Champion Adrian Mateos!

Adrian Mateos came to Triton Montenegro in exemplary form, riding the wave of some fantastic results in both the online and live games and every inch the formidable player we’ve grown to know and love.

He made two final tables from the first four events here in Montenegro, and can point to wicked beats in both halting what had seemed likely to be a charge to the title. But true to form, Mateos simply came back for more, bludgeoned his way to the final once again, and this time came out on the right side of a couple of beats.

It helped him on his way to his second career Triton title in the $50K 8-Handed Hold’em, landing him a payday of $1.761 million. He is now closing in on $10 million on the Triton Series.

“This week I ran so good,” Mateos said. “And I enjoyed it.” He said that he worked very hard on his game and knows that he plays well. “But to win a tournament you have to run good,” he said, adding that it was a “technical” final table, but the kind he has played many times before.

When someone as skilled as this 29-year-old runs good, there are few who can compete.

Adrian Mateos can finally celebrate

The tournament took three days to complete, a day longer than initially scheduled, but Mateos was irresistible throughout. He dominated the final table and secured the top spot by downing Justin Saliba heads-up, leaving Saliba with a $1.188 million runner-up prize.

It was a tournament packed with superstars, many of whom made it to the final. But the late stages were characterised by the sight of Mateos trying to shake off the challenges of Saliba and Triton first-timer Joe Zou. Both were stubborn, but Mateos is indefatigable. And that’s why he’s one of the very best in the world.


As is the way with Triton, buy-ins gradually crept upwards through the first stages of this trip to Montenegro, and the $50K entry fee proved exceptionally popular. There were 159 entries and nearly $8 million in the prize pool, with the game’s very best all challenging for it.

There was a sensational top five after Day 1: Dan Smith, Phil Ivey, Paul Phua, Kiat Lee and Dan Dvoress. But in the early running, it was the player in sixth, Mikalai Vaskaboinikau, who surged up and into the lead. That was thanks to the double elimination of Daniel Rezaei and Ding Biao in the same hand: Vaskaboinikau’s kings held against queens and AsKs.

It set a tone for a race from 56 players to the 27 who would cash, which only slowed during a tense but entertaining bubble period.

Most of the fun centred on Paul Phua, or Mr Paul as he’s known to friends and staff on the Triton Series. Phua was holding court on one of the outer tables, discussing future Triton plans with Dan Smith, Chris Brewer and Danny Tang, while also fielding questions from players on other tables.

“What is the over/under on number of hands to break the bubble?” Elton Tsang asked, having taken a short stroll in Phua’s direction. Phua consulted the Triton Poker Plus app, learned that the shortest stack was 10 big blinds, and said, “Nine.” He added: “If someone said six, I would take the over.”

Paul Phua burst the bubble, going for the win

Tsang suggested seven-point-five was probably better. Phua seemed to think that was fine too. As it turned out, they should have taken the under.

Hand-for-hand was only about four hands old when Phua got involved in a pot against Smith. Phua limped from the small blind and Smith raised from the big blind, enough to put Phua all in. Phua looked back at his cards and then asked, “What’s the min-cash?” A chorus of opponents replied, “Eighty k!” and intimated that Phua shouldn’t worry about that kind of money.

Eventually, he concurred. “Go for the win,” he said as he dumped his stack over the line.

Phua was in great shape. He had AhQc to Smith’s Ad4c. But after a dry flop, the 4h fell on the turn and there was no miracle queen on the river. That was the end for Phua, who plummeted out of the tournament on the stone bubble.

James Chen, Tan Xuan, Patrik Antonius, Linus Loeliger and Tsang breathed a sigh of relief and bust too fairly quickly after. But they at least locked up that min cash.

Sights then turned onto the final table, but it would be a long, long time until the tournament reached that stage. With around 14 players left, a real slowdown descended and tournament organisers were forced to make alternative plans for the day. What had been intended to conclude on Saturday night was forced to go into Sunday. The news was announced when they did, finally, get down to the last nine.

That happened in the space of two rapid-fire hands. Chris Brewer and Phil Ivey got involved in a big one, with Brewer open-shoving the small blind sitting with enough chips to cover Ivey in the big. But Ivey looked down at AsTs and called for all of it, finding himself ahead of Brewer’s QsJs.

An ace on the flop made it even tougher for Brewer to come back and Ivey’s big double left Brewer with three big blinds.

Chris Brewer lost a big pot against Ivey and the rest went on the next hand

Brewer picked up AsQd on the next deal and committed his last chips. Mario Mosbock, in the big blind, made a mandatory call, even though he had only Tc3c. The dealer made this particularly cruel on Brewer, following the QcJh3d flop with the Jd turn and then the killer 3s river.

Brewer walked away, leaving nine players stacking up as follows:

Ben Tollerene – 5,550,000 (44 BBs)
Dan Smith – 4,875,000 (39 BBs)
Nick Petrangelo – 4,325,000 (35 BBs)
Mikalai Vaskaboinikau – 3,925,000 (31 BBs)
Phil Ivey – 3,225,000 (26 BBs)
Mario Mosbock – 2,725,000 (22 BBs)
Joe Zou – 2,475,000 (20 BBs)
Justin Saliba – 2,425,000 (19 BBs)
Adrian Mateos – 2,225,000 (18 BBs)

Triton Montenegro Event 7 final table players (clockwise from back left): Mario Mosbock, Ben Tollerene, Mikalai Vaskaboinikau, Justin Saliba, Joe Zou, Dan Smith, Phil Ivey, Adrian Mateos, Nick Petrangelo.

The revised plan was to play four more levels or down to four players, whichever came first. It seemed likely to take us to around 1.30 a.m. local time, and would unfortunately mean these guys couldn’t register in time for the $100K event unless they were knocked out within 45 minutes of the final table starting.

Only Mosbock ended up meeting that criteria. Mosbock lost a massive hand with pocket queens when Joe Zou flopped a flush with Jd9d. Mosbock also flopped a set, but couldn’t fill up.

Although Mosbock did find a small double through Tollerene, the last of his chips went to Ivey when the American’s AcKh beat QdJc. Mosbock banked $178,100 for ninth.

Mario Mosbock departed early from the final

The next hour or so of eight-handed play sent chips moving slowly around the table, with everyone retaining their seat. As levels went up, the average stack reduced to just 18 big blinds. Nobody was a runaway leader; everyone was under threat.

When the tension finally broke, it was Dan Smith who ended up on the receiving end of a nasty beat. He got six big blinds in with AcQd and was called by Justin Saliba’s As9d.

Both players matched their ace on the flop, but the nine on the turn spelled trouble for Smith. The river was a blank and eight belatedly became seven. Smith won $215,000 for this one.

Dan Smith led the tournament for long periods, but bust in eighth

All of a sudden, things were moving. Ivey felted Vaskaboinikau on the very next hand. In this one, Ivey found pocket deuces and moved all in. Vaskaboinikau picked up AhTs and risked his last six blinds.

The tiny pair wasn’t threatened through all five board cards and that meant Vaskaboinikau was out in seventh, for $297,000.

Mikalai Vaskaboinikau made the early running on Day 2 but bust before the end

Despite the win, Ivey’s stack was still less than 20 big blinds, and he became the next man to hit the rail. Adrian Mateos, revelling the short-stacked, high pressure battle, had built a commanding tower of chips and Ivey three-bet shoved from the button after the latest Mateos open raise.

Ivey had Ks8d but soon learnt that Mateos wasn’t raising light. Mateos made the call with AsJc and secured the knockout with a jack on the flop and an ace on the turn. Ivey banked $408,000 for sixth.

Phil Ivey had been in great form until he ran into Mateos

Tollerene, only an occasional visitor to the Triton Series, usually after eventually giving in to the hectoring of his good friend Jason Koon, had once again proved why Koon is so keen to get him out of here. He had played a typically flawless game to make it to the final table as chip leader.

However, Tollerene fell short of his second win during the volatility of the late stages, first doubling up Nick Petrangelo in a standard blind vs. blind battle, and then falling to a come-from-behind win for Mateos.

In at least two previous tournaments here in Montenegro, Mateos had suffered the cruel hand of fate in tournament defining pots at final tables, but today it was the Spanish player’s turn to land a lucky blow. Tollerene got his nine-blind-stack in with AdQc but Mateos’ AhTs not only hit a ten, but also four hearts to make the nut flush.

Both those hands were too much for Tollerene, who departed in fifth for $532,000. With that, the tournament paused again for the night, leaving four players to come back for an unprecedented Day 3.

Ben Tollerene again showed Triton what he’s made of

Mateos led with 49 BBs. Saliba sat second with 28 BBs. Petrangelo (23 BBs) was in third and Zou’s six blinds was the shortest. But they had all locked up $667,000 already.

On the return for the third day, Zou immediately doubled with pocket fives, and then shoved the next two hands to earn some more blinds. It helped him tread water as the other two took some potshots at Mateos’ chip lead, with only limited success.

Petrangelo managed to time a couple of shoves well and add some chips. But things went south soon after. Petrangelo found Ad3s in the small blind and just called, with Mateos behind him. Mateos raised to 1 million (the big blind was 300K) and Petrangelo jammed for 7.5 million.

Petrangelo had that ace, but Mateos did too. And the Spaniard’s AhJh was best. The jack played after the board missed everything. Petrangelo left the table $667,000 better off.

Nick Petrangelo found Mateos with a bigger ace

The last three players in this tournament were the bottom three coming into the final. It was indicative of how this final table had turned things on its head.

Mateos was in irresistible form and had more than half the chips in play. But after Zou landed another double up, with pocket nines beating Mateos’ Qs8s, it was a reminder that things can change very quickly. Zou turned his back to the table as the dealer delivered his fate, unable to watch what was essentially a runout determining a $350K pay-jump. But he survived it, leaving Saliba now most under threat.

Zou thought he had Saliba soon after, but Zou’s kings were cracked by Saliba’s Qd8d after a run out of Tc8h2s9hQs. That again elevated Saliba to second place and allowed Mateos to continue to shove with impunity against opponents with near-equal stacks hoping to outlast one another.

Joe Zou can’t watch

Zou managed another double, picking off a Mateos shove with Kc9d beating Qd2d. And on the battle raged.

The level went up and the stacks shallowed some more. And then, finally, Zou’s race was run. He got his last six blinds in with Kh5h and turned his back once more. But this time the trick wasn’t enough to beat Mateos’ AsQd.

Zou is on his first visit to the Triton Series and this was his first cash from the fourth tournament he played. His score of $818,000 put him comfortably in the black.

Joe Zou finally makes way

Both remaining players were now guaranteed a seven-figure payday, with around $600K between first and second place prizes. Mateos, seeking a second title, had 37 blinds to Saliba’s 16. There wasn’t likely to be long left, but it was far from a foregone conclusion.

Except it actually only lasted one hand. Mateos and Saliba both picked up aces and Saliba had a good shot at a crucial double up when his AcTc went up against Mateos’ Ah7h. The money was already all in when the dealer produced the something-for-everyone flop of 8hTh9c.

Second place for Justin Saliba

Both players remained static, even after the Js turn gave Mateos the straight. The Kh river wasn’t what Saliba needed and it handed the title to Mateos.

“My trophies are all in my parents’ house in Madrid,” Mateos said afterward, revealing that it was to the Spanish capital that this latest one was also headed. “I hope more to come,” Mateos continued.

That much seems certain.

Time for Mr and Mrs Mateos to make some more room on the mantlepiece

Event 7 – $50,000 – 8-Handed
Dates: May 17-19, 2024
Entries: 159 (inc. 62 re-entries)
Prize pool: $7,950,000

1 – Adrian Mateos, Spain – $1,761,000
2 – Justin Saliba, USA – $1,188,000
3 – Joe Zou, China – $818,000
4 – Nick Petrangelo, USA – $667,000
5 – Ben Tollerene, USA – $532,000
6 – Phil Ivey, USA – $408,000
7 – Mikala Vaskaboinikau, Belarus – $297,000
8 – Dan Smith, USA – $215,000
9 – Mario Mosbock, Austria – $178,100

10 – Chris Brewer, USA – $151,000
11 – Brian Kim, USA – $151,000
12 – Artur Martirosian, Russia – $132,000
13 – Sirzat Hissou, Germany – $132,000
14 – Kiat Lee, Malaysia – $119,200
15 – Danny Tang, Hong Kong – $119,200
16 – Maher Nouira, Tunisia – $107,000
17 – Anson Ewe, Malaysia – $107,000
18 – Aram Sargsyan, Armenia – $95,000
19 – Wiktor Malinowski, Poland – $95,000
20 – Aleks Ponakovs, Latvia – $95,000
21 – Elton Tsang, Hong Kong – $87,500
22 – Alex Kulev, Bulgaria – $87,500
23 – Igor Yaroshevskyy, Ukraine – $87,500
24 – Linus Loeliger, Switzerland – $80,000
25 – Patrik Antonius, Finland – $80,000
26 – Tan Xuan, China – $80,000
27 – James Chen, Taiwan – $80,000

Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive