Champion Mike Watson!

Nothing comes easy on the Triton Super High Roller Poker Series, but Canadian pro Mike Watson today secured a third Triton victory and barely raised a sweat.

Watson amassed an enormous chip lead in the late stages of Day 1 in the $25K Short Deck event, bursting the bubble and putting him top of the pile in one fell swoop. And from thereon, Watson was never out of the lead as he coasted through the final table to secure a $380,000 payday.

“Obviously a run like I’ve been on the last couple of weeks takes a bit of luck, but I do feel that I’ve been getting better, playing a lot of my best poker lately,” Watson said, posing beside his new trophy and winner’s baseball cap. He’s won three of those in the past 12 months. “Hopefully I’m just starting to get some rewards for that.”

He adds this success to victories in a $50K short deck tournament in Vietnam and a $30K PLO event in Cyprus, and confirmed that the more uncommon variants help keep him engaged in the game he’s been playing since his teens.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing different variants of poker,” Watson said. “The short deck and the PLO are games that I really enjoy. Lot of fun. Keeps you motivated. Keeps you interested as well. You’re always learning new things. It’s not so formulaic, not the same thing every day.”

He has made a real home on the Triton Series, and offered fulsome praise for the tour. “What’s not to love?” the 39-year-old Watson said. “It’s growing, the prize pools are getting huge. It just keeps getting better and better for sure. It’s a great atmosphere as well, really friendly, great group of people. Playing poker against them is a lot of fun.”

Watson’s win elevates him alongside Matthias Eibinger, Bryn Kenney and Webster Lim in the ranks of three-time champions. He is the only one of those yet to hit the top spot in a no limit hold’em event, however. But Watson is a master of all disciplines, and breaks through the $25 million mark in lifetime tournament earnings with this success.

Nearly $10 million of that has come on the Triton Series alone.

Watson’s final opponent today was China’s Ren Lin, but he could only offer token resistance as Watson marched to the title. Watson barely put a foot wrong for two days, and has the silverware again to show for it.

Ren Lin was beaten into second place


After completing hugely successful hold’em and Omaha phases, the short deck crowd arrived belatedly to Jeju. There is some overlap between player pools, but also a handful of specialists in the 36-card game, visiting the tour on which it was most successfully popularised.

In all, there were 52 entries, including 19 re-entries, which put $1.3 million in the prize pool. And while some of those newcomers — the likes of Martin Nielsen and Michael Zhang — Thai Ha and Tan Xuan progressed into the money.

They did that by surviving the bubble, something that Triton co-founder Richard Yong could not quite manage. With 10 players left, Yong was one of the big stacks and was attempting to pick up cheap antes when he shoved with QhTs.

Richard Yong’s departure on the bubble laid the foundation for Watson’s success

Unfortunately for him, Watson, the only player at the table with a bigger stack, had AcAs.

Watson called, held, and sent Yong out. The rest were in the money. Watson assumed the stranglehold on the tournament that he would never give up.

Ha and Xuan were knocked out in ninth and eighth, respectively, which took us into the final day. Watson still had a dominant chip lead thanks to the massive pot against Yong. All the others were hoping they could chip away at it on the last day.


Mike Watson – 5,465,000 (137 antes)
Mikita Badziakouski – 2,520,000 (63 antes)
Wai Kin Yong – 2,320,000 (58 antes)
Dong Chen – 1,720,000 (43 antes)
Ren Lin – 1,675,000 (42 antes)
Seth Davies – 945,000 (24 antes)
Lun Loon – 860,000 (22 antes)

Triton Jeju Event 16 final table players (clockwise from back left): Ren Lin, Dong Chen, Mike Watson, Mikita Badziakouski, Lun Loon, Seth Davies, WAi Kin Yong.

For Lun Loon, that proved impossible. He had the smallest stack returning to day two, and although he doubled it up through Wai Kin Yong, he was unable to win another pot. When Loon had only 12 antes left, he got them in with KsJs but couldn’t beat Seth Davies’ AhTs.

Loon now has 12 cashes on the Triton Series, five from this trip to Jeju, and continues to hit final tables. His time will surely come. For the time being, he had to make do with $64,000 for seventh place.

Lun Loon made another final table

Having seen his father depart on the bubble, Wai Kin Yong was nonetheless ensuring family interests at this final. And with four Triton titles to his name, the younger Yong has proved repeatedly that he has what it takes to go all the way in this environment.

Yong played a lighter schedule than normal here in Jeju, but locked up his 18th career cash in this event. But he could progress no further than sixth.

After starting well, winning a sizeable pot from Dong Chen, Yong lost a bigger one in doubling up Ren Lin. Lin’s powerful JcTh made two pair against Yong’s AhQc after they got it in pre-flop. It left Yong down to only a tiny handful of antes, which he eventually yielded to Watson.

Yong’s tournament ended with an $80,500 payday.

Wai Kin Yong: Four-time champion hits the rail

On the subject of four-time champions, it’s been a while since Mikita Badziakouski last gathered up a trophy to add to his haul. But Badziakouski remains a force to be reckoned with and was back at the final here.

But he too became a Watson victim, losing with As8s to Watson’s pocket sevens. Watson turned a full house and faded a flush draw. It send Badziakouski looking for $104,000.

Mikita Badziakouski’s quest for title No 5 continues

By this point, Watson had a simply crushing chip lead and the remaining players could do nothing more than just get their chips in, get called, and hope for the best. Alternatively, they could sit back and hope to ladder.

For Dong Chen, he could manage neither. His chips went in with AdKs and Watson had 8d8c. Watson won this flip, leaving Chen on the rail in fourth.

He made his Triton debut here in Jeju, and cashed four times already. This one was the biggest and earned him $133,000.

A double fist bump to celebrate Dong Chen’s first Triton final

Even after Lin doubled shortly after three-handed play began, Watson was still cruising. He had 116 antes, with Lin sitting with 24 and Davies 16. It seemed like just a matter of time.

Davies busted next. He found AsJs and opened. Watson folded, but Lin decided to take him on, moving all in with the marginally bigger stack. Lin had pocket tens and ended with a full house. Davies had nothing close and was forced to take $177,500 and another near miss.

Seth Davies: Third place for the American pro

Watson took a near three-to-one chip lead into heads up and quickly extended it through the first handful of pots.

This was only heading in one direction, and it wasn’t even 4pm local time when it all came to its inevitable conclusion. Lin picked up pocket sevens and pushed all-in. Watson had Ad8d and made the call.

The flop was scary for Lin. It came KdJd9h. Then the 9c turn suggested Lin might wriggled his way to a double up. However, the Js landed on the river, counterfeiting Lin’s pair and sending the title Watson’s direction.

Lin banked $273,000 and deserves acclaim for running Watson even that close. But the man known as Sir Watts was riding high all day, and completed his consummate performance in double-quick time.

Mike Watson picks up his trophy

Event #16 – $25k – SHORT DECK (ANTE ONLY)
Dates: March 18-19, 2024
Entries: 52 (inc. 19 re-entries)
Prize pool: $1,300,000

1 – Mike Watson, Canada – $380,000
2 – Ren Lin, China – $273,000
3 – Seth Davies, USA – $177,500
4 – Dong Chen, China – $133,000
5 – Mikita Badziakouski, Belarus – $104,000
6 – Wai Kin Yong, Malaysia – $80,500
7 – Lun Loon, Malaysia – $64,000
8 – Tan Xuan, China – $50,000
9 – Thai Ha, China – $38,000

Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive