Easy! Kurganov glides through final to claim PokerStars Championship Barcelona SHR title
Final tables tend to go by quickly when a chip leader goes on a charge.
Here in Barcelona today, that was never more evident than when Igor Kurganov sat down facing eight others at the start of the final day of the €50,000 Super High Roller event at the PokerStars Championship, won three quick hands to edge ahead of Koray Aldemir and never looked back.
Kurganov from then on was unstoppable.
It didn't matter that one of the opponents was his Team PokerStars Pro colleague Daniel Negreanu. It didn't matter that another was Bryn Kenney, who has a happy habit of winning big buy-in events on PokerStars tours.
It didn't even matter that there were two of Germany's fine young guns, Dietrich Fast and Aldemir, still with chips. And ultimately it didn't matter that there was a very stubborn and richly talented young Polish player making a spectacular high buy-in tournament debut.
Kurganov brushed them all aside, and eventually extended his lead at the top of Russia's all-time money-list by a handsome €1,084,100.
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It was Kurganov's first tournament victory on European soil since he joined Team Pro in the spring. Since then, of course, he has won his first World Series bracelet. But this one was even more valuable. It was close to the biggest single score of his career to date.
"I won the first few hands of the final table and from there I never lost the chip lead," Kurganov said. "It felt easy actually. I was winning most hands, I even lost with kings to [Bryn Kenney's] king-ten but it didn't matter."
Kurganov also said how much he liked playing alongside the National Championship final table. The winner of that event was very emotional, and it was a great moment for him to share in that experience and pause heads-up play to celebrate that victory.
Liv Boeree, Kurganov's girlfriend, weighed into the winner's interview.
"Let me paraphrase for him," Boeree said. "He's very happy. He's very emotional."
Nine players remained after a marathon Day 2 in which the starting field of 67 players (plus 19 re-entries) was whittled to a more manageable final. They were all guaranteed a minimum €117,700, but had designs on ten times that amount. Everyone had both the stack and the game to think they had a shot.
Negreanu, of course, is no stranger to the sums and the pressure of environments like this, but Kurganov has become Kid Poker's kryptonite over the years. Twice before the two of them have occupied the same final table and twice Kurganov has sent Negreanu to the rail.
By around 2pm today, that tally was up to three. Negreanu lost a big flip to Fast and then Kurganov polished him off with Q♣J♦ to Negreanu's 7♠5♣. The winningest player in tournament poker's history was the losingest today. (He took €117,700 for ninth, but was in for three bullets so this tournament will go into Negreanu's ledger in red figures.)
Kurganov was only getting warmed up. He next dispatched Stanley Choi when he won a classic race with A♣K♣ to Choi's J♥J♣. A little later, Choi returned to the table to introduce some friends to Kurganov. "This is the guy who knocked me out," Choi said, and the visitors from Choi's native China were immediately reverent. Not many people get the better of Choi in the card rooms of Macau.
By that point, Kenney's challenge had also hit the skids: he got his short stack in with K♠7♦ but couldn't beat Christopher Kruk's A♠2♥. Kruk, however, couldn't push on from that point and became Kurganov's third victim when his K♥Q♣ lost to Kurganov's A♥5♥.
Kurganov watched on as Aldemir put paid to Ivan Luca's tournament: it was an A♥T♥ vs. A♠9♣ showdown and the best hand held. But Kurganov's march was relentless by this point and he flattened Fast with J♦J♥ to Fast's 2♣2♥. Kurganov flopped an unnecessary set to rub it in.
It was Aldemir's turn next. The overnight leader had retained that chip lead for only as long as it took Kurganov to sit down today, but was still sticking around when they were three handed. However, his K♦Q♣ lost to Kurganov's A♣Q♦ and he took €528,500 for third.
But let's go all the way back to the beginning of this report and re-introduce this stubborn, richly-talented Polish player. Few of us had seen Bartholomiej Machon before this week, but he found €50,000 to sit down in this tournament and played beautifully for three days.
By the time there were only two players left, Machon was one of them, and had actually seemed to be the only person capable of taking chips from Kurganov. Kurganov himself had clearly identified the threat and, after initially rejecting the idea of a deal three-handed, they came to an arrangement.
It was a little complicated, but based on the fact that Kurganov had slightly more than a two-to-one advantage, they decided to chop it thus:
Scenario 1 - Machon wins
1st: €1,022,800 for Machon
2nd: €920,000 for Kurganov
Scenario 2 - Kurganov wins
1st: €1,084,100 for Kurganov
2nd: €858,700 for Machon
And then they played to determine exactly which scenario would come to pass.
You already know the answer to this. It took around 20 minutes of play, best described as one-way traffic, for Kurganov to make Scenario 2 come true. On the final hand, Machon had Q♥J♥ to Kurganov's Q♣Q♦.
Yes, easy game.
PokerStars Championship Barcelona Super High Roller
Dates: August 19-21, 2017
Entries: 86 (67 uniques, 19 re-entries)
|1||Igor Kurganov||Russia||Team PokerStars Pro||€1,078,106*|
|7||Bryn Kenney||United States||€198,200|
|9||Daniel Negreanu||Canada||Team PokerStars Pro||€117,700|
|10||Daniel Colman||United States||€103,200|
|11||Isaac Haxton||United States||€103,200|
*Denotes a heads-up deal