyn's (J♣)(J♦)K♥9♥J♠7♦. But seventh brought Hood_Ace an unwanted T♥ and joiso the 9♦ for a full house, sending Hood_Ace out in third.
They were approaching the eight-hour mark when heads-up play began, with HN Kakaroto still in front with 72,655 to joiso's 42,345.
Much poker was left to be played.
Novick maintained his lead throughout the first 100 hands of heads-up play, and after 20 more hands had Kostritsyn down to less than 9,000 chips. But the Russian battled back, never once having to go all in, and once they crossed the 160-hand mark they were back to roughly the same stacks as before with HN Kakaroto still above 70,000 and joiso with about 40,000.
The back-and-forthing continued, and after 200 hands -- about one hour's worth of heads-up -- HN Kakaroto still had the big edge with 87,375 to joiso's 27,625. Novick renewed his chipping away at Kostritsyn's stack until finally, on the 247th hand between the two, the end arrived.
With the stakes at 1,200/2,400, joiso was back down to just 6,225 chips. After calling Novick's third-street raise, then leading on fourth, the pair got the last of Kostritsyn's stack in on fifth and their down cards were flipped:
HN Kakaroto (A♣)(Q♥)K♠2♥A♥ -- a pair of aces
joiso (4♥)(5♣)6♠4♠7♦ -- a pair of fours, open-ended straight draw
Kostritsyn had hopes. Novick drew 5♠9♣ and didn't improve, but his aces remained best as Kostritsyn drew A♠2♣.
Congratulations to Hernán "HN Kakaroto" Novick for besting an elite field to claim the SCOOP #10-H title!
SCOOP Event #10-High, $3,150 Limit Stud, Results:
1st: HN Kakaroto ($34,500)
2nd: joiso ($20,700)
3rd: Hood_Ace ($13,800)
7th: Team PokerStars Pro Alex Kravchenko
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