Champion Mike Watson!

The first seven-figure payout of Triton’s latest trip to Montenegro went into the coffers of Mike Watson tonight, taking the Canadian’s haul on the series to more than $10 million.

In landing his fourth career Triton title, his first in no limit hold’em, Watson denied Malaysia’s Kiat Lee a long-overdue first. Lee had been the chip leader at the end of Day 1 and carried that lead not only to the final table, but into heads-up play too, with all the rest of the 154 entries having departed.

But Watson’s wily brilliance helped him recover from a significant deficit, and then earn the maximum when he found a couple of big hands in the shallow late stages. Lee grimaced as he realised he had run into it, seeing another chance at Triton glory slip through his fingers. He has 23 cashes but no win.

Kiat Lee flicks his chips to Watson

But Watson, who turned 40 a couple of weeks ago and whose wife and young child are here supporting him in Montenegro, was as ruthless as one has come to expect. Though his days as a “Mad Dog” are largely behind him, he remains a formidable talent at the tables, and becomes only the second player to win a title in all three Triton disciplines: no limit hold’em, short deck and pot limit Omaha.

“Every time you come to a Triton stop you want to come away with a trophy,” Watson said. “You want to get a win. It feels really good to get one in hold’em now, which I hadn’t done either. Just want to keep adding.”

He stated in an early interview today that the no limit hold’em prize was the one he coveted, and the prize of $1,023,000 from a $30,000 buy-in tournament was a clear sweetener to go with the trophy. Watson was here in Montenegro when the tour first visited in 2018 and expressed his happiness that Triton has grown as his skills have continued to develop.

“The growth of the Triton tour has been incredible,” Watson said. “Now there’s no chance I can ever skip one. The fields are so big, they’re so good. Jeju was insane and Montenegro has been good as well.”

Four time Mike Watson

Watson also reserved some praise to his beaten heads-up opponent, stating that he and Lee had played many times at the short deck tables, but that Lee is now expanding his game too. He said: “Kiat has been playing all the hold’em recently and he’s gotten really good really quickly. He’s definitely a very tough player. The heads-up match was definitely a grind.”

But Watson had a feeling that this one wasn’t over, even when he was down to a handful of blinds. “I felt good, confident for whatever reason. I thought maybe this was going to be my time.”

It certainly was.


There were 154 entries into this one which, combined with the slightly elevated buy-in compared with Events 1 and 2, put $4.62 million in the prize pool and guaranteed that seven-figure winner’s prize.

The typically speedy Day 1 took the field down to its last 25, including the bursting of the money bubble when Mario Mosbock bust to Morten Klein and walked away with nothing. Klein bagged an overnight stack that was right around the average of 21 big blinds, but Kiat Lee had nearly four times that and a massive chip lead.

The journey from the Day 2 start point to the final table was especially rapid this time and ended with two German speakers, Hossein Ensan and Daniel Rezaei, all in and called on neighbouring tables.

Hossein Ensan sweats Daniel Rezaei doubling up to stay alive

Ten were left at this point, and Ensan’s fate was decided first. His Ks2s lost to Leon Sturm’s Ac2h, denying Ensan a place at the final. But Ensan then came over to watch with Rezaei as he saw AcQd beat Lee’s Ac7h to survive.

Rezaei took his place at the final, alongside chip-leading Lee, with the last nine stacks as follows:

Kiat Lee – 6,225,000 (50 BBs)
Mike Watson – 5,800,000 (46 BBs)
David Yan – 5,125,000 (41 BBs)
Ding Biao – 3,750,000 (30 BBs)
Leon Sturm – 2,700,000 (22 BBs)
Morten Klein – 2,525,000 (20 BBs)
Stephen Chidwick – 2,100,000 (17 BBs)
Sirzat Hissou – 1,475,000 (12 BBs)
Daniel Rezaei – 1,100,000 (9 BBs)

Triton Montenegro Event 3 final table players (clockwise from back left): Morten Klein, Daniel Rezaei, Mike Watson, David Yan, Sirzat Hissou, Kiat Lee, Leon Sturm, Stephen Chidwick, Ding Biao.

Although still the short stack, Rezaei managed to ladder one spot thanks to Stephen Chidwick’s nosedive. Chidwick lost a flip to Sirzat Hissou, with jacks going down to KcQc, and the remainder of the Brit’s chips went to Mike Watson, whose Ah9d ended up quad nines.

Chidwick’s QsTd couldn’t match that, leaving Chidwick looking for $103,400 and a ninth-place finish.

Stephen Chidwick was first out from the final this time

It was, however, Rezaei’s turn next. The Austrian found a double through Watson with pocket queens beating pocket sevens, but two hands against Morten Klein spelled the end. Rezaei lost with As6s to AdJc. And then KhJs went down to KdAd.

That was the end of Rezaei, who banked $125,000.

Daniel Rezaei laddered one spot before busting

Leon Sturm has been on a long heater through the past year or so, and a first Triton title is surely only just around the corner. But it wasn’t to be in this one, with Sturm finding an unfortunate spot to shove from the small blind. Action folded to him and he open jammed 18 blinds with Kc7c. He only had to get through Lee to his left, but Lee looked down at pocket queens and called.

The queens stayed best and Sturm departed in seventh for $173,000.

Leon Sturm ran into it from the small blind

Sirzat Hissou was now the last German in the field, and he was looking healthy after a double through Watson with Ad6d hitting a flush to crack pocket kings. However, Hissou landed on the wrong side of a tough beat soon after, apparently flopping gold with KhQc on a board of 9dKdKcTh5h.

However David Yan was lurking with JhQd and sized his bets perfectly as a straight draw got there on the turn. Hissou maybe thought he was laying a trap, but when Yan shoved the river, he had the best hand. Hissou was out. he won $238,000 for sixth.

Sirzat Hissou fell into Yan’s trap

Yan was also responsible for the next elimination. It was Klein who hit the rail this time, losing a straight race. Ding Biao opened the pot but Yan, with pocket nines, three bet the small blind.

Klein found AdKc in the big blind and was happy to get it all in. But there was no help for him on an all low board and Yan’s pocket nines took it. Klein’s second final table of the week ended in fifth, for $309,000.

A second final table already for Morten Klein

Here we were again. Four players left, an average stack of around 25 big blinds, and a short-stacked shootout for the big prizes. Yan and Lee traded top spot, Ding Biao was slightly behind with Watson bringing up the rear. But there was still time for plenty to change.

And change it did. Yan’s stay at the top of the counts quickly came to an end in a hand against Biao. Biao’s pocket tens ended up making a flush in diamonds, earning him a near 4 million chip pot that Yan had check-called all the way down. Worse was to come for Yan, however. He called Lee’s three-bet shove with AcKh and was well ahead of KsQs.

But the dealer put a queen on the flop and nothing else of relevance, meaning Lee won the massive pot and sent Yan into the next event. His fourth place was worth $387,400.

David Yan suffered a grim beat to bust in fourth

The three players left had five Triton titles between them, but Lee won’t have needed reminding that none of them belonged to him. Despite being a final table regular, and perennial Player of the Year contender, Lee had never got over the line in one of these events before. Here was another great chance.

His prospects grew even stronger after the next pot of real note. Lee open shoved the button with Ac7d and Biao found pocket jacks in the big blind. That represented a clear call, but the dealer again was up to their tricks.

The ace on the flop was disaster for Biao but brilliant for Lee. It left the former picking up $475,000 for third while Lee assumed a big chip lead for heads up play.

Ding Biao makes his way out in third

Watson has won three Triton titles, but none in no limit hold’em, and he was therefore highly motivated to take this one down. He had only 15 big blinds to Lee’s 47, however, so had his work cut out.

After a 15 minute break to reset the table, Watson and Lee prepared to square off.

Watson’s all round skills helped him draw the stacks level pretty quickly. But then Lee pulled way ahead again. But then Watson secured a double with Ad3s beating Qs2s and Watson was back in contention.

Stacks shallowed some more to the point that there was only 38 big blinds on the table. They also stayed relatively even, meaning the next inevitable all-in confrontation could be the end of it.

So it proved. In a hand that played all the way through the streets, Lee flopped top pair with Qs6c on the 9cQc7h flop as Watson’s 8h6s became a straight draw.

The 5h turn completed that draw for Watson, and it was now just a case of getting all the money in the middle. He managed it with a river shove that sent Lee deep into the tank. Lee eventually made a crying call — it seemed to be reluctant — and learned the bad news.

Kiat Lee ponders a huge call

The massive pot left Lee with only three big blinds and they went in on the next hand. Watson had pocket fives and flopped a set. Lee couldn’t catch up.

Watson’s Triton tally now goes beyond $10 million and his trophy haul now moves up to four. Lee’s day will surely come, and he has $691,000 to ease the pain. But while the erstwhile Mad Dog might have gone out howling at the moon tonight, the new one was hurrying home to the family.

“To my wife Sara and baby girl Serena, looking forward to get back to see you guys,” Watson said.

Mad Dog Mike Watson is back


Event 3 – $30,000 – 8-Handed
Dates: May 14-15, 2024
Entries: 154 (inc. 54 re-entries)
Prize pool: $4,620,000

1 – Mike Watson, Canada – $1,023,000
2 – Kiat Lee, Malaysia – $691,000
3 – Ding Biao, China – $475,000
4 – David Yan, New Zealand – $387,400
5 – Morten Klein, Norway – $309,000
6 – Sirzat Hissou, Germany – $238,000
7 – Leon Sturm, Germany – $173,000
8 – Daniel Rezaei, Austria – $125,000
9 – Stephen Chidwick, UK – $103,400

10 – Hossein Ensan, Germany – $88,000
11 – Patrik Antonius, Finland – $88,000
12 – Damir Zhugralin, Kazakhstan – $76,300
13 – Orpen Kisacikoglu, Turkey – $76,300
14 – Fedor Holz, Germany – $69,300
15 – Adrian Mateos, Spain – $69,300
16 – Dimitar Danchev, Bulgaria – $62,300
17 – Seth Davies, USA – $62,300
18 – Justin Saliba, USA – $55,400
19 – Xianchao Shen, China – $55,400
20 – Dylan Weisman, USA – $55,400
21 – Punnat Punsri, Thailand – $50,800
22 – Dylan Linde, USA – $50,800
23 – Chris Moneymaker, USA – $50,800
24 – Mikita Badziakouski, Belarus – $46,200
25 – Stanley Choi, Hong Kong – $46,200
26 – Chuck Chu, Vietnam – $46,200
27 – Andrew Chen, Canada – $46,200

Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive