Mukul Pahuja will have to wait one more week to lock up the World Poker Tour Season XII Player of the Year honor.
The red-hot Pahuja entered Wednesday's final table of the World Poker Tour Seminole Hard Rock Showdown needing a victory to secure the POY, but he ultimately finished runner-up to Eric Afriat after a short heads-up match. Afriat defeated a WPT record field of 1,795 entries, including an extremely tough final table, to claim the $1,081,184 top prize and his first WPT title.
The big score for Afriat was the second of his career on the WPT. In 2010 he finished sixth at the Bellagio Cup VI for 118,950. According to the Hendon Mob, Afriat now has more than $1.5 million in live tournament earnings.
WPT Seminole Hard Rock Showdown Final Table Results
Poker pro Chance Kornuth began the final table as the short stack and was unable to pick up any steam, eventually busting on Hand #14. According to the WPT Live Updates, James Mackey min-raised to 300,000 from the cutoff, and Kornuth moved all in for 2,625,000 from the button. Mackey called and tabled the and was in a race situation against Kornuth's .
The board ran out , giving both WSOP bracelet winners a pair, but Mackey's aces were enough to eliminate Kornuth in sixth place.
Matt Stout was also short when the final table began and was unsuccessful in chipping up. Stout took his last stand by moving all in for 3,325,000 (16.5 big blinds) from the button. Pahuja thought for a while before opting to call with the , which was ahead of Stout's . Once again the better hand held up as the dealer rolled out a board, sending Stout to the rail in fifth place.
Jake Bazeley was in search of his first major live title after falling just short numerous times, but his run ended in fourth place at the hands of Afriat. Bazeley raised to 525,000 from under the gun, and Afriat defended his big blind to see a flop of . Afriat led out for 300,000, which sparked a betting war between the two. Bazeley raised to 1,300,000, Afriat three-bet to 2,800,000, and Bazeley paused before moving all in for 6,125,000. Afriat snap-called, and the cards went on their backs.
Afriat had cracked Bazeley's aces with two pair, and he scooped a huge pot after the turn and river failed to improve Bazeley's hand.
The remaining three players traded the chip lead multiple times over the next 50 hands. First, Mackey picked off a Pahuja bluff to double up, and two hands later Pahuja doubled through Afriat. However, Afriat rebounded by winning a massive pot against Mackey.
The action began with Afriat min-raising to 800,000 from the small blind. Mackey re-raised to 2,000,000 from the big blind, and Afriat fired back with another raise to 3,400,000. Mackey called. The dealer fanned a flop, and Mackey called a 1,600,000 bet from Afriat. The two saw the hit the turn, and Afriat fired the same 1,600,000 bet. Mackey called again, and the peeled off on the river. Afriat bet 6,000,000, and Mackey went into the tank before announcing a call. Afriat rolled over the for the nut flush, and Mackey mucked. That gave Afriat 33,725,000 in chips, good for 63% of the chips in play.
The rest of Mackey's chips went to Pahuja a short while later. Pahuja min-raised to 800,000 from the button, and Mackey moved all in for 6,800,000 from the big blind. Pahuja called instantly with the and was a big favorite against Mackey's . The pocket pair rang true through the board.
That set up the heads-up match between Afriat and Puhuja. Afriat began with about a 2.5-to-1 chip advantage, one that he never came close to relinquishing. On just the seventh hand of the match, Afriat min-raised to 1,000,000 and Pahuja shoved his last 10,800,000 into the middle. Afriat quickly called, and the two discovered they were flipping.
The king-nine saved Pahuja late on Day 4, but it produced his demise this time around. The board secured the pot for Afriat, giving him his first World Poker Tour title and a $1,081,184 payday, which includes a seat into next week's World Poker Tour Championship in Atlantic City.
For Pahuja, it means he'll have to wait clinch the WPT Season XII Player of the Year honor at the WPT Championship. With four top-eight finishes already this season, Pahuja's lead is big enough that it would take a minor miracle for anyone to snag it away from him. We'll follow his progress closely when the WPT Championship begins on Monday.
*Data and photos courtesy of the WPT Blog.