An executive chef. A science writer. A two-time COOP champ with $5.8 million in PokerStars earnings. A Swedish high stakes player at his third major final table of the summer.
These players outlasted more than 8,200 of their peers to advance to the final of this week’s Sunday Million. After close to two and a half hours of battle, it was “losero88” — an executive chef from Italy currently living in the United Kingdom — who served up a win.
Here’s how it all went down.
This week’s Milly was another big one with 8,269 entries and 3,276 re-entries, building a prize pool of $1.1545 million. The top 2,042 finishers split that up, with $117K scheduled for first place.
The best return on investment this week went to German player “Poker_Art777,” who finished 924th for $258.14 after qualifying for only $0.50. The highest-placing player to qualify from a satellite was Bulgarian player “stilchuka”, who finished 17th for $4,756.42, after qualifying for $11.
After 10 hours and 20 minutes of play the final nine took their seats at the table, led by Germany’s “DoePopoe” with 22.7 million chips — good for 91 big blinds. But the incoming chip leader nearly became the first to bite the dust after opening with 10♦10♠ and then jamming when “DanielLUCKY” re-raised with A♠A♥. The latter snap-called and stacked up to a dominant 35.7 million when the aces held, dropping “DoePopoe” to just 2.2 million (7 big blinds).
Within a few minutes the German player was back in business, though. After opening to 675,000 in early position with A♦10♦, “DoePopoe” called a shove for 2.7 million by “colladito,” whose Q♠J♠ was a slight dog but never caught up on the 4♠2♣7♦7♠3♥ board.
It was the end of a wild ride for “colladito”, real name Armando. A 33-year-old poker pro, originally from Nicaragua but now living with his wife and two children in Paraguay, he normally focuses on four- and five-card Omaha cash games but has taken several shots at the Sunday Million in the past. This one took him further than ever before.
“The first stage was up and down, but I was always in the middle,” he told PokerStars Blog by email this week. “I got up to 80 big blinds in the middle stage of the tournament, but I came to the final table very short after I lost a pot of 70bb with A-A against K-K and K-Q in a triple all-in [with about 30 players left].”
Armando took that beat and his short stay at the Milly final in comfortable stride. “I always thank God for all my successes, he is an inexhaustible source of strength,” he said. “And it’s always nice to have a deep run in a tournament like the Sunday Million. It helps you to analyze your game and improve it.”
“The Sunday Million, it’s for everybody, isn’t it?”
With “DoePopoe” coming back from the brink and then taking out the table’s shortest stack, three players — “Hartige,” “nlfreddie,” and “Leatherlane” — were now constrained by their short stacks. Compounding the problem for “Leatherlane” (real name Alex) was her seating assignment between two bigger stacks.
A mother and a science writer, Alex picked up the game a few years back and mostly plays live. Driven to be “not just good but great” at anything she takes up, Alex watches lots of PokerGO and EPT webcasts. She soaks up commentary and analysis, especially from the women in the game she admires like Vicky Coren-Mitchell, Maria Ho, and Kara Scott. She has even begun working with a coach once a week over the past year. (“We’ve seen improvements,” she said.)
Freshly back from a two-week trip to the U.S., unable to sleep, and already working on her latest book on an old laptop that had the PokerStars software installed, Alex decided to have a go at the Sunday Million.
“I’d done it maybe twice in the years I’ve been playing online. It’s a fiction, nobody ever wins, right? You’ll cash, maybe, but there’s 12,000 people — it’s stupid! But the Sunday Million, it’s for everybody, isn’t it? It’s for someone like me who isn’t a pro, who by day is a science writer, writing a book on critical thinking, who also genuinely loves poker.”
With the jet lag wearing on her and a table full of tenacious opponents sticking to their strategies with big pay jumps on the line — not to mention a daughter who’d need taking care of when she woke up soon — Alex found herself in the big blind with Q♦J♠ and only 10 big blinds left in her stack. Possibly the most experienced player at the table, Grayson “gray31” Ramage — a past TCOOP and WCOOP champ with $5.8 million in career PokerStars earnings — min-raised to 800,000 in early position and got folds all around. Alex moved all-in for 4.1 million total and Ramage snap-called, taking the pot when the board ran out 3♠8♣4♣3♥8♠ to eliminate Alex in eighth.
“I knew ICM was in play,” she told the PokerStars Blog this week. “They were all folding and waiting for me to bust. I thought, ‘You buggers!’ The pay jumps are so high at that point.
“I think what happened was I had a brain outage. It had been 12 hours of play for me by the time I busted. I thought, ‘Finally, a hand!’ But then there was a raise from one of the chip leaders. And then I shoved because I thought, “Maybe if I shove he’ll think I have ace-high or a pair and he’ll fold his king-whatever. But of course he didn’t. I don’t know why I thought he would do that, but after you fold so many times and you’re so short-stacked, you look at Q-J and you see aces, you know?”
Still, with this result she has a big positive to show for the effort she’s been putting in. From here the next goal is to satellite into EPT Barcelona — and maybe to take a shot at next year’s WSOP.
With the table now seven-handed “DanielLUCKY” still held the lead at 36.9 million. “losero88” was in second at 19.7 million, Ramage in third at 15.5 million, and the four others ranged from 9.5 million to 11.6 million.
Anyone with that many chips would be a problem for the rest of the table, but “DanielLUCKY” was especially troublesome because he’s come close to a few big titles lately. He finished seventh in the $1,050 Thursday Thrill on May 9th before taking eighth in the Sunday Million on June 9th, giving him plenty of motivation to improve on those finishes this time around.
The next action came from elsewhere, though. Within minutes “mae$tro220” min-raised to 800,000 in the hijack with K♥K♣ and snap-called when “DoePopoe” jammed for 10.6 million in the big blind with A♥Q♣. “mae$tro220” made a set of kings on the flop and then dodged “DoePopoe”‘s inside straight draw as the board fell 10♣K♦6♥Q♥9♠, taking the field down to six players.
After they returned from the table’s first hourly break, “Hartige” dropped to about 14 big blinds before picking up A♦8♣ in the big blind 55 minutes in. “DanielLUCKY” tried to steal with A♠6♠ from the small blind and “Hartige” called with the best of it, only to watch as the 3♦6♦6♣10♥Q♣ board gave “DanielLUCKY” trip sixes and the 14.5-million-chip pot. With that “Hartige” left in sixth place.
Holding twice as many chips as anyone else at the table, “DanielLUCKY” used his advantage effectively over the next few minutes to grab another few million chips. Then he picked up A♣A♥ and min-raised to 1 million under the gun. Ramage called with K♦J♦ in the big blind and promptly made top two pair on the 5♣J♥K♣ flop.
Ramage check-raised from 825,000 to 2.78 million on the flop and then, when “DanielLUCKY” called, led for about a third of the pot on the 5♦ turn. “DanielLUCKY” called again, the river was the 10♠, and gray31 dipped into his time bank for about 15 seconds before checking. “DanielLUCKY” used about the same amount of time himself before jamming. After about 30 seconds Ramage finally called only to find out that his kings and jacks had been bested when “DanielLUCKY” turned aces and fives.
A tough spot, to be sure, but Ramage acquitted himself well in this tournament: the $32,565 he collected for fifth represents the 18th-best cash of a 12-year, $5.8 million career at PokerStars.
“I decided to play tighter…but maybe this was a good thing.”
Knocking out Ramage gave “DanielLUCKY” almost 60 percent of the chips in play and a stranglehold on the game as long as the other three players remained short-stacked. Meanwhile “losero88” picked up two pocket pairs in a row — first nines, then tens — and couldn’t get any action. The same went for “nlfreddie” with pocket kings a few hands later.
Finally “mae$tro220” picked up Q♥Q♦, shoved under the gun, and got “DanielLUCKY” to come along from the small blind with A♣10♦. Things were looking good for “mae$tro220” when the flop came 7♦4♦9♦. Then the A♠ turn gave “DanielLUCKY” a pair of aces and the 10♣ river made it aces and tens, ending “mae$tro220″‘s tournament in fourth.
“Having DanielLUCKY and gray21 on the table to my left blocked a bit my way of play because I know they are very good regs,” “losero88” — real name Matteo — told us by email this week. He had been the chip leader with around 200 players left and held onto a big stack most of the rest of the way before finding himself to the right of those two players. “After he won that pot [with A-A against T-T] I decided to play tighter to avoid aggression from him. But maybe this was a good thing. I was lucky that he knocked players out until we only had three left, so from there I started to play more.”
A deal didn’t appear to be in the offing at this point. “DanielLUCKY” had nearly three times as many chips as the other two players combined. But Matteo soon doubled up with pocket nines against “DanielLUCKY”‘s A♦9♣, and after another 10 minutes of poker the three decided to cut a deal. With all but the last $20,000 divided up, they got back to the game — but it would still be another hour and 10 minutes before they determined the champion.
Both of the shorter stacks chipped away at “DanielLUCKY”‘s lead for about 10 minutes, picking up around 10 million apiece before Matteo scored two key wins — not just for his own stack, which would fluctuate further, but for its effect of breaking “DanielLUCKY”‘s grip on the lead.
First “nlfreddie” folded on the button and left Matteo with the action in the small blind. Holding Q♦J♣, he moved all-in for about 18 big blinds — and “DanielLUCKY” called almost instantly with K♣Q♥. Matteo went from being up against the wall to locking down the 25.3-million-chip pot when the 2♣Q♠J♠J♥7♠ board gave him jacks full of queens.
“Something that I would dream about, but never expect”
“After the deal I was really happy with a mix of tiredness,” Matteo said. “That made me go all-in QJ and with some luck I won against Daniel. I knew that I had to stay focused if I wanted to bring home the last $20,000.”
The second hand between those two players opened with Matteo min-raising to 1.4 million on the button. “DanielLUCKY” three-bet to 5.14 million from the small blind and Matteo called, making top pair on the 6♣3♠5♣ flop. “DanielLUCKY” fired 3.69 million there and Matteo called before the 2♣ turn shut down the action. Both players checked there and on the Q♠ river, giving Matteo the pot and a boost into second place at 37.7 million chips.
By the time of the second break “DanielLUCKY” and “nlfreddie” were within a few big blinds of each other and Matteo trailed them by around 20 big blinds. The next 30 minutes saw “DanielLUCKY” slip behind the others, eventually holding 20 big blinds in third place on the 450,000/900,000 blind level. In the end he defended his small blind with 2♦2♠ against a button steal from Matteo, who called the shove with A♥10♦ and caught an ace on the flop to take the tournament down to two.
Matteo had the edge with 78.1 million chips to “nlfreddie”‘s 37.2 million. They battled for the next 25 minutes. “nlfreddie” struck for a key 33.6 million-chip pot with 9♣7♣ a few minutes in, giving him 54.9 million to Matteo’s 60.5 million, but never got closer than that.
In the end it took a cooler to bring things to a close. Matteo min-raised to 2.4 million with K♦K♣, “nlfreddie” re-raised to 8.4 million with A♦Q♠, and Matteo called to see the J♦Q♣7♠ flop. He called “nlfreddie”‘s bet of 8.2 million there, and then did the same when “nlfreddie” jammed for 29.2 million on the 3♠ turn. The 7♣ river changed nothing and “nlfreddie” finished in second place.
It was a most unexpected spot for Matteo, whose previous biggest win came in a Hot $215 with a $7,500 guaranteed prize pool.
“Winning the Sunday Million is something that I would dream about, but never expect to win it,” he said.
“I have played poker for about eight years, playing a reasonable amount but nothing serious. Poker is not my profession as I’m an executive chef, plus I have a little daughter to take care, so I would say it is a hobby much like football. I try to get on holidays when the big series are running, and sometimes on a day off from work I will play the Sunday Million if I can.”
“The prize will definitely change life for my family. As for poker, I know myself and I will continue to play as I do now, probably with more facility [without as much concern about the money]. And maybe with part of the money I can do something that I have wanted for a long time: playing a good live tournament.”
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