If you spend three days watching the world’s greatest professional poker players competing against a selection of successful business people, entrepreneurs and philanthropists in a poker tournament, the presence of luck and skill blinds.
Bryn Kenney arrived in London with more than $9m locked up in winnings since Christmas. He had won seven of his past eight heads-up confrontations, with only Timothy Adams able to dodge the Lone Wolf’s eclectic mix of missile systems and mines in Jeju recently.
Coming into Triton Million: A Helping Hand For Charity, Kenney was adamant that he would win, and take his rightful place at the head of the All-Time Money List.
“Poker needs someone like me to represent the game,” he told me in one of our many discussions this week.
The reigning Aussie Millions Champion and two-time Triton Champion used that confidence, sprinkled with experience, skill, and gangster poker to make it to the heads-up stage of the event.
Standing in his way was Aaron Zang. In the minutes before Zang settled down to face Kenney, he told me that he had ‘no idea what he was doing,’ that he never realised these players would be ‘so good,’ and it would be ‘a miracle’ if he overturned Kenney’s 4:1 chip lead and became the Triton Million champion.
Let’s see what we can do.
Eight players landed on the shores of the Triton Million Final Table each hoping to win the £19m first prize and to own a small piece of poker’s history, and the overwhelming favourite was Vivek Rajkumar who began proceedings with more than double the stack of Stephen Chidwick, in second.
Final Table Seat Draw
Seat 1: Timothy Adams – 5.735m
Seat 2: Bryn Kenney – 5.54m
Seat 3: Alfred DeCarolis – 5.455m
Seat 4: Vivek Rajkumar – 18m
Seat 5: Bill Perkins – 2m
Seat 7: Stephen Chidwick – 9.79m
Seat 8: Dan Smith – 2.35m
Seat 9: Aaron Zang – 5.06m
A Poor Start For Rajkumar; Perkins Doubling
Bill Perkins had the shortest stack in the room, and his strategy was a simple one – choose your spots wisely, and ship it. The entrepreneur stuck with the plan, doubling through Vivek Rajkumar twice – a sign of the times to come for the cash game pro.
The man of the level was Dan Smith, who added 4m chips to his stack with some well-timed moves and intelligent plays. Alfred DiCarlos also showed that the razzmatazz of the final table wouldn’t phase him, after running a successful bluff on Timothy Adams and showing the table.
Smith & Chidwick Soar; Rajkumar Plummets
Smith’s incredible run continued in the next two-levels, although he needed some luck along the way. Smith went into the second break of the day with the chip lead, after doubling through Rajkumar in fortunate circumstances.
With blinds at 125k/250k/250k, Smith opened from the first position to 500k holding pocket jacks, and Rajkumar called on the button with Th9h. The flop was a perfect looking Tc9s4h for both players, and they got it in. After the inconsequential 3d hit the turn, Smith was one card away from elimination before a third jack hit the river to change everything.
Chidwick also moved into the frame at this time, and once again Rajkumar was the man handing out chips. With blinds at 100k/200k/200k, Rajkumar opened to 450k on the button holding As8c, and Chidwick called from the big blind holding Jd5d. The flop fell Jc9s4h to give Chidwick top pair, and he called a 300k bet from Rajkumar. The Qs landed on the turn, and this time Chidwick called an 850k Rajkumar double-barrel. Rajkumar then fired a third barrel of 2.9m at the sight of the 6h. Chidwick moved all of his time bank chips into the middle, and when he had finished thinking, he had made the right call.
Rajkumar’s only slice of luck arrived with the elimination of Timothy Adams. The Triton Jeju Champion had a horrible final table, encapsulated by his final hand finding pocket kings, only for Rajkumar to find an ace on the flop when all-in, pre holding ace-ten, to send the Canadian to the rail in eighth.
Alfred DeCarolis joined Adams, in seventh place, after running Ah3h into the pocket aces of Chidwick. The UK All-Time Money Earner was chosen by DeCarolis to compete in this event, so it was with a twist of irony that the real estate developer would fall at his hands.
Rajkumar Falls; Kenney Leads
The fifth and sixth levels spelt the end of a dreadful final table experience for Rajkumar, although you would never have thought it if you had seen the smile on the man’s face as he left the competition.
The demise began when Perkins doubled through Rajkumar for the third time when AK beat A3 in a blind on blind thing. Perkins, however, couldn’t keep hold of those chips, eventually handing them to Bryn Kenney, running KT into aces in a standard spot.
After eliminating Perkins, Kenney turned his attention to Rajkumar. It could have been a tough spot for Kenney with the big stack to his left, but it wasn’t to be. Kenney found aces for the second time in succession. Rajkumar held A8ss, and five community cards later the pre-final table favourite was out.
In between eliminations, Kenney had also faced elimination, doubling through Aaron Zang nines versus 87dd, dodging a myriad of outs on a Jh9d3h6d board. The Qs on the river forcing Kenney to come to the rail to tell his mother he needed a break because he was on such a rush.
Zang recovered from his smash on the nose by winning a flip against Dan Smith.
Zang Takes The Lead
When four-handed, the only non-pro left in the field suddenly found himself with the chip lead. First, Zang doubled through Kenney when flopping two pair against top pair, and then he doubled through Smith for the second time when AK flopped a king against pocket eights.
Kenney Emerges as The Major Contender; Chidwick and Smith Struggle
Zang didn’t hold the lead for too long before Kenney began to take over. Chidwick and Smith couldn’t seem to put anything together, and as their chip stacks dwindled, Kenney’s increased.
Smith doubled through Zang when 97o flopped a seven against the A3o of Zang in a blind on blind confrontation, and then we lost Chidwick when he called a shove from Kenney holding pocket sevens against KJo, only for the deck to produce a second king on the flop to send the man from the UK home in fourth.
Smith exited in the third spot when his ATo lost to Kenney’s QThh in a race to the death, and Kenney’s rail erupted in jubilation, a sense of victory in the air, as he prepared to take on Zang with a 4:1 chip lead, all of the momentum, and all of the experience.
Heads-Up: Kenny v Zang
As soon as Smith exited in third, Zang asked Kenney for a deal, and a nod and handshake later, here were the scores on the doors.
The Tournament Director insisted that the pair play for £1.1m, and the finale of Triton Million: A Helping Hand For Charity contained two main scenes.
In the first, Zang doubled through Kenney when pocket sixes beat KQo, reducing the gap between them to 7m chips. Then Zang took the chip lead, before the final all-in and call.
Zang moved all-in on a flop of 8s4s3c, holding 8d5d for top pair, and Kenney made the call with As6s for the drawing hand. The 9c was black, but the wrong emblem for Kenney. The Kd on the river was another card that Kenney didn’t want to see, and Zang took the title.
It was a strange feeling at the end. Typically, we have a winner and a loser, but today, we had two winners. Zang banked £13,779,491 and the title of Triton Million winner. Kenney collected £16,890,509, meaning he wears the All-Time Money List crown with $55.5m in lifetime earnings. He also broke the record for most earnings in a calendar year with $29.8m and the most significant single prize in poker with $20,563,324.
“I lost two flips,” said Kenney. “That’s what it boils down to. It’s poker. I’m happy. I would have loved the title, but I told you, I wanted that spot on the All-Time Money list, and now I have it. I couldn’t be happier.”
During the closing ceremony, Triton co-founder, Paul Phua, grabbed the microphone and told the crowd that he had played with Zang in Macau for the past nine years.
“It goes to show, that anyone can win,” said Phua.
Zang and Kenney weren’t the only winners, so were Triton.
The production and the action matched the pre-tournament buzz around the event. Let’s hope that in the future if they ever do this again, more successful people in business will find hope and inspiration from Zang’s win, and join the fray, but will they ever do this again?
Final Table Results
- Aaron Zang – *£13,779,491.
- Bryn Kenney – *16,890,509
- Dan Smith – £7,200,000
- Stephen Chidwick – £4,410,000
- Vivek Rajkumar – £3,000,000
- Bill Perkins – £2,200,000
- Alfred DeCarolis – £1,720,000
- Timothy Adams – £1,400,000
*Indicates a heads-up deal.