The $1,100buy-in MSPT Venetian Main Event began with 3,273 entries, the largest tournament in both tour and Venetian history, and after three days of play Russia’s Nadar Kakhmazov emerged victorious to capture a $395,888 first-place prize and two trophies.
“I am cool, I am happy,” was all the29-year-old businessman could muster in broken English. He also indicated that he will be trying to parlay his success by playing in the 2017 World Series of Poker this summer.
Day 3 saw 13 players return to action, and in quick succession Jeff Kaplan (13th - $28,868), Sergio Cabrera (12th - $35,283), and Joe Elpayaa (11th - $35,283) all hit the rail to set up the final table.
After Steve Malone bowed out in 10th place for 35,283, the last MSPT tour regular, Max Havlish, took his leave. It happened when he moved his short stack all in holding king-queen and failed to get there against the ace-jack of 2012 World Series of Poker Main Event third-place finisher Jake Balsiger. The last Minnesotan in the field earned $41,698 for his ninth-place finish.
From there, Day 1A chip leader Ludovic Riehl fell in eighth when his ace-ten failed to overcome the pocket jacks of Balsiger. The Frenchman earned $54,528 for his performance.
Jewook Oh and Wen Zhang fell in seventh and sixth place respectively before Chris O’Rourke followed them out the door in fifth after a bad beat. He got his stack in holding pocket aces against Balsiger’s tens, but a ten on the turn sent O’Rourke back to Tampa with $118,679 in his pocket.
Despite that knockout, Balsiger was the next to go after shoving with king-nine suited and running into the Big Slick of Kakhmazov, who started the day as the chip leader but lost it midway through the final table. Balsiger picked up a heart flush draw on the ace-high flop but failed to find another.
After negotiations for a three-way deal fell through, El Paso’s Maury Solano fell when his Big Slick failed to hold against Kakhmazov’s queen-jack suited. That set up a heads-up match with Kakhmazov holding 26.9 million to Arizona’s Brayden Gazlay’s 22 million, and at the time the two struck a deal that saw them each lock up over $300K while leaving $70K on the table.
In just the first hand of heads-up play, Gazlay flopped two pair and Kakhmazov straight and flush draws. The chips got in and Kakhmazov promptly turned a straight to take the lead. The river failed to help Gazlay and he had to settle for second place and a $316,782 consolation prize.
Others to claim a portion of the $3,207,540 MSPT Venetian prize pool were Frankie Flowers (18th - $24,057), last woman standing Heidi May (23rd – 16,038), WPT champ Taylor von Kriegenbergh (27th - $12,830), last MSPT champ standing Andy Rubinberg (37th - $8,981), inaugural MSPT Venetian winner Drake Bronk (50th - $8,019), Day 1B chip leader and MSPT FireKeepers champ Mike Shanahan (80th - $5,934), and 2001 WSOP Main Event champ Carlos Mortensen (263rd - $2,887).