Monty Hall may not have been an online poker player, but the host of TV's Let's Make A Deal he would almost assuredly have been a fan of PokerStars tournament final tables if he'd ever witnessed one. With big money on the line and no chip stack ever safe from the variance that a 52-card deck brings into play every hand, the drama is always high when the blinds and antes begin to climb and the field hasn't thinned enough.
Tonight's Sunday Million final was no exception, with five players hacking out a deal over the course of a half-hour of negotiations. And when they got back to the table, two dramatic pots led to the chip leader's exit and thrust Apekatt666 into the lead. That late rise from the middle of the pack earned the Norwegian player a career breakthrough in the form of a Sunday Million title and $100,722.
This week's Sunday Million featured not just the familiar million-dollar prize pool guarantee, but also a $150,000 guaranteed top prize. That was enticement enough to coax 5,539 players to the table by the end of late registration. Together they built a $1,107,800 prize pool, with 899 places paid and $166,079.42 scheduled for first place, and began the day-long march toward the final table.
As the money bubble came and went, that march took the tournament from Sunday evening over into Monday morning. By 1:05 a.m. ET the final table bubble was set with Erä_Koira's departure in 11th. Hand-for-hand play continued through several short-stacked double-ups over the course of the next 40 minutes, until both tables knocked out a player at the same time.
RAMONAK88 opened the action on Table 372 by shoving on the button for 1.95M with A♠ T♣. Apekatt666 was the lone caller in the small blind with 5♦ 5♠, which held up on the K♥ 8♣ Q♠ 2♦ 7♦ board to eliminate RAMONAK88. Meanwhile, on Table 85, klem90 open-shoved for 2.09M in the cutoff with T♣ T♦ and got one call, from Ballertimes in the big blind with J♣ J♦. There were no miracles on the K♥ K♣ K♠ 2♦ J♥ board, and klem90 was eliminated.
For beginning the hand with the shorter stack, RAMONAK88 earned $6,049.47 in 10th place; klem90 earned $8,740.98 in ninth place. That set up this eight-handed lineup to begin final table play at 125K/250K/25K blinds and antes:
Seat 1: Kenshinznho (7,082,656 in chips)
Seat 3: POG_Q4 (6,685,641 in chips)
Seat 4: CherryOnT0p (5,584,416 in chips)
Seat 5: H1TMANSH (11,146,554 in chips)
Seat 6: Ballertimes (8,898,690 in chips)
Seat 7: Apekatt666 (9,331,985 in chips)
Seat 8: meneerbeer (3,820,066 in chips)
Seat 9: rodrigobmz (2,839,992 in chips)
The wait for major action was brief. POG_Q4 opened the second hand for 500K in middle position and only rodrigobmz, who got a discount in the big blind, called to see the 3♣ 6♦ 2♦ flop. rodrigobmz checked and then raised POG_Q4's 463K-chip bet to 2.26M, an all-in bet for the Brazilian. POG_Q4 called with 5♠ 5♥, which had to dodge about a third of the deck against rodrigobmz's Q♦ J♦; it did on the 7♣ turn and 8♥ river, and rodrigobmz was out in eighth.
After returning from the hourly break at 2 a.m. ET, CherryOnT0p surged into the lead after taking down two large pots. In the first, the Swede called all-in for 4.3M in the big blind with K♠ J♠ after POG_Q4 open-shoved for 9.9M in the small blind. POG_Q4's dominated K♥ 8♥ never caught up on the 5♦ 9♠ 5♠ 2♦ A♥ board, boosting CherryOnT0p to 8.8M. Four hands later POG_Q4 opened the action all-in once again, this time for 6.1M with 8♣ 8♥. CherryOnT0p successfully isolated with J♣ J♥, which earned the 13M-chip pot with a set when the board fell 3♣ K♠ A♠ 9♣ J♦, knocking out POG_Q4 in seventh.
With POG_Q4 and rodrigobmz gone, the only Brazilian left at the table was Kenshinznho, who finished 10th in the post-Christmas-Day-2016 Monday Million. After about 15 minutes of low-action recovery, Kenshinznho picked up T♦ T♣ under the gun and min-raised to 700K. That chased away everyone in early position, but Apekatt666 (in the small blind) and SCOOP 2013-Medium 8-Game champ meneerbeer (in the big) both came along for the 9♠ 3♦ 5♣ flop. Apekatt666 check-called 1.27M there and 4.3M more on the 2♥ turn after Kenshinznho shoved, turning over 9♦ 9♥ for a flopped set of nines. Kenshinznho got no help from the 3♥ river and left in sixth.
That reduced the field to five, though it was a field without any obvious short stacks. Apekatt666 held the lead with 14.2M chips, about seven big blinds ahead of CherryOnT0p's 11.6M, and the other three players were all clustered together with between 9.6M and 10.1M chips each. The lead flipped to CherryOnT0p on the first hand when the Swede flopped a gutshot draw with 7♠ 3♠ but went runner-runner for a backdoor spade flush instead.
The game then became a tense session of "steal the blinds and antes" for 20 minutes before the game was finally paused to talk over a deal. The negotiations took another half-hour, but eventually they reached an agreement that gave CherryOnT0p a $114,002 share as the leader and left another $20,000 on the table for the winner.
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The second hand back after the deal saw meneerbeer open for 800K under the gun before H1TMANSH shoved for 10.9M on the button and Apekatt66 called all-in for 10M in the small blind. meneerbeer got out of the way, leaving H1TMANSH's 8♥ 8♠ heads-up against Apekatt666's T♣ T♦. The board came 7♥ 9♦ J♣ K♦ 4♥, giving Apekatt666 the double to 22.1M and leaving H1TMANSH with just one big blind's worth of chips. Both H1TMANSH and Ballertimes survived all-in on the next hand before clashing with each other on the hand that followed. H1TMANSH opened all-in with K♥ 3♦ and ended up facing Ballertimes's A♦ J♠, which made top pair on the turn of the 8♦ 6♠ K♣ A♥ Q♠ board to eliminate H1TMANSH in fifth.
The biggest pot of the tournament arose two hands later after CherryOnT0p opened with a min-raise to 800K on the button. Apekatt666 re-raised to 2M in the big blind and then called CherryOnT0p's four-bet to 4.9M, bringing a 6♠ 6♥ 8♥ flop. Apekatt666 check-called 2.78M there and then another 9.6M when CherryOnT0p jammed on the 2♦ turn. CherryOnT0p was the favorite with K♣ K♥ against Apekatt666's A♠ Q♦, but then the A♦ hit the river and changed that for good. Apekatt666's pair of aces won the 35.1M-chip pot, and CherryOnT0p departed in fourth.
With that win and another worth 18 big blinds on the next hand, Apekatt666 had moved into the lead with 45M chips to Ballertimes's 6.7M and meneerbeer's 3M. meneerbeer survived one all-in race with 4♥ 4♠ against Ballertimes's K♣ T♦, making a set on the flop to climb to 6.1M, and that turned out to be enough to progress to heads-up play after Ballertimes and Apekatt666 clashed two hands later. Ballertimes opened all-in for 3M on the button with K♦ 9♦, Apekatt666 called in the small blind with Q♥ J♦, and the board fell 5♠ 8♦ J♠ T♠ 8♥ to give Apekatt666 a pair of jacks. That topped king-high and sent Ballertimes to the rail in third.
meneerbeer was facing a steep uphill battle as heads-up play began, holding just 5.5M chips to Apekatt666's 49.8M on the 250K/500K/50K level. The Dutch player took the first step toward a comeback, winning an early race with J♣ T♦ against Apekatt666's 5♣ 5♥, and then followed it up with a win worth 21M after limping on the button with 6♥ 5♥, checking every street until the river, and backing into two pair on a board reading 7♠ 6♠ T♥ K♣ 5♣.
After that slip, most hands didn't see a flop. Then meneerbeer defended the big blind for 1.5M with Q♥ T♣, made queens and deuces on the Q♣ 2♦ 2♥ flop, and check-called two streets' worth of small bets to take down the 13.1M-chip pot. With that win came a lead of about 12 big blinds, but it lasted for just two hands before Apekatt666 moved back ahead with a small win by forcing meneerbeer to fold on the river of a A♥ 6♦ A♠ Q♠ Q♥ board.
The two continued to tussle in small pots, but Apekatt666 began to get the better of the exchanges over the next 15 minutes. The final pot was another coin-flip situation, with Apekatt666 holding 6♣ 6♠ on the button and meneerbeer holding A♣ J♦ in the big blind. The board came 4♦ 5♥ 9♠ 7♠ 6♦, making a set of sixes to close out the tournament for Apekatt666 in screen-name-worthy style.
Finishing as the runner-up secured $86,465.20 for meneerbeer, more than four times what the Dutch player earned for that previous SCOOP victory back in 2013. As for Apekatt666, the extra cash on the table brought the Norwegian's earnings up to $100,722, a new career best by more than $98K. Congratulations to Apekatt666 for the big breakthrough!
3/19/17 Sunday Million ($215 NL Hold'em) results
Total prize pool: $1,107,800
Places paid: 899
1. Apekatt666 (Norway) $100,722*
2. meneerbeer (Netherlands) $86,465.20*
3. Ballertimes (Finland) $66,000*
4. CherryOnT0p (Sweden) $114,002*
5. H1TMANSH (Belarus) $86,475.03*
6. Kenzhinznho (Brazil) $26,368.52
7. POG_Q4 (Brazil) $18,249.12
8. rodrigobmz (Brazil) $12,629.91
9. klem90 (Austria) $8,740.98
* - denotes results of a five-way deal that left $20,000 for the winner
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Jason Kirk is a Freelance Contributor to PokerStars Blog.