There’s an old adage in poker about the game taking a moment to learn but a lifetime to master. If we try to map that on to the world of short deck, we find ourselves looking at Karl Chappe-Gatien.
Shortly before Event #11, a $40K short deck tournament at the Triton Super High Roller Series in Cyprus began, Chappe-Gatien had never played a hand of short deck in his life. But Danny Tang, his partner at the Coin Rivet Invitational last week, gave him a crash course and persuaded him to play a short deck cash-game session, and then to enter the tournament.
Chappe-Gatien bust his first bullet within a couple of levels. That’s the equivalent of the minute to learn. But flash forward another day and a half (essentially a short deck lifetime) and he’s the champion, winning $565,000 and a first Triton trophy.
Even without this success, Chappe-Gatien had stamped his mark on this Triton Cyprus festival with a buccaneering performance in the Coin Rivet Invitational, where he finished third (and also played some sensational speech games with Jungleman). But now, he is an incredibly fitting Triton champion, giving his thanks to the whole tournament room during his awards ceremony, and receiving a warm round of applause in return.
“I was feeling good but I didn’t expect anything,” Chappe-Gatien said of his decision to enter the tournament. “I wanted to have fun.”
He has, without question, been one of the undoubted stars of this festival at the Merit Resort in Kyrenia, and he now has that trophy, and the Shamballa winner’s bracelet, to remember it forever.
Chappe-Gatien defeated Malaysia’s Kiat Lee heads up, who was earning back-to-back short deck cashes. Lee finished third in the first short deck event of the festival yesterday, for $171,000, and immediately hopped into this one and went one place better. There are three more short deck events on the schedule, so maybe there will be a title for Lee yet.
In the meantime, it’s all about Chappe-Gatien, a day-trader initially from Paris, now based in Dubai. He told us ahead of the $200K event that he likes to gamble and he likes to take risks, both in poker and in his trading career. Short deck should suit him just fine.
FINAL DAY ACTION
In this tournament, it had been dangerous to be a chip leader. Stephen Chidwick rode the huge stack for much of day one but was eliminated before the bubble. And then Rui Cao, a man with no gear other than the fastest, had been happy pushing everyone for most of Friday, before he found himself pushed to the rail to burst the bubble.
Cao’s implosion came mostly in one massive pot against Michael Zhang in the kind of hand that looks like a cooler until you remember that it’s short deck, and this kind of thing happens all the time. After a single raise pre-flop the two players saw the dealer put down the flop. Cao liked it. He had , but Zhang liked it more. He had .
Cao tried to muscle Zhang out of it, but it was impossible to do to a player with the nuts, and Cao was left with a handful of antes as a result. Jason Koon took those on the next hand, with aces to Cao’s .
Winfred Yu must have been absolutely ecstatic. A proud short-stack ninja, Yu sees no problem with clinging on for dear life as everyone around him goes slightly insane. He folded 25 hands in a row in the bubble period, but made the money with 10 antes.
The first time he was all-in and called, he doubled up. His kings flopped a set and then faded flush outs against Zhang’s . The second time he was all in and called, he had kings again. But this time Chappe-Gatien had aces and Yu’s race was finally run — albeit run at a very slow pace. He took $95,000 for this latest show of obduracy.
It’s still quite difficult to know what represents a short stack’s danger zone in short deck — what’s the equivalent of hold’em’s sub-15 big blind stack? By most estimations, it’s around about 60 antes, and that being the case, three players were up against it after Yu’s departure. Elton Tsang, Koon and Kiat Lee had between 50 and 60 antes each.
Although there were some double ups and a few jagged lines on the chip-tracking graphs, there was some short-stack cannibalism among them. Koon took a chunk of Tsang’s chips, doubling with pocket tens against queens, with a ten on the river. That left Tsang short enough to have to get his chips in with .
This time it was Webster Lim with pocket kings in his hand, and he made the call. There was a king on the flop, and Tsang couldn’t hit his straight outs. Tsang nonetheless recorded his first tournament cash of this trip and banked $120,000.
Despite that double up, Koon was next to depart. He couldn’t find a hand worth to get involved with and dwindled back down again. And then he got involved in a pot against Chappe-Gatien where Koon’s flopped an ace, but Chappe-Gatien’s pocket jacks flopped a set.
Although the board ended with two aces on it, that was a boat for Chappe-Gatien and Koon hit the rail in fifth for $155,000. He has made the money four times here in Cyprus, and 23 times now in his Triton career. But his title haul remains at four.
Zhang was another of those who had been chip leader, specifically after that huge pre-bubble hand against Cao. But he’d been on a steady downhill trajectory at the final table and took one last dip against Chappe-Gatien. It was a very similar pattern to the hand that eliminated Koon. Zhang had an ace — , to be precise — and flopped another. But Chappe-Gatien had flopped a set with his pocket nines.
That was the end of Zhang, who earned $200,000 for fourth.
At this point, the pace of eliminations — and the pace of play itself — slowed dramatically. Chips moved one way and then the other, either side of an extended dinner break, with all of Chappe-Gatien, Lim and Lee moving into the lead and out of it.
But in the postprandial exchanges, Chappe-Gatien seized control once more in a big collision with Lim that played all through the streets. Lim opened pre-flop and Chappe-Gatien called, which took them to a flop of . Lim bet, Chappe-Gatien raised and Lim called. The turn was the .
Lim checked now and Chappe-Gatien moved all-in for 2.7 million. Lim called off and we saw the hands. Lim had and Chappe-Gatien . In other words, Chappe-Gatien was way ahead but Lim still had outs. However, the river was not one of them, and Chappe-Gatien scored a massive double.
Chappe-Gatien now had about 120 antes, about twice the others combined. But when Lim’s last hand came in a pot against Lee, the businessman was at least made to work for his victory in a heads-up duel. Lim ran into Lee’s , losing his last 30 antes and picking up $264,000. But it left a heads-up battle in which Chappe-Gatien started with 82 antes and Lee had 62.
The first significant pot went to Lee, and it drew him close behind Chappe-Gatien. But there then followed a huge confrontation that underlined everything we like best about short deck.
Both players found a hand they liked — Chappe-Gatien had and Lee had — on a board of . Then there was an outdraw, when the came on the river (following the ) turn. That was a straight for both players, but the jacks were better.
With that, Lee was defeated and banked $401,000. But the new star Chappe-Gatien could begin to celebrate.
“For sure I will come back,” Chappe-Gatien said. “When is the next one?”
Event #11 – $40K Short Deck – Ante Only (PL PF)
Dates: September 15-16, 2022
Entries: 45 (inc. 21 re-entries)
Prize pool: $1,800,000
1 – Karl Chappe-Gatien, France – $565,000
2 – Kiat Lee, Malaysia – $401,000
3 – Webster Lim, Malaysia – $264,000
4 – Michael Zhang, UK – $200,000
5 – Jason Koon, USA – $155,000
6 – Elton Tsang, UK – $120,000
7 – Winfred Yu, Hong Kong – $95,000
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive