Roughly three and a half hours into the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open $10 Million Guarantee Championship Event, on the 58th hand, Mukul Pahuja was eliminated in third place, earnings $872,625. The two remaining players, Justin Bonomo and Blair Hinkle were separated by only 1.275 million chips, which is less than two percent of the chips in play.
The two left the table to presumably do some business – this is a fair assumption because Bonomo asked the tournament staff for the exact chip counts – and a few minutes later they returned. They didn’t say anything about a deal; rather they took their seats, took some photos, and started to battle.
And battle they have.
We’re now over four hours into the heads-up battle, and Bonomo has a three-to-one chip lead, but Hinkle is still very alive with 35 big blinds. Hinkle started with the slight advantage, and extended his lead much to the delight of his younger brother Mason Hinkle (Ohhhhhhhhhhh yeaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!).
Hinkle’s lead increased to a two-to-one lead on Hand #80. Hinkle won the 80th hand with a simple three-bet preflop, but on the previous hand he received three streets of value after flopping a top pair of nines.
Bonomo bounced back however, making trip kings on Hand #83 and then winning seven consecutive hands. The stacks then evened out, and Bonomo took a massive lead in Hand #96. On an board, after betting out on flop and check-calling a bet on the turn, Hinkle check-called one last bet on the river. He showed for an eight-high straight, but it was no good against Bonomo’s fir a nine-high straight. Bonomo suddenly had a more than two-to-one lead of his own.
On the 100th hand, Bonomo increased his lead to three-to-one, and after sharing a few dozen pots, he then extended his lead to five-to-one. Not to fear, Mason, Blair then took down a near 10-million chip pot on Hand #134, flopping top two with .
Hinkle started to close the gap, but Bonomo pushed out in front once again, calling two bets with on a board of . Both players checked on the river, and Hinkle mucked when he saw Bonomo’s wired pair.
Bonomo now has a three-to-one chip lead once again on break, and is very close to capturing his first major title. Hinkle, a World Series of Poker bracelet winner, still has a lot of fight in him, and with one double up (there have been no all-in hands heads up thus far), he’ll be right back in it.