Sunday Million: APonakov makes winning $158K look easy (10-29-17)

Latvia's APonakov is one of those poker players who has shown up here on the PokerStars Blog only in passing over the last few years. There were a few tough finishes in 2016 - bubbling the money in the Super Tuesday last November, and bubbling the final table of the Sunday Warm-Up - balanced out by strong performances documented in the Weekend Results updates. But this is undoubtedly the best PokerStars Blog appearance yet for APonakov, since it comes courtesy of a breakthrough win in the Sunday Million.

APonakov's run to the big money never proved particularly difficult. The Latvian player worked with an above-average stack from early on and began to get within sight of the chip lead with about seven tables left. APonakov finally pulled ahead with on the cusp of the final table after playing back from the blind with 6♠ 5♠ against cutoff-seat raiser NLunitDK, and getting a free turn card that became a spade flush. NLunitDK's A♠ K♦ made a pair of kings on the river, which was enough to call when APonakov put the pressure on with an all-in bet. That mistake sent NLunitDK to the rail in 12th and gave APonakov a chip lead that would never go away.

Past Sunday Million runner-up callmuckty was on the other table and took out two players in one hand to set up the final table. callmuckty's A♦ A♠ held up against 8♦ 8♥ and A♣ Q♠, busting central106 in 11th place and ImDaOne1 in 10th to set this lineup:


Seat 1: APonakov (16,527,128 in chips)
Seat 2: Gladi3 (6,764,928 in chips)
Seat 3: jakl&haid (2,060,988 in chips)
Seat 4: WhitePudding (2,485,981 in chips)
Seat 5: aless_84 (2,218,432 in chips)
Seat 6: Stubastian (1,874,906 in chips)
Seat 7: Joel "jbrown8777" Brown (7,274,900 in chips)
Seat 8: akport (4,938,165 in chips)
Seat 9: callmuckty (14,824,572 in chips)

The final table kicked off with a coin flip for Stubastian's tournament life. The Finn, who was appearing at a second Sunday Million final of the year after a seventh-place finish in March, made a pair of kings on the flop with K♣ T♣ to overcome callmuckty's pocket nines and survive the first of many tests to come.

Past $109 Sunday Starter winner jakl&haid pulled off the same trick two hands later, doubling to 4.2 million chips with J♦ J♣ by making jacks full of treys to beat past Sunday Warm-Up finalist Gladi3's ace-high flush with A♠ 5♠. A few hands later jakl&haid's A♥ A♠ held up in the big blind for another double through Gladi3, who had re-raised all-in from the small blind with K♣ J♠ over the top of APonakov's button raise. APonakov got out of the way and Gladi3 was left with less than three big blinds' worth of chips; those all went in on the button with Q♣ T♣ on the next hand and jakl&haid called with A♦ 3♦, turning a pair of aces to bust Gladi3 in ninth.

Russia's akport finished second and third in two Sunday Millions back in 2013. This return to the final table ended sooner when akport picked up T♠ T♦ in the hijack seat and moved in over the top of past Super Tuesday champ and two-time WCOOP Progressive KO winner Joel "jbrown8777" Brown's opening raise in middle position. Brown called with K♥ K♣ and the bigger pair held up to bust akport in eighth. Five minutes later Brown picked up K♣ K♠ against an underpair again, this time WhitePudding's J♣ J♦. The Irish player re-raised all-in for 3.1 million chips and bowed out in seventh when Brown's pocket pair turned into kings full of fives.

With those two wins, jbrown8777 was a threat to APonakov's lead.

With those two wins and a smallish win against APonakov a few hands later as the hourly break approached, Brown had 14.4 million chips to APonakov's 18.8 million on the 125,000/250,000/25,000 level and was beginning to become a threat to APonakov's lead. That proved to be his high point, though. Short-stacked Stubastian doubled through him a few hands later with K♥ T♠ against A♣ 4♥, dropping Brown back into the middle of the pack. He struggled to make any headway as the table remained six-handed for the next hour. Meanwhile Stubastian surviving multiple elimination attempts and APonakov attacked seemingly every orphaned pot.

The blinds and antes had advanced to 200,000/400,000/40,000 by the time jakl&haid open-shoved from the small blind with 9♥ 8♣. Past SCOOP-High Omaha Hi-Lo winner aless_84, who had been in short-stacked survival mode for the last hour, called all-in for about seven big blinds with A♣ K♠. The board came Q♣ J♥ 9♦ 7♠ 4♥, giving jakl&haid the pot with a pair of nines and ending aless_84's tournament in sixth.

Joel "jbrown8777" Brown followed two hands later after open-shoving for 5.2 million chips in the small blind with A♠ 7♣. callmuckty called with A♥ J♣ in the big blind and won on kickers after both players made a pair of fives on the 5♣ 5♠ 4♠ T♣ Q♦ board, sending Brown to the rail in fifth.

"we can take a look," said callmuckty. "Apona you could prob get more than first."

That win boosted callmuckty's stack to 18 million chips, still behind APonakov's 28.6 million but well ahead of both Stubastian and jakl&haid. Then callmuckty min-raised on the button and called when APonakov re-raised to 2.8 million from the small blind, bringing an 8♣ 9♦ 7♣ flop. APonakov led for 2.1 million there and 4.1 million more on the A♠ turn; callmuckty called both of those bets and checked behind APonakov, who won the 18.8-million-chip pot with Q♣ J♥ for a pair of queens after the Q♠ hit the river.

That pot was the tournament's turning point. It boosted APonakov's stack to 76 big blinds while all three remaining opponents had 16 big blinds or less. After another five minutes of play and five minutes' worth of a break, jakl&haid suggested looking at numbers. "we can take a look," said callmuckty. "Apona you could prob get more than first." There was no real room for negotiation so the deal was locked in quickly when APonakov agreed to it.


Once the game was back on, it took very little time to find the next two finishers. callmuckty open-shoved from the small blind with 8♥ 5♣ five hands after play resumed. APonakov called with Q♠ 8♠ in the big blind and made trip queens on the 6♣ 2♣ Q♦ K♠ Q♥ board, ending callmuckty's run in fourth. Stubastian picked up A♦ K♠ in the big blind on the next hand and called when jakl&haid open-shoved from the small blind with Q♣ 2♦. Big Slick was good for kings and nines on the 3♦ Q♦ K♣ 9♥ 9♦ board and jakl&haid left in third.

That gave Stubastian 11.8 million chips - not a lot more in raw numbers than where the Finn had begun the final table, but much more valuable in equity with the deal in place. It all went in on the seventh hand of heads-up play with K♥ J♦ against APonakov's A♦ Q♣, but a king on the flop was the spark that kept the match going for another 15 minutes. Stubastian survived once more after getting in behind with 6♦ 5♦ and flopping a full house and eventually got in with 2♣ 2♥ against APonakov's A♣ T♣. The latter flopped a flush draw but didn't need it, closing out the tournament with an ace kicker after the 5♦ 4♣ K♣ 4♦ K♥ board gave both players kings and fours.

It's not uncommon to see someone come to the final table with the chip lead and win the Sunday Million, but it's quite uncommon for it to happen without the lead changing hands to someone else along the way. Congratulations to APonakov for winning in style!

10/29/17 Sunday Million ($215 NL Hold'em) results
Entrants: 5,897 (4,766 entries, 1,131 re-entries)
Total prize pool: $1,179,400
Places paid: 1,052

1. APonakov (Latvia) $158,014.75*
2. Stubastian (Finland) $83,706.27*
3. jakl&haid (Germany) $82,620.03*
4. callmuckty (Germany) $80,098.63*
5. Joel "jbrown8777" Brown (Canada) $38,620.51
6. aless_84 (Uruguay) $27,102.72
7. WhitePudding (Ireland) $19,019.94
8. akport (Russia) $13,347.74
9. Gladi3 (Austria) $9,367.14
* - denotes results of a four-way deal leaving $20,000 for the winner

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Jason Kirk is a Freelance Contributor to PokerStars Blog.

Jason Kirk
@PokerStarsBlog in Sunday Million