WCOOP 2013: murvl works a miracle, wins Event #3 ($215 NLHE, $1.5M guaranteed)

This year's running of the PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker kicked off yesterday with three tournaments and three million in guaranteed prize money. Half of that guaranteed money was up for grabs in Event #3, a two-day $215 NL Hold'em tournament.

This tournament ended up attracting 11,381 players, soaring past the guarantee for a total prize pool of $2,276,200 and a scheduled top prize of $318,673.04. The first day of Event #3 was all about surviving, which certainly was more difficult than it sounds. Only 148 players made it through, with plenty of accomplished names falling short. Team PokerStars Pro was well represented among those who cashed on Day 1, with Richard Toth (530th, $682.86), Jake Cody (1,207th, $409.71), and Christophe De Meulder (1,407th, $364.19) earning paydays. Humberto Brenes came the closest to surviving the day but eventually bowed out in 224th place ($1,047.05).

Team Online didn't place as many players in the money as Team Pro, but they finished higher on average. Naoya "nkeyno" Kihara finished in 931st place on Day 1, earning $478. But Kihara's Team Online fellow, Caio "Pessagno" Pessagno, went far deeper, making it through to the second day of play with a short stack.

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Caio Passagno made it through to Day 2 of Event #3

Germany's youngblood51 held the lead overnight with 2.85M chips, good for more than 140 big blinds when play resumed. Nothing was guaranteed, but there was precedent for the chip leader enjoying success: the biggest win (and second-largest prize) of the German player's career came late this past March in The Bigger $5.50 after outlasting a nearly identical field of 11,174. Close behind was another German, Vladi31, with just two antes less than youngblood51. Vlad31 took fourth place in a MicroMillions 5 event back in July and was looking to improve on that finish with a lot more money on the line.

Caio Pessagno was on the other end of the leaderboard from those players when the day began but he stayed patient and seized opportunities as they arose, climbing briefly into the top ten with 51 players left. Vladi31 finished in 27th place ($4,780.02) but the others were still in the running with 12 players remaining. Both would end up falling short of the final table, though. youngblood51 lost a 17.4M-chip pot to PrisonMike89 with 13 players left and would eventually run A-T into A-Q to bust in 12th place ($11,381). As for Pessagno, he was holding tight in last place with 11 players left, his 4.4M chips worth just under 15 big blinds. Then he hit the rail in this monster set-up of a pot:

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That 32.99M-chip pot gave Australia's 1itchyfish a significant chip lead and left PrisonMike86 in the bubble spot with less than five big blinds remaining. Soon enough those chips were redistributed to leave these nine players at the final table:

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Seat 1: elforma (12,896,073 in chips)
Seat 2: majkl1812 (4,572,151 in chips)
Seat 3: woody1234321 (6,638,332 in chips)
Seat 4: kasabooboo11 (12,178,464 in chips)
Seat 5: UhhMee (9,673,889 in chips)
Seat 6: 1itchyfish (33,597,134 in chips)
Seat 7: KromN (17,949,143 in chips)
Seat 8: murvl (10,560,896 in chips)
Seat 9: terror777727 (5,743,918 in chips)

A quick start

Blinds and antes were at 150K/300K/37.5K as they began play, giving short-stacked majk1812 of the Czech Republic 15 big blinds and 1itchyfish more than 110. The action got started one the very first hand. After Greece's kasabooboo11 opened for a minimum raise to 600K in early position the action folded around to the big blind, where Bulgarian player terror777727 shoved all-in for 5.7M, holding K♥ J♥. kasabooboo11 had a trivial call with K♣ K♦, and the cowboys held up through the 5♠ 6♦ 3♣ Q♥ T♠ board to send terror777727 to the rail in 9th place ($15,478.16).

Just six hands later it was majkl1812 who picked up 7♦ 7♥ and opened the betting for 1.05M in middle position, then called for 1.63M more after the United Kingdom's woody1234321 moved all-in for a total of 5.92M with T♣ T♠. The board came A♠ 6♠ 3♣ J♦ Q♦, the tens held up, and majkl1812 departed in 8th place ($22,762).

Stratification and elimination

The rate of knockouts slowed considerably from there as the blinds and antes went up to 200K/400K/50K and the majority of pots were taken down without much fuss. The Netherlands' elforma, who had entered Day 2 12th in chips, was now jockeying for position with woody1234321, Canada's UhhMee, and Sweden's murvl, all of them hovering around the 10M-chip mark. Meanwhile 1itchyfish maintained the chip lead with more than 33M and kasabooboo11 and KromN of Norway traded places in second and third, right around 20M.

The balance of power finally broke on Hand #36 when kasabooboo11 picked up J♥ J♠ and opened for a minimum raise to 800K in the hijack. UhhMee, holding A♣ K♥ in the cutoff, moved all-in for 5.16M and kasabooboo11 was the only caller. The 3♦ T♠ J♦ flop gave kasabooboo11 top set but still held out hope for UhhMee in the form of an inside straight draw. But the 9♣ turn and 5♣ river were no help, sending UhhMee out in 7th place ($45,524).

Nine hands later kasabooboo11 would strike gold with jacks again. This time the action came to the Czech player in the big blind when woody1234321 moved all-in for 4.68M from the small blind with K♦ 8♥. kasabooboo11's J♦ J♥ stayed ahead through the 7♣ A♣ 9♦ flop and 3♣ turn, then hit trips for good measure on the J♠ to win the 10.47M-chip pot and send woody1234321 packing in 6th place ($68,286).

The rise of murvl

Blinds and antes were still at 200K/400K by this point and everyone at the table had at least 15 million chips, with the lone exception of murvl. The Swedish player had just 5.8M and was desperately seeking some kind of break. More than a million of those chips disappeared to blinds and antes before that break came around on Hand #54 when murvl moved all-in before the flop with 6♠ 5♠. It looked like kasabooboo11 was primed for another knockout after calling with A♠ K♦, but the flop came 3♠ 4♦ 7♠ to give murvl a straight. The 8♠ on the turn gave murvl a flush and kasabooboo11 one more shot at the knockout with the nut flush draw, but the harmless Q♣ fell on the river and murvl regained a foothold with 10.1M chips.

From there the blinds went up to 250K/500K/62.5K, turning up the pressure. After folding most of the next two orbits, Hand #63 saw murvl double up again, this time to 12.5M with 9♦ 9♠ against KromN's Q♦ 8♦. Just six hands later the biggest break yet came after murvl was dealt 8♣ 8♠. kasabooboo11 opened for 1.5M and murvl shoved for 13.33M from the cutoff, only to be called on the button by elforma, who held A♦ K♥. The 8♦ T♣ 4♦ flop for middle set was all murvl needed to win the 28.98M-chip pot, but the board ran out 5♥ 7♥ just the same.

elforma was left with only 2M after that pot but quickly doubled through murvl twice, first with 9♦ 5♦ against T♥ 3♠ on Hand #72 and then with Q♣ 9♠ against A♦ 9♣ on Hand #74. The Dutch player was still the clear short stack at that point, but elimination had been staved off for the moment.

Movement in the middle

More than 80 hands into the final table, kasabooboo11 and 1itchyfish were within two big blinds of each other for the lead at 34.94M and 36.03M, respectively. The shorter stacks tried to fight back but the pressure was often too much, as it was for KromN on Hand #87:

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That left KromN in a virtual tie for last with elforma, but on the very next hand elforma check-called with second pair on a 4♣ K♦ 9♦ flop and checked the K♠ turn before betting out on the 5♠ river to win a 8.56M-chip pot from kasabooboo11 with Q♦ 9♣.

KromN didn't sit back quietly, but picking up more than a few chips here wasn't in the cards. On Hand #101 the Norwegian player was in the big blind with 10.1M and J♣ 9♥ and checked after 1itchyfish limped in from the small blind. The flop came T♦ 4♦ J♠, 1itchyfish checked, and KromN bet 735K; then 1itchyfish check-raised all-in and KromN called with top pair only to see than 1itchyfish had limped in with A♣ A♠. The K♦ turn and 4♠ were no help and KromN was gone in 5th place ($91,048).

The last four players were now stacked like this:

Seat 1: elforma (14,074,180 in chips)
Seat 4: kasabooboo11 (27,257,975 in chips)
Seat 6: 1itchyfish (47,836,973 in chips)
Seat 8: murvl (24,640,872 in chips)

Hand #102 saw kasabooboo11 win a 25.2M-chip pot from 1itchyfish to move into the chip lead, but eight hands later 1itchyfish won all of that back from kasabooboo11 in a 26.1M-chip pot. Just when it looked like those two might keep going to war with one another, the other two players butted heads in a big coin flip. It was 7♣ 7♦ for murvl and A♦ K♣ for elforma, the latter being left with just five big blinds behind after a pre-flop raising war. The board ran out T♣ 8♦ 5♥ 7♥ 8♣, murvl moved into the lead with the 48.7M-chip pot, and elforma was crippled. After one quick double-up on the next hand, elforma got in before the flop with 8♦ 3♦ only to end up against 1itchyfish's 8♣ 8♠, and the board came 7♥ 3♥ 9♥ 5♦ J♣ to send elforma to the rail in 4th place ($113,810).

A three-way deal

Just five hands passed before the last three players opted to make a deal. For holding the lead, 1itchyfish earned $248,478.36; murvl got $243,715.29, kasabooboo11 got $192,538.19, and $30K was left on the table for the winner. That extra cash would prove to be a big motivator as the three danced carefully around one another, looking for openings.

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The pattern in the early going involved 1itchyfish losing chips, and frequently. murvl won an 18.13M-chip pot on Hand #122 when both players had trip kings but murvl's 7♦ outkicked 1itchyfish's 6♣. On Hand #127, kasabooboo11 didn't even have to get to the flop to win 17.9M, four-betting all-in for the win. Hand #134 saw kasabooboo11 grab another 19.5M-chip pot from 1itchyfish with an uncalled all-in bet on the turn of a board reading Q♣ K♣ 2♣ 6♠. The pattern finally broke on Hand #135 when kasabooboo11 did the losing, folding to a bet from murvl on the river of a A♥ K♦ 8♦ 9♠ 3♣ board.

That left the chip stacks looking like this with blinds and antes at 400K/800K/100K:

Seat 4: kasabooboo11 (25,921,099 in chips)
Seat 6: 1itchyfish (19,916,086 in chips)
Seat 8: murvl (67,972,815 in chips)

kasabooboo11 began to pull away from 1itchyfish, but 1itchyfish caught up on Hand #143:

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Three hands later the two were nearly tied and would collide one final time, after 1itchyfish raised the minimum to 1.6M and kasabooboo11 called in the big blind. The flop came 6♣ T♥ 4♦ and kasabooboo11 checked, prompting a bet of 1.6M from 1itchyfish. Then kasabooboo11 check-raised to 4M, 1itchyfish made a three-bet to 10.4M, and kasabooboo11 moved all-in for 26.1M. 1itchyfish made the call with K♣ K♦, which had to dodge some outs against kasabooboo11's 7♣ 5♠. The turn and river came J♦ Q♠ and kasabooboo11 departed in 3rd place with a $192,538.19 share of the three-way deal.

A close match

Heads-up play began with the two players with four big blinds of each other:

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Seat 6: 1itchyfish (58,413,851 in chips)
Seat 8: murvl (55,396,149 in chips)

murvl jumped ahead on the third hand, firing bets on the 4♥ 6♠ 5♣ flop and A♥ turn before taking the 21.24M-chip pot with an uncalled bet of 16M on the 4♦ river. But seven hands later 1itchyfish pulled back ahead after flopping top pair with Q♣ 9♦ and backing into a flush on the 4♣ 7♣ Q♦ 6♣ T♣ board. By Hand #165 the lead had swung back to murvl thanks to this pot:

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From there murvl never looked back, taking a 4-to-1 chip lead into the final break of the tournament. Shortly after they returned 1itchyfish had been reduced to 16.12M with the blinds and antes at 500K/1M/125K and quickly called with K♥ 4♣ after murvl moved all-in with Q♠ 5♠. The T♥ Q♦ 5♥ flop produced two pair for murvl and left 1itchyfish in need of running cards of some sort just to stay alive. But the 6♣ and 3♦ came instead, bringing the tournament to its conclusion.

For second place, 1itchyfish missed out on the extra cash but still walked with a $248,478.36 share from the three-way deal. As for murvl, the extra $30K brought the Swedish player's total score up to $273,715.29 - a fine reward for two days of well-played poker.

WCOOP 2013: Event #3, $215 NL Hold'em ($1.5M guaranteed)
11,381 entrants
$2,276,200 prize pool
1,440 places paid

1st place: murvl (Sweden) $273,715.29*
2nd place: 1itchyfish (Australia) $248,478.36*
3rd place: kasabooboo11 (Greece) $192,538.19*
4th place: elforma (Netherlands) $113,810
5th place: KromN (Norway) $91,048
6th place: woody1234321 (United Kingdom) $68,286
7th place: UhhMee (Canada) $45,524
8th place: majkl1812 (Czech Republic) $22,762
9th place: terror777727 (Bulgaria) $15,478.16
* - denotes result of three-way deal

Jason Kirk is a freelance contributor to PokerStars Blog.

Jason Kirk
@PokerStarsBlog in WCOOP