Champion Talal Shakerchi
The Triton Series exists to bring together two sections of the poker-playing community: the elite pros, likely schooled in online poker, and high-wealth businesspeople, keen to play their favourite game for stakes that mean a lot even to them.
Talal Shakerchi, from London, UK, could comfortably sit in either camp. And now Shakerchi has once again proved his enormous talents with victory in the 100K Triton Vietnam NLH Main Event — a tournament that brings with it a prize of 3.25 million.
That is Shakerchi’s biggest poker score, even if we factor in his major successes in the online game. And it came on the biggest stage, against the toughest field. But it should come as no surprise: Shakerchi is as exceptional a poker player as he is hedge fund manager.
That’s where Shakerchi made his name and built his bankroll. But the 59-year-old has long been taking on and beating poker’s elite too. This just underlines it further.
“Poker is my hobby and I want to play the best players,” Shakerchi said. “That’s how you get satisfaction out of any activity that you do. Challenge yourself and try to do the best you can.”
But he pushed back against claims he could be called a poker pro. “Don’t start moving me into the other zone!” he told Ali Nejad in the winner presentation. “I’m not a professional player. I spend quite a lot of time playing poker. It’s my main hobby. But I’m definitely not a pro.”
Shakerchi came into today’s nine-handed final table as the chip leader, but with the likes of Adrian Mateos, Fedor Holz and Timothy Adams also alongside him, there was nothing that could be taken for granted. However, Shakerchi was only ever out of the lead for brief moments, usually when Malysia’s Michael Soyza was on a charge.
But Shakerchi beat Soyza in an adrenalin-fuelled heads-up battle, winning the pots that mattered most in their brief two-handed duel, and sealing the deal with against Soyza’s .
A turbulent ride to second place for Michael Soyza
Soyza, whose took a turbulent route to second, wins more than 2.2 million, his biggest career cash as well.
But the Jacob & Co timepiece goes around the wrist of Shakerchi, who is also paying for extra baggage on his flight home to London to accommodate the huge Triton Main Event trophy. This is a stunning victory from one of poker’s standout stars, all wrapped up on the final day in less than six hours.
At three days, this was the longest event on the Triton Vietnam schedule, and the word “Main” in the title also points to its prestige. All the very best no limit hold’em players in the world had sat down, building a new Triton Main Event record of 135 entries. That put a staggering 13.5 million into the prize pool.
While the tournament’s first day was all about the field expanding, registration closed on Day 2 and the contraction began. They fell at a speedy rate until the bubble loomed into view, preparing to burst when the 21st finisher was eliminated.
That ignominy fell to Kahle Burns this time, the usually talkative Australian silenced by Shakerchi, whose beat Burns’ . Burns shoved for 12 big blinds from the small blind, but the fearless Shakerchi called and was good.
Kahle Burns burst the bubble
Everyone still involved thus guaranteed themselves 175K minimum, with an incredible succession of superstars taking the fall. Between 20th and 16th, we lost Mike Watson, Sam Greenwood, Erik Seidel, Bryn Kenney and Sam Grafton, in that order.
The next major target was reaching the final, which would end the day. Johannes Straver, Brian Kim, Wiktor Malinowski, David Yan and Seth Gottlieb hit the rail, before Lun Loon’s elimination in 10th reached that landmark.
Lun Loon: One short of the final
Loon has been in great form here in Vietnam, cashing the 50K and 25K Turbo, and although his finish here denied him the chance to play on the final day, he picked up his biggest career cash of 270K.
That brought us to today’s final, where they lined up with the following stacks:
Talal Shakerchi – 7,400,000 (74 BBs)
Adrian Mateos – 7,050,000 (71 BBs)
Daniel Smiljkovic – 5,325,000 (53 BBs)
Fedor Holz – 3,925,000 (39 BBs)
Winfred Yu – 3,100,000 (31 BBs)
Timothy Adams – 2,450,000 (25 BBs)
Michael Soyza – 2,275,000 (23 BBs)
Nick Petrangelo – 1,800,000 (18 BBs)
Roman Hrabec – 525,000 (5 BBs)
Main Event final table (clockwise from back left): Nick Petrangelo, Michael Soyza, Roman Hrabec, Fedor Holz, Adrian Mateos, Talal Shakerchi, Winfred Yu, Daniel Smiljkovic, Timothy Adams
THREE QUICK ELIMINATIONS
Reaching the final table was obviously a notable success for anybody, and Roman Hrabec can feel hugely satisfied with his debut appearance on the Triton Series. He was the runner up in the first event he played, then made the last day in his first 100K — even if he knew he’d need a miracle to spin up his five big blind stack.
That miracle did not occur. The final table was only about an orbit old when Hrabec found pocket threes in the hijack. Adrian Mateos min-raised ahead of him, and Hrabec moved in for less than a blind more. Everyone else left them to it.
Mateos had and ended with a straight, forcing Hrabec out the door. He bowed gently, just enough to make his traditional Vietnamese hat wobble a little. He took 324,000 for ninth, bringing his week’s total cashes to just shy of 1 million. He’ll have warm memories of Vietnam.
A bow and then Roman Hrabec was gone
If Hrabec’s quick elimination was only to be expected, the next two took everyone by their surprise. Winfred Yu is well-known for his abilities to move silently through poker tournament fields, flying below the radar until it’s too late to stop him.
However, Yu’s incredible laddering skills couldn’t help him through a three-way skirmish that also happened to put Michael Soyza on a remarkable surge up the counts. Yu, with 12 big blinds, found and moved all in from the hijack. But then Fedor Holz, in the cutoff, looked down at . He reshoved for 5 million, which covered the player behind him, Soyza and Tim Adams.
Soyza found and reasoned this was the right spot for his 17 bigs to go in too.
Holz, then, was way ahead, in terms of both chips and holding. But an ace on the flop changed all that. It relegated Holz to third in the coup, with Soyza getting Yu’s chips as well as a full double through Holz. Yu took 418,400 but continues to seek his third title.
The third wheel in a huge pot: Winfred Yu departs
Nick Petrangelo was now the table’s short stack, but he doubled up with through Shakerchi’s pocket tens. It might have been the springboard for Petrangelo to put together a hunt for his long overdue first title, but instead his chips just ended up being added to Soyza’s new-found wealth.
Only two hands after landing the double, Petrangelo was gone. He had pocket jacks and raised. Soyza three-bet. Petrangelo jammed and Soyza called. This time Soyza had found aces and there was no getting out of the corner for Petrangelo. Instead, he took 566,800 for seventh.
His cash hoodoo is over — he somehow hadn’t cashed on the Triton Series before this trip to Vietnam — but he still isn’t yet a champion.
Nick Petrangelo is still dreaming of a first Triton title
A CONSOLIDATION, BEFORE ADAMS DEPARTS
Things did slow down for a bit now. But not for long. Soyza went on a slide, losing two big pots to, first, Holz and then Smiljkovic. In the former, Holz made a flush with to beat Soyza’s . They both hit their kicker on the flop, but the turn and river were both diamonds.
There was already 3.8 million in the pot and Holz checked, inducing Soyza to move all in. Holz called with the nuts and hit 12 million, with Soyza cut right down. And on the very next hand, Soyza open-shoved his small blind with and Smiljkovic, in the big blind, calmly peeled pocket aces and called.
Smiljkovic doubled to 6 million, but Soyza was now back down to around 3 million.
Uncharacteristically, Tim Adams had barely had a say during all this action at the final. But he then played three hands that ended with his elimination. On the first, both he and Shakerchi flopped top pair queens, and bet through flop and turn. They slowed down to a check after the king on the river, but the 1.6 million pot still went to Shakerchi thanks to his bigger kicker.
Adams won a good chunk back on the next hand, when his hit three of a kind. But shortly after, he lost an even bigger pot with to Shakerchi’s — and that was the end of that for Adams.
The richly decorated Canadian banked 756,000 for this sixth-placed finish.
No trophy this time for Tim Adams
HOLZ AND MATEOS NEXT TO PERISH
There are many players in the world game with resumes quite like those boasted by Adrian Mateos and Fedor Holz. They are the leading lights of two of Europe’s powerhouse poker nations, with young Spaniards wanting to be just like Mateos and countless Germans modelling themselves on Holz.
Some of the latter — namely Matthias Eibinger and Mario Molboeck — were in the audiences for the Main Event this afternoon, watching their friend and icon Holz take on this 100K final table. But they ended up having to be there only to console him after a fifth-place finish.
Holz had trundled along as a medium stack in the final, but for the second time today fell victim to the curse of the pocket kings. This time when Holz had them, and four-bet jammed in a pot against Smiljokovic, the cowboys were downed by .
There was an ace on the turn and the near 5 million pot went to Smiljkovic. Holz’s first cash of the week was worth 965,000 — the last man to depart without a million.
The red light of doom for Fedor Holz
The first man to depart with a million turned out to be Mateos. He was third in chips with four remaining, but picked the wrong time — or, more accurately — the wrong person to face when trying to steal a big blind with a small blind shove.
Mateos had 3.725 million and . (Blinds were 125K/250K/250K.) Soyza, in the big blind, had 3.1 million and . Soyza is not one to back down from a confrontation, and the ace was enough to persuade him to gamble for his tournament life.
The ace stayed good and Soyza doubled, leaving Mateos on fumes. The little he had left went to Shakerchi soon after, when Mateos’ fell to Shakerchi’s .
Another deep run, but no title, for Adrian Mateos
THREE BECOME TWO
Daniel Smiljkovic was visiting the Triton Series for the first time and, having cashed in 16th in the opening event of the series, hadn’t managed another payday since then. However, the German player had demonstrated his abilities in this Main Event, translating some of his online form to the live tables.
He played a lot of pots and had the jagged graph to underline it, but was unable to arrest a pretty steep decline as the tournament grew short-handed. He ended up getting involved in a big pot against Shakerchi with , flopping top two pair.
But there were also two hearts on the flop and Shakerchi had . Two more hearts came on turn and river, by which point all the money was also in the middle. Smiljkovic perished in third, picking up a career-best 1.45 million.
Daniel Smiljkovic: The man in red heads home
The stage was now set for what could have been a long heads-up battle — Shakerchi had a two-to-one lead — but in keeping with what we’d seen to this point, there was drama.
On the very first hand, Shakerchi’s turned a straight on the board of . Soyza had an ace, but his huge aggression persuaded Shakerchi that he had the flush.
After Soyza shoved, a Shakerchi call would have ended it. But instead, Shakerchi folded. It might have preyed on a lesser player’s mind, but Shakerchi just got on with things again.
It was, in fact, as good as it got for Soyza. Shakerchi won one big pot with , turning another straight. Soyza tried to win it with his pair of jacks, but Shakerchi didn’t buy it this time. He raised with the best hand and Soyza called with a weaker one, losing almost everything.
The next significant pot was the end of it.
The final hand was a little weird. Shakerchi accidentally moved all in out of turn. Soyza was allowed to take this information and make his next move. He decided to limp. Shakerchi now shoved and Soyza called for his last 13 big blinds.
He had those picture cards, but Shakerchi called with his ace. Job done.
Businessman or poker pro? It doesn’t really matter. Shakerchi is superb at both.
The last two shake hands as the ticker tape appears
Event #9 – 100,000 NLH Main Event
Dates: March 8-10, 2023
Entries: 135 (inc. 45 re-entries)
Prize pool: 13,500,000
1 – Talal Shakerchi (UK) – 3,250,000
2 – Michael Soyza (Malaysia) – 2,207,000
3 – Daniel Smiljkovic (Germany) – 1,450,000
4 – Adrian Mateos (Spain) – 1,201,000
5 – Fedor Holz (Germany) – 965,000
6 – Timothy Adams (Canada) – 756,000
7 – Nick Petrangelo (USA) – 566,800
8 – Winfred Yu (Hong Kong) – 418,400
9 – Roman Hrabec (Czech Republic) – 324,000
10 – Lun Loon (Malaysia) – 270,000
11 – Seth Gottlieb (USA) – 270,000
12 – David Yan (New Zealand) – 237,000
13 – Wiktor Malinowski (Poland) – 237,000
14 – Brian Kim (USA) – 216,000
15 – Johannes Straver (Netherlands) – 216,000
16 – Sam Grafton (UK) – 195,400
17 – Bryn Kenney (USA) – 195,400
18 – Erik Seidel (USA) – 175,000
19 – Sam Greenwood (Canada) – 175,000
20 – Mike Watson (Canada) – 175,000
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive