There's a phrase often used by people trying to give up booze: "If you hang around the barber shop long enough, you're gonna get a haircut." It's a mantra that suggests the more one is presented with temptation, the greater the chance you'll succumb.
For Bryn Kenney, it's possible to put the saying into a significantly more positive light. If you hang around PCA final tables long enough, you're gonna get a title.
Today marked the third time Kenney had been to the final of a $100,000 Super High Roller event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. There have only been six. And this time, after two third-place finishes, Kenney finally came out on top.
The 29-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., takes $1,687,800 for first having beaten the stubborn resistance of Joe McKeehen heads up.
"If you think about finishing third, then you might finish third again," Kenney said in his post-game interview. "I needed this trophy. I said when we got heads up, 'There's no way I'm not winning that."
He added: "Feel like the PCA is my place."
McKeehen played his part. There's nothing quite like winning the World Series to boost a poker player's confidence and 12 months ago, when the last PCA Super High Roller tournament took place, the 24-year-old from Pennsylvania was nowhere to be seen. He was playing circuit events in his native United States with buy-ins of round about $500.
But after a spectacular summer in Las Vegas, which dragged into November and a career-defining $7.7 million triumph in the WSOP Main Event, McKeehen came to the Bahamas this time and sat down for the biggest buy in event of his life.
Three days later, he found himself heads up with the veteran Kenney, and had a couple of chances to win it outright. But after a highly volatile final table--all-ins and doubles ups very much the order of the day--eventually Kenney prevailed. It left McKeehen marking his debut with a $1,220,840 payday.
When the final six convened at 1pm today, the table was packed by stalwarts of the very highest games, both online and in the live arena.
Isaac Haxton, for all his remarkable pedigree, had never previously made a final table at an EPT/PCA Super High Roller event. But he had a rare focus this week and navigated his way to the final this time--helped on his way by a small doll moulded in the shape of Steve O'Dwyer that had given him luck and sent the fear of god through automatonophobiacs.
Even though Haxton (and mini O'Dwyer) was/were among the short stacks going into today, he/they was/were the most active player/players in the early levels, almost taking over the chip lead at one point.
However this was a shallow tournament almost from the get go and Haxton dwindled quickly back into the danger zone. He then picked the wrong time to shove, moving in with T♠9♠ but smashing into Joe McKeehan's A♠K♠. With even the suits covered, Haxton was in a world of trouble. And the flop brought an ace. It was all over soon after.
Haxton took $360,060 for sixth and picked up a six-figure profit nonetheless despite having bought in twice.
In the period after Haxton departed, the action grew frantic. There were multiple all-in confrontations from the super-short stacks, but nobody was in a hurry to follow Haxton out of the door. Everybody doubled up.
They were in fact still five handed when McKeehen took over the chip lead for the first time of the day, but he had fewer chips at that point than Kenney had at the very beginning.
Something had to give and David Peters was next to yield. Peters, who has picked up more than $3 million in live tournament prizes over the past month or so, had already secured a payday to take him through the $10 million mark for live tournament winnings.
But his run here would end in fifth and a payday of $461,340. The final hand, as so many in the later stages of the tournament, played itself: After shoving a short stack twice and getting no takers, Peters moved in with A♦9♠. But this time he walked into Kenney's A♠T♦ and there were no surprises.
Peters made a couple of excellent plays at this final, including a sensational lay-down, but it was all for noug- Actually, it was not all for nought. He won nearly half a million bucks.
There were at least three things that distinguished Mustapha Kanit's presence at the Super High Roller final table. The first was his rail: He had brought by far the most supporters to the Bahamas and earned the biggest cheers for all his successful moves as a result.
The second was his impeccable appearance (at least from the waist up). Having spent day one in a garish, neon shirt and day two in a unique knitted Miami Heat sweater, Kanit showed up for the final in a dinner jacket and bow tie. He was more concert pianist than poker player.
The third factor was his nationality. Five out of six of the final table players was American and Kanit, flying the Italian flag, was the only one who could break the dominance of Uncle Sam.
However, Kanit, who started the final as the short stack and had out-lasted two others, slipped back into peril. He found pocket sevens and got it in against Mandavia's A♥J♦. Mandavia won the race the hard way, by hitting a straight on the river.
Kanit has won a single-day high roller title and a "regular" high roller event all within the past seven months on the EPT. But he could not pick up the biggest of them all. At least not yet. Kanit had to make do with $596,360 for fourth.
The topsy turvy nature of the final--all because of the ever-increasing blind levels and ever-shortening relative stacks--meant that any of the last three would have been about the same odds to win the tournament as they would to be next out.
Mandavia was the big stack at the time, with about 7 million to Kenney's 4.3 million and McKeehen's 3 million. But backing Mandavia would have been a misstep: He couldn't make the lead stick.
Kenney trapped him with a huge polarising bet on a board of 9♥6♦A♠4♣5♥ and Mandavia, with J♣9♣ thought he was being bluffed. He called and Kenney showed him 8♠7♦, aka the nuts. Then McKeehen helped himself to some of Mandavia's chips when they both rivered trips, but McKeehen had the better kicker.
Mandavia became the short and shoved the small blind with K♠4♥. Kenney picked him off with K♦9♥. Mandavia is still looking for a major online title, but the real-life man behind the "pistons87" online moniker now has a $787,640 score on his resume, beside a bronze medal for third in this one.
McKeehen and Kenney headed to the dinner break, with the former trailing with about 6.5 million to the latter's 7.9 million. It wasn't necessarily an insurmountable deficit heads up, but it was a far cry from the enormous lead McKeehen had the last time he faced down for a title.
On that occasion, he ended up cruising to the World Series of Poker Main Event title. But this time, he came up against Kenney, who would not be killed.
The heads up action swung this way and that, with each big pot heading in one direction followed swiftly by one swinging the other way. McKeehen battled back from on the ropes, but could not land a knockout blow on Kenney and then Kenney fought his way back.
All the details of all this--and all the blow-by-blow action from the whole day--is on the live updates page. But the key hand occurred at about 10.20pm local time, when Kenney called McKeehen's final shove with K♥7♣ and found him up against McKeehen's 5♥5♦.
The flop was pretty decisive: 7♦4♣7♥. There were still two fives that could win it for McKeehen, but neither the 3♠ turn nor the J♠ river delivered it. And that gave us our new champion. Third time lucky for Bryn Kenney, who dived into the arms of his supporters in triumph.
Event #1, $100,000 NL Hold'em Super High Roller 8-Handed
Entries: 58 (44 uniques; 14 re-entries)
Prize pool: $5,626,000
Places paid: 8
1 Bryn Kenney, United States, $1,687,800
2 Joe McKeehen, United States, $1,220,840
3 Ankush Mandavia, United States, $787,640
4 Mustapha Kanit, Italy, $596,360
5 David Peters, United States, $461,340
6 Isaac Haxton, United States, $360,060
7 Daniel Dvoress, Canada, $286,920
8 Kathy Lehne, United States, $225,040