Champion Pieter Aerts claimed the spoils only two days after a sickening bubble

The best thing about these long stops on the Triton Series is that no matter how badly it goes one day, there’s always a chance for redemption soon after.

Just ask Pieter Aerts.

Back on Tuesday night, Aerts was the bubble boy in Event #2, busting just one agonising spot short of the money in the €30K 6-Handed tournament. But two days later, Aerts is now a Triton champion, picking up $1,472,000 alongside his first Triton trophy as the winner of the €50K 6-Max in Cyprus tonight.

“Obviously, I feel very, very good,” Aerts said, clutching that trophy alongside his exclusive Shamballa Jewels bracelet, handed to winners at Triton Cyprus. “I got luck to be in this position, but I guess that’s always the case.”

Aerts revealed that he originally had a flight back to his native Belgium booked for today, but changed it so he could play the final table. The same thing had happened a few weeks ago, when he had a flight booked on the day he also made it to the final of a World Series event on GG Poker. Aerts changed his flight that day too and went on to win the bracelet.

If anyone needs the phone number of Aerts’ lucky travel agent, he could probably auction it to the highest bidder.

Aerts defeated the British pro Sam Grafton heads up, after those two were the final players left of a 117-entry field. The luck Aerts referred to in his interview came on the final hand, when he managed to spike a deuce to eliminate Grafton when Grafton had a dominating ace in an all-in pot. But having suffered that bubble experience, it’s difficult to begrudge him the victory this time. Grafton will surely be content with $994,500 for second.

Aerts paid tribute to all of his beaten opponents, as well as the staff of the Triton Series, and his supporters watching the stream.

“These events are top notch,” he said. “It’s been such a good experience…It’s something I hope all poker players can have. I want to thank everyone who was railing me at home.”

A champion’s fist-clench for Pieter Aerts

Aerts finished his winner’s interview by issuing an open invitation to any watching businesspeople who might be considering a late entry to the $200,000 Coin Rivet Invitational, starting on Saturday.

If someone wants a player in form, Aerts will surely happily change his flight again…


With 36 players surviving the 12 levels of the opening day, everyone in the tournament room at the Merit Diamond resort knew they were in for a long day today. We had to find a winner, and stacks were deep at the start.

The first significant order of business was the bubble, which would burst when only 17 remained. As is typical, the tournament flowed quickly as the bubble remained in the distance, but then slowed significantly as it loomed clearly into view. It took 11 hands of hand-for-hand play on three tables before Vladi Chaoulov, who had been chip leader earlier in the day, became the player to leave with nothing.

Chaoulov lost two major pots, both to Fedor Holz and both with less than premium holdings — 2c3c and 4sTs — although it was probably only because Holz had trips and then a straight, respectively, that he was able to pick him off. Chaoulov had merely mistimed his aggression and paid the price.

With Chaoulov gone, the rest of the field could relax and pick up a minimum of $92,000 apiece — although all, of course, were still focused on the first seven-figure payday of the festival.

Post-bubble, all of Espen Jorstad, Paul Phua and Jason Koon, among others, were swept away, and when Thailand’s Punnat Punsi hit the rail in eighth, the last seven assembled around just one table. It was a six-handed tournament, but they don’t play with a four/three divide.

Event #3 unofficial final table (l-r): Kannapong Thanarattrakul, Fedor Holz, Ben Tollerene, Matthias Eibinger, Sam Grafton, Isaac Haxton, Pieter Aerts.

Holz was still in a clear lead, and his closest challenger was the bubble boy of Event 2, Pieter Aerts, who had this time made the most of surviving through the earlier dangers. Kannapong Thanarattrakul was at his second final table of the week as was Ben Tollerene, of course, who was yesterday’s champion.

They stacked up like this:

Fedor Holz, Germany – 6,030,000
Pieter Aerts, Belgium – 4,590,000
Kannapong Thanarattrakul, Thailand – 3,545,000
Matthias Eibinger, Austria – 3,145,000
Sam Grafton, UK – 2,110,000
Benjamin Tollerene, USA – 2,040,000
Isaac Haxton, USA – 1,790,000

The seven-handed stage went on far longer than anyone could have expected and, for some people, far longer than they could possibly have wanted. Chief among them was Holz, whose previously unimpeachable stack suddenly took a nosedive. He lost a major pot to Aerts when the two leaders got involved in something that got badly out of hand. Holz had three-bet pre-flop with Ts6s and continued to tell the same story of strength after the 6h3c8d flop (it went bet, raise, call here) and then after the 7s turn. That’s the point at which Aerts shoved for his last 2.3 million and Holz called.

There have been a lot of amazing hero calls already in this Triton festival, but this wasn’t one of the successful occasions. Aerts had pocket jacks and was good, scoring the full double. It left Holz with only 2.3 million, but when he found a pair of jacks of his own a few hands later, both Kannapong Thanarattrakul and Ben Tollerene had ace-king and ended up chopping it up on the river when a king fell. Holz was walking away as they divvied up his chips, picking up $260,300 for seventh and a second cash in consecutive days.

Fedor Holz heads away in sixth

Isaac Haxton became the next man to hit the rail, having not really been able to do much more than tread water at the final. His elimination was one of those unfortunate ones that plays itself: Matthias Eibinger open-shoved the button with a stack that covered both Sam Grafton, in the small blind, and Haxton, in the big.

Grafton got out of the way, but Haxton’s pocket eights were way ahead of Eibinger’s shoving range in this spot and he called. Eibinger had Ad3s but hit his ace to send Haxton packing. His sixth place paid $340,300.

Adios Ike Haxton

It was about this point that Sam Grafton began an exceptional resurrection. Grafton had been the short stack for quite a while, essentially clinging on for dear life. But he managed to double up through Haxton, Eibinger and Tollerene, making him far more comfortable as each of those three went broke.

Sam Grafton’s resurrection picks up pace

Eibinger lost a heap in the pot against Grafton — AdKd vs. AsQc — and the rest of it went to Tollerene with AdQc against Eibinger’s AcTd. Eibinger won $431,800 for fifth.

The end of the road for Matthias Eibinger

But Tollerene followed him quickly out of the door, getting As8s outdrawn by Aerts’ KsTs. This was only Tollerene’s third Triton tournament and he followed up yesterday’s outright victory with a fourth-place finish, worth $535,000. Easy when you know how.

Ben Tollerene learns that you can’t win them all

While the back-to-back final-table exploits of Tollerene and Holz did not go unnoticed, only one player in today’s final had cashed all three of the opening events in this festival. That man was Thailand’s Kannapong Thanarattrakul, who finished seventh in Event #1 for $145K and 10th in Event #2 for $75,000. He was also now in the final three of Event #3, and although he went out next, he banked another $646,500.

Grafton and Aerts combined to account for Thanarattrakul, with Grafton’s pocket fours taking a chunk, followed by Aerts’s pocket sixes. The final sliver went to Aerts when Thanarattrakul pushed with Qh7h and Aerts called and won with Kd7d.

Two cashes in as many days for Kannapong Thanarattrakul

Aerts had a significant chip lead when heads-up play began — around 16 million to Grafton’s 6.5 million. But the big blind was 250,000, so there might still have been some play in it yet. However after about half an hour of play with no significant chip fluctuations, the first major pot of heads-up ended up being the last.

Aerts, in the small blind, looked down at As2h and just called. Grafton, with a stack of 6.7 million, found AdQc and raised it up.

Heads up betwen Grafton and Aerts

Aerts pushed all-in, with a covering stack of about 17 million, and Grafton snap-called. This was looking like a great spot for another Grafton double up, and the flop was clean. But the 2c popped out on the turn, vaulting Aerts into the lead, and he never let it go.

“My birthday in coming up in two weeks, so me and my friends are going to have a pretty big celebration,” Aerts said, revelling in this second triumph. Start looking for flights to Belgium.

Event 3: $50,000 NLH – 6 – Handed
Dates: September 7-8, 2022
Entries: 117 (inc. 45 re-entries)
Prize pool: $3,698,100

1 – Pieter Aerts, Belgium – $1,472,000
2 – Sam Grafton, UK – $994,500
3 – Kannapong Thanarattrakul, Thailand – $646,500
4 – Ben Tollerene, USA – $535,000
5 – Matthias Eibinger, Austria – $431,800
6 – Isaac Haxton, USA – $340,300

7 – Fedor Holz, Germany – $260,300
8 – Punnat Punsi, Thailand – $196,000
9 – Jason Koon, USA – $146,000
10 – Paul Phua, Malaysia – $120,000
11 – Philip Nagy, USA – $105,300
12 – Alexey Borovkov, Russia – $105,300
13 – Linus Loeliger, Switzerland – $105,300
14 – Webster Lim, Malaysia – $96,500
15 – Sean Perry, USA – $96,500
16 – Ben Heath, UK – $92,000
17 – Espen Jorstad, Norway – $92,000

Photography by Joe Giron/PokerPhotoArchive