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Sebastian Sorensson: Wrote his own fairytale

Two compelling storylines dominated the final days of the PokerStars Championship Main Event in Barcelona. Could Andre Akkari win his first major title on the PokerStars circuit? Or would Raffaele Sorrentino deny him, and in the process set an extraordinary record of two titles in five months, both in the first season since the European Poker Tour rebranded?

Reporters focusing on these potential fairytales had made a cardinal error, however. They had allowed their hearts to rule their heads. Tournament poker doesn’t play by a script, and most specifically, those dreamers had overlooked the threat posed by a 27-year-old from Lund, Sweden, named Sebastian Sorensson.

By the time this tournament reached its final two players–from an enormous field of 1,682, which assembled about a week ago–neither Akkari nor Sorrentino was involved. Instead, the newcomer Sorensson ended up beating Lachezar Petkov heads up to take €987,043.

As ever, it was a new star who shined the brightest as the old hands were eclipsed. And Sorensson’s story was even more magical than either Akkari’s or Sorrentino’s.

It’s no surprise nobody knew Sorensson. This was only the second live poker tournament he had ever played. But Sweden sure knows how to pump out poker champions, and Sorensson, who hid his neck beneath a Miami Dolphins scarf for the duration of the tournament, was also concealing a natural talent for this game.


Sebastian Sorensson: Champion from nowhere!

In victory, he was jubilant. Suddenly all the emotion bottled up beneath that scarf came out and he was on the verge of tears.

“I’m still in disbelief,” he said, before going on to describe how overawed he was as he came into the huge Barcelona tournament room day-by-day as the monster field thinned but he was still involved. “When I got to the third day, I was, like what’s going on?”

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He may yet abandon his job in a warehouse and hit the felt full time. Or he could just take his million and maybe buy the warehouse. “It’s a good place to work,” he said. “So shout out to all my work colleagues.”


Sorensson and Petkov embrace at the end of the epic


The strange pacing of this final table started right from the off. They played nearly 90 minutes today before the first knockout, despite every indication suggesting this would play out fast.

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The final six: Standin (l-r): Sebastian Sorensson, Brian Kaufman, Usman Siddique, Lachezar Petkov. Seated (l-r) Raffaele Sorrentino, Andre Akkari

Usman Siddique, a former winner on the UKIPT, was the overnight short-stack, and couldn’t ever quite shed the tag despite an early hand in which he turned a set of aces.

He tried to move further in the right direction, but the final British player still hit the rail in sixth. Brian Kaufman, the final’s Uruguayan representative, delivered the final blow in a classic AK versus pocket sixes situation. A king on the turn won it for Kaufman, and Siddique made do with €252,000. (Hand history.)


The end of Usman Siddique

It seemed at the time as though other players were simply waiting for Siddique to depart before turning on their own afterburners, but that impression couldn’t have been more wrong. What we were about to see was unique in PokerStars live events.

The massive field that had assembled for the tournament meant that every day since Day 2 had an extra level added, just to ensure that we got anywhere close to finishing within the allotted number of days. The knock-on effect was that the final day began towards the end of Level 33, the point at which their duration begins to reduce. The blinds continue to increase at a precipitous rate, but the levels get progressively shorter.

Siddique, therefore, missed out on arguably the shallowest period of five-handed play on these tours since they started. Nobody had more than about 30 big blinds, and one pot could be the difference between the chip lead and last place.

Yet remarkably they played under these crapshoot-esque conditions for another four hours, all the while watching the water build the pressure the other side of the dam. All of Sorensson, Akkari and Kaufman led at one point or other. Sorrentino’s slide continued, and he was often the short stack, but he pulled off a double up with AQ through Kaufman’s A6.

Eventually the inevitable occurred: the water broke through. But there was a major surprise as to the identity of the first man washed away.

Akkari had been the tournament short stack for a lot of yesterday, but he was the chip leader for much of today. But then he lost a sequence of coolers and was under threat when Petkov jammed his small blind and Akkari called him with 44.

Petkov had over-cards with his A9. He didn’t hit either, but two other pairs came on the board and Akkari was counterfeited out of the tournament. He won €317,960, but will feel disappointed not to be taking the title back home. (Hand history.)


Andre Akkari: Adios

Petkov took the chip lead with his knockout of Akkari, ensuring that each of the last five players had now held it for at least a few hands at this topsy-turvy final. But then, as predicted, another elimination followed immediately.

Akkari had barely set foot off the television set when Kaufman got his last chips in with KQ and Sorensson woke up with AQ. Although Kaufman turned a flush draw, Sorensson faded it taking them quickly to three. (Hand history.)

Kaufman hit some huge hands today and played them unconventionally, but he is going to leave Barcelona with a new-found respect. Anyone who makes the final table of a tournament with more than 4,000 runners, then the final table of a Main Event with more than 1,600, as Kaufman has, knows what they are doing.


Brian Kaufman says goodbye

The steepling blinds had not gone unnoticed among the last three and, after pushing chips between them for a few minutes, they eventually decided to look at the numbers and discuss a deal. Not much longer after that, they shook hands on it.


Deal discussions commence

Sorrentino, who had the shortest stack at that stage, would take €850,110. Sorensson would pick up €887,048 and Petkov locked up €917,347. There was €100,000 on the side for the winner, ensuring the man in first place would take the most whatever happened.

Levels were now only 60 minutes long, and there was only about 60 big blinds between the three players. This did not look like lasting very long. But true to form for this tournament, they somehow conspired to play about another 90 minutes during which time the big blind increased to 1 million and then went beyond it. We moved into Level 40, a stage never before reached in a Main Event.

Under all this pressure, Sorrentino checked out first. After sampling glorious success in Monte Carlo, Sorrentino had the settle for third here, although his pay-check was nearly double the €466,714 he won in Monaco. Sorrentino took his elimination in his stride–a stride that has lengthened a good deal since this time last year. He is now one of the undoubted sharks in these waters, even if he ultimately couldn’t win a race with AQ against Sorensson’s 33. (Hand history.)


Raffaele Sorrentino: What can you do?

The heads-up passage of play was, again, very shallow indeed. Levels were now only 45 minutes long, but nobody was prepared to give an inch. Petkov managed a big double when his QJ bested Sorensson’s KJ, but he slid back down to only a handful of blinds.

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Two players, one trophy

And then, eventually, finally and ultimately, he suffered a blow from which he could not recover. The tournament clock showed they were 27 minutes into Level 41 and the real clock was at 10:15pm. Then Petkov jammed with K9 and Sorensson called with AK. (Hand history.)

There was, at last, no more drama.

Petkov, with a Bulgarian flag draped over his shoulder, said he felt, “A little bit like a loser.” But he should not, and he will not, once the size of his achievement, and his €917,347 runners-up check, sinks in.


Lachezar Petkov: No time for weeping

Sorensson felt the opposite. He was a winner, and already plotting his next showdown. “Doug Polk, if you want to play heads up, holler at me,” he said.

Read how it all played out.

PokerStars Championship Barcelona Main Event

Dates: August 20-27, 2017
Buy-in: €5,000
Entries: 1,682
Places paid: 247
Prize-pool:‎ €8,157,700

1 Sebastian Sorensson Sweden PokerStars qualifier €987,043*
2 Lachezar Petkov Bulgaria   €917,347*
3 Raffaele Sorrentino Italy PokerStars player €850,110*
4 Brian Kaufman Uruguay PokerStars qualifier €402,000
5 Andre Akkari Brazil Team PokerStars Pro €317,960
6 Usman Siddique UK PokerStars qualifier €252,000

*denotes three-way deal

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