Champion Mikita Badziakouski!

Mikita Badziakouski is now a five time champion on the Triton Super High Roller Series — and it’s a measure of this man’s talent that everyone was asking, “What took you so long?”

Badziakouski, 32, has played every single stop on the Triton Series and already had three titles by 2019, and added a fourth in 2022. But it’s been nearly two years since he was last standing beneath a Triton trophy, during which time Jason Koon has raced to 10 titles and both Phil Ivey and Danny Tang collected their fifth.

However, Badziakouski is back, and today beat crowd favourite and Triton co-founder Paul Phua heads-up to land the $1,153,000 first prize in the $100K Short Deck event in Jeju.

“Back in Cyprus (in 2022), I got second twice and I wasn’t really caring about winning another one,” Badziakouski said. “But then I went to London and Monte Carlo and didn’t get close. And by that time I’ve really been wanting to win one. I’m really happy.”

Each of Badziakouski’s five titles have landed him more than $1 million in prize money — an average haul that outstrips the other three players with as many wins as him. He is up to $19.8 million in Triton earnings now, and this is his second in Short Deck.

“I personally enjoy it very much,” Badziakouski said of this variant, adding that he still feels very much at home on the Triton Series. “There are not many players who have played all the stops since 2017…Triton is just doing everything the best.”

The same could really be said of Badziakouski. As fellow five-timer Danny Tang said when he came on stage to congratulate Badziakouski, “Welcome to the club.”

Mikita Badziakouski: Finally a five-timer


The comparatively small field meant that this was one of those tournaments where not only making a final day didn’t mean making the money, making the final table didn’t either. There were 10 players at the start of Day 2, seven seats at the final, but only six players would be paid.

After Isaac Haxton, Kiat Lee and Dan Dvoress were knocked out, the last seven sat down to the final with the following stacks:

Mikita Badziakouski – 2,834,000 (236 antes)
Sun Ya Qi – 1,952,000 (163 antes)
Sam Greenwood – 1,372,000 (114 antes)
Jason Koon – 1,264,000 (105 antes)
Winfred Yu – 1,134,000 (95 antes)
Wu Xiao – 1,092,000 (91 antes)
Paul Phua – 553,000 (48 antes)

Triton Jeju Event 18 final table players (clockwise from back left): Sun Ya Qi, Winfred Yu, Jason Koon, Paul Phua, Mikita Badziakouski, Wu Xiao, Sam Greenwood

Wu Xiao seemed likely to be the player out when he got it in with AhKs against Jason Koon’s KhKd. Koon had a bigger stack too. However, an ace came on the river and Xiao survived, putting Koon in real danger.

By their usual standards, this trip to Jeju had offered slim pickings for North American players, with only Mike Watson and Dan Smith claiming titles, with European and Asian players at the fore.

Koon aside, this turned into another miserable event for poker’s typically dominant region, especially when Sam Greenwood picked up a second bubble finish in consecutive days. Greenwood, of course, is a total pro and understands everything about variance. But with four players sitting with shorter stacks, he must have been cursing the face that it was him picking up AcQh when Mikita Badziakouski had AhAd.

Greenwood open shoved 50 antes. Badziakouski gleefully picked him off, and that took the last six into the money.

Another day, another bubble for the unfortunate Sam Greenwood

Badziakouski was top of the pack still, and was the only player with more than 100 antes. Sun Ya Qi was close behind, but everyone else had less than the average of 57. They were, however, now guaranteed at least $240,000.

Paul Phua’s survival instincts earned him a double up to put him relatively safe. But Koon and Wu Xiao sank to the bottom of the counts, with only a handful of antes between them.

In this particular sub-plot, Koon came out on top. But only just. Xiao bust when his last chips went in with 9d7d and Qi’s AhQd became a full house. That meant $260K for Xiao.

Wu Xiao’s scores a first Triton cash in only his third tournament

One hand later, Koon joined him on the rail. Koon’s 9c7s lost to Phua’s pocket aces. The additional hand was worth $56K as Koon earned $306,000.

Even Jason Koon can’t beat aces

Two-time Triton champion Winfred Yu assumed the short stack now, and he too fell victim to Phua armed with pocket aces. Phua laid the trap with an open limp; Qi limped behind and then Yu saw AcQd and moved all in.

Phua called with his rockets, Qi folded and the dealer didn’t give quite enough to Yu. There was a queen on the flop but the aces stayed good. Yu was out in fourth for $391,000.

Winfred Yu became the second player to run into aces and bust

Badziakouski therefore now sat opposite Phua and Qi with 95 antes to his name and around 50 each to both opponents. If it looked like a lock for the four-time champion, it was far from certain who would finish runner-up. And maybe, just maybe, there would be a shock.

The trio played long enough for the blinds to raise once or twice and for the tournament to take a break. And then Badziakouski found aces when Qi found pocket tens. The money went in, the chips went to Badziakouski.

Qi won $510,000 for third and picked up his first Triton cash since a charity event in 2016, when the Triton Series was a mere infant.

Sun Ya Qi: Back in the money after a long wait

So here they were, Triton’s co-founder against one of Triton’s brightest shining stars. The pair are friends who have shared many tables together across the world, both in tournaments and cash games. Badziakouski had a three-to-one chip lead, 128 antes to 42. But only one double up and they’d be even…

Phua managed it. His pocket queens stayed best against Badziakouski’s JhTd. That put him close. And then five hands later he was ahead after betting out through all streets and getting a Badziakouski fold.

But Badziakouski wasn’t dead. He then found pocket kings and beat Phua’s Ac7c. Badziakouski was back in the box seat. And then at the third time of asking, this one was over: Badziakouski’s AcJc faded all kinds of outs to beat Phua’s Ad7d.

Paul Phua put up a good fight before succumbing in second

The flop — Td8d6s — brought murmurs from Phua’s rail. But after the 8s turn and a wish for “Picture!” from Badziakouski, the Qs landed on the river.

The room was stunned to silence. Everyone had gathered to witness Phua’s second victory. But after a few seconds the applause started for another terrific performance from the new five-time champion, Mikita Badziakouski.

“GG,” Mr Paul said. It was, again, GG from this exceptional talent.

Phua congratulates Mikita Badziakouski at the end

Event #18 – $100K – Short Deck
Dates: March 20-21, 2024
Entries: 34 (inc. 16 re-entries)
Prize pool: $3,400,000

1 – Mikita Badziakouski, Belarus – $1,153,000
2 – Paul Phua, Malaysia – $800,000
3 – Sun Ya Qi, China – $510,000
4 – Winfred Yu, Hong Kong – $391,000
5 – Jason Koon, USA – $306,000
6 – Wu Xiao, China – $240,000

Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive