Champion Jason Koon!
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Jason Koon is tonight celebrating success on the Triton Series, the high stakes poker tour for which he is an ambassador and by far the most successful player.
This incredible talent, originally from West Virginia, tonight won his EIGHTH Triton title, double the amount of his closest challenger.
This latest victory, in a $60,000 buy-in 7-Handed No Limit Hold’em event at Triton’s latest stop in London, earned Koon another $1,570,000, which is not a bad way to celebrate the birth of your second child just a month ago.
Not much more than a year ago, Koon had “only” four Triton titles. But he’s been on an extraordinary tear since then. He won in Madrid and Vietnam, and then twice in Cyprus at Triton’s most recent stop. It was enough to earn him the Ivan Leow Player of the Year award, and put him a mile ahead of anybody else.
“It might be getting old for you, man, but I like it, I’ll keep doing it,” Koon said to Ali Nejad after the Triton commentator joked that these presentation ceremonies were getting a bit predictable. “It’s the same story in a lot of ways. I play because I love the game. I play a lot less than I used to but when I show up I’m very focused and I’m the best version of myself.”
A champion again, Jason Koon
Koon expanded on what has kept him at the top of the game so long.
“You have to have the drive and grit to want to win, but at the same time there were several times along the way in my career when I wanted to quit,” he said. “Really it just comes down to staying fresh, staying in the chair, doing what you love. And for me that’s poker. Surround yourself with people who are better, smarter and better than you are at your job. And for me, I have a crew of guys that are probably better poker players than me. I just keep learning from them and getting better.”
He rebuffed the suggestion that he was the best in the world, admitting that he was “one of them” and “I wouldn’t want to bet against me”. But Koon admitted that he had been both running and playing hot, and was just happy to ride the rush.
Tonight’s victory came after a long final table, but a brief heads-up battle against the Brazilian first-timer Rodrigo Selouan. By that point, Koon’s fellow Americans Phil Ivey, Dan Smith and Justin Saliba had departed the final, as well as fellow Triton champs Matthias Eibinger and Espen Jorstad.
All are sensational players in their own right. But Koon just knows how to get things done.
FINAL DAY ACTION
There were 32 players remaining overnight, with that man Koon sitting prettiest at the top of the counts. It was by no means certain that he would translate that position into an in-the-money finish, at least based on what we’ve seen so far this week, where stacks have swung dramatically in the early periods of a new day.
No such issues for Koon, however. He remained top of the shop while all the dogfighting went on below him. When the bubble moved into view, Dan Smith, Leon Sturm, Justin Saliba, Espen Jorstad, Santhosh Suvarna and Paul Phua were all in danger, but not Koon.
Nacho Barbero was also not in immediate peril, but he doubled up both Smith and Sturm to land in some hot water. And then Saliba doubled through another table’s big stack, Dan Dvoress.
Jorstad stayed out of harm’s way, but Suvarna and Phua ended up tangling with one another, with the loser of the confrontation pretty much certain to end on the scrapheap.
A terrible river card for Paul Phua
Phua had a mere 5,000 more chips than Suvarna — not even an ante — when the pair got it all in. Suvarna had to Phua’s . Both players flopped a pair when the dealer put the on the felt. The turn was a blank, but the river smacked Suvarna.
“Aye, yie, yah!” yelped Phua.
Suvarna celebrated, but Phua was left with that solitary chip, which went to Rodrigo Selouan. It was a bubble for Mr Paul, while the others got ready to battle towards a final.
Paul Phua couldn’t stage a miracle comeback
Unfortunately for Suvarna, he wasn’t able to go all the way. He was out in 12th. By that point, Dvoress had also perished after losing a classic flip, while Sturm and Barbero had hit the sidelines too. The eight players who made it to the final lined up like this:
Jason Koon – 65 BBs
Matthias Eibinger – 54 BBs
Dan Smith – 32 BBs
Justin Saliba – 30 BBs
Phil Ivey – 24 BBs
Espen Jorstad – 23 BBs
Rodrigo Selouan – 23 BBs
Alex Kulev – 10 BBs
Event #6 final table players (l-r): Matthias Eibinger, Justin Saliba, Espen Jorstad, Dan Smith, Alex Kulev, Phil Ivey, Rodrigo Selouan, Jason Koon
The Bulgarian force Alex Kulev was the player most under threat and he kicked off the final table in expensive fashion, losing a significant pot to Koon. Kulev had and opened from under the gun. Koon called with pocket sevens.
Both players checked the ace-high flop, and Kulev bluffed for a single blind on the turn. Koon called. Kulev bluffed for another blind after the river, and Koon picked him off once more with his fourth pair.
Kulev couldn’t recover from that and lost the rest of his chips on the next pot, to Matthias Eibinger’s . Kulev had only . Kulev collected $209,000 for eighth nonetheless.
A wry smile and an eighth place for Alex Kulev
It was only a couple of days ago that both Phil Ivey and Espen Jorstad were seated at the same feature table playing one of the greatest finals the Triton Series has ever hosted. Jorstad came out on top of that one, and now here they both were once again.
However, Jorstad’s visit this time was brief, thanks in no small part to the kind of come-from-behind pot that kept everyone doubling up at the previous final table. This time, it sent him to the rail. Jorstad was in the big blind with and called all-in after Justin Saliba’s shove with .
It was looking rosy for Jorstad until the river card, which sent him spiralling out. Jorstad is not one to complain. He is still running and playing very well. He picked up $277,500, which will get him into the other event starting today.
Another final table for Espen Jorstad
The chips didn’t stay with Saliba all that long. He lost a flip very soon after, doubling up Rodrigo Selouan. Selouan’s pocket sevens beat Saliba’s , and it set the Brazilian off on a remarkable rise.
He won a small pot from Ivey and then a big one from Eibinger and it brought Selouan all but neck-and-neck with Koon at the top. The average stack was already only 28 big blinds, so the table seemed to be heading in a familiar direction.
Although Eibinger now had the fewest chips, it turned out to be Ivey who followed his previous-day vanquisher Jorstad away next. Ivey got involved in a blind-versus-blind raising battle with Dan Smith, which ended with Smith shoving from the small blind.
Ivey hadn’t been bluffing. He had , which had the pre-flop lead against Smith’s . Ace king is always vulnerable, however, and Smith flopped a jack to take the lead. Ivey’s hand never caught up.
Ivey banked $363,000 for sixth place, and the $200K field, playing alongside, just got immediately tougher.
Phil Ivey falls short again
Eibinger managed to cling on to see Ivey’s elimination, but he was’t able to do much more than tread water over the next few orbits and eventually lost out to Saliba. The pair were the smallest stacks and in the blinds, a position that forced Eibinger to shove with his last eight big blinds with . Saliba made the call with and his hand stayed good.
The two-time champion Eibinger made it to fifth in this one, a result that padded his bankroll to the tune of $460,600.
Matthias Eibinger will have to wait for a third title
The blinds were now getting big relative to stacks, and a couple of orbits with no hands to play left Saliba bottom of the pile and dwindling. His opponents were obviously attacking his big blind too, costing Saliba large chunks of his stack with each fold. He had slipped down to just five big blinds…but then Dan Smith was knocked out.
Smith had been sitting pretty but he then found in the big blind and saw Koon open with a min raise from early position. Smith moved in. Koon had enough to call with, however: and the pocket pair stayed best.
Smith therefore won $571,000 for fourth.
The end of the road for Cowboy Dan Smith
Saliba would have been delighted to see Smith’s demise, and was equally happy when he quickly got the double up he needed. He played it cute and made a straight with against Koon’s , only shoving on the river. Koon called with a pair of threes and paid him off.
It was only a temporary stay of execution, however. Koon returned to the scene of the crime to finish off Saliba soon after. Koon opened with , Saliba pushed with and the dealer presented no surprises.
Another member of the Triton team then handed Saliba $690,000, a new career high.
Justin Saliba bettered his career best score
Koon shook the departed’s hand and prepared for yet another heads-up battle on the Triton Series. He had a lead of 53 blinds to Selouan’s 31, and of course had infinitely more experience in these kinds of surroundings than his Brazilian opponent.
Selouan had handled himself impeccably, however, and had the likes of Yuri Dzivielevski and Pedro Garagnani on his rail, analysing the stream and offering their support. Selouan is a crusher at the online tables, and knows his spots. This wasn’t over yet.
Rodrigo Selouan picked up a seven-figure score of his own
Selouan started chipping away at Koon’s lead, but both men seemed to be content at the beginning to play it small ball. However, things quickly exploded in a hand that played through all the streets.
Koon bet all the way, sizing immaculately to set up a river shove, as the dealer spread a board of . Koon then sprung the trap on the river.
Selouan was out of time bank chips, so had to make a quick decision. He came to it. He called. Koon, sitting with , knew that he’d won it at this point. Selouan showed for a hero call gone wrong. He had the consolation of a $1,060,300 second-place prize.
Koon slapped hands with Danny Tang, who had come over to watch. A role call of the world’s best then came over to congratulate Koon on yet another exceptional triumph.
He now has eight titles, and the race to 10 is on. He might even do it this week.
Event #6 – $60K NLH 7-Handed
Dates: July 31-August 1, 2023
Entries: 104 (inc. 37 re-entries)
Prize pool: $6,240,000
1 – Jason Koon, USA – $1,570,000
2 – Rodrigo Selouan, Brazil – $1,060,300
3 – Justin Saliba, USA – $690,000
4 – Dan Smith, USA – $571,000
5 – Matthias Eibinger, Austria – $460,600
6 – Phil Ivey, USA – $363,000
7 – Espen Jorstad, Norway – $277,500
8 – Alex Kulev, Bulgaria – $209,000
9 – Nacho Barbero, Argentina – $156,000
10 – Leon Sturm, Germany – $128,000
11 – Seth Gottlieb, USA – $128,000
12 – Santhosh Suvarna, India – $112,300
13 – Sam Greenwood, Canada – $112,300
14 – Alex Boika, Belarus – $103,000
15 – Daniel Dvoress, Canada – $103,000
16 – David Malka, USA – $98,000
17 – Fedor Holz, Germany – $98,000
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive