Champion Gregoire Auzoux!
The first $5 million prize pool of this Triton Series stop in North Cyprus awarded two $1m+ payouts to two of the series’ relative newcomers. Both picked up the biggest single cashes of their careers and made their presence felt in one of the toughest fields in the world game.
Frenchman Gregoire Auzoux and Germany’s Robert Heidorn agreed a near-even deal heads-up at the end of a rapidly-shallowing $40,000 buy-in tournament, before Auzoux completed a remarkable comeback from a short stack to earn his first title.
It is another brilliant step in a relatively short high roller career for Auzoux. He had a breakthrough series here in Cyprus last September, making two final tables, and he has continued to run deep in high buy-in events across Europe since then.
But today he hit a new high note, banking a total $1,050,024 after downing Heidorn heads-up. He also had to compete with, and eliminate, Justin Bonomo, the player who has won more than any other in live tournament poker, and deny Santhosh Survana a second title of the week.
“My strategy was easy,” Auzoux said after securing his victory. “I was such a short stack when we started. I just played my cards and then quadrupled up in four hands, and then just tightened up. I climbed the ladder and tried to go to the end. Actually, it was a pretty smooth journey. I got lucky when I needed and I got some good cards. I ran like crazy, so it’s thanks to the cards mostly.”
It was a pretty topsy-turvy day for this 39-year-old Frenchman, who wore the same broad smile on his face whether he was down to his last few blinds, or sitting with a massive stack and eliminating the superstars.
“Allez Gregoire!” a supporter shouted from the sidelines shortly after Auzoux took a seat at the final table, ranked close to the bottom of the counts. He grinned at his friend and from that moment on, he had his sights perfectly honed on that win.
Although he and Heidorn opted to take the variance out of things at the very end, nonetheless ensuring seven-figure scores for each of them, Auzoux enjoyed the best of a short finale. At around midnight, it was all done.
Heidorn couldn’t be too disappointed. He had been all-in and at risk on the bubble, and now there he was padding his bankroll by more than $1 million too.
Robert Heidorn earned the biggest score of his career too
FINAL DAY ACTION
After a slightly shorter opening day, clearing the way for one of Triton’s infamous cash games to play out, a slightly larger-then-usual field of 42 returned to go through the familiar motions.
First, it was all about short stacks either perishing or climbing the ladder — Teun Mulder, Henrik Hecklen, Fedor Holz and Patrik Antonius were among those who busted — and then the focus landed on the bubble. Only 17 places would be paid.
As noted, Heidorn secured the first bubble-up, with pocket queens flopping a set to beat Tom Dwan’s pocket nines. (The nines also completed an irrelevant set on the river.) And Dwan might have thought he could knock out Tim Adams after both players flopped a pair of aces and Dwan rivered two pair, but Adams wriggled away.
It left the sword of Damocles hanging over the head of Maher Nouira, particularly after he got all his chips in with pocket eights, called by Dwan again.
Dwan had and note the suits. Nouira certainly did. Even though he flopped a set when the rolled off, he was far from out of the woods.
Nouira began happy, he then seemed anguished, and he then turned away because he couldn’t face the drama. The turn was no problem for him, but when gasps persuaded him to glance over his shoulder at the river, he saw the and that was disastrous.
Cool, less cool, terror, disaster. The four stages of the bubble for Maher Nouira
Nouira became the bubble boy, falling only marginally short of a first Triton cash. Our photographer Joe Giron captured the full story.
The race to the final table now began, with many of the short stacks who had been clinging on being finally hounded out. They included Adams, Michael Addamo and the overnight leader Kevin Paque.
Paque was knocked out in 10th, falling with pocket queens that just happened to run into Heidorn’s aces. And then there were nine.
The tournament final had as its leader the same man who has led poker’s all-time money list for quite a while: Justin Bonomo. But there was also that incorrigible talent Tom Dwan, the online beast Artem Vezhenkov and the winner of the first event here in North Cyprus, Santhosh Suvarna. They stacked up like this:
Event 5 final table players (clockwise from top left): Tom Dwan, Gregoire Auzoux, Justin Bonomo, Florencio Campomanes, Artem Vezhenkov, Samuel Ju, Daniel Dvoress, Santhosh Suvarna, Robert Heidorn.
1 – Justin Bonomo – 59 BBs
2 – Tom Dwan – 48 BBs
3 – Artem Vezhenkov – 48 BBs
4 – Robert Heidorn – 29 BBs
5 – Santhosh Suvarna – 22 BBs
6 – Daniel Dvoress – 18 BBs
7 – Gregoire Auzoux – 12 BBs
8 – Florencio Campomanes – 11 BBs
9 – Samuel Ju – 6 BBs
Although it was far from certain who would be hoisting the trophy at this stage, it was clear that the two players at the bottom of the counts had their work cut out. And unfortunately for Germany’s Samuel Ju and Florencio Campomanes of the Philippines, everyone else seemed to double up except them.
Ju busted with pocket nines to Bonomo’s pocket jacks, winning $125,000. He has only played three tournaments on the Triton Series, all here in North Cyprus, and this was his second cash.
Samuel Ju was first out from the final
After the break for the mystery bounty draw, Campomanes also found himself seeking alternative entertainment. His lost to Dwan’s . Campomanes picked up $167,500.
Florencio Campomanes made a first Triton final
France’s Gregoire Auzoux started the final table with only one big blind more than Campomanes, but he managed to enjoy the rub of the green. He doubled up twice to keep himself fully afloat and put the pressure on everyone else, in a rapidly shallowing tournament.
Even so, the next player out came as a surprise. Dwan had been very active, both pre-bubble and post, continually putting those less equipped into spots where they had to gamble for their life. Unfortunately for Dwan, he lost pretty much all of the flips he played at the final.
He then found himself staring at the abyss after he got his stack in in bad shape against one of only two players who could have knocked him out. Bonomo had pocket queens and snap-called after Dwan three-bet shoved his . The board bricked out and Dwan was out in seventh, taking $222,500.
Tom Dwan fell short of a third title
Bonomo was now the only player with a stack bigger than the average 28 big blinds, but it was turning into a tournament where the cards would play a fairly hefty part in deciding the outcome. There wasn’t much wiggle room for any of the players and and significant clashes could mean a rush to the exits.
Vezhenkov quickly found that out, to his peril. His stack had been pretty stable for much of the final table, but it took a hasty nosedive in back-to-back pots against Bonomo and then Auzoux. The second of those was particularly cruel on the Russian online crusher: he three-bet jammed aces over Dvoress’ initial open, only to see Auzoux re-jam from the big blind. Dvoress folded.
Auzoux’s pocket tens were a significant underdog to those rockets, but a ten on the flop changed that. Two blanks on turn and river, and that was all she wrote for Vezhenkov. He won $291,000.
Artem Vezhenkov beaten with aces
Dvoress had sidestepped that collision after raise/folding, but he lasted only one more hand. In this one, Suvarna looked down at pocket kings and open-shoved. Dvoress found pocket nines and called for the last of his chips.
Though this was a virtual repeat of the previous pot, albeit with one pip less in both hands, there was no repeat of the outcome. This time the better pair stayed best and Dvoress was out.
The $369,000 prize this time was his 17th on the Triton Series, but he remains without a trophy.
Another victory chance slips away from Daniel Dvoress
One man who definitely does have a trophy is Suvarna. He was the popular winner of the $25K GG Super Million$ Live that kicked off this festival, and his momentum continued into this, the fourth event on the schedule.
Suvarna had looked back to his best as he built up from a short stack, but he then suffered a pretty tough beat at the hands of Heidorn. Suvarna had pocket jacks and was ahead of Heidorn’s when they got it all in pre-flop. But Suvarna ended up counterfeited when the board ran .
That set Heidorn steaming upward and began a decline for Suvarna. He wasn’t able to get anything else going and his tournament ended in a flip against Bonomo. Suvarna’s pocket eights lost the race to Bonomo’s .
Suvarna added $457,500 to his $700K from the other day. That’s still a very fine start to this trip for him.
Santhosh Suvarna’s heater continues
Every pot now was the difference between taking over the chip lead or being relegated back to the bottom, and it was Bonomo’s turn to be under the cosh. He has, of course, as many skills as any player in the modern game, but he was powerless to halt the twin-pronged attack of Heidorn and Auzoux. The latter, in particular, repeatedly put Bonomo in tough spots.
In one particular hand, Bonomo used up eight time-bank chips when put to a decision on the turn with the board showing . Auzoux had three-bet pre-flop, bet the flop and then jammed the turn.
Bonomo, with laid it down. He was correct, of course. Auzoux had .
The very next hand was Bonomo’s last, however. In this one, Auzoux raised his button with and Bonomo called from the big blind with . The flop of brought a straight draw for Bonomo and top pair for Auzoux. The chips went in but the draw missed.
Bonomo took $552,500 for third place, extending his lead at the top of poker’s money list. But He missed out on a potential seven-figure score.
Even Justin Bonomo could not progress further than third
Auzoux had the chip lead as heads up started. The stacks were:
Auzoux: 16 million
Heidorn: 9 million
But there were only about 60 big blinds between them. They started to play without discussing any split, but after Heidorn doubled with queens against , bringing stacks much closer to parity, they asked to see the numbers.
They chatted for a bit, and Heidorn (the more experienced player) asked Auzoux to give up a little bit more than strict ICM. Auzoux made a counter-offer and they agreed on it. With $40,000, the trophy and the Shamballa Jewels bracelet on the side, they locked up more than a million each.
Player discuss their deal with Luca Vivaldi, tournament director
Auzoux was guaranteed $1,010,024. Heidorn locked up $1,057,976. And off they went again to decide who picked up the remaining shrapnel.
The duo quickly made it plain that they were ready to play. When they both found an ace, all the money went in, and Auzoux doubled up with against Heidorn’s .
That gave him a massive chip lead, and although Heidorn did double back once, with beating , it was only for crumbs.
The very next hand the money was in the middle once more, and Auzoux’s spiked a deuce to beat Heidorn’s .
Auzoux started playing poker back in the early 2000s and said, “When I started playing poker, these stakes didn’t exist.” But it only added to the relish with which he savoured victory. “It means a lot. Winning a title is very, very important. It’s pretty insane, actually.”
A delighted champion talks to Ali Nejad
Event #5 – $40,000 NLH 8-Handed
Dates: May 13-14, 2023
Entries: 125 (inc. 42 re-entries)
Prize pool: $5,000,000
1 – Gregoire Auzoux, France – $1,050,024*
2 – Robert Heidorn, Germany – $1,057,976*
3 – Justin Bonomo, USA – $552,500
4 – Santhosh Suvarna, India – $457,500
5 – Daniel Dvoress, Canada – $369,000
6 – Artem Vezhenkov, Russia – $291,000
7 – Tom Dwan, USA – $222,500
8 – Florencio Campomanes, Philippines – $167,500
9 – Samuel Ju, Germany – $125,000
10 – Kevin Paque, Netherlands – $102,500
11 – Thomas Muehloecker, Austria – $102,500
12 – Aleksei Platanovv, Russia – $90,000
13 – Danny Tang, Hong Kong – $90,000
14 – Michael Addamo, Australia – $82,500
15 – Timothy Adams, Canada – $82,500
16 – Ian Bradley, UK – $78,500
17 – Andrew Chen, Canada – $78,500
*denotes heads-up deal
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive