It took 882 minutes to trim this week’s Sunday Million from a field of 14,139 entries and re-entries down to a champion.
Here’s a look at the last 94 of those minutes, from the time an English accountant entered the final table with the chip lead until the Brazilian poker pro who seized it from him collected the final bounty and more than $88,000 for winning the tournament.
It was the beginning of the work week in the United Kingdom when Geoffrey “ŠQ3-Paper” Thai entered the final table of the Sunday Million with the chip lead. At 54 big blinds, his stack was far from deep. But given where he’d been an hour earlier — and for that matter, where he’d been a month ago — he had no complaints.
Now 28 years old, Thai played mid-stakes cash games before Black Friday. Afterward he studied genetics at university and worked three years for a major accounting firm.
“I finished all of my ACA exams (US CPA equivalent) and quit my job in September 2018 on becoming a chartered accountant to take a mini career break and develop my sports trading models,” he told me by email this week. “At this point poker is just a hobby, this tournament being some of the first poker I’ve played for at least seven or eight years. I have however been following the live and online game very closely since 2006. Shout out to Joe Stapleton for singlehandedly keeping me in the poker loop on the Poker in the Ears podcast!”
Thai had never played the Sunday Million before this week — or indeed any tournament with a buy-in higher than $50. “I entered directly on a whim as I happened to be free that day,” he said. “My strategy was mainly just to keep my own impulses in check. As a predominantly cash game player I’m prone to lapses in judgment in long tournaments. I wanted to be as boring as possible and take the standard line every time.”
He maintained an average stack until a rough patch with about 50 players left, then switched into maintenance mode from there. “With 21 to go I was in dead last position I had already accepted that barring a miracle I wasn’t going to make it to 16 where the next pay-jump was.”
Then off came the bar — and in came the miracle.
First he doubled up to stay in the game. Next came a triple-up with two short stacks’ bounties attached. A third win and bounty meant that Geoff was no longer in last place. He was now the chip leader with 18 players remaining, a position he maintained until only four players remained.
“I had honestly already made peace with making it to the pay jump at 27 players. Then everything changed. I’m very comfortable controlling a table with a big stack and felt I had a really good chance to take the whole tournament down. In my mind, anything less than a fifth-place finish would have been an outright disaster with this golden opportunity I’d been given.”
On the other side of the planet, Franklin “FKAXM” Magalhães of Limeira, Brazil, settled in for his regular routine of playing the Sunday Million and the $109 Bounty Builder. It’s been this way for the last two years since Franklin quit his job as a publicist at an advertising agency to pursue poker full-time.
“This year I dedicated myself 100 percent to poker,” Magalhães told me by email this week. “I invested in a lot of software for studies and spent hours and hours watching classes and reviewing my own game. I’ve also worked a lot also my mental game. I go to the gym during the week, I walk or run whenever I can, and I changed my diet to have a healthier life. I believe that it is essential for poker pros to take care of these things, and that it brings more results.”
It’s an approach that has already paid dividends. Back in May, Franklin won a SCOOP-Low event after satelliting in for just $11. That $66,000 win was an order of magnitude larger than any prize he’d previously won.
In this week’s Sunday Million, Franklin was able to increase his stack by patiently waiting for good spots in the early stages. By the middle of the tournament he had picked up a few bounties and was in good shape. “The game flowed, you know?” he said.
A few standard plays with bounties on the line didn’t go his way, eating into his stack a bit in the later stages. By the time the final table arrived he was in the middle of the pack with 30 big blinds, but his seating position restricted his options.
“I couldn’t open hands that I usually play in the middle of the tournament,” he said. “I had to adapt with the big stacks on the left that could pressure me. I was also waiting for a collision between other players, because there were shorter players and some players that I realized didn’t care so much about the strategy they should use because they were trying to win bounties. So I had to be a little more patient than normal. At that moment each pay jump makes a big difference in any professional’s life.”
That patience quickly paid off to the tune of $4,000 in pay jumps. Short-stacked Dane dazzy2004 went first in ninth, before Canada’s Samuel “SamuelBT” Tsehai got in ahead with K♦K♣ only to finish eighth when Ukrainian player “Armin2188” flopped a set with 6♥6♦.
And then the game flowed for Magalhães once again. He earned another pay jump when past SCOOP champ “caaaaamel” busted in seventh. Magalhães got paid when he turned a straight with 5♠5♥ and Greek player Apoutsos held K♥K♣. Then he flopped top set with A♥A♠, turned quads, and still got paid on the river when “BADEXTASY”‘s Q♥10♥ made queens full of aces.
Already in second place with just six players remaining, things got better still when “BADEXTASY” lost a coin flip to leave in sixth place. Then Magalhães scored a knockout with J♥8♥, flopping a jack to crack “jhonne silva”‘s 10♥10♠ and bust his fellow Brazilian in fifth. Magalhães was three big blinds back from the lead now with the biggest pay jumps of his career looming in the distance.
The turning point of the tournament was a hand between Thai and Magalhães about 40 minutes into the final table. Magalhães had the button and raised modestly to 1.57 million with A♦10♣. “Armin2188” called in the small blind, and Thai defended the big blind with A♣4♣.
“Armin2188” bailed after the 3♦9♦A♠ flop, while Geoff called 1.85 million to see the 10♠ turn. He called tank-called 6.3 million there and made two pair with the 4♦ on the river. Franklin checked behind him and showed the better two pair to win the 21.3-million-chip pot — and with it the lead.
From there everything seemed to work against Thai. He had to fold pocket jacks out of position facing a raise and a re-raise, then got no action with his pocket kings a few hands later. He defended his big blind with A♠J♣ but lost out to Magalhães’s 10♦9♣ on the button. And he attacked from the button with K♠7♣ and flopped top pair, only to lose out when Magalhães’s Q♠10♠ made two pair on the turn.
In the end Thai called all-in for his last 25 big blinds holding A♦Q♦, after “Apoutsos” raised under the gun and “Armin2188” jammed in the small blind with 8♣8♦. “Apoutsos” folded and “Armin2188″‘s hand held up for the win.
“The pragmatist in me did question immediately after whether I should have folded, given the tremendous pay jump at third and the fact the ‘Apoutsos’ was pretty short too,” Thai said of his final hand. “But given Armin2188’s range in that spot I feel as though he definitely has a bunch of hands which I dominate and ultimately I just have to call and live with it.”
“I was definitely upset at the time that I didn’t finish higher given that I had over 50 million in chips at one point. But I was on the fortuitous end of numerous 50/50s to put me there, so ultimately no complaints and I’m happy. I don’t expect I’ll be able to replicate the result any time soon but my bankroll is much bigger than it was a week ago so I guess I’ll play some WCOOPs and see what happens! Final shout-out to Alyona for telling me to play the tournament and to Ola for telling me NOT to play the tournament!”
With Thai out of the running, Magalhães held the lead for most of the next 30 minutes. Then “Armin2188” made a set with 4♣4♦ to end Apoutsos’s tournament in third place, taking the lead by about 30 big blinds as heads-up play began.
Within five minutes Magalhães had evened things back out and he and Armin2188 were talking about a deal. “I will only accept 50/50,” Franklin said. Within another minute the remaining prize pool was divided up equally and only the final bounty of the game was still in play.
It took 20 minutes but Magalhães finally locked up his second major win of the year by flopping a Broadway straight with A♠10♦ on the same board that gave Armin2188’s Q♠J♥ two pair, queens and jacks. With bounties and prize money combined, his final earnings come to $88,743.29 — even more than his breakthrough SCOOP win earlier this year.
“After these achievements, I want to keep dedicating myself to the maximum,” Magalhães said. “My dream is to be a WCOOP champion too! After the series I intend to make some trips and enjoy time with family. This is very important for me. When I come back, I plan to play hard. In 2020 I want to set new limits, so my dedication will be that much greater.”
8-25-19 $109 Sunday Million, $1,000,000 Guaranteed – Progressive KO!
Entrants: 14,139 (10,129 entries, 4,010 entries)
Prize pool: $1,413,900 ($706,950 regular, $706,950 bounty)
Places paid: 2,474
1. Franklin “FKAXM” Magalhães (Brazil) $59,038.01* + $29,705.28 in bounties
2. Armin2188 (Ukraine) $59,038.01* + $16,188.51
3. Apoutsos (Greece) $36,028.85 + $8,609.37
4. Geoffrey “ŠQ3-Paper” Thai (United Kingdom) $26,146.12 + $3,840.58
5. jhonne silva (Brazil) $18,974.18 + $3,404.12
6. BADEXTASY (United Kingdom) $13,769.54 + $1,007.43
7. caaaaamel (Austria) $9,992.59 + $2,415.99
8. Samuel “SamuelBT” Tsehai (Canada) $7,251.61 + $6,652.28
9. dazzy2004 (Denmark) $5,262.53 + $3,855.92