The Triton Series’ first stop in Vietnam is now seven tournaments through, and so far there have been five first-time Triton champions. The latest had to pick his way through a final table in the 25K Turbo at which three of the last four players had all previously hoisted a Triton trophy, two of them this week.
But in defeating Nacho Barbero heads up, after Dao Minh Phu had also hit the rail in third, Triton first-timer Andrew Leathem earns his own place on the Triton winners’ board. When you add the fact that the fourth-placed finisher was Matthias Eibinger, winner of two previous Triton turbo titles, you get the full measure of Leathem’s achievement.
“That’s the idea,” Leathem said, reflecting on his victory. “You want to test yourself against the best players in the world.”
This mild-mannered 43-year-old software developer from Edinburgh, Scotland, usually plays only lower-stakes tournaments but said he liked the look of a trip to Vietnam and took a stab at the Triton Series. “I’m just an amateur, really, but I try to play in different places, different countries,” he said.
He bubbled the first event he played — “That was pretty horrible” — but rode the turbulent waters to the title this time, banking 670,000. He also takes home the Shamballa Jewels bracelet handed to winners on the Triton Series.
“I was determined not to bubble this one,” Leathem added. “I sort of hung in to the final table, and it worked out. I’m super happy, but I’m also tired. It will sink in tomorrow probably.”
FAST AND FURIOUS
The first single-day event of this stop in Vietnam drew the masses searching for a quick payday, or a free evening to visit the player party. There were 104 entries by the time registration closed, including 25 re-entries, and the field quickly began to shrink.
Many of the game’s top talents fell by the wayside as the day wore on, edging closer to the money. Fifteen were due to be paid.
The fun of the turbo means that no one is ever really safe, but even a couple of blinds means you can still hope to turn things around.
That was never more evident than on the bubble of this one, where Eibinger, for instance, was one of the shortest stacks but secured a double up and then went on a charge to be chip-leader.
Jeffrey Sluzinski, an ACR qualifier, also demonstrated that he wasn’t scared of putting everything on the line, burning through several time bank chips after Isaac Haxon had pushed all in with a covering stack, before eventually calling. Sluzinski had pocket tens to Haxton’s , and Sluzinski won the flip.
Had he lost, Sluzinski would have been out and several sub five-blind stacks would have rejoiced. As it was, the call and the win helped propel Sluzinski to the final table, with Haxton busting in 11th.
The coup was all the more significant given the miniscule size of so many other stacks. One of them was sure to bust soon. As it turned out, it wasn’t necessarily soon, but Pablo Brito did indeed hit the rail. He was the third part in a pot between Barbero and Phu, those two players who had already won titles this week.
Phu’s pocket jacks ended up beating Barbero’s , with Brito perishing with . Had Barbero hit, two players would have gone out together, but Phu survived the bubble for the second time in consecutive days. Brito left with nothing.
With the dam now burst, it was a turbo-propelled flood to the rail. Some of Asia’s finest players — Wai Kin Yong, Kiat Lee, Kannapong Thanrattrakul — went bust. They then reassembled with the following line-up:
25K Turbo final table
Nacho Barbero – 5,050,000
Matthias Eibinger – 4,055,000
Talal Shakerchi – 3,600,000
Sebastian Gaehl – 2,765,000
Jeffrey Sluzinski – 1,800,000
Dao Minh Phu – 1,170,000
Ana Marquez – 920,000
Lun Loon – 770,000
Andrew Leathem – 760,000
Leathem’s strategy of just clinging on had got him this far, and he was also prepared to take a back seat to most of the earliest final table action.
After a long barren spell at the beginning of his Triton career, Lun Loon was now at back-to-back final tables. However, he got a reminder of how unfair things can be when his pocket jacks lost to Barbero’s not long after the final table started. Barbero flopped two aces.
Two brilliant plots were now brewing. First, there was Eibinger’s three-time bid. He made his name (and built a bankroll) playing high-stakes hyper turbos online, and proved his mettle winning both of his Triton titles in precisely this format. In short, he know precisely the spots to get his chips in.
Then there was Phu, who was also seeking a back-to-back triumph. And Phu was hot. He doubled up twice, winning flips with against Talal Shakerchi’s pocket tens, then flopping a set with pocket sevens as Eibinger’s made two pair.
Phu cheered as Ana Marquez became the next to fall. Marquez got involved as the shortest stack in a three-way pot, losing with to Eibinger’s . Barbero had them both covered, but his hit only a deuce and so Eibinger doubled too.
Marquez’s first Triton cash earned her 92,300.
It goes without saying that stacks were short, but that plain fact does explain why chips were going in with all manner of hands. Sluzinski’s fun tournament came to its end with a seventh-placed finish. He lost with to Barbero’s , but took 121K.
Shakerchi then became Phu’s latest victim, falling with to pocket tens. Shakerchi’s fifth Triton cash was worth 153,500.
Eibinger then knocked out Sebastian Gaehl, with bettering Gaehl’s . Even after that, Eibinger only had nine big blinds.
It was at this point that they crossed the streams. The two most exciting storylines — the back-to-back and the three-time — came crashing into one another in a head-on collision. Eibinger had only one big blind left and he got it in with . Phu was vocally disappointed to have a dominated , but then said, “Thank you, thank you,” as the dealer put a seven on the flop.
The turn and river were blanks and Eibinger headed out. He now has a first, a first and a third from three Triton turbos. It’s not going to switch him from one banner to another, but he’ll take 245,000 and sleep well.
That left us with yesterday’s hero Phu, the Event 2 winner, Barbero, and Leathem, whose trip so far had offered a steep learning curve but nothing more.
But all that was about to change.
In the first of three pivotal short-handed pots, Barbero opened his button with and Leathem called in the small blind. Phu then moved all in for five big blinds and both Barbero and Leathem called.
They checked the flop of and the turn of and then Barbero bet 2 million on the river. Leathem called but Barbero’s flush knocked out Phu and took a chunk from his other opponent.
Phu has barely been able to put a foot wrong for two days, but ended this tournament in third for 301,000.
The first couple of small heads-up pots went Barbero’s way, but Leathem then surged upward. He raised from the small blind with and Barbero called, taking them to a flop of . Barbero check-raised Leathem’s bet of 600K, but Leathem moved all in with his middle pair.
Barbero called with , a flush draw and overcards, but the board bricked out and Leathem doubled.
They got all their chips in pre-flop on the next hand, and Barbero was looking good for the win with against Leathem’s . But Leathem came from behind to win it, leaving Barbero fuming, and on fumes.
It was done on the next hand, with Leathem’s staying good against Barbero’s five high.
Time for it to start sinking in, Andrew. That’s the win.
Event #8 – 25,000 NLH Turbo
Dates: March 7, 2023
Entries: 104 (inc. 25 re-entries)
Prize pool: 2,600,000
1 – Andrew Leathem (UK) – 670,000
2 – Nacho Barbero (Argentina) – 460,000
3 – Dao Minh Phu (Vietnam) – 301,000
4 – Matthias Eibinger (Austria) – 245,000
5 – Sebastian Gaehl (Germany) – 196,000
6 – Talal Shakerchi (UK) – 153,500
7 – Jeffrey Sluzinski (USA) – 121,000
8 – Ana Marquez (Spain) – 92,300
9 – Lun Loon (Malaysia) – 67,600
10 – Kannapong Thanrattrakul (Thailand) – 54,600
11 – Isaac Haxton (USA) – 54,600
12 – Biao Ding (China) – 48,000
13 – Kiat Lee (South Korea) – 48,000
14 – Wai Kin Yong (Malaysia) – 44,200
15 – Anson Ewe (Malaysia) – 44,200
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive