The formidable Danish tournament crusher Henrik Hecklen is the Triton Series Madrid No Limit Hold’em Main Event champion, emerging from a tense and turbulent final table here at Casino Gran Via to win €2,170,509.
It is the biggest win of the 31-year-old’s career, and came after a heads-up deal with Orpen Kisacikoglu, the UK-based Turkish businessman, whose poker game has come on leaps and bounds over the past few years.
Both heads-up players already had one Triton Series title to their names, so this final battle offered the chance to join the small club of players with two. And Hecklen’s victory means he is also the first player to win the exclusive Jacob & Co timepiece, specially produced by the master jeweller in collaboration with Triton Series.
The final table had long periods where it looked like it might be anybody’s game, with nine players returning overnight and all in with a shout. Hecklen, who started in the middle of the pack, managed to avoid most of the early action by being card dead. Then as the blind levels grew, the stack sizes became very short and each pot seemed crucial.
For all that, the heads-up battle might have lasted a long time. There was still enough money on the table to make it worth playing for, even after a deal, and they had a decent number of blinds between them too. However, a pocket pair versus pocket pair situation — kings versus fours — ended it on the very first hand of heads-up play.
“It was a great final table, fun players to play with,” Hecklen said.
He recalled that he had been down to 20 big blinds at one point, but, like everyone at the table, managed a few double ups in crucial spots. He said he’d been lucky, but certainly wasn’t complaining.
“It’s a great event,” Hecklen said. “I’m definitely going to get drunk, I guess.”
FINAL TABLE ACTION
A long Day 2 had left nine players still in the tournament, with bags of experience between them.
START OF DAY COUNTS
Kevin Paqué, Netherlands – 5,125,000
Sam Grafton, UK – 4,225,000
Aleksejs Ponakovs, Latvia – 3,465,000
Henrick Hecklen, Denmark – 2,855,000
Sam Greenwood, Canada – 1,810,000
Patrik Antonius, Finland – 1,720,000
Bruno Volkmann, Brazil – 1,630,000
Orpen Kisacikoglu, Turkey – 1,505,000
Alfred DeCarolis, USA – 820,000
The first 45 minutes or so of play passed by without significant incident. The short-stacked DeCarolis got his chips in but wasn’t called. And Patrik Antonius also three-bet shoved and received no customers.
Sam Greenwood did the same, three-bet shoving for his last 1.3 million over Paqué’s open, and he definitely would have wanted a customer, sitting with . Paqué thought about it for a while, but then made the call with .
It was a good spot for Greenwood, but it quickly became a disaster. Another eight appeared on the turn, and Greenwood’s disconsolate flicker of the eyelashes, truly the smallest physical motion, revealed a world of hurt.
How did it feel to be on the rail in ninth, the TV interviewer asked Greenwood. “Not great,” he said, with admirable restraint. Greenwood won €260,500 but will have hoped to have laddered at least a couple more spots.
The next significant incident resulted in a big upward spike in Patrik Antonius’ tracking graph. He three-bet jammed for his last 1.1 million over Aleksejs Ponakovs’ mid-position open, and Ponakovs called it off when action passed back to him. This ended up being a classic queens-versus-ace-king showdown and Antonius turned a king to keep his tournament alive.
All of a sudden, stacks were evening out and shallowing. The longer they went without an elimination, the more tense and quiet the table became. However, there was little to lose now for the short-stacked Orpen Kisacikoglu, and that allowed him to get his chips in — and go on a bit of a rush.
Kisacikoglu got to a three-way flop with DeCarolis and Ponakovs after a single raise. The board came . Ponakovs bet, DeCarolis folded and Kisacikoglu moved all-in. Ponakovs called, and Kisacikoglu was in bad shape. His pocket nines were now behind Ponakovs’ .
However the nine on the turn not only gave him a crucial double up, it gave him the chips to fully turn around his fortunes. Kisacikoglu won two further sizeable pots, from Grafton and Antonius, and went to the first break in the day second in chips. Only Ponakovs had more.
Antonius ordered some food during the break and began eating it when play resumed. He had to chow down quickly, though, because he was soon sitting with only five big blinds after being pushed out of a pot by Paqué. Everyone to Ponakovs’ left was short, in fact, which is how come the Latvian player was able to open-shove if action had folded to him, expecting to get a lot of folds.
However, on one such occasion Henrik Hecklen found pocket fives in the big blind and called all-in, for his last 1.4 million. Ponakovs had and was drawing dead after Hecklen turned another five. Hecklen then vaulted to what seemed like the relative safety of 23 big blinds. (The leader had only 35.)
Antonius was the short stack again, but doubled again. This time he managed to turn a straight with against DeCarolis’ , which left DeCarolis back on the ropes.
We were already at the stage of play where almost all pots were either folded pre-flop, or resulted in a change of the chip lead. Nobody could get clear, but nobody was ever truly out of it either.
Something absolutely had to give, and it was DeCarolis who could hold on no longer. The sole non-professional at the table had nonetheless put on the kind of showing that revealed the truth of his skills: he is an experienced cash game player from some of the highest-stakes games in the world. He barely put a foot wrong today, but his last chips were in with and Bruno Volkmann’s held.
DeCarolis, a restaurant chain CEO when he’s not playing poker, won €344,000. But he also kept up an unblemished record in Triton events. He has only played twice and has cashed twice. No one else in the world has that 100 percent rate.
Volkmann’s win in that pot put him second on the overall leader board, but it was all still incredibly tight. And the Brazilian then got involved in a pivotal pot with Grafton, which was pretty much certain to spell curtains for whomever lost it.
Volkmann opened the cutoff with and Hecklen called on the button. Grafton then squeezed all-in for 3.7 million, more than what Hecklen had and almost exactly what Volkmann was sitting with. Grafton had .
Volkmann called and Hecklen folded, leaving the two big stacks at the races. The flop seemed good for the over-cards when it came , but Grafton willed a straight on the turn.
Grafton was back in the chip lead, and Volkmann’s one big blind went to Kisacikoglu two hands later. (For the record, it was < ). Antonius had performed some miracle laddering, but his turn now came in sixth. Action folded to Ponakovs, who shoved from the button with . Antonius looked down at and called off his last 2 million, or 13 big blinds. A ten on the flop soon added that 2 million to Ponakovs and left Antonius looking for €558,000 for sixth, and a seat in the PLO event that was still registering. Patrik Antonius bids farewell[/caption]
Just as Ponakovs might have thought he could now start bullying again, he lost a big one to Paqué. It was two big pairs: kings for Paqué and jacks for Ponakovs, and that shipped 3 million in Paqué’s direction. The flurry of eliminations was over; they were back to double ups.
Hecklen was next. He won with pocket kings against Grafton’s pocket threes, and the 3.3 million swing put the Dane in the chip lead for the first time.
It also left Grafton in a spot of bother. Like others, he had been in the lead, particularly after the big pot against Volkmann, but he had also been on the ropes. And the knockout blow came from his good friend Kisacikoglu. Grafton, on the button, looked at and ripped in 4.3 million. That was amazing for Kisacikoglu, who had aces in the small blind.
They sweated it together, but there was nothing mad about the runout this time. Grafton’s journey came to an end in fifth for €716,000.
They headed to another tournament break, returning to blinds of 100K/200K and stacks ranging from 30 BBs (Hecklen) to 10 BBs (Kisacikoglu). But the trend of double-ups hadn’t ended yet, and Kisacikoglu found another one, through Ponakovs. Kisacikoglu did it very trickily too, limping from the small blind with .
Ponakovs checked his option and may have been licking his lips with his when the board ran with betting on every street. He turned a flush, but that also gave Kisacikoglu an invisible full house, only revealed after a shove and a call on the end.
To further underline how narrow the margins were at this point, Kisacikoglu doubled into the chip lead while Ponakovs became the short stack. And not long after, he was out.
Ponakovs’ final hand was losing to Hecklen’s , but really it was just a last-ditch hail Mary from the Latvian player, hoping to pick up some more blinds. Instead, he took €888,000 for fourth.
Paqué was another player who had endured some real ups and downs during the final day — a distinct contrast to his two previous days at the end of both of which he had held the chip lead. He was the three-handed short stack and couldn’t find the uptick he needed.
He perished at Hecklen’s hands, with losing out to . They were all-in pre-flop, of course, and the board blanked.
Paqué’s €1,134,000 payday was the biggest of his career so far, by some measure, and he adds it to the other two cashes he has picked up on his first Triton Poker visit. It looks like he may become a fixture here — an 11th, fifth and third so far suggests a victory cannot be too far away.
That left two: Kisacikoglu and Hecklen, both already guaranteed the biggest score of their tournament careers, but both now looking for a second Triton title. Hecklen had a slight chip lead — it was 12.625 million to 10.625 million — and they decided to look at the numbers. Ben Heath came in to negotiate on Kisacikoglu’s behalf, as Hecklen asked for a little more than his ICM share.
Triton TD Luca Vivali moderated the friendly chit-chat and they came to an arrangement that gave €2,090,509 to Hecklen and €2,016,491 to Kisacikoglu, with €80,000 to play for. There was also only one wrist that could wear the Jacob & Co watch, however, and open the huge bottle of champagne. (And there was the not insignificant matter of 100 Player of the Year points too.)
All of those bonuses stayed on the table, as they shook on the money.
There was every chance the heads-up battle could have been a marathon. Every poker player these days knows how to keep things small, work the angles, and try to allow their skill to prevail heads up. But when they each looked down at pocket pairs, they went to war: Kisacikoglu limped, Hecklen raised 1.2 million, Kisacikoglu three-bet all-in and Hecklen called.
There was no outdraw this time and Hecklen’s kings were good. And with that, we had our Main Event champion. Cue the ticker tape parade.
Triton Madrid – Event 9
€100,000 NLHE Main Event
Dates: May 20-22, 2022
Entries: 93 (inc. 34 re-entries)
Prize pool: €9,300,000
1 – Henrik Hecklen, Denmark – €2,170,509*
2 – Orpen Kisacikoglu, Turkey – €2,016,491*
3 – Kevin Paqué, Netherlands – €1,134,000
4 – Aleksejs Ponakovs, Latvia – €888,000
5 – Sam Grafton, UK – €716,000
6 – Patrik Antonius, Finland – €558,000
7 – Bruno Volkmann, Brazil – €440,500
8 – Alfred DeCarolis, USA – €344,000
9 – Sam Greenwood, Canada – €260,500
10 – Linus Loeliger, Switzerland – €200,000
11 – Chris Brewer, USA – €200,000
12 – Brian Kamphorst, Netherlands – €186,000
13 – Sirzat Hissou, Germany – €186,000
*denotes a heads-up deal
Photography by Joe Giron/PokerPhotoArchive