As difficult as it is to believe, it’s been more than six years since Christoph Vogelsang last won a poker tournament — longer than the Triton Super High Roller Series has even existed.
But finally tonight, at his 46th attempt, the 38-year-old German pro ended that drought and landed a Triton title — and it was a big one, too, in the $100K no limit hold’em event in Monte Carlo.
Vogelsang banks $2.644 million for this success, after arranging a heads-up deal with Nacho Barbero as Sunday night’s tournament ran into the early hours of Monday. It completed a remarkable turnaround for Vogelsang, who had only one big blinds at one stage today, before the money bubble even burst.
But Vogelsang is in it for the long haul. He has continued plugging away for the past six years, just like he plugged away in this tournament, knowing his time would come.
“I was kind of out of the tournament,” Vogelsang told Mariana Pereyra in a post-game interview. “I was all in so many times.”
He managed to outgun Barbero in a topsy-turvy heads-up contest where both players were all-in and at risk multiple times. Vogelsang referenced one particular hand, where he rivered a set of sevens to beat Barbero’s two pair, as being of particular significance.
“I’m a Christian, and seven is a biblical number,” he said. “It felt very beautiful.”
The Triton trophy too will look pretty nice on Vogelsang’s mantlepiece in his adopted home of London. He expressed his liking for the series, stating, “It’s more like a family…Everyone who is playing here is so, so blessed in their lives.”
In a change to the way it normally works on the Triton Series, the highest buy-in events at this stop in Monte Carlo were front-loaded, meaning that after this one, the maximum it’s going to cost for a seat in the game is $50K. It follows that all the very best players in the world showed up, building a prize pool of $12 million thanks to 120 entries.
Also as always, dozens of them fell by the wayside before they got even a sniff of a payout. And when the bubble did appear on the horizon, the smallest-stacked player still had 12 big blinds, which meant that hand-for-hand play across three tables might have taken a while.
But it didn’t. On the very first hand of hand-for-hand, that aforementioned shortest stack, Lewis Spencer, found and moved in. Punnat Punsri, chip leading at the time, called from late position and all others wisely got out the way.
Punsri showed and although the first four cards on to the table were blanks, the river was a killer for Spencer. He burst the bubble and put everyone else into the money.
The next target was the final table, which could accommodate only nine players. And there was no room at it for two Triton Monte Carlo champions – Dan Smith and Steve O’Dwyer – who went out in 20th and 18th, respectively, nor other regs Kiat Lee, Santhosh Suvarna and Artur Martirosian, among others.
The most dramatic hand of this period played out when there were 11 left and, in one fell swoop, took us down to the last nine.
In it, Johannes Straver open-shoved his 9 big blind small stack and picked up calls from both Nacho Barbero and Elton Tsang. That took them to a flop of . Both active players checked.
The turn was the and now Tsang checked and Barbero made a 1/4 pot size bet. Tsang called. The river was the .
Tsang checked again and Barbero now shoved, with Tsang’s effective stack only about a third of what was in the pot already. After a long time, Tsang called it off.
Barbero quickly showed his for a rivered full house, and Tsang disgustedly tossed his into the muck. Straver had an even worst beat: his had turned a straight, but he was toast too.
They headed off for dinner, with Barbero returning to a chip-leading stack more than twice as big as his nearest opponent.
Nacho Barbero – 113 BBs
Punnat Punsri – 52 BBs
Danny Tang – 30 BBs
Ben Heath – 25 BBs
Christoph Vogelsang – 25 BBs
Daniel Dvoress – 24 BBs
Phil Ivey – 12 BBs
Franciso Benitez – 11 BBs
Jonathan Jaffe – 9 BBs
This dynamic repeated the state of affairs at two previous final tables this week. Both Mario Mosbock and Adrian Mateos had huge leads coming into their respective finals, but ultimately someone else hoisted the trophy. Could Barbero make his one stick?
First he would have to negotiate the choppy waters as the short stacks looked to double or die. Francisco Benitez, a first-timer to the Triton Series, was the first to do both of those things.
Benitez is an online tournament crusher, with one of the most refined tournament games in the business. He had made it to the final here in only his third event, and doubled up early with pocket deuces staying strong against overcards.
However, when he found a much bigger pair — queens — and got his chips in against Dan Dvoress’s , Dvoress ended up with a flush to send Benitez out in ninth. His $288,000 payday is highly unlikely to be his last.
In his recent interview after winning the $30,000 Turbo, Steve O’Dwyer cautioned reporters that there’s much more to a player’s decision-making at short-stacked final tables than meets the eye. The problem is that it’s only really the big pots that make the reports, and here’s a perfect example: we next need to tell you about the elimination of Phil Ivey, without ever even mentioning that he was even in.
Ivey was one of those players who were all looking up at Punnat Punsri and Nacho Barbero, and who had to take a stand. He did so with from the button, but it just so happened that Punsri was in the small blind with .
There was nothing Ivey could do about a dry board and that sent the American five-time Triton champion out in eighth for $372,000.
During this period of play, both Danny Tang and Christoph Vogelsang scored come-from-behind doubles to remain involved, but stacks were still critically short. Tang also managed a stay-ahead double through Barbero, and that revealed the first chink in the Argentinian’s armour.
Jaffe doubled once through Tang, but the next time he was all-in, his tournament came to its conclusion. Jaffe smashed into Ben Heath’s pocket aces, and that was that for Jaffe.
The relief was such that he got a round of applause before walking from the table. Jaffe is a popular player, no doubt, but it’s still pretty unusual for fellow final table opponents to applaud a man away. Jaffe picked up $504,000 for seventh, but fell short of his second title of the week.
On the very next hand, those pocket aces came out again, this time with Christoph Vogelsang. Unfortunately for Dvoress, he found a hand he felt like shoving with — — and the aces actually ended up being part of a wheel.
That spun Dvoress out, looking for $672,000.
Barbero was still ahead at this stage, with all the others comparatively short. However, when Heath and Vogelsang went at each other soon after, the winner of the pot would vault close to the chip leader. And it went to Vogelsang.
Heath open-shoved the small blind with , but Vogelsang found in the big. The ace turned into a pair on the flop and Heath was cut down to just one big blind. Vogelsang took that on the next hand with pocket fives.
Heath’s fifth place was worth $858,000 while everyone left was guaranteed seven figures.
Vogelsang had now found another gear. He bullied Punsri out of a pot not long after and picked up another few million chips, putting him ahead of Barbero.
Barbero, however, bounced quickly back into the lead by bouncing out Punsri, essentially continuing the job that Vogelsang had started. Punsri open pushed with , and Barbero made the call in the big blind with . The jack on the flop spelled doom for Punsri.
The Thai player banked $1,068,000 for fourth, and the tournament was left with just three.
Tang had 12 big blinds at this stage. Vogelsang had 40. Barbero had 44. But the levels were now shorter and the big blind was coming around quickly.
By this point, all players had supporters on the rail, offering a few whoops and cheers when chips went in. Barbero had friends from his sponsors; Vogelsang had last night’s winner Matthias Eibinger on the sidelines; Tang had his familiar vocal posse.
There was nothing anybody could do about the hand that eliminated Tang though. He had , which was more than enough to risk everything. Barbero had and made the call, and then saw a seven on the flop and river.
Tang, at his second major final table of the week already, couldn’t convert into a fifth title. He took $1,296,000 for third.
Barbero had the chip lead again as heads up play was due to commence. He had 47 BBs to Vogelsang’s 33. They hesitated a little, but then decided to look at the numbers and came to a deal.
Vogelsang guaranteed himself 2.144 million, with Barbero locking up 2.198 million. But they left $500K, plus the trophy, to play for, so this wasn’t the kind of deal that was going to mean a quick all in flip.
Early spoils were mostly shared, but Barbero moved slightly further into the lead. That was until Vogelsang managed the first double up, with against . That gave Vogelsang a two-to-one lead, but Barbero doubled back with beating .
Barbero doubled once more, with pocket threes holding against , but then Vogelsang doubled again with beating . “Back to where we started,” Barbero said.
The next significant pot went to Vogelsang, but this one wasn’t a full double. The pair played a pot through the streets as the dealer put the board of on the table.
Vogelsang’s final bet of 6 million was called by Barbero, who soon saw the bad news. Although Barbero had two pair with , Vogelsang’s pocket sevens rivered a set. That put him back into the lead.
They were all in again very soon afterwards, and this time, finally, the best hand held up. Vogelsang had to Barbero’s .
The flop vaulted Barbero into the lead. It came . “It’s never easy,” Barbero said.
The was a blank. But the river was a killer blow, and finally Vogelsang could celebrate. Eibinger gave his friend a hefty high five and Vogelsang gave a hop of delight.
“I think you can tell, it feels pretty surreal,” he said.
Event #6 – $100,000 NLH 8-Handed
Dates: October 28-29, 2023
Entries: 120 (inc. 42 re-entries)
Prize pool: $12,000,000
1 – Christoph Vogelsang, Germany – $2,644,000
2 – Nacho Barbero, Argentina – $2,190,000
3 – Danny Tang, Hong Kong – $1,296,000
4 – Punnat Punsri, Thailand – $1,068,000
5 – Ben Heath, UK – $858,000
6 – Dan Dvoress, Canada – $672,000
7 – Jonathan Jaffe, USA – $504,000
8 – Phil Ivey, USA – $372,000
9 – Francisco Benitez, Uruguay – $288,000
10 – Elton Tsang, Hong Kong – $240,000
11 – Johannes Straver, Netherlands – $240,000
12 – Mike Watson, Canada – $210,000
13 – Artur Martirosian, Russia – $210,000
14 – Viacheslav Buldygin, Russia – $192,000
15 – Karl Chappe-Gatien, France – $192,000
16 – Ferdinand Putra, Indonesia – $174,000
17 – Santhosh Suvarna, India – $174,000
18c- Steve O’Dwyer, USA – $156,000
19 – Kiat Lee, Malaysia – $156,000
20 – Dan Smith, USA – $156,000
Photography by Joe Giron/Poker Photo Archive