Another Sunday, another $375,000 up for grabs among the final nine players in the Sunday Million.
No big deal — unless you’re one of the players who survived the 10,623-strong field to make it there. Then it was a very big deal indeed — as we were told by a poker hobbyist from Northern Ireland who dreams of turning pro, a Czech transplant to Canada, and a Ukrainian poker pro playing his first Milly as a regular.
Paul “Parthannax” McKeown doesn’t get to play as much poker as he’d like, but the 27-year-old from Northern Ireland still aspires to turn pro someday.
“Sunday evening is the only real time I get to sit down and play several tournaments,” he told me this week. “Despite the limited play time I still do my best to increase my knowledge for MTTs as I would like to play more in the future.”
Over seven years of playing poker he’d only entered the Sunday Million three or four times, as he’d mostly focused on cash games.
But after laying off for a while, the urge to play again struck a few months ago and tournaments were more fun than cash games.
All his study of MTTs paid off when this week’s entry took him deep into the money.
“I didn’t have a particular strategy coming into the tournament,” he said. “I picked my spots well during the tournament and of course ran good when it mattered!”
With thoughts of traveling with his fiancée Megan on his mind, he did everything he could to take advantage of the substantial pay jumps.
“I knew I was in a position to make the final table with my current stack and there was three or four players running on air. Though saying that, there were a couple of spots I passed on as I wanted to make the final table as I had came that far and knew I was with a real shout. The pay jumps were huge to me, but I managed to keep pretty calm during it all, which surprised me.”
McKeown managed to get there, but he found his options limited by a combination of bad cards with a short stack and bad seating assignment.
He survived long enough to get one more pay jump in — when “G0DplzH3lpMe” couldn’t get A♥10♣ to hold against the K♣9♣ of “sosojcanada” in a battle of the blinds — but circumstances were stacked against him. After folding the first two times he had the button, on the third he moved in with 10♥9♠ — and Eizy instantly re-jammed from the small blind with A♣A♦.
“The jam by me was maybe a little questionable but with only 9 BB left I guess it wasn’t terrible. I suppose hindsight is a wonderful thing and it didn’t help that Eizy woke up with the rockets. As soon as he jammed I knew I was in serious trouble.”
Eizy’s aces held for a desperately needed double to 20 big blinds, and McKeown’s tournament ended.
“I’m a little gutted how I exited, as I was see-sawing between jamming and folding, but again hindsight is great isn’t it!” he said. “But it was a fantastic experience. I will definitely be playing the Sunday Million again next week.”
The knockout dealt before McKeown’s exit came courtesy of sosojcanada, a 39-year-old husband and father of three originally from the Czech Republic, who moved to Canada in 2016. He’s continued playing poker in clubs and casinos since arriving there, just as he had done in his home country since 2008.
sosojcanada had never played the Sunday Million before, but he reached the final table with relative ease after taking over the chip lead about an hour earlier. After scoring the table’s first knockout, his 32-big-blind stack gave him enough breathing room to step out of the fray if necessary.
He took advantage of that option a few times after raising with A♦J♣ and A♣10♦ only to face significant action — both times from opponents with pocket pairs, as it turned out. But those folds, combined with a loss with Q♠Q♥ to Eizy’s A♦J♣ that kept the latter in the tournament, eventually left him with a stack worth just five big blinds.
Amazingly enough, sosojcanada still managed to ladder up one more spot. In a hand with only mild action up until the final card was dealt, China’s jxxy93604 flopped middle pair with A♣10♠ and improved to two pair by the river of the 10♣6♠K♣7♥A♠ board. But Greece’s Velouxiotis, who had raised from the hijack seat, turned held Q♠J♠ for a Broadway straight after successfully prodding jxxy93604 into calling off 17 big blinds to exit in seventh place.
On the following hand, sosojcanada woke up with Q♠Q♥ and doubled up. An orbit later he did it again with K♣K♠. But with 840,000 chips in blinds and antes coming due soon he made the fateful decision to raise all-in for just under 15 big blinds. Eizy woke up behind with A♦K♥ and made two pair on the K♣Q♥9♠A♥10♦ board to end sosojcanada’s run.
“This was my first time to play a final table in such a big online tournament,” he said. “To do well is an amazing experience.”
That left five players at the table.
Canada’s “Graeme7777” was in the lead, as he had been since 14 players remained. His edge was a bit smaller than it had been earlier at the final, though — he held 29.3 million chips on the 200K/400K level, trailed by boerni21 (21.9 million), DTS|Travka (20.8 million), Eizy (19.4 million), and Velouxiotis (14.6 million).
The man in the middle — DTS|Travka, real name Alex Trofymenko — was exactly where he wanted to be. A 30-year-old former DOTA pro from Kiev, Ukraine, he’s been making a living from poker for the last three years.
“Online I play mostly mid-stakes heads-up turbo SnG’s and Spins, and offline I play cash,” he said. “Since June 2019 I’ve started to learn MTTs deeply and focused on it. Actually this was my first Sunday Million I played as a regular.”
That focus and effort paid off throughout the tournament. After about six hours of play, Trofymenko picked up the chip lead and managed to stay near the very top of the leader board from there.
“The Sunday Million structure is very smooth compared to other tournaments. I had a cooler in my favour in the mid-game and that helped me to hold my first position for a very long time, since people play very tight on the bubble and in the money. I was pressuring tables pretty hard and managed to hold my chip advantage straight to the final table.”
Just before the final he lost a pot to Hungary’s “boerni21,” dropping him a little further back. Once the final nine was set he was across the table from both boerni21 and overall leader Graeme7777, with himself in third place and nobody else posing a serious threat in terms of chip stack.
“I was very glad to see both big stacks in front of me,” said Trofymenko. “boernie21 was playing as a beast at the prefinal table holding the lead and dominating since he won a big pot against me, so I was aware of his aggression and using the ICM pressure. The other opponents I met were playing pretty weird in the prefinal stage and I considered them as weak.”
Even with those advantages in his favor, Trofymenko was forced to wait.
“I was pretty upset by not getting any monster hands to play with for almost the whole final,” he said. “Because I had a feeling my opponents were not regulars except boerni21, my strategy was to play pretty tight and wait for them to make a mistake. And it worked out.”
With the game five-handed he was still well-positioned, and soon enough he found himself in a major spot.
Trofymenko opened for 1.32 million in the cutoff with A♥J♠ and called after Graeme7777 re-raised to 3.84 million from the small blind with A♠9♥. Graeme7777 continued for 3 million there, Trofymenko called, and then both players checked the A♦ on the turn.
The 8♦ hit the river and Graeme7777 quickly bet 16.2 million, more than enough to cover Trofymenko’s stack of 11.6 million. The latter called and took down the pot with his jack kicker. Trofymenko now held the lead for the first time at the final with 37.9 million.
“I was three-betted by Graeme7777 about three times without showdown before that A-J hand, so I was a bit angry on him,” he said. “On the turn when the ace came he checked, I realized I got a better hand and made a trap forcing him to make a mistake on the river. And I think he did it. I wonder whether he was value-betting or bluffing that hand? That shove was weird.”
Graeme7777 trailed the field with just 7.6 million remaining, and the others suddenly had to adjust to the new table dynamic. The Canadian got back into the fold when his A♦Q♥ held against Trofymenko’s Q♠10♠, but he would never reclaim the lead.
Graeme7777 did ladder up one more spot when Velouxiotis and a resurgent Eizy tangled, the latter’s A♦K♥ flopping two pair to down Velouxiotis’s J♣J♥ in fifth place. But on the very next hand he saw a cheap flop from the small blind with 9♥8♥ and turned a straight on the same card that made two pair for boerni21’s 10♥5♦ in the big blind. The latter rivered a full house and shoved after Graeme7777 overbet the pot; Graeme7777 called and left in fourth place.
From there Eizy (41.8 million chips) and boerni21 (39.2 million) had Trofymenko (24.9 million) outchipped, but they also made big hands against him. He correctly folded to boerni21’s flush and then bottom pair to another flush for Eizy a few minutes later, but both times cost him valuable chips. He got back into the game with a double-up but eventually jammed with A♣9♥ in the small blind after boerni21 opened with A♦Q♦ on the button. That hand played out in standard fashion and eliminated Trofymenko in third place.
“I’m definitely going to play the Sunday Million again and again,” he said. “I’ve had some wins in big tourneys, but third place in this one feels really cool! That’s a huge win for me and I’m looking forward for a getting a trophy next time.”
Eizy and boerni21 were nearly even in chips when heads-up play began. They stayed that way for the next minutes, with Eizy claiming a small lead by the time the final hand rolled around. boerni21 opened for 1.9 million with Q♠7♠ on the button, Eizy three-bet to 7.2 million in the big blind, and both players caught pieces of the 3♠K♣7♥ flop. The chips didn’t go in until the river, but when they did Eizy was still ahead.
And that’s how this week’s Sunday Million was won.
10-6-19 $109 Sunday Million, $1,000,000 Guaranteed
Entrants: 10,623 (7,415 entries, 3,208 re-entries)
Prize pool: $1,062,300
Places paid: 1,934
1. Eizy (United Kingdom) $109,029.30
2. boerni21 (Hungary) $79,114.89
3. DTS|Travka (Ukraine) $57,413.70
4. Graeme7777 (Canada) $41,665.21
5. Velouxiotis (Greece) $30,236.56
6. sosojcanada (Canada) $21,942.76
7. jxxy83604 (China) $15,923.98
8. Parthanax (United Kingdom) $11,556.12
9. G0DplzH3lpMe (Malta) $8,376.22