The $3,500 buy-in, $3.5 million GTD Main Event marked the fifth and final collaboration between the MSPT and Venetian during the 2018 Deepstacks Championship Poker Series. The tournament attracted 1,096 entries and spanned four days.
In the end, the Czech Republic’s Pavel Plesuv put on an impressive final table performance to win the title outright for $640,062, which marked the richest first-place prize ever awarded on tour.
“I feel awesome. It was a great tournament, big field, and I’ve been running pretty well,” said the 29-year-old poker pro, who splits his time playing live and online. “The trophy is always nice. I lost heads-up to Isildur at the start of the year. I was close to winning with a big chip lead, but I lost that one. So, winning this one feels pretty good.”
The win brought Plesuv’s live earnings up to $3,112,334 and marked the second-largest score of his career. Back in February, he finished runner-up to Viktor “Isildur1” Blom for $924,841 after busting in one of the more memorable hands of the year.
“I’m going to take a couple days to rest and see the Grand Canyon before playing the World Series of Poker Main Event,” added Plesuv, who was playing in Vegas for just the second time.
The final table was one for the ages and players came out firing and never let up. On just Hand #6, Justin Bonomo four-bet jammed holding the J♠J♥ and Karim Rebei called with the A♦K♥. The board ran out 4♦5♥2♣K♣7♠ and just like that the man who has destroyed 2018 with more than $14 million in winnings was sent out the door in 10th place.
Rebei took the chip lead after that hand and soon established himself as a wildcard at the table. He attempted to run a big bluff against Plesuv, who was second in chips at the time, and taunted his opponent with table talk while doing it. Despite straight and flush cards on board, Plesuv found a call with trip nines to take a commanding chip lead.
“When I hit trips on the turn, I had the queen of clubs and there were three clubs on the flop,” Plesuv said of the hand. “He raised my bet on the flop so he’s representing pocket jacks or some flush. With the queen of clubs I block a lot of flush combinations and some combinations of ace-nine and pocket nines. The way he was speaking so loudly I thought I couldn’t fold. It was obviously big pressure on me because I had a lot of chips. If I lose this pot I’m eight handed with small chips, but with this hand I decided I should go with it.”
Mohammed Jaafar then exited in ninth after losing A♣9♦ to Christian Rudolph’s J♦J♣ on a 6♠J♥9♣A♥8♥ runout, and then Michael Sklenicka followed him out the door in eighth place when his A♦10♣ failed to overcome Rebei’s J♣J♦.
Thomas Boivin, who in 2016 won the MSPT Venetian for $352,153, was next to go after shoving the small blind with the A♣9♣ only to have Yat Chang wake up with the A♥Q♣ in the big. The board ran out 10♥2♥4♥8♦J♦ and Boivin was ousted in seventh place for $98,202.
It was at that point Rebei and Plesuv would clash again. With the blinds at 60,000/120,000 with a 100,000 big blind ante, Rebei raised to 325,000 from the hijack holding the 6♦6♥ and then called when Plesuv, who looked down at the A♣A♠ in the big blind, three-bet to 1 million. The A♥6♣2♠ flop gave both players a set and Plesuv check-called a bet of 1 million from Rebei, who teased his opponent by clucking like a chicken.
Plesuv checked for the second time on the J♣ turn and Rebei moved all in for 2.2 million. Plesuv called and sent his nemesis to the rail after the 4♣ bricked the river. Plesuv extended his lead after that hand and would never let up.
“I didn’t expect him to have such a strong hand like a set of sixes,” said Plesuv. “I thought maybe he had an ace, so it was a brutal cooler for him.”
Rudolph would exit in fifth place – the result of his pocket fours losing a race to Cheng’s ace- queen – and Joni Jouhkimainen was bounced in fourth place running king-queen into Cheng’s ace-queen. Plesuv then dispatched World Poker Tour champ James Romero in third place when the former’s ace-eight suited held against the latter’s king-queen.
Plesuv held 17 million in chips to Cheng’s 10 million at the start of heads-up play. The two took turns exchanging pots before a cooler hand developed. Plesuv would wind up five-bet jamming with the Q♣Q♦ and Cheng called off holding the A♦K♥. The board ran out 10♠Q♠7♥6♦Q♥ and Plesuv took it down with quads!
Coincidentally, it was the third time in a row the winner of the Venetian’s $3,500 event claimed the title with pocket queens. Javier Zarco did it in 2017 and Andjelko Andrejevic the year before that.
Others to cash the tournament were Nick Petrangelo (13th - $38,579), Harrison Gimbel (21st - $28,408), Thomas Peebles (27th - $19,991), Joe McKeehen (42nd - $11,574), Martin Jacobson (63rd - $9,469), and reigning World Series of Poker Main Event champ Scott Blumstein (71st - $9,119).