WCOOP 2012: Ajoin21 slays Goliath in Event 13, $530 6-max NLHE

wcoop-thumb.pngThe story of David and Goliath goes back thousands of years and has been retold hundreds if not thousands of times in the intervening millennia. It's easy to understand why, too. If the overwhelming favorite fulfills his destiny, it's confirmation that things will go as they're supposed to; if the plucky underdog steps up and wins, it's testament to the power of sticking to one's guns. Either way, the audience gets to walk away with something to feel good about.

Every so often a new production of this classic story will play out at the end of a big PokerStars tournament. That was the case in Event 13 of this year's WCOOP, a 6-max knockout $530 No-Limit Hold'em tournament that saw a relative unknown from Belgium stand tall and take down a player familiar to followers of the European Poker Tour, the World Series of Poker, and the big tournament series here at PokerStars.

Of course, nobody wins a tournament without traveling a long road first. Event 13 kicked off yesterday with a starting field of 1,938 players, building a guarantee-busting $782,592 prize pool with another $195,738 set aside for $101 bounties on every player's head. By about 4:15 p.m. the last 252 players were in the money.

Team Online was well-represented among those who cashed, with George "Jorj95" Lind (141st place, $1,056.98), Mickey "mement_mori" Petersen (101st, $1,252.72), and Randy "nanonoko" Lew ($2,035.67) grabbing paydays. Team SportsStars' Fatima Moreira De Melo also cashed (126th, $1,096.13). But it was Team Pro that put up the best showing of all. Event 14 winner Eugene Katchalov took 88th place, Team Spain's Ana Marquez took 27th ($3,288.39), and two Team Pro members were among the 16 players remaining at the end of Day 1.

Along with Vanessa Rousso and Team Belgium's Matthias De Meulder, a few others in the field were looking to reprise past performances as Goliath:

Georgios "gkap13" Kapalas (Greece) 1,849,525 chips
bmwmcoupe (Canada) 1,693,470 chips
Remislovas (Lithuania) 1,648,661 chips
zerochill (Canada) 1,470,351 chips
KilleR397 (Ukraine) 1,204,957 chips
Matthias "mattidm" De Meulder (Belgium) 1,137,968 chips
Chimera252 (United Kingdom) 977,944 chips
Tomascibak (Czech Republic) 969,513 chips
SicTheory (Costa Rica) 945,154 chips
Jon "apestyles" Van Fleet (Canada) 755,492 chips
Tom "kingsofcards" Marchese (Canada) 510,279 chips
12pilsnerplz (Canada) 413,368 chips
Ajoin21 (Belgium) 309,012 chips
Vzsolt800 (Hungary) 271,588 chips
JustSoWanteD (Senegal) 193,796 chips
Vanessa "LadyMaverick" Rousso (Canada) 183,472 chips

DAY 2 BEGINS

They returned to action at 11 a.m. ET today on Level 31 (6K/12K/1.5K) and it didn't take long to get the elimination train started. Short-stacked JustSoWanteD's K♥ Q♦ failed to chase down KilleR397's A♣ T♥ on the first hand of the day, sending the only African player left in the tournament out in 16th place ($5,715.14). Vanessa Rousso also gave her opponents a chance to knock her out on the first hand, moving all-in, but nobody took the bait. The only other player to be knocked out on Level 31 was Tom "kingsofcards" Marchese, who ran pocket jacks into KilleR397's pocket kings to bust in 15th place ($5,715.14).

Level 32 saw the field reduced to just two tables. KilleR397 continued to climb the leaderboard, knocking out SicTheory in 14th place ($5,715.14) with pocket eights against A♦ Q♣ after the board fell T♣ 7♦ 6♠ 9♦ 3♥. Shortly afterward Vzsolt800 would bust in 13th place ($5,715.14) when pocket kings were no good against deuces on a 2♥ T♣ T♠ flop. Almost simultaneously, Vanessa Rousso got her last 109K in the middle with A♥ 9♦, only to run into zerochill's K♠ K♥. No aces meant the end of the road for Rousso in 12th ($7,829.52), leaving only Matthias De Meulder to represent Team PokerStars Pro.

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Another deep WCOOP run for Vanessa Rousso

RUN MATTI RUN

Not only was he the last Team Pro standing, but De Meulder was now guaranteed to top his best finish ever in a main WCOOP event, a 12th-place finish in last year's Event 42. (He did have a 6th-place showing in a second-chance event during the 2010 WCOOP.) The only question left was how much better his new best would be.

In the meantime, the rest of the field was looking to move up, too. But not until Level 34 (10K/20K/2.5K) did another player bust. This time it was former WCOOP Second Chance event winner Jon "apestyles" Van Fleet, who got in with pocket kings against Remislovas' pocket eights only to see an eight hit the flop and send him out in 11th place ($7,829.52). A few hands later the Czech Republic's Tomascibek would follow suit in 10th ($7,829.52), A♦ Q♥ unable to crack 12pilsnerplz's 7♥ 7♣.

That left just nine player on two tables, with zerochill in the lead holding 3.24M chips and gkap13 bringing up the rear with 339K - good for just shy of 17 big blinds. Georgios "gkap13" Kapalas would soon double up, at the expense of De Meulder, when his 3♠ 3♦ held up against in a preflop confrontation against A♠ J♠. Both players were now on the ropes, stuck on opposite sides of the table between chip leader zerochill with 3.35M chips and 12pilsnerplz with 1.45M.

Georgios Kapalas and De Meulder became the two shortest stacks in the tournament with the elimination on the other table of chimera252, who ran Q♥ J♥ into KilleR397's pocket aces. The last player in the field from the UK was eliminated in 9th place ($11,744.28). But Kapalas quickly doubled up with T♦ T♥ against 12pilsnerplz's A♣ J♠ to move out of the danger zone. Shortly afterward bmwmcoupe would bust (8th place, $11,744.28) on the other table, A♦ 9♥ unable to improve against KilleR397's pocket fives.

That left De Meulder and 12pilsnerplz as the two shortest stacks, and they clashed preflop almost immediately. 12pilsnerplz's A♣ Q♥ flopped an ace and never looked back against De Meulder's 5♣ 5♥, but the Team Pro had his opponent covered by 203K and so earned a chance to exercise his short-stack ninja skills in a desperate spot. He managed to stay ahead of the blinds and antes with steals until he could pick up A♠ A♣ and get in against Kapalas' 6♥ 6♦. Kapalas hit a set on the river, but the 2♣ 9♥ 5♣ 4♣ 6♣ board gave De Meulder a flush.

The Team Pro was in last place on the final table bubble, but he was very much in the game as Level 36 (15K/30K/3.75K) began with tournament leader zerochill on his right with 4.12M chips and the other two shortest stacks in the tournament on his left. But his tournament came to an end just a few minutes later after zerochill raised from the small blind and then called De Meulder's 514K shove from the big blind; A♣ K♠ held up against De Meulder's K♦ 6♣ and sent him out in 7th place, good for $11,744.28.

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Just shy of the final table, but solid nonetheless

TOO MANY MCs, NOT ENOUGH MICS

Seat 1: Ajoin21 (3,265,271 in chips)
Seat 2: zerochill (4,681,822 in chips)
Seat 3: 12pilsnerplz (727,733 in chips)
Seat 4: Remislovas (1,934,750 in chips)
Seat 5: Georgios "gkap13" Kapalas (859,489 in chips)
Seat 6: KilleR397 (3,065,935 in chips)

2012 WCOOP-13 final table.jpg

There was plenty of aggressive play in the early going, but instead of bustouts there was mostly zerochill stepping in with the big stack to put any growing pots to rest. It wasn't until Level 37 (17.5K/35K/4,375) that the first million-chip pot of the final table would be played - and, not coincidentally, the first elimination of the final table. 12pilsnerplz, who had been involved in numerous coin flips on the way to the final table, held 6♦ 6♣ and saw a chance to attack after zerochill had opened for 60K. The Canadian player moved all-in for 656K, only to be called in the big blind by KilleR397 with A♠ K♥; zerochill folded and 12pilsnerplz was looking at another coin flip. The 8♥ K♠ 5♥ flop left just two outs in the deck for the Canadian, but the T♣ turn and J♠ river sealed an exit in 6th place ($17,538.12). Short of a Wednesday Hundred Grand victory for $23K this July, that's a PokerStars career-best score for 12pilsnerplz.

Remislovas, making a first career WCOOP final table appearance, had lost more than 1 million chips since the beginning of the final table. But nearly all of them came back in one big pot at the beginning of Level 38 (20K/40K/5K) after Remislovas min-raised to 80K on the button. KilleR397 made it three bets and 205K from the small blind, prompting an almost-immediate 863K shove from Remislovas; after dipping into the time bank for a bit, KilleR397 opted to call with K♣ J♠. Remislovas' Q♣ Q♠ held up on the 8♦ 7♦ 5♣ 3♦ T♠ board for a much-needed 1.79M-chip pot.

As the second break of the day approached and Level 38 came to an end, the players were stacked like so:

Seat 1: Ajoin21 (4,240,843 in chips)
Seat 2: zerochill (5,233,982 in chips)
Seat 4: Remislovas (1,185,078 in chips)
Seat 5: Georgios "gkap13" Kapalas (1,396,489 in chips)
Seat 6: KilleR397 (2,478,608 in chips)

PLENTY OF POKER TO BE PLAYED

With nobody severely short-stacked there was still plenty of room for the players to open up if they so desired, especially once the stacks were evened out a little bit thanks to Georgios Kapalas' double-up through zerochill. The Greek five-bet all-in for 1.6M preflop with K♦ K♣, which held against zerochill's J♣ J♦ for drag a 3.26M-chip pot. Though a full level would pass before it came up, the same two players would be involved in the next big confrontation of the tournament:

RSS readers, please click through for replay

Only a few minutes later the five-handed deadlock would finally break after Ajoin21 opened for a minimum raise to 120K on the button, zerochill called form the small blind, and Remislovas moved all-in for 818K from the big blind. After a few seconds' thought, Ajoin21 called with 5♦ 5♥; zerochill got out of the way, and Remislovas was left chasing two outs with 2♠ 2♥. Neither of them came on the T♣ A♦ K♠ 9♠ 7♦ board, and Remislovas left in 5th place ($30,691.71).

On the very next hand, zerochill exacted a little bit of revenge upon Georgios Kapalas. In a hand where the action mirrored their earlier clash - zerochill min-raising the button, Kapalas three-betting from the blind, zerochill four-betting and Kapalas shoving - zerochill showed up with the higher pair. Kapalas' 9♠ 9♣ didn't hit a set on the Q♠ 4♥ 7♦ J♣ 2♠, giving zerochill's T♣ T♦ the 5.11M-chip pot.

Kapalas didn't stay short-stacked too long, though. On the second hand of Level 41 (40K/80K/10K) he pulled off a double-up at the expense of KilleR397, dodging a ton of outs in the process:

RSS readers, please click through for replay

Even with a double-up to 1.08M through zerochill, KilleR397 was still up against the wall with just over 12 big blinds. No surprise, then, that the Ukrainian player took the opportunity to move all-in from the blinds to resteal against zerochill's button raises on multiple occasions. That left the four remaining players stacked like this as the next break rolled around:

Seat 1: Ajoin21 (6,486,740 in chips)
Seat 2: zerochill (4,564,594 in chips)
Seat 5: Georgios "gkap13" Kapalas (2,564,570 in chips)
Seat 6: KilleR397 (919,096 in chips)

The chip lead would swing back to zerochill just after the break in a pot where the Canadian flopped a gutshot straight draw and called smallish bets from Ajoin21 on the flop and turn before backing into a lower straight on the river and extracting a little value on the river for a 2.52M-chip pot.

A few more orbits would pass without any major changes before two hands changed the landscape drastically. For Georgios Kapalas doubled through Ajoin21 with pocket aces against pocket sevens, winning a 3.47M-chip pot. Then, on the very next hand, KilleR397 min-raised to 100K on the button and then four-bet-shoved after zerochill reraised to 450K in the big blind. zerochill called and turned up A♥ Q♣, which had KilleR397's A♣ J♦ dominated. Nothing changed on the K♥ 3c] 6♠ flop, but the Q♠ gave zerochill a pair and KilleR397 a few outs to a Broadway straight. The J♠ on the river was too little, too late, and KilleR397 left in 4th place ($45,019.74).

Seat 1: Ajoin21 (3,349,386 in chips)
Seat 2: zerochill (7,722,574 in chips)
Seat 5: Georgios "gkap13" Kapalas (3,463,040 in chips)

AN UNEXPECTED TURN OF EVENTS

With almost half of the chips in play on Level 42 (50K/100K/12.5K) and two opponents with nearly identical stacks, zerochill was in the driver's seat. Kapalas and Ajoin21 both soon asked if the leader was interested in looking at the numbers for a possible deal, but after winning a 4.33M-chip pot from Kapalas with two pair, aces and fours, zerochill simply replied, "no thanks." The Canadian would give some of those chips back to Kapalas six hands later, A♠ 4♣ unable to outrun Kapalas' A♥ 7♠, but remained well ahead of the other two players.

That all came to a screeching halt, though, in this certified monster pot:

RSS readers, please click through for replay

After starting the day 13th of 16 players, Ajoin21 now held a commanding chip lead with just two opponents standing between the Belgian and a WCOOP title - one of whom would fall just eight hands later. The action began with Ajoin21 folding the button and zerochill raising to 224K, a little more than the minimum, from the small blind. George Kapalas called from the big blind to see a flop of Q♥ 6♥ 5♥ and called a 238K bet from zerochill. Then Kapalas snap-called when zerochill moved in for 1.38M on the 8♦ turn, showing T♥ 9♥ for the flopped flush. zerochill was drawing to the nuts with A♥ T♠, but the A♣ on the river changed nothing. That left the Canadian on the outside looking in, but with a 3rd-place finish ($68,508.30).

Almost immediately, Kapalas and Ajoin21 - who had begun the day as the incoming chip leader and one of the incoming short stacks, respectively - began going over the numbers for a potential deal. After a little bit of haggling, they finally came to an agreement. Ajoin21 got $104,313.09, Kapalas got $101,000, and they would play for the last $10,000 and the WCOOP bracelet.

AND NOW, THE BATTLE YOU'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR

And so it was that the roles of David and Goliath were assumed. David was played by Ajoin21, a Belgian player whose largest previous cash was worth about five percent of what the deal had guaranteed for this tournament. Goliath, meanwhile, fell to Georgios Kapalas, two-time WSOP final tablist, EPT Barcelona final tablist, winner of side events at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and Greek Poker Tour, and claimant to nearly $1 million in earnings in online PokerStars tournaments.

The heads-up duel would last for 36 hands, with David never backing down an inch despite Goliath's advances. The match culminated in a classic cooler after Ajoin21 min-raised to 240K on the button and Kapalas called to see a flop of 7♥ J♣ 9♦. Kapalas checked and Ajoin21 bet 285K into the 510K pot; then Kapalas check-raised to 875K and called when Ajoin21 moved all-in. Both players held two pair, but Kapalas' 9♣ 7♦ was in trouble against Ajoin21's J♦ 9♥. The 8♥ on the turn left Kapalas slim hope for a chopped pot, but the 3♦ on the river ended the tournament like a perfectly placed stone from slingshot.

Georgios Kapalas was denied his first WCOOP title and the chance to go wire-to-wire, but he walked away with a fine consolation prize of $101,000. As for Ajoin21, the Belgian successfully overcame a short stack to start the day - and a tough lineup of opponents throughout both days of play - to lay claim to a career-defining $114,313.09 win in this WCOOP event.

WCOOP Event #13: $530 NL Hold'em [6-max, Knockout]
1,938 entrants, 252 places paid
$782,952 total prize pool, $195,738 total bounty pool

1st place: Ajoin21 (Belgium) $114,313.09*
2nd place: Georgios "gkap13" Kapalas (Greece) $101,000.00*
3rd place: zerochill (Canada) $68,508.30
4th place: KilleR397 (Ukraine) $45,019.74
5th place: Remislovas (Lithuania) $30,691.71
6th place: 12pilsnerplz (Canada) $17,538.12
* - denotes results of a two-way deal

There's still plenty of action left in this year's World Championship of Online Poker. Keep track of full WCOOP stats, and tune into WCOOP Radio at 15:00 ET every day.

Jason Kirk is a Freelance Contributor to PokerStars Blog.

Jason Kirk
@PokerStarsBlog in WCOOP