Bulgaria has quietly become quite a hotbed for poker talent over the past few years, with a handful of the country’s top stars picking up accolades on various tours across the world.
After the country’s money-list leader Alex Kulev tested the water on the Triton Series, he was joined here in Monte Carlo by three more of the top four of his countrymen — and tonight Ognjan Dimov became the first Bulgarian to win a title on this tour.
Dimov is well known at the online tables, as well as across the card rooms of Europe and the United States. He has a WSOP bracelet and an EPT title. But now he also has a seven-figure live tournament score thanks to his maiden Triton success.
Dimov banked $1,010,000 after defeating Spain’s Juan Pardo heads-up.
“It’s amazing,” Dimov told Ali Nejad ahead of his trophy presentation. He explained that he had won a satellite to come to the Triton Series, which allowed him to find out exactly what Kulev had told him about. “They had told me how great the series was,” Dimov said. “I really like it.”
He added that he fully intends to continue testing his skills against the best players on this circuit. “It’s my first time, but I hope it’s not the last,” he said.
As for Pardo, he began his week in Monte Carlo with an unfortunate bubble in the $200K Invitational. Although no one likes being runner up, the prize of $685,000 for second place in this one is far better than that bubble.
The first lower buy-in event of the festival duly attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd, many of whom were sampling the Triton Series for the first time. With 145 entries, the first prize still weighed in at more than $1 million, which offered the kind of ROI on a $30K buy-in that you more commonly see lower down in stakes.
Still, of the 34 players coming back overnight, 11 of them would depart again with troubling the cashiers, and as the feel whittled down, all eyes fell on Ukraine’s Renat Bohdnov. He had the misfortune of running into Dimov’s pocket aces and hitting the rail in 24th.
With the bubble burst, the remaining players were guaranteed at least $51,000 and could focus on hitting the final.
The Bulgarian contingent had four players still involved in the money, and although three of them perished before the final, it was a decent showing from Fahredin Mustafov, Alex Kulev and Dimitar Danchev, with Dimov taking his place in a multinational last eight.
There were representatives from eight countries and four continents. The line-up looked like this:
Juan Pardo, Spain – 68 BBs
Luc Greenwood, Canada – 37 BBs
Ole Schemion, Germany – 33 BBs
Travis Endersby, Australia – 28 BBs
Ognyan Dimov, Bulgaria – 25 BBs
Janissa Kan, Hong Kong – 20 BBs
Joao Vieira, Portugal – 14 BBs
Mikita Badziakouski, Belarus – 6 BBs
The four-time Triton champion Mikita Badziakouski might have had only six big blinds, but he’d been sitting with that for a good few orbits and had watched at least two players be knocked out as he clung on.
With his achievement unlocked of getting to the final table, he found a good spot to potentially get the double he’d need to mount a challenge. But when it came to it, his lost the flip to Juan Pardo’s and Badziakouski hit the rail.
It’s a little while since Badziakouski took one of these events down, but the $126,500 he gets from this will be reinvested in search of title No 5.
Joao Vieira is a dominant presence at the online tables, with a string of fine live results to his name as well. When players have that kind of history, they inevitably arrive on the Triton Series eventually, and Vieira has been dipping his toes into the super high roller pool over the past year or so.
His previous best was a seventh-placed finish in a Mystery Bounty tournament in Vietnam, and seventh was once again his fate here in Monte Carlo. But his $172,000 will give him reason to keep coming back.
Vieira was another short stack coming into the final and he wasn’t able to alter than through the early stages of the final table. Close to half his stack went on blinds in the 100K/200K/200K level, and then after he moved all in from under the gun with , he couldn’t get Dimov to fold in the big blind. They both hit a seven, but Dimov’s kicker played.
The Triton Series has had a pretty good number of female players making decent runs in its tournaments, but the stop in Monte Carlo had been one of the more male-dominated affairs. However, buoyed by the success so far of her friends Elton Tsang and Ken Tong, Janissa Kan pulled up a seat in Event 7 and made her debut on the Triton Series.
Safe to say, this was a success. Kan survived everything thrown at her through the first day and a half and took her seat at this final too, eventually only succumbing when she three-bet shoved her and was picked off by Ole Schemion’s .
Kan’s record now reads: Played 1, Cashed 1, and her sixth place was worth $232,700.
To this point, the players who began the final table with the lowest stacks had been knocked out in order. But if that pattern was to continue, Dimov and Travis Endersby should consider themselves under threat.
Endersby ended up the next player out, but not before he had doubled up, slipped down and doubled up again. The five-handed phase went on for quite a while, with stacks shallowing so much that even the chip leader, Pardo, had less than 25 big blinds.
That proved to be enough for him to call Endersby’s button shove, however, and Pardo’s lost to Pardo’s .
Endersby, an Australian who was in Monte Carlo after winning a package from the online site ACR, won $300,100. It was about six times his previous best tournament score.
They were now four-handed and very, very short. Schemion doubled through Dimov; Dimov doubled through Pardo and then knocked out Greenwood in consecutive hands. Greenwood shoved with and slammed into Dimov’s .
Greenwood, who was a champion in London, finished fourth here for $374,000.
The three players left had likely sparred with each other plenty online where each is a titan. But Pardo emerged with his reputation further burnished by a tremendous call in a pot against Schemion, which cut the latter to shreds. Schemion took a big stab at a board of with . And after due deliberation, Pardo called with .
Pardo grabbed headlines after folding kings (correctly) in London. Here, he made a correct call with king high.
Dimov was now also on a roll, and it helped that he woke up with a dominant ace when Schemion shoved his short stack in soon after. Schemion’s never caught up against Dimov’s and that sent the German crusher to the rail in third, banking $457,000.
There were fewer than 50 big blinds between the heads-up players. Dimov’s 32 BBs was precisely double Pardo’s 16, but the past two days here in Monte Carlo have given us volatile heads-up battles with multiple double ups.
Only one thing was certain: the Triton Series would be crowning another new champion. Pardo was at his second stop but hadn’t previously got further than sixth. Dimov had played four events here in Monte Carlo, but was in the money for the first time.
As it turned out, this was one of those speedy heads-up battles, with the first all-in confrontation deciding it. Dimov never yielded his heads up lead and eventually took up against Pardo’s .
A ten on the turn was the killer card, and Dimov pumped his fist in celebration of a terrific win. Watch these Bulgarians. There’s more to come from them.
Event #7 – $30,000 NLH 7-Handed
Dates: October 29-30, 2023
Entries: 145 (inc. 49 re-entries)
Prize pool: $4,350,000
1 – Ognjan Dimov, Bulgaria – $1,010,000
2 – Juan Pardo, Spain – $685,000
3 – Ole Schemion, Germany – $457,000
4 – Luc Greenwood, Canada – $374,000
5 – Travis Endersby, Australia – $300,100
6 – Janessa Kan, Hong Kong – $232,700
7 – Joao Vieira, Portugal – $172,000
8 – Mikita Badziakouski, Belarus – $126,500
9 – Igor Yaroshevskyy, Ukraine – $100,700
10 – Espen Jorstad, Norway – $84,800
11 – Webster Lim, Malaysia – $84,800
12 – Ren Lin, USA – $74,000
13 – Dimitar Danchev, Bulgaria – $74,000
14 – Henrik Hecklen, Denmark – $67,500
15 – Kayhan Mokri, Norway – $67,500
16 – Alex Kulev, Bulgaria – $61,000
17 – Leon Sturm, Germany – $61,000
18 – Imad Derwiche, France – $54,800
19 – Aleks Ponakovs, Latvia – $54,800
20 – Tim Busso, France – $54,800
21 – Fahredin Mustafov, Bulgaria – $51,000
22 – Artur Martirosian, Russia – $51,000
23 – Karl Chappe-Gatien, France – $51,000
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive