As a former winner of the WCOOP Super High Roller event on PokerStars, Ben "Ben86" Tollerene is well known as a ruthless poker player. To win that tournament, he had to beat a final table featuring not only Mike "Tîmex" McDonald, but also Fedor "CrownUpGuy" Holz. It should have been impossible.
But even by Tollerene's standards, his performance at today's final of the $50,000 Super High Roller event at the PokerStars Championship Panama was merciless. Tollerene brought the chip lead to the six-handed final and knocked out all five of his opponents in around four hours of torment. In common with the 21 others who fell by the wayside in two previous days, these were some of the world's best poker players. But they couldn't lay a glove on Tollerene as he cruised to the $538,715 first prize and the first major title of this festival in the Panamanian capital.
Make no mistake, this was an extraordinarily tough field--arguably the hardest ever assembled under the PokerStars banner. But having assumed the lead at the mid-point of yesterday, Tollerene never relinquished it. Daniel Dvoress was the last player left with a chance of catching Tollerene, but the mountain was too steep. Dvoress, beaten heads up, had to make do with $372,360.
"I can't ask for more," Tollerene said. "I think I busted every single player. I got really good cards and a bunch of fortunate spots...There was a point where everyone else had 15 big blinds and I had 100. It allowed me to play loose and force the action."
This was also the first major tournament held at a PokerStars Championship get-together that utilised a shot-clock. Players were given 30 seconds per decision, and it played into Tollerene's hands.
"It forced me to use my intuition on a few occasions and I think that's a good thing," he said. "It speaks for how well I ran that I still had a (time-bank) chip left at the end."
During the last hour of play last night, as they tried to burst the bubble and go from seven players to six, Timothy Adams slipped into the danger zone. He returned today with only 7.5 big blinds (and only 15 minutes left in the level) and so knew he was the hot favourite to be the first knocked out.
However Adams did not panic and doubled early, getting pocket threes to hold up against Orpen Kisacikoglu's A♠T♠. Adams continued to pick the right spots to get his chips in the middle and built his stack to around 20 big blinds--enough to raise-fold a couple of times as the situation demanded.
For all that, he still went out first, about two hours in to the day. There was nothing wrong with a three-bet jam with A♣Q♠. The only problem was that Tollerene, the original raiser and dominant chip-leader, had K♠K♣. (Hand history)
Adams earned $110,920 for sixth place.
Tollerene already had an apparently unassailable lead. Kisacikoglu had been his closest challenger at the start of the day, but Tollerene had essentially taken a chunk of his chips--albeit after a temporary loan to Adams. Tollerene had more than the other four combined and simply watched as everyone around the table shoved, shoved and shoved, waiting in the long grass to pick them off.
First into his jaws was Kisacikoglu. Tollerene only had Q♥9♦ when Kisacikoglu jammed with A♣2♦. But it was enough--and got better for Tollerene when a nine flopped. (Hand history)
Kisacikoglu's $142,600 for fourth place was the biggest prize of his career to date.
Next up: Steve O'Dwyer. The former EPT Grand Final champion led this event at the end of the first day and cruised through to yet another final table. But he bubbled the podium after Tollerene's K♣6♣ remained good against O'Dwyer's J♣9♥ when the latter moved his last 395,000 into the middle. (Hand history)
Justin Bonomo can consider himself to be the most unfortunate player at this final. He doubled each of O'Dwyer and Dvoress in pretty straightforward spots. He was then outdrawn by Tollerene when playing for the last of his chips, losing with K♥J♦ to Tollerene's J♥6♠.
Third place was worth $237,680 to Bonomo, but he would have harboured hopes for double that had the 6♦ not fallen on the river when it mattered most. (Hand history)
It fell, then, to Dvoress to go to battle with Tollerene heads up--and the unenviable task of attempting to overcome a ten-to-one chip lead.
Dvoress is on a pretty sensational run in high buy-in events at the moment, having finished 12th, eighth and fourth in the $25K, $50K and $100K events in the Bahamas, in addition to a third in the ACOP High Roller in Macau and a seventh in the Barcelona Super High Roller.
Despite all those results, which have contributed the lion's share of his near $3 million in live tournament winnings, Dvoress has never won a live tournament, nor even got down to the heads-up stage. He was therefore in unchartered waters and had nothing to lose.
Tollerene won five of the first six heads-up pots, then made a full house to give him an even more significant lead. Dvoress found one double with K♦9♦ against Tollerene's J♥2♥, but it was only a matter of time.
Eventually, with a few minutes to go until 4:30pm local time, Tollerene completed the job when he spiked and king on the river to win with K♠5♥ to Dvoress's A♣9♠. Jason Koon, a former room-mate of Tollerene's, who won his own Super High Roller event in the Bahamas in January, was on the rail to watch.
Sooner or later someone from outside that house might win one of these events. Not yet though.
$50,000 Super High Roller
Dates: March 11-13, 2017
Entries: 33 (27 unique players; 6 re-entries)
Prize pool: $1,584,495
|1||Ben Tollerene||United States||$538,715|
|3||Justin Bonomo||United States||$237,680|