Despite arguably not being one of the “bigger” names on the final table, the United Kingdom’s Elior Sion defeated a tough final table to capture one of the biggest prizes in tournament poker, the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship at the 2017 World Series of Poker.
At the start of the final day, the six-man pack was led by none other than Daniel Negreanu. Negreanu, who has been having one of the best WSOP runs of his career that hasn’t resulted in a bracelet, was the leader of that pack at the start of action on Thursday with his 5.93 million chips. That lead wasn’t a huge one, however, as Isaac Haxton was within about 700K in chips (5.205 million) of Canada’s favorite son. Sion started the day in the middle of the pack with his 4.75 million chips, with Germany’s Johannes Becker (4.56 million), Austria’s Ivo Donev (2.99 million chips) and a short stacked (but two-time WSOP winner) Paul Volpe (1.57 million) rounding out the field.
Rather than a sedate opening to the day’s festivities, the six men came out jamming the pots against each other. There also seem to be no rhyme or reason to it as Sion took a big chunk of chips from Haxton, only to turn right around a couple of hands later and give them back and more. Volpe, however, never could get anything going; he lost the first hand he played against Negreanu in Stud Hi/Lo, then saw Sion knock him out in sixth place moments later in 2-7 Triple Draw as Sion took a third draw to make a Deuce to Seven “Wheel” (2-4-5-6-7) to beat him.
The chips continued to fly around the table, with Haxton taking some chips from Becker in 2-7 Triple Draw to take a short-lived lead. The reason that was short lived was because Becker got them back – and the lead – when the game shifted to No Limit Hold’em. Undaunted, Haxton fought back to be the first player to crack the 10 million chip mark when, in Stud, he took hands from both Becker and Negreanu.
Negreanu’s day was a rollercoaster, to be honest. He never got over the stack he started the day with, but he was in every hand trying to work his stack. It seemed on several occasions he got it in with the “second best” hand, as he did against Becker when he made an inferior ten-high straight to Becker’s Jack-high straight, and that gradually worked his stack down. It would eventually lead to his demise, much earlier than he thought it would be.
In Pot Limit Omaha, Haxton raised the bet and Donev made the call off the button. With two well stacked players in front of him, Negreanu defended his big blind to see an 8♣ 6♠ 4♣ flop. Negreanu would pot the action but, after a fold from Haxton, Donev re-potted him to put Negreanu at risk. Negreanu made the call and grimaced when he saw the news: His J♣ 10♦ 9♣ 4♦ had hit a pair with a redraw to a Jack-high flush, but Donev’s A♦ A♣ K♣ 3♦ had him dominated on the better flush draw and a better pair. The turn 2♣ ended any drama for the hand, leaving Negreanu drawing dead and, after a 6♦ completed the board, he would hit the rail in fifth place.
Haxton and Becker continued to be the aggressors as the early evening hours approached, even taking to battling against each other as they swapped the lead. Haxton would take down Donev in fourth place in NLHE, rivering a five for a set against Donev’s pocket Kings after the chips went all in pre-flop. That thrust Haxton into the lead, but it would be incredibly short lived.
During a round of NLHE, Haxton and Becker, who had about 9 million chips himself, went to battle. Haxton opened the betting, but Becker three-bet back at him. Sion, in the big blind, quietly got out of the way and Haxton, not slowing down at all, fired a four-bet of over two million chips. Becker surprisingly only called and they went to the flop.
The 9-8-7 flop was wet, bringing a check from Becker, but Haxton fearlessly pounded him, pushing a tower of chips totaling 2.7 million to the center. After a moment of contemplation, Becker check-raised all in and Haxton immediately called, showing pocket Kings. That was nice, but Becker’s pocket Aces were nicer, putting him in the lead. There was paint on the turn, but it was a Knave, and the five on the river didn’t help Haxton. Becker scooped up the massive 18 million-plus pot and Haxton looked at his 1.555 million in scraps; Those would go to Sion on the very next hand, in Stud, as Haxton finished in third place.
Going to heads up play, Sion was at a serious disadvantage to Becker. His 6.525 million in chips paled in comparison to Becker’s 18.48 million stack, but Sion started a slow but steady grind. By the time the duo reached the dinner break, Sion had cut Becker’s lead to only three million chips and, after some chow, took the lead when they came back to some hands of NLHE. After more than three hours of heads-up action, Sion was sitting with roughly the same lead Becker had started the fight with.
Becker’s strength seemed to be the Omaha games, PLO and Hi/Lo, and he would climb back into the match on a couple of occasions through those disciplines. The rest of the games went Sion’s way, as he would not only come back after a bad Omaha experience to reestablish his edge. As the clock moved into Friday morning – and the twosome entered their seventh hour of heads-up play – the end would come, oddly enough in Omaha Hi/Lo.
Becker limped pre-flop and Sion didn’t push him, checking his option to see a 7-5-5 flop. Sion checked his option again but, after Becker fired, Sion check-raised him and Becker called. A nine on the turn brought a bet out of Sion and Becker, with a dwindling stack, put his final chips in the center. Sion called and turned up Q-J-7-5 for the flopped full house, while Becker was looking low with his Q-6-6-2 (Becker had a flush, but it was worthless against Sion’s boat). Needing an Ace, trey, four or eight to make the low, Becker instead saw the case five fall, giving Sion quads and, with no low, the hand and the championship of the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship.
1. Elior Sion, $1,395,767
2. Johannes Becker, $862,649
3. Isaac Haxton, $595,812
4. Ivo Donev, $419,337
5. Daniel Negreanu, $300,852
6. Paul Volpe, $220,111