There’s a a huge story coming out of Triton Vietnam tonight as Jason Koon, the Triton Ambassador and one of the game’s undisputed megastars, took down the 50K Turbo, in the process becoming the first man to reach five titles on the series.
Playing beneath the two banners that show both Koon and Mikita Badziakouski as the only four-time Triton winners, Koon was able to overcome a short stack at the final table to defeat Artur Martirosian heads-up and pick up No 5.
Koon won 574,000, another trophy and a Shamballa Jewels bracelet. As he said as the congratulations began to rain in: “Update the banner!”
One of the most popular players on the circuit, and an absolute beast to play against, Koon was humble and magnanimous in victory, stating that it’s moments like these that help him overcome the home sickness and keep him playing at the top of his game. He has a young son at home, and another new arrival due soon, and is out on the road doing all of this for them.
“The motivation, at the end of the day, is that I’m earning a lot and I want to do that,” Koon said. “I’m leaving my family at home. I wouldn’t do that for prestige. I’m doing it because I know that there’s a short window of time where I have the energy and the passion to be good at this, and I want to make the most of it while I can.”
Making the most of it today meant beating a field of 31 entries, featuring, as you’d expect, the very best in the world (who happened to have bust the Main Event). The final table was as difficult as you’d imagine, with Chris Brewer, Isaac Haxton, Artur Martirosian and Punnat Punsri standing between Koon and the title.
But he hit the cards when he needed, and managed to outthink everyone in a couple of crucial spots.
“I had to fade some all ins,” Koon said. “I was the short stack, but that’s how these things work once in a while. You get to win all the all ins.”
He was keen to pay tribute to the player he now draws clear of on with respect to Triton titles — and extended the praise to the rest of the field too.
“Mikita [Badziakouski] is one of the greatest poker players of all time and all the other people here are legends too,” Koon said. “I was talking with a person who works here and they were talking about observing, being here, and it’s just special to see the best players in the world battle each other. It’s true. You look around and the best players from online, live, whatever, they’re here playing the highest stakes and we’re truly blessed to get to do it.”
And Koon, already a Triton legend, has eyes on even further glories.
“I said before we got here I’d win two on this trip. We still got short deck, so we’ll see if we can do it.”
ALL THE CRUCIAL ACTION
With the Main Event progressing from the close of registration to the final table, the 50K Turbo got started to make sure the eliminated players still had some cards to play. It started on just one table, but expanded gradually as more players, including Koon, arrived.
By the time registration was closed over on this side of the room, there were 31 entries including seven re-entries, with 1.55 million in the prize pool. Five players would be paid.
After that, things contracted quickly and a final table came close.
As the bubble approached, two of the game’s luminaries were in the kind of trouble even they couldn’t wriggle out of. Stephen Chidwick’s three big blinds went to Brewer when jacks lost to queens. Shortly after, Dan Smith’s seven bigs went in the same direction, with Brewer’s undoing Smith’s pocket fives.
That brought them to a stone bubble, with nobody especially short, but where plenty of medium stacks were vulnerable. One of them belonged to Triton newcomer Warwick Mirzikinian. Until it suddenly belonged to Brewer too.
After being raised off the previous hand, when he defended his big blind, Mirzikinian laid a trap for Brewer on the next, when he was in the small blind. Action folded to him, Mirzikinian just called and Brewer moved all in with the covering stack.
Mirzikinian couldn’t call fast enough and tabled . Brewer was dominated with . However the flop of looked dicey for Mirzikinian, and then the turn was even worse.
The river helped no one but Brewer and Mirzikinian was toast. Everyone left earned a minimum of 147K.
They went to the final with the following stacks:
Chris Brewer – 3,100,000
Punnat Punsri – 980,000
Artur Martirosian – 815,000
Jason Koon – 720,000
Isaac Haxton – 560,000
Blinds were still at the 15K/30K/30K level, so there was play left in this one.
Brewer had a lead big enough that he could take some liberties, and he played the bully in the early proceedings to keep the flop of chips coming in his direction.
He took a back seat, however, as Martirosian dispatched the short-stack Haxton in fifth. Haxon opened under the gun, and then called off when Martirosian shoved from the big blind. Haxton’s pocket eights lost the race to Martirosian’s and he took 147K.
That hand spurred Martirosian and he took two big pots from Brewer. The first came about when Martirosian flopped middle pair with his on a flop of . Nobody knew it at the time, but Brewer had the biggest of all combo draws with his and they bet it through flop and turn.
The draw missed, however, while Martirosian hit another 10 on the river and checked. Brewer checked back, then disconsolately tossed his cards in the air, revealing how he had been favourite on the flop.
Not long after, the same two players tangled again, with betting on every street through a board of . Martirosian showed and Brewer mucked. Martirosian was now in the lead.
By this point, Koon had also all but doubled up once, thanks to pocket sixes. He and Brewer checked it down and Koon won, but he had left one or two chips behind pre-flop. Even so, it was enough to keep him going a few more orbits.
It also gave him a bigger stack than Punsri, which was crucial because those two then got it in. Koon raised almost all in again, Punsri shipped and Koon called. Koon’s pocket threes beat Punsri’s . That sent the Cyprus Main Event champion out in fourth with 182,000.
Brewer had now assumed the short stack, with Koon resurgent. And when the two Americans went head-to-head, Koon came out on top. Brewer had and Koon had when they got it all in, and the ace played. Brewer picked up 252K for third after another deep run.
Koon and Martirosian had almost equal stacks starting heads up, and the pair clearly respected one another’s game a lot. By now, a crowd had gathered in an otherwise empty side of the tournament room, sensing Koon’s shot at history.
And then the defining hand took place. Koon limped and Martirosian checked, taking them to a flop of for the minimum.
Martirosian check-called 60,000 from Koon. The came on the turn and it went check-call again, this time for 450K.
The appeared on the river and Martirosian checked for a third time. Koon shoved for 2.2 million, the smaller stack.
Martirosian then went deep into the tank. He burnt through four time-banks before checking with the dealer how many he had used up. She told him, and he burnt another two. And then he dumped the chips forward to call.
Koon tabled for two pair, and Martirosian’s was beaten.
“I knew I had the best hand,” Koon said afterwards, talking through the hand. “It’s a situation where I made a gigantic bet on the river, and the reason why is that I overbet the turn and the river completed the five, which made seven-eight the nut straight. And I can have all the seven-eight that I was bluffing with that made the straight, and he can have none of it.
“And for that reason you get to make an enormous bet. So I bet over 2x the pot. Artur is a great poker player and he identified that he has to call a lot of hands that aren’t very good there, because I could be coming after him. I just happened to have it there.”
That left Martirosian with nine big blinds. He doubled soon after, but within three or four more hands it was over. They got it in with for Martirosian and for Koon.
Once again, the ace held and the tournament was over. Martirosian gets 395,000, but Koon gets his face on the wall, on a whole new banner. Should they start printing No 6 already?
Event #10 – 50,000 NLH Turbo
Dates: March 9, 2023
Entries: 31 (inc. 7 re-entries)
Prize pool: 1,550,000
1 – Jason Koon (USA) – 574,000
2 – Artur Martirosian (Russia) – 395,000
3 – Chris Brewer (USA) – 252,000
4 – Punnat Punsri (Thailand) – 182,000
5 – Isaac Haxton (USA) – 147,000
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive