It’s a new year, which means a lot of poker players are thinking about their new year’s resolutions. And a lot of those resolutions, no doubt, got their first major test today, the first Sunday of 2016, with the PokerStars Sunday Majors.
The crown jewel of this weekly poker tournament fest, the Sunday Million, is the kind of event that only makes specific appearances on the resolution lists of those who dare to dream the biggest. But if it isn’t on your list specifically, winning it can make a whole lot of other resolutions a lot easier to achieve. Just ask Noaceforme, winner of today’s tourney. Even after making a four-way deal, the first-place prize was 12 times as big as any the Swede, already the outright winner of a Stars MTT no less than 17 times, had ever won before.
After sending off 2015 in style last week with a $6.26 million prize pool, this week’s Sunday Million was back in familiar territory with a $1 million guarantee. The tournament had drawn 6,749 players by the end of late registration at 5:30 p.m. ET, good for a $1,349,800 prize pool, and 3,110 of them still had seats at the table. Two more hours of play saw the field reduced to the money bubble, and at 7:39 pm ET AsjBaaaf of New Zealand busted in 991st place to pop it.
Aside from Marc-Andre “FrenchDawg” Ladouceur’s 910th-place finish for $310.45, the ranks of the cashers were devoid of Red Spades. They piled up quickly when the bubble burst, but as midnight approached there were still two tables in play. It wasn’t until 12:47 a.m. ET, with blinds and antes at 125K/250K/25K, that the game was narrowed to just these nine players:
Seat 1: KvicKiller (13,201,422 in chips)
Seat 2: tvtotaliwin (7,115,183 in chips)
Seat 3: ¿¿toneecho?? (2,133,351 in chips)
Seat 4: Bababooyboff (7,032,884 in chips)
Seat 5: Noaceforme (9,107,362 in chips)
Seat 6: Sheeeeep (5,959,232 in chips)
Seat 7: MastercarAA (7,568,519 in chips)
Seat 8: Ticiz (3,493,990 in chips)
Seat 9: Saitek00 (11,878,057 in chips)
The long and winding road
Past WCOOP Super Tuesday SE finalist ¿¿toneecho?? was in the cutoff on the first hand of the final table holding 9♥ 8♥ and raised all-in. Saitek00 had K♦ Q♥ in the big blind and called, flopping two pair and turning a full house on the 6♥ Q♣ K♣ Q♠ 8♠ to send ¿¿toneecho?? to the rail in 9th place ($10,460.95). That took the table to its first break, and the first hand back saw past Sunday Million champ Ticiz open all-in for 3.4M with 10♥ 10♠. Noaceforme thought for a bit before calling with K♣ Q♠ and catching top pair on the Q♣ 3♥ 9♠ flop. Ticiz picked up a gutshot draw on the 8♣ turn but the 3♣ ended the Dutch player’s repeat bid in 8th place ($16,197.60).
The path to the next knockout was far longer than the one that led to the first two. MastercarAA, whose stack had been dwindling since the final table began, saw that trend continue before it was compounded to leave the Swedish player in dire straits. Sitting in the big blind, MastercarAA called a minimum raise by 2012 TCOOP winner KvicKiller and led out on the turn and river of a 5♠ K♠ K♦ 10♠ 9♦, only to call a raise to 1M on the river and lose to KvicKiller’s A♣ K♣ for trip kings.
After all that waiting, the stage was set for the next three knockouts to come in rapid succession. MastercarAA was left with five and a half big blinds, which bled away in blinds and antes until the Swedish player finally picked up 10♣ 10♥ in the small blind. It was a favorite over Saitek00’s big blind special of J♥ 2♣, but the Q♦ 9♦ Q♥ K♠ K♣ board gave both players two pair, kings and queens. The jack played as a kicker to take the pot, and MastercarAA was out in 7th place ($29,695.60).
Four hands later the biggest pot of the final table so far would move Bababooyboff into the chip lead. Noaceforme, who had the lead at the time, opened for 1M under the gun with A♣ Q♦ and then called when Bababooyboff shoved for 8.6M total with A♠ K♦. The board came 6♦ 8♦ 7♣ 3♠ K♥, and Bababooyboff chipped up to 17.7M via a pair of kings.
Just three hands after that, short-stacked KvicKiller picked up 3♥ 3♠ under the gun and shoved for 14 big blinds, only to be called by Sheeeeep with Q♣ Q♦. Sheeeeep went from a 4-to-1 favorite to a 99.9 percent favorite when the flop came 10♥ 2♦ Q♠, leaving KvicKiller with only running treys as an out. The 3♦ turn was half a bailout, but the 10♣ river bounced KvicKiller in 6th place ($43,193.60).
Six hands later Noaceforme ended up in another dominated-ace scenario, this time on the right side of the equation. Neither Noaceforme’s A♥ K♠ nor Sheeeeep’s A♦ Q♣ improved on the 2♥ 3♣ 5♠ 2♦ 10♦ board, and Noaceforme moved back into the lead with 22.7M chips. That left Sheeeeep the short stack with 6.4M, but Noaceforme took down another player before the German player could get involved again. Past TCOOP runner-up and Twitch broadcaster tvtotaliwin opened all-in for eight and a half big blinds with K♣ J♥, only to see Noaceforme isolate with A♣ A♠. The Swiss player was drawing dead on the turn of the K♠ A♥ 7♣ 7♠ 3♥ board and left in 5th place ($56,691.60).
Q: Deal? Or no? A: Deal.
The remaining four players discussed a possible deal during the next break, since the 300K/600K/60K blinds and antes were eating into everyone’s stacks, but too many of them wanted too much from the others to come to an agreement. And so they kept grinding away at each other. And grinding. And grinding. They did this for another 35 minutes with no knockouts, until the blinds were at 500K/1M, and then decided to take another look at the numbers.
Seat 4: Bababooyboff (9,469,390 in chips)
Seat 5: Noaceforme (28,528,951 in chips)
Seat 6: Sheeeeep (10,202,164 in chips)
Seat 9: Saitek00 (19,289,495 in chips)
There was more haggling, but by 2:03 a.m. ET they had reached a deal and it was time to gamble. Sheeeeep pressed forward while the already short Bababooyboff lost a third of those ever more valuable chips. But then Bababooyboff flopped top pair to double up after re-shoving with Q♠ J♠ over the top of Sheeeeep’s opening min-raise with A♥ 7♥. Just a few hands later Sheeeeep got those chips back with some spare change on top, surviving a coin flip with 7♦ 7♣ against Noaceforme’s button-stealing K♣ J♣.
Even with the deal in place and the enormous 500K/1M/100K blinds and antes putting pressure on everyone, it took until 2:42 a.m. ET to cash out the first deal-maker. Noaceforme, chip leader by almost 10 big blinds with 25.5M, opened all-in under the gun with A♥ J♥. Bababooyboff called for 12.5M in the big blind with Q♥ J♣ and moved into a temporary lead on the 5♥ 8♥ Q♦ flop with a pair of queens. The 3♠ turn was no help to Noaceforme, but the 2♥ on the river made a heart flush and sent Bababooyboff to the rail in 4th place with $117,792.34 from the deal.
Noaceforme now had 39M chips to Saitek00’s 16.6M and Sheeeeep’s 11.7M. The latter two clashed with one another five hands later before the chip leader had a chance to take either of them on. Sheeeeep opened all-in for 12.3M from the small blind with 10♥ 9♠, Saitek00 called with Q♠ J♦, and the 8♦ Q♣ 3♠ A♥ 5♣ board left Sheeeeep on the outside in 3rd place ($117,231.37).
Seat 5: Noaceforme (38,337,594 in chips)
Seat 9: Saitek00 (29,152,406 in chips)
Heads-up play lasted just 17 hands, 11 of which ended with Noaceforme dragging the pot. The only one with any significant betting was the last, which opened with Saitek00 moving all-in on the button for 14.8M, holding J♥ 10♥. Noaceforme called with A♦ 5♦ and stayed ahead through the river of the 7♠ 2♠ 6♣ Q♦ A♠ board to make a pair of aces and close the tournament out.
Saitek00’s runner-up share of the deal came to $135,099.52, an improvement over a 7th-place finish in the Sunday Million last October and a final table bubble finish in today’s Sunday Warm-Up. The extra $20K on the table for the winner boosted Noaceforme’s share, already the largest at the time of the deal, even further to $169,260.63. That’s a new career high for the previous winner of 18 other PokerStars tourneys. Congratulations to both players for outlasting thousands of players in the first Sunday Million of 2016!
1/3/16 Sunday Million ($215 No-Limit Hold’em) results
Prize pool: $1,349,800
Places paid: 990
1. Noaceforme (Sweden) $169,260.63*
2. Saitek00 (United Kingdom) $135,099.52*
3. Sheeeeep (Germany) $117,231.37*
4. Bababooyboff (Canada) $117,792.34*
5. tvtotaliwin (Switzerland) $56,691.60
6. KvicKiller (Czech Republic) $43,193.60
7. MastercarAA (Sweden) $29,695.60
8. Ticiz (Netherlands) $16,197.60
9. ¿¿toneecho?? (United Kingdom) $10,460.95
* – denotes results of a four-way deal
Jason Kirk is a freelance contributor to PokerStars Blog.