As the final table of the WSOP Main Event was beginning in Las Vegas this past Sunday, nine PokerStars players from six countries were already well on their way to the final of the Sunday Million. They were part of an 8,000-strong that combined for another 2,982 re-entries before the end of late registration, building a total prize pool of $1,089,200.
At the end of it all two players from Russia, “kolobcheena” and “Jigan7,” cut a heads-up deal that left $20,000 on the table for the winner. Here’s a look back at how they got there.
Team PokerStars was well-represented in this week’s Sunday Million field. Fintan “easywithaces” Hand fired one bullet and busted early, but all the others who played this week managed to cash.
Lex Veldhuis fired four bullets and managed to take the last one 700 spots into the money, finishing in 1,233rd place ($209.53). Tom “MajinBoob” Hayward took his second bullet all the way to 772nd place ($274.87). And Georgina “GJReggie” James got the same prize as MajinBoob for finishing in 689th — though she did it on just one entry.
They were all outdone, though, by Felix “xflixx” Schneiders. He entered once and ran all the way to 78th place, earning $1,266. You can watch him play right here:
After 12 hours and 20 minutes of poker it was time for the final table, with the blinds at 150,000/300,000 and antes at 30,000.
Canada’s “Graeme7777” had a dominant lead with 35.3 million chips as the final nine took their seats. kolobcheena, the eventual champion, was second with 23.3 million. Three others were over the 10-million-chip mark, and the last four players had less than 20 big blinds each.
Jigan7, a 28-year-old recreational player from a small town in Russia, entered with the shortest stack at just under three big blinds, but he was unconcerned with his position. For one thing, he was playing the Milly for the first time after qualifying through a satellite. He’d also been holding on in last place since there were 14 players remaining, his spirits buoyed by text messages from a friend who’d been supporting him all day long.
“I already knew that I was about to hunt,” he said, “and I waited for the right moment.”
Jigan7 picked up K♦K♥ on the third hand and doubled through Austria’s Voogii1990, who defended the big blind with 6♥4♥. That vaulted him ahead of United Kingdom’s FazoMisiek, who fell into last place and then busted in ninth ($8,669.63) on the following hand when K♦Q♣ couldn’t overcome JúlioFantin’s A♠K♠. Jigan7 earned another double on the hand after that, defending the big blind all-in with Q♣J♠ and winning out against small-blind raiser DigoLuiz’s Q♥3♣.
Within two more minutes Voogii1990 was out in eighth ($11,946.65) after shoving with A♦J♠ and having Graeme7777 called with 10♣10♠, which held up on a queen-high board. But the next half-hour was all grind for the remaining seven players.
kolobcheena made up ground and eventually moved ahead of Graeme7777 during this stretch, though it was Brazil’s Galochina10 who knocked the Canadian off a 20-big-blind pot on the turn of a 7♠3♣4♣J♣ board to claim the chip lead. ICM considerations meant the other four players were caught in between the three big stacks and mostly had to bide their time.
It seemed like it was going to take a coin flip or a cooler to break the deadlock. In the end it was the latter. alex6255, a 31-year-old Spin & Go regular from Athens, Greece, jammed for his last 4.4 million with Q♦Q♣ over the top of Jigan7’s 800,000-chip opening raise, only to see kolobcheena wake up with A♠A♥ in the small blind. That was the end of the line for alex6255, who walked with $16,462.12 in seventh place.
“I have played the Sunday Million before and have cashed in it several times, but never gotten very deep. So final tabling was something that I always was dreaming about back some years ago when my main game was MTTs,” he said, looking back on the tournament afterward. “I’d say I was especially lucky in the first couple of hours, since I was able to collect a lot of chips quickly even in some hands where I was behind equity-wise. After becoming a big stack I was able to smooth-sail until the late stages without having to take many risks.
“The only regrettable thing in the final table was my positioning combined with my stack size, which made it very difficult to play my game. I was sitting on the right of the two most aggressive players in the table and didn’t have a big hand until the cooler on the final hand. So though I feel that it’d be great if I’d gotten a higher place, still I’m very satisfied with my result and my overall effort in this tournament.”
Even with alex6255 out, the dynamic at the table remained much the same.
Galochina10 sat to the right of kolobcheena and the pair bossed the table with their twin 32-million-plus chip stacks. Graeme7777 sat to the right of them both, holding down third place with 21 million for a solid 52 big blinds. JúlioFantin had a better seat, sitting directly to the left of both big stacks, and just shy of 30 big blinds. And DigoLuiz (17 BB) and Jigan7 (7 BB) were jammed between JúlioFantin and Graeme7777.
“It was a good seat draw,” JúlioFantin said afterward. “My strategy was to play tight, seize the right spots. I got very lucky in having good hands on good spots, and things went really smooth.”
That smooth ride started a few minutes into six-handed play when he limped for 400,000 under the gun with K♣Q♣. Ever aggressive, Galochina10 made it 2.4 million to go with 4♥3♣ from the big blind. JúlioFantin tank-called, building a 5.4-million-chip pot, and then floated for one street with two overcards and a backdoor flush draw after Galochina10 set a good price with a bet of 1.2 million on the 10♥2♠8♣ flop. Galochina10 fired small bets on the Q♠ turn and 5♣ river and JulioFantin called them both to take down the pot with a pair of queens and climb to a virtual tie for third place with 20.4 million chips.
Jigan7 survived another critical all-in moment when A♠K♠ held against Galochina10’s K♥Q♦. That not only kept him in the game but also set the stage for a major clash between two players who had been tangling with each other since they sat down to the final table.
Graeme7777 and kolobcheena had entered the final 1-2 in the chip counts and the Canadian had pressured the Russian at seemingly every opportunity.
“I think he had a plan to widen his 3-bet [range],” kolobcheena said later. “Some hands before I even folded 7-7 to his 3-bet. I knew that he wouldn’t give me chances to check my sevens to showdown, and I awaited two barrels minimum on any board. I think it’s not quite right to fold sevens, but I did anyway because the pay jumps were big already.”
With those dynamics in mind, kolobcheena made it 2.5 million with 10♥10♦ on the button when Graeme7777 min-raised to 1 million in the hijack seat. Graeme7777 responded with a re-raise to 6.5 million, putting a total of 10.05 million chips in the pot and leaving him 12 million behind.
Graeme7777 open-shoved for about 5 BB less than the pot on the 3♠10♣J♥ flop and kolobcheena snap-called with middle set. The turn and the river were blanks, ending Graeme7777’s tournament in sixth ($22,684.30) — and saving the winner’s equipment.
“I folded the sevens, but this time I called and caught a set,” kolobcheena remembers. “I think that I would have crashed my monitor if the chips had gone to his box after the river was dealt.”
Half the field was gone now. kolobcheena had 110 big blinds in his stack and led his nearest opponent by more than 30 million. It was a dream spot for his second time playing the Sunday Million, especially given that he used a satellite ticket he’d won more than a year ago to enter this week’s tournament. (He won three others back then and says he’s saving them for the next anniversary Milly.)
“Four opponents remained — IMHO, the strongest opponents left,” he said. “But I had a chip leader stack, and their stacks were almost even. I thought that it was almost perfect situation to put the pressure on. I am not fond of ICM spots and honestly I’m quite an amateur. But after this hand I allowed a thought that this could be it. I just needed to put the pressure on.”
Recognizing the situation made kolobcheena’s ride from there a smooth one. While the other players had to worry about ICM, he expanded his lead to more than 43 million chips with the blinds at 300,000/600,000.
Eventually DigoLuiz drew the short straw. First the Brazilian open-shoved for 8.8 million with 6♥5♥ in the small blind only to see Jigan7 wake up with 10♠10♣ in the small blind. Left with just two big blinds, DigoLuiz moved in with K♦8♦ on the following hand and left in fifth place ($31,258.39) when Galochina10 called with 5♠5♣ and flopped a set.
The dynamics remained unchanged as kolobcheena still led three similarly-stacked players. Then Jigan7 min-raised under the gun with A♦10♥ and called when Galochina10 shoved for 10 million with 7♦7♠ on the button. Galochina10 made a set with the 7♥ on the flop but three other hearts hit the board to give Jigan7 a flush, sending Galochina10 to the rail in fourth ($43,073.27).
There was brief discussion of a deal but with JulioFantin holding just under 20 big blinds, Jigan7 and kolobcheena decided to wait. They played for close to 10 minutes before Jigan7 opened with 7♣7♥ and called JúlioFantin’s three-bet shove with A♦9♣; the pair held and JúlioFantin departed in third place.
He says that even finishing in third for $59,353.97 was “an incredible moment,” since he’s played the Sunday Million with some regularity over the years. Not only does the $59K he won top a Milly run from earlier this year when he busted with two tables remaining, but it also qualifies as the biggest cash of his career.
“It’s such a great tournament, and every Sunday I hope I can win this time,” he said. “This last one I got close! It’s very satisfying. I put a lot of work into this game, so this big score means a lot.”
JúlioFantin’s departure left just kolobcheena and Jigan7 at the table, the former holding 68.6 million chips to the latter’s 41.2 million. They quickly decided to cut a deal.
“I was not set up for heads-up, because I was already very tired and I already had a good result so I wanted to end as soon as possible,” Jigan7 said later.
kolobcheena was also ready to deal, in large part to cut down on his variance. “I was concerned that a single successful steal, successful c-bet, and successful 3-bet in a row would cost me a lot of money. And if you add in a lost coin flip, you risk having an even smaller stack. But ICM was fine for him too. So finally, we reached the moment where we could breathe out.”
With the prizes divided up, the game went another 10 minutes before kolobcheena closed out the victory. In the days afterward, both players had nothing but good words to say about each other and happy thoughts to share about their experiences.
“My opponent played a great game throughout the tournament,” said Jigan7, who earned $85,742.64 for second place. “The money I won is big for our town, well, I will find a reasonable use for it! This tournament was a great experience for me and it gives me faith in my strength and capabilities. I think this is a small step into the world of poker!”
“I am very happy for the runner-up,” said kolobcheena. “I crossed paths with him several times before the final table. And every time I saw him he was the shortest — 3 BB, 7 BB, 5 BB. I can say that discipline beats any skills. His success is the proof.”
As for his reaction to winning $108,759.15 in the biggest weekly tournament in poker, the champion says he was a little stunned at the end of it all.
“The emotions were great. I’m not a native speaker of the English language so I can’t fully describe it, but it was quite funny. After the auto-closing of the table I turned my PC off and stared at a dot of the ceiling. Maybe…maybe I didn’t even breathe, for all of 15 minutes. After this I remembered my name and started walking back and forth in the room. I felt great that moment and I do now, too.”
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