Poker professional Nick Schulman earned the second biggest cash of his career on Thursday night, winning the inaugural event of the 2017 Poker Masters at ARIA in Las Vegas.
With the ground unbroken on a series like this, many of the viewers on the rail, on the streaming feed from PokerGO and even the competitors themselves were unsure of how the Poker Masters series would be received. There were also some other differences on the Poker Masters tournaments that many had to get a grasp on. The seven handed tables featured a new dynamic, along with the 30 second shot clock. Finally – and for some players a big difference – no headphones or sunglasses were allowed at the tables.
The player turnout was probably the least dramatic occurrence. The tables were replete with some of the biggest names in the poker world from the starting gun on Wednesday, making it a joy for poker fans to watch. Erik Seidel, Fedor Holz, Steffen Sontheimer, Ben Lamb, Adrian Mateos, Daniel Negreanu and Bryn Kenney (among others) were staking out their own patch of felt as the call for “shuffle up and deal” rang through the ARIA tournament room.
With 125,000 chips to start with, the potential for players to have to use their one re-entry (more on this in a moment) was slim. That wasn’t true for Dan Smith, however, as he lost all but 12,000 of his chips when Jake Schindler hit a set of Queens over his pocket Aces within an hour of the start of the event (the remainder would go soon afterwards). That was fast, but Stefan Schillhabel went Smith one better in betting his pocket Kings all-in against Issac Haxton. Haxton had the goods with his pocket Aces and made the call, knocking Schillhabel out only five hands into the tournament. Both utilized their one re-entry, however, and went back into the fray.
By the end of Day 1, the inaugural Poker Masters event brought in 51 entries and set a final table that included Schulman and Mateos. Schillhabel made the most of his re-entry, scraping into the seven-handed final table as the short stack, while Matt Hyman and Sontheimer led the way with their 1.46 million and 1.255 million stacks, respectively. Dominik Nitsche and Koray Aldemir rounded out the final table as they reconvened on Thursday afternoon.
The beginning of the final table action was as frenetic as the start of the tournament on Wednesday. Schillhabel doubled on the first hand of action, his A-2 standing up against Mateos’ Q-7, as Mateos tumbled to the basement of the leaderboard. That time in the basement lasted all of one hand as, on the very next hand, Mateos pushed all in with a Q-J off suit. He was looked up by Nitsche’s pocket sixes out of the small blind and, initially, it looked good for Mateos. The 10-4-J flop caught his hand but, just as easily as it came, the lead was sucked away when a six came on the turn to give Nitsche an unbeatable set. Drawing dead, Mateos was already shaking hands with his fellow pros when a ten hit the river to send him home in seventh place.
The action only ramped up from that point. Sontheimer took over the lead after he eliminated Aldemir, his Q♠ 10♠ dominating Aldemir’s 9♠ 8♠, in sixth place and bounced Nitsche out in fifth place after his A-3 held over Nitsche’s 6♦ 5♦. That lead would be short-lived, however, when he clashed with Schulman in a hand that would change the course of the tournament.
With a board of 5♦ A♦ 7♦ 4♣ 8♦ and nearly 1.5 million chips in the center, Schulman would check his option, only to see Sontheimer put him to the test with an all-in river move. Schulman went through his 30 second clock and tossed in an extension chip before coming to a decision by calling for his tournament life. It turned out to be the right call as Sontheimer showed an A♠ J♠ for a pair of Aces; Schulman let out a sigh of relief as he showed a 10♦ 7♥ for the four-flush, taking the monster pot and taking over the chip lead.
Schulman would not be stopped after that. He soon after eliminated Sontheimer in fourth and Schillhabel in third, reaching heads up with a very-quiet Hyman holding over a two million chip lead. Hyman put up a fight, however, flipping the script on Schulman when he hit a set on the river to make a boat against Schulman’s flopped trip Aces to take over the lead. Schulman fought back to retake the lead but, just as quickly, Hyman would leap back over Schulman to take over the top slot as Level 27 (50K/100K blinds, 100K ante) began.
Only 20 minutes after the level up, Schulman retook the lead when his A-8 hit against Hyman’s K-10 on a 6-J-A-8-10 board. Five minutes later, though, Hyman would flip the standings when he doubled through Schulman. The players had to get to nearly even in stacks before the penultimate hand would be played.
After Hyman raised the betting to 310K holding an A♦ 8♦, Schulman pushed the action with an all-in three bet while holding Big Slick. Hyman called off his lesser stack and the duo went to what would be a dramatic flop. A Q♠ 7♦ 5♦ flop kept Schulman in the lead, but he didn’t feel greatly confident as Hyman sat four to a diamond nut flush. A 5♠ on the turn kept the status quo and the Ace on the river gave both men a pair of Aces. Schulman’s King kicker, however, was the difference as he took the hand and the championship of Event #1.
1. Nick Schulman, $918,000
2. Matt Hyman, $561,000
3. Stefan Schillhabel, $306,000
4. Steffen Sontheimer, $204,000
5. Dominik Nitsche, $178,500
6. Koray Aldemir, $153,000
7. Adrian Mateos, $127,500
(Negreanu, eliminated on the final table bubble on Wednesday night, earned $102,000 for his eighth-place finish)
The Poker Masters series is a combination of five “High Roller” type events. The first four tournaments will all be a $50,000 buy-in event with a single re-entry, offering the potential for huge prize pools to be built. The Championship Event will be a $100,000 buy-in with unlimited re-entries. Over the next week, these tournaments will roll out under the streaming eye of the PokerGO cameras, providing the “dog days” of summer in the poker world with some action on the tables.