Champion Punnat Punsri!

The fireworks flew on the Triton Series in Jeju, South Korea, tonight where a daredevil performance from the Thailand No 1 Punnat Punsri landed him a second Triton trophy and a tremendous $2.01 million payday.

With his family watching from the rail, Punsri, 31, was involved in two of the most spectacular pots ever seen on the Triton Poker Series — one to burst the bubble in a clash of the two chip-leaders and the second in which he put one of the world’s greats Phil Ivey in an entirely uncharacteristic jam.

Punsri won the maximum in both of those pots, propelling him to a victory after a brief heads-up battle with Sergio Aido. Punsri cracked pocket aces on the final hand for good measure. When it’s your day, it’s simply your day.

“I honestly ran so good,” Punsri said as he began to reflect on the success. “I’ve run good not just this event, but ever since I’ve played Triton.”

That’s the humble explanation, but this was no fluke. Punsri already has a Triton title, earned in Cyprus in 2022, and he has five seven-figure scores on this tour. He was also one of few players at the final for whom the $2 million prize was not a career highest.

Punnat Punsri hoists another trophy aloft

But most significantly, he underpinned fearless aggression with some spectacular timing, ensuring that he his bamboozled opponents paid him off time and again.

From a tournament with a $40K buy-in, and a characteristic field boasting the game’s very best, Punsri once again demonstrated that he should always be in the conversation.

“I’m just super grateful for everything,” Punsri said.

Aido too deserves special recognition. He has now achieved back-to-back runner-up finishes in Triton tournaments, banking more than $1 million each time. This event earned him $1,353,000 and consolidated his place behind only Adrian Mateos on the Spain all time money list. Mateos appeared on the rail to watch his friend land another seven-figure score.

Two million dollar nights for Sergio Aido


For all the money invariably involved in tournaments on the Triton Poker Series, bubbles can sometimes pass without much drama, or without much reaction from these elite players who have seen everything before.

But today’s bubble in the $50K was one of the best — for the neutral, at least. For the players involved, it was a heart-breaker.

There were a handful of short stacks as hand-for-hand play commenced. Thirty-two players remained; 31 would be paid. Axel Hallay had three big blinds. A couple of others had sub 10 big-blind stacks. At the other end of the counts, Punnat Punsri and Henrik Hecklen had 75 big blinds apiece and were the two tournament chip leaders.

But, well, who do you think suddenly got all their chips in pre-flop? Yep, Hecklen and Punsri went to war, with Punsri four-bet shoving for the lot. Hecklen took a long while before opting to go with it, stating belatedly, “I was always going to call” but intimating that he still needed to think it over.

The four stages of elimination for Henrik Hecklen: the shock, the resignation, the anguish, the departure

After play finished on the other tables, they turned over their cards. Punsri had AcKd while Hecklen had KcKh. Their stacks were almost equal, meaning whomever won would be a runaway chip leader. The loser would be the bubble boy.

In most circumstances, this was looking bleak for Punsri. But then load gasps greeted the flop of AhAsTs. And then the 4h turn and 4s river completed the job for Punsri.

Hecklen put his head in his hands, then got up to walk away, shellshocked. Meanwhile Hallay, who had been staring at near certain elimination allowed himself a wry smile. He had locked up $84,000, while Hecklen got nothing except one of the all-time bad beat stories.

“I thought we had the same hand,” Punsri said later. “Obviously, looking back at it is was a big punt. Wrong, but the right time.”

Axel Hallay, centre, watches over Punnat Punsri’s shoulder as Hecklen’s elimination guarantees him some money


Punsri had an enormous chip lead with 31 players left and he kept it for pretty much all of the next four or five hours. During that period, many of those short stacks perished (including Hallay, who went out the first hand after the bubble burst), but some other players also asserted their dominance.

The likes of Phil Ivey and Steve O’Dwyer ticked steadily upward. But it was Spain’s Sergio Aido who went on a characteristic tear. By the time Anson Ewe was knocked out in ninth, Aido had eclipsed even Punsri at the top of the leader board. He thus entered a final table as chip leader for the second time in three days.

The last eight stacks looked like this:

Sergio Aido – 8,425,000 (56 BBs)
Punnat Punsri – 7,425,000 (50 BBs)
Mike Watson – 5,750,000 (38 BBs)
Brian Kim – 4,425,000 (30 BBs)
Ren Lin – 3,500,000 (23 BBs)
Steve O’Dwyer – 3,350,000 (22 BBs)
Phil Ivey – 2,725,000 (18 BBs)
Michael Soyza – 2,650,000 (18 BBs)

Triton Jeju Event 8 final table players (clockwise from back left): Sergio Aido, Ren Lin, Steve O’Dwyer, Michael Soyza, Mike Watson, Brian Kim, Phil Ivey, Punnat Punsri

It didn’t take long for the fireworks to ignite. On the first hand, Ren Lin opened from under the gun and O’Dwyer made the call from the big blind. O’Dwyer had QcKh and probably liked the Ks9c6s flop. But he didn’t know at this point that Lin was sitting with pocket aces.

O’Dwyer checked. Lin continued. O’Dwyer called. The pattern repeated after the 3d turn. Then after the 5c river, O’Dwyer checked for a third time, Lin jammed with the marginally bigger stack, and O’Dwyer called for it all.

Lin showed the aces and O’Dwyer was dust. The eighth place earned him $248,000.

Steve O’Dwyer takes the walk (probably over into the $150K)

To the delight of the watching poker fans on the stream (except those watching in Thailand), Ivey then doubled up through Punsri. It was blind vs blind, pocket fours vs pocket jacks with Ivey’s jacks holding. For the first time since that bubble hand, Punsri was no longer in the top two.

Ivey was up there instead. But then suddenly the roles were reversed again and it all went wrong for Ivey.

In another startling hand against Punsri, Ivey used up 15 time banks to come to a decision on the river. And if Phil Ivey thinks that long about something, he almost always finds the right decision. But not this time.

It was small blind (Punsri) against big blind (Ivey) and by the time they got to the river, the board read QhTsAdJh9h. Punsri checked it. Ivey put in a third-pot bet. Punsri then check-raised to 17 big blinds and Ivey went deep into the tank.

After a long, long time he called. With KhJc, ie, the flopped straight, that’s probably fair enough. But Punsri showed Th3h for the winning flush and Ivey was deep in trouble.

He lost almost all of his remaining blinds by doubling up Michael Soyza soon after (KhQd > As7s. And even when Ivey found aces with less than one big blind, he lost to Aido’s 9c6d, which flopped two pair and turned a boat.

Ivey — mortal, after all — took $339,000 for seventh.

Phil Ivey gives some long-distance fist-bumps after his elimination

Slowly and surely, the levels ticked by and the stacks grew more shallow. Mike Watson steadily inched up the counts to be top of the leader board, with Brian Kim and Lin heading in the opposite direction. However, time ran out for Soyza first.

Despite the double up through Ivey, Soyza hadn’t been able to make much more stick at this final table and three-bet jammed his KdTd over the top of yet another Punsri open.

The problem for Soyza was that Punsri had a genuine hand — AdQh — and made the call. They then saw a board with nothing at all of interest in it, which meant Punsri’s ace remained good. Soyza was out in sixth for $465,000.

Michael Soyza bids farewell

Punsri had 40 big blinds. Others could only dream of those dizzy heights.

Lin doubled his six big blind stack through Watson, allowing him to fight another day. But it was a brief reprieve. The next time he found a genuine hand — pocket fives — Aido was sitting with pocket nines. There was no drama to this one and Lin was out.

Lin earned $611,000 for fifth. These prizes were getting big.

Ren Lin celebrates doubling his six blinds, shortly before giving them back

Watson had plotted his usual steady course through the tournament, demonstrating once again his consummate skills as a tournament pro. But having lost that pot to Lin, he was obliged to shove his own small pocket pair not long afterwards. But Punsri found AcJc and, more importantly, a jack on the flop to beat Watson’s pocket sixes.

Watson picked up $773,000 for fourth.

Another major cash for Mike Watson

Eliminations were now coming thick and fast, a symptom of the speedily increasing levels. Brian Kim had done very well to stay alive with a tiny stack, but the grim reaper was now waiting for him.

Kim shoved the button with Kc6h but Punsri somehow found AcAs to make a very easy call. The third ace on the river was overkill.

Still, Kim took nearly $1 million — $954,000 to be precise — so he found some consolation on his way out.

Brian Kim: What can you do when the chip-leader wakes up with aces

Here they were then: Punsri vs. Aido, with 56 and 20 big blinds, respectively. Aido was returning to the feature table stage only one day after sitting there for the GG Million$ final table, from which he took the most money (even if he officially finished in second place).

The duo briefly looked at the possibility of a deal again tonight, but Punsri turned it down after looking at the numbers and making a quick call. He retook his seat and shoved the first hand, forcing a fold from Aido.

Punsri had laid down a marker, and it didn’t take too long for it to pay dividends. On what turned out to be the final hand, it was Aido who found the pocket aces. But it didn’t matter. Punsri’s 4d7d connected rather well with the 3d5s5h6s9h board.

That’s how to make a two-time Triton champion.

Punnat Punsri celebrates with fellow Triton multiple champion, Danny Tang

Event #8 – $50K NLH 7-Handed
Dates: March 11-12, 2024
Entries: 190 (inc. 71 re-entries)
Prize pool: $9,500,000

1 – Punat Punsri, Thailand – $2,010,000
2 – Sergio Aido, Spain – $1,353,000
3 – Brian Kim, USA – $954,000
4 – Mike Watson, Canada – $773,000
5 – Ren Lin, China – $611,000
6 – Michael Soyza, Malaysia – $465,000
7 – Phil Ivey, USA – $339,000
8 – Steve O’Dwyer, Ireland – $248,000

9 – Anson Ewe, Malaysia – $205,000
10 – Pieter Aerts, Belgium – $175,000
11 – Brandon Wittmeyer, USA – $175,000
12 – Thomas Boivin, Belgium – $155,000
13 – Seth Davies, USA – $155,000
14 – Dan Smith, USA – $140,000
15 – Johnny Du, Hong Kong – $140,000
16 – Ilya Nikiforov, Estonia – $126,000
17 – Kiat Lee, Malaysia – $126,000
18 – Alex Wice, Thailand – $112,000
19 – Matthias Eibinger, Austria – $112,000
20 – Sam Greenwood, Canada – $112,000
21 – Yauheni Tsaireshchanka, Belarus – $102,000
22 – Thomas Santerne, France – $102,000
23 – Wang Ye, China – $102,000
24 – Lun Loon, Malaysia – $93,000
25 – David Yan, New Zealand – $93,000
26 – Calvin Lee, USA – $93,000
27 – Lucas Greenwood, Canada – $93,000
28 – Tobias Schwecht, Germany – $84,000
29 – Vladas Tamasauskas, Lithuania – $84,000
30 – Artur Martirosian, Russia – $84,000
31 – Axel Hallay, France – $84,000

Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive