Two of world poker’s most in-form players squared off in Monte Carlo tonight as Danny Tang took on Isaac Haxton in the $50K buy-in 7-Handed event on the latest Triton stop.
But while Haxton’s incredible year of dominance has earned him spoils in tournaments across the world with various operators, almost all of Tang’s best work has been done on the Triton Series, where he has gone from nought to four titles in less than a year.
And now, you can make that five.
Tang again sealed the deal tonight in this huge event, banking $1.58 million and drawing him neck-and-neck with Phil Ivey in the hunt for Jason Koon’s record nine Triton titles. Haxton still hasn’t got over the line on this tour, although his $1.07 million runner up finish is decent consolation.
But for Tang, this is getting to be quite a habit. He won his first title in Vietnam in March, added two more in Cyprus in May, and then picked up the fourth in London in August. This one was the biggest of them all, and marked him out yet again as a player of class.
He described himself as a “people’s person”, explaining why so many friends and admirers poured on the stage to congratulate him. “I treat a lot of these guys like my brothers,” he said, adding that he still felt the influence of his former mentor, the late Ivan Leow.
“I feel like he’s looking after all of us, not just me,” Tang said, listing Webster Lim, Kiat Lee, Lun Loon and Michael Soyza as part of Leow’s crew. “I’m just the lucky one.”
He paid tribute to Haxton — “I beat the great Ike!” — and reeled off a number of pivotal hands from the final table that propelled him to the top. But Tang gave his now trademark look to the heavens as he posed for his winner’s photo, thankful for what he sees as help from above.
But he’s the one playing the cards and, right now, no one is playing them better on the Triton Series than Danny Tang.
The last massive buy-in hold’em event of this trip to Monte Carlo attracted the usual crowd of top talents. In all, there were 136 entries building a prize pool of $6.8 million and, of course, some tense scenes all the way.
The overnight returning field quickly slimmed down and then when the tournament was still playing so-called “soft” hand-for-hand, a rush of eliminations took us through a very hasty bubble.
In short order, Axel Hallay lost a flip and Michael Loncar couldn’t get overcards to beat pocket fives. And Patrik Antonius was also all-in, sitting with to Elton Tsang’s .
The kings held and Antonius was knocked out, taking the tournament down to 23 and a guaranteed payout of at least $79,000.
A spot at the nine-handed final would earn a minimum of $158,200, however, so that quickly became the next target. But it was a step too far for previous Triton Monte Carlo champions Dan Smith and Ognyan Dimov, among others, while even nine-time champion Jason Koon perished in 10th.
That did then take us to the final, which lined up as follows:
Chris Brewer — 55 BBs
Pedro Garagnani — 35 BBs
Rodrigo Selouan — 30 BBs
Danny Tang — 29 BBs
Fahredin Mustafov — 28 BBs
Isaac Haxton — 23 BBs
Ole Schemion – 12 BBs
Thomas Muehloecker – 5 BBs
Daniel Rezaei — 1 BB
Coming to any table with only one big blind is never ideal, but at least for Daniel Rezaei, this was a Triton Series final, where the payouts are rich.
To the surprise of no one, Rezaei couldn’t spin things up. He actually found pocket sixes with which to get his last chip in, but there were four over-cards in the hands of Pedro Garagnani and Chris Brewer, who gave him a spin.
Brewer ended up with two pair and sent Rezaei home. His first Triton cash was worth $158,200.
Ole Schemion very nearly became the next man out when he got all his chips in with against Chris Brewer’s pocket kings. This was a bit of a set up for Schemion, who was in the big blind after Brewer shoved from the small. Any ace in that situation is a clear call, but he was just unfortunate to find Brewer with the kings.
That said, the dealer bailed Schemion out, putting an ace on the flop. However, it proved to be only a temporary stay of execution because Schemion played and lost the next two hands, resulting in a nosedive to eighth place.
Schemion called Thomas Muehloecker’s shove, but beat to double up Muehloecker. On the very next hand, Schemion three-bet jammed from the button after Brewer’s opening raise, but Haxton was in the small blind with pocket jacks.
Schemion had but this time didn’t catch. He hit the rail with a $198,000 buffer.
Not for the first time, this Triton final played host to two Brazilians. They tend to do this: make a final table in pairs. But unlike back in London when Bruno Volkmann and Pedro Garagnani ended heads up against one another, Rodrigo Selouan could make it no further than seventh.
There wasn’t much Brazilian team spirit as Garagnani doubled up through Selouan with pocket nines against , and although Selouan doubled back through Brewer not that long afterwards, Isaac Haxton was waiting to knock him out.
Selouan four-bet jammed pocket jacks, with Haxton holding . An ace on the river gave the win to Haxton and set Selouan out in seventh for $270,000.
Plenty of hands now began and ended with a pre-flop shove as blinds escalated and orbits shortened. On one of the rare occasions play extended beyond a flop, Muehloecker’s tournament ended. The Austrian was sitting in the big blind with and called Danny Tang’s opening raise.
The flop of gave Muehloecker a straight draw and he moved all in. Tang had and called. Muehloecker missed his draw and Tang took this one down, leaving Muehloecker looking for $363,000.
With five players now left, we had entered both the short-handed and short-stacked zone. The chip leader, Haxton, had 36 big blinds but the average stack was only 18.
Garagnani now became the player under threat, particularly after a succession of hands in which he lost relatively small amounts, but which added up. He had a short stack and doubled it through Haxton, rivering a straight, but subsequently gave all those chips, and more, back to Brewer.
Garagnani shipped with but Brewer picked him off with and it remained good. Garagnani’s run this time earned him $469,000.
The next two eliminations came quickly: Brewer’s quest for a third title foundered in two pots against Tang, Then Mustafov’s chips also went to the same opponent, setting Tang up perfectly for a run at the title.
Brewer can count himself unlucky. Tang and he played an enormous pot where Tang had and Brewer had . Ordinarily, that match up doesn’t necessarily mean fireworks, but through a board of it was always going to be a sickener for Brewer.
He actually did incredibly well to fold his hand facing a shove on the river, but much of the damage was done. Tang took the last of his chips soon after with over Brewer’s . Brewer won $585,000.
Although Tang will rightly take the plaudits after this one, it’s worth highlighting the performance of Mustafov. He went out in third, but this was his third cash from only three tournaments played this week and his second final table.
Mustafov was another victim of Tang’s sun-run when lost to . Mustafov’s latest cash was worth $715,000.
Tang took a near two-to-one chip lead into heads-up and Haxton never even pulled close. The final hand came quickly. After Tang limped with , Haxton moved all in with . Tang called and the dealer put nothing of interest on the flop.
Tang’s supporters cheered heartily from the rail. Haxton was the first to congratulate his opponent, before Punnat Punsri appeared to throw himself into Tang’s arms.
After that, Tang’s life as a five-time champion began.
Event #9 – $50,000 NLH – 8 Handed
Dates: October 31 – November 1, 2023
Entries: 136 (inc. 46 re-entries)
Prize pool: $6,800,000
1 – Danny Tang, Hong Kong – $1,580,000
2 – Isaac Haxton, USA – $1,070,000
3 – Fahredin Mustafov, Bulgaria – $715,000
4 – Chris Brewer, USA – $585,000
5 – Pedro Garagnani, Brazil – $469,000
6 – Thomas Muehloecker, Austria – $363,000
7 – Rodrigo Selouan, Brazil – $270,000
8 – Ole Schemion, Germany – $198,000
9 – Daniel Rezaei, $158,200
10 – Jason Koon, USA – $133,000
11 – Dan Smith, USA – $133,000
12 – Ognyan Dimov, Bulgaria – $116,000
13 – Iho Hula, Ukraina – $116,000
14 – Elton Tsang, Hong Kong – $105,000
15 – Webster Lim, Malaysia – $105,000
16 – Richard Yong, Malaysia – $95,000
17 – Nick Petrangelo, USA – $95,000
18 – Punnat Punsri, Thailand – $85,600
19 – Brian Kim, USA – $85,600
20 – Henrik Hecklen, Denmark – $85,600
21 – Rodrigo Seiji, Brazil – $79,000
22 – Adrian Mateos, Spain – $79,000
23 – Karl Chappe-Gatien, France – $79,000
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive