Bryn Kenney is the kind of poker player who wins tournaments wherever he goes. A career haul of close to $60 million attests to that, and that doesn’t include whatever riches he has won online.
But Kenney seems to have a special affinity to this particular district of London, at least when the Triton Series rolls into town.
Four years to the week since Kenney won the biggest prize ever awarded in a poker tournament, just a few yards down the street, Kenney has once again bossed a Triton Series final table and won the Luxon Invitational powered by Triton Poker, adding $6,860,000 to his career total.
This one was an outright win — last time, he was officially the runner-up — and it brings with it another Triton trophy and an exclusive trip on the Bombay Superyacht for Kenney and up to five of his friends.
“It’s so surreal,” Kenney said. “It’s crazy. Just I don’t know where I am really, but I’m in a good place, standing here at the end of the tournament.”
Referencing his runner-up finish at the Triton Millions, Kenney said: “I didn’t get to hold up the trophy then, but now I can hold up the trophy. I’m so blessed and thankful for this and everything.” Let us not forget, Kenney already has two titles from other Triton events, in Montenegro in 2019. So he is now in rare company as a three-time winner.
The success puts Kenney back to the summit of the all-time poker money list, leapfrogging Justin Bonomo. It is the ninth time he has won more than $1 million in a poker tournament. Both his two biggest cashes have come on the Triton Series.
Kenney outlasted the British businessman and Triton Vietnam Main Event champion Talal Shakerchi heads up after the two blasted through one of the fastest final tables the tour has seen. There were deep stacks and ferocious talents all assembled at the start of the day, pointing to what might have been a marathon.
However, Kenney was able to pick up the hands that he needed at the right time, and can play a big stack like no one else in the tournament game. Even Shakerchi was powerless to stop the Kenney juggernaut and had to settle for a second prize of $4,650,000.
Let’s rewind and take a look at how this one played out.
The Luxon Invitational continued Triton’s commitment to providing a perfect, level playing field for professional players and VIP recreational player alike. As at the Triton Million four years ago, everyone in the field needed to have received an invitation to play, either from the organisers or from one of the VIPs. They could invite one pro each to play.
The two sides of the field played separately for the opening stages, before merging. It’s the kind of treatment you get if you’re prepared to pay $250,000 to play a poker tournament.
By the time registration closed, there had been 118 entries, including 27 re-entries, and $29,500,000 in the prize pool.
The smallest cash in this tournament was $342,000 — considerably more than the first prize in almost all tournaments outside of the Triton Series. The safe prediction was that the bubble period would be especially fraught. Even for players with seemingly infinite bankrolls, nobody wanted to miss out on the really fun stages of this event.
What transpired, however, was one of those invisible, lighting-fast bubbles. It was gone before it had ever really arrived.
That was because two players were knocked out on neighbouring tables, all but simultaneously. The first took an absolutely gross beat. The second paid the price for some characteristic aggression that went wrong.
Firstly, let’s express our sympathies for Erik Seidel. The American great was seated on the feature table alongside Paul Phua — a fun spot, for the most part. But Phua was lurking behind Seidel with pocket jacks when Seidel got his last chips in with aces.
Isn’t that supposed to be good? Well, yes. Usually. But the dealer put four hearts on the board and only Phua had one of those. It meant that Seidel hit the rail in a cruel 25th, losing with the best hand pre-flop.
Little did Wiktor Malinowski know, but they were now on the stone bubble. Malinowski was on a neighbouring table with an average stack, pondering a hand against Robert Flink. Malinowski has made his name through his ultra-aggressive cash game style, and he blasted off in this one, three-bet squeeze-shoving from the big blind after an early position open from Flink and a call from Tan Xuan in the small blind.
Malinowski had and was probably hoping for a couple of calls. But Flink looked him up with pocket nines, and they held. Jason Koon was sitting on a third table with only two big blinds. But he was suddenly in the money as Malinowski was forced out.
“Somebody really f***ed up,” an incredulous Koon said, delighted to have inched into the money against the odds and without any pain.
THE RACE TO THE FINAL
With an in-the-money result confirmed, the last 23 then began a race to the final table. Koon was next out, followed by the player who had invited him, Sosia Jiang. Two payouts of $342,000 was not a bad result for that partnership.
We also lost Triton co-founder Paul Phua, who had led the field for a long period before things started to run against him. He nonetheless picked up $410,000 for 17th.
The clock passed midnight and it wasn’t certain that we would reach a final before the scheduled end time of 2am. But superstars Patrik Antonius, Stephen Chidwick and Steve O’Dwyer tumbled out of contention, as well as Italian businessman Leonardo Drago, who made it all the way to 11th.
When Christoph Vogelsang hit the rail in 10th, losing a flip to Kenney, we were at the final. Vogelsang’s businessman partner Talal Shakerchi led the way as they took to their hotel rooms ahead of the final day.
The players lined up as follows for the final:
Talal Shakerchi – 7.2 million (72 BBs)
Bryn Kenney – 5.85 million (59 BBs)
Punnat Punsri – 4.85 million (49 BBs)
Robert Flink – 4.525 million (45 BBs)
Aleks Ponakovs – 4.175 million (42 BBs)
Chris Moneymaker – 3.025 million (30 BBs)
Nick Petrangelo – 2.55 million (26 BBs)
James Chen – 2.45 million (25 BBs)
Kayhan Mokri – 775,000 (8 BBs)
It was an irresistible mix of pros and VIPs, as well as those who blur the boundaries. The presence of Chris Moneymaker was also an extraordinary bonus. Rightly feted as the man who ignited the poker boom, it was an incredible sight to see him deep in the first Super High Roller he had ever played.
After glitzy introductions, the players settled in. But this very rapidly became an incredibly volatile final, with chips flying from the off.
When James Chen last sat down in a $250,000 buy-in event, he walked off with the title at the World Series of Poker Europe. Many of his opponents that day were here in London as well, but this time Chen could not repeat the trick.
Even though Kayhan Mokri was still alive with a tiny stack, Chen got involved in a raising war with Kenney pre-flop. Chen opened, Kenney three-bet and Chen moved in. When Kenney called, Chen, with must have feared the worst. He was right to. Kenney had and although both players hit their kicker on the flop, Kenney’s was bigger.
Chen hit the rail in ninth for $680,000.
Laddering up from ninth to eighth was worth $180,000 and so Mokri must have felt that he was now freerolling. However, the thrill ride ended pretty soon after for the Norwegian cash-game player. He couldn’t get pocket eights to hold up against Aleks Ponakovs’ . Ponakovs turned a straight.
Mokri, who cashed twice in Vietnam on his first visit to the Triton Series, banked $860,000. That’s surely enough to warrant a return visit next time.
Two players were out in the blink of an eye, and it didn’t take very long for us to lose a third. By his incredibly lofty standards, Nick Petrangelo has not enjoyed the best of times on the Triton Series, but his surge to the final table here gave him the perfect chance to get firmly in the black.
However, he became the latest player to get involved in a pre-flop ding-dong with Kenney, and to lose it all when the board came down. Kenney had pocket nines and four-bet shoved. Petrangelo, with , called it off. There was a nine on the flop, and Kenney faded straight outs on the turn.
Kenney stacked up a monster pile of chips as Petrangelo claimed $1,170,000 for seventh.
There was scarcely any let-up in the pace as Shakerchi now joined the wrecking party and Robert Flink landed on the wrong side of the rope. Shakerchi opened his button with and Flink defended his big blind with . Spectators quickly realised that a queen on the flop could be dangerous, but the was equally perilous.
Flink checked. Shakerchi bet 200,000. Flink now shoved with his straight draw. Shakerchi had the chips to call with second pair and the turn and river bricked out. Flink was done, winning $1,582,000 for sixth.
Chris Moneymaker had taken things steadily at the final table, allowing all around him to go haywire as he waited it out. However, the first significant pot he played turned out to be his last.
It also happened to be the first major confrontation that Punnat Punsri had played at the final, but neither man was bluffing. Moneymaker opened from under the gun with pocket jacks and Punsri moved in from the big blind after action folded all the way round.
Moneymaker called for his tournament life and saw Punsri table . It was a fair fight until the dealer put a king on the flop and Moneymaker could not catch a two-outer to survive. Punsri led the applause for Moneymaker, the man who inspired many people in the room to take up the game.
Moneymaker gave hugs around the table and wandered away, $2.03 million richer. That’s the biggest prize he has won since his 2003 WSOP Main Event title — and not far off even that sum.
The speed of the play had taken everyone by surprise, and now there was no place to hide. Ponakovs is hugely experienced at the tournament tables, and knows that four-handed play requires everyone to get involved frequently. He found first to act, which was plenty good enough for a raise. Shakerchi called on the button with pocket sixes and both the blinds left them to it.
If the flop of was cruel to Ponakovs, the turn was brutal. Ponakovs now had under-repped trips, but he was drawing incredibly thin against Shakerchi’s full house.
Having bet the flop, both players now checked to lay the trap. The came on the river, and it sprung. Shakerchi bet big, but then Ponakovs jammed. Shakerchi snapped him off and won a big one. Ponakovs was dust in fourth, winning $2,540,000.
Although we had seen fast and furious action, and any number of massive confrontations, we had yet to witness anything that might be described as truly gross. The best hand had tended to win. But Punsri’s ultimate demise was not quite so clean.
The Thai player, and Cyprus Main Event champion, got 25 big blinds in after limping pre-flop with and seeing Shakerchi raise from the small blind. Punsri then jammed and Shakerchi called. Shakerchi had , and so Punsri was in great shape.
However the dealer put the on the flop and that vaulted Shakerchi into the driver’s seat.
Punsri still had outs, but the turn and river didn’t hit. It sent Punsri out in third for $3,107,000.
The stacks were pretty even as the heads-up play got started, and there was still the chance that this would go on a good few hours. However, both players act quickly and were prepared to get their chips moving — with the prevailing wind blowing them into Kenney’s stack.
Shakerchi was cut down but managed to double up with a straight to beat Kenney’s pocket kings. He also made arguably the most breath-taking play of the heads-up phase, folding trip kings. He was right because Kenney had a full house.
However, you can’t win a tournament through folds alone and when the money all went in for the second time, Kenney managed to secure the decisive come-from-behind success. Kenney had to Shakerchi’s and the dealer landed an eight on the flop.
Shakerchi never caught up, and Kenney was the champion.
The New Yorker has recently become a father and hasn’t played many poker tournaments over the past couple of years, but he hasn’t lost his knack. In his post-game interview, he described the grind of the early levels and then the exhilaration of the cruise through the final.
“It’s a roller coaster,” he said. For Kenney, it’s a roller coaster that always ends at the top.
Event #9 – NLH Luxon Invitational
Dates: August 3-5, 2023
Entries: 118 (inc. 27 re-entries)
Prize pool: $29,500,000
1 – Bryn Kenney, USA – $6,860,000
2 – Talal Shakerchi, UK – $4,650,000
3 – Punnat Punsri, Thailand – $3,107,000
4 – Aleks Ponakovs, Latvia – $2,540,000
5 – Chris Moneymaker, USA – $2,030,000
6 – Robert Flink, Sweden – $1,582,000
7 – Nick Petrangelo, USA – $1,170,000
8 – Kayhan Mokri, Norway – $860,000
9 – James Chen, Taiwan – $680,000
10 – Christoph Vogelsang, Germany – $575,000
11 – Leonardo Drago, Italy – $575,000
12 – Steve O’Dwyer, Ireland – $501,000
13 – Stephen Chidwick, UK – $501,000
14 – Patrik Antonius, Finland – $455,000
15 – Tan Xuan, China – $455,000
16 – Kiat Lee, Malaysia – $410,000
17 – Paul Phua, Malaysia – $410,000
18 – Cary Katz, USA – $371,000
19 – Seth Davies, USA – $371,000
20 – Santhosh Suvarna, India – $371,000
21 – Pedro Garagnani, Brazil – $342,000
22 – Sosia Jiang, New Zealand – $342,000
23 – Jason Koon, USA – $342,000
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive