Eight players returned on Saturday for the final three rounds of the 2008 Aussie Millions $5,300 Heads-Up Championship. The eight included both world-famous 'live' players and prominent online stars. Each of the eight, the survivors of three opening rounds, were already guaranteed at least a $20,000 payday, but they all had their eyes on the $100,000 top prize.
The quarterfinal matchups were as follows:
Lee Nelson v. Roy Winston
Masaaki Kagawa v. Michael McDonald
Jeff Garza v. David Sonelin
Alexey Popov v. Xuan Nguyen
Alexey Popov was the first to fall, as Xuan Nguyen sent him to the rail 2-1 in a quickly played match. On the final hand, Popov made a move at the pot holding on a flop, but ran into the nut straight of Nguyen, who tabled to bust Popov and move on to the semis. Jeff 'ActionJeff' Garza dispatched David Sonelin with similar speed, moving on after beating Sonelin 2-1.
Michael 'Timex' McDonald and Masaaki Kagawa had a long first match that eventually went to Kagawa, but the second match finished up in the first level of play! On a flop of , Kagawa checked to McDonald, who fired a small bet at the pot. Kagawa called to see the on the turn. This time, Kagawa check-raised all in over the top of McDonald's bet, only to see McDonald call and table for trip aces. Kagawa was behind with , until the on the river gave him the flush, the match, and a 2-0 victory over McDonald. Roy Winston completed the semifinal field when he eliminated Lee Nelson, 2-1.
In the semifinals, Garza and Nguyen played a see-saw match that started off with Garza losing the first match to a Nguyen full house, then squaring the match when he turned two pair to make it 1-1. In the decider, Garza flopped Broadway with when the board came down . Garza led out at the pot, Nguyen raised, and Garza moved all in. Nguyen called with , and his hand did not improve as Garza moved into the finals.
Kagawa quickly took the lead in his semifinal match against Roy Winston when his pocket tens held up against Winston's on a flop of . Winston came back to even the match when his pocket queens flopped a set to beat Kagawa's pocket jacks, making it 1-1. Their third face-off was decided when all the money went in on the turn with a board showing . Winston tabled for top pair with a draw to a flush, but he was drawing dead to Kagawa's . Kagawa's flopped nut flush finished off Winston, 2-1, and set the stage for the final match against Jeff Garza.
Kagawa took the early lead in the finals after he came from behind with to beat Garza's . All the money went in preflop, and Kagawa was in a tough spot, but the flop gave him the flush draw, which the turn completed for a 1-0 lead in the final match. Garza returned the favor in the second game when he got his money in behind with to Kagawa's . The short-stacked Kagawa shoved all in preflop, and Garza made the call to see a flop of . Kagawa's flopped two pair looked good until the turn and river came down to give Garza the backdoor straight and even the match 1-1.
The turning point in the final game came when Garza moved all in on an board, and Kagawa insta-called. Kagawa had made his wheel straight with , but Garza had picked up a flush with . Kagawa was left with a very short stack, and it all ended a few hands later when he pushed all in with . Garza called with , and when he hit the on the river, it ended Kagawa's run. Garza's rivered pair sealed the AU $100,000 winner's check and the 2008 Aussie Millions Heads-Up Championship trophy.
Here are the official finishes and payouts for the eight finalists (all prizes in AU$):
1. Jeff 'ActionJeff' Garza — $100,000
2. Masaaki Kagawa — $60,000
3. Roy 'The Oracle' Winston — $40,000
4. Xuan Nguyen — $40,000
5. Lee 'Final Table' Nelson — $20,000
6. Michael 'Timex' McDonald — $20,000
7. David Sonelin — $20,000
8. Alexey Popov — $20,000