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Barny Boatman Looks Back on the Poker Million - Part 2

Barny Boatman made it to the final table of the Poker Million for the second time - winner take all

When we last caught up with former Hendon Mob member and WSOP bracelet winner Barny Boatman, he told us all about the inaugural Poker Million final table. Fast-forward 10 years and Boatman made the last-ever Poker Million final table, which seated eight players instead of six.

“I got a shock immediately because I assumed that the structure of the final would be the same as the heats. In the heats, we had started with a hundred big blinds, but in the final - and I didn’t know until we started playing - it was only fifty bigs. We had the same stack, but they’d doubled the blinds. I’d done more thinking than ever about how I’d play at the different stages, and it all went out of the window. I decided that the downside of losing half your stack was more serious than the upside of winning half your stack.”

The winner would bank a million dollars. Everyone else at the final table would go home with nothing.

Boatman may have been returning to the Poker Million final along with Brighton & Hove Albion future owner Tony Bloom (who was at his third Poker Million final table), but other big names were playing it for their first time. This time around, the table was even tougher.

“No-one was doing any deals at that table. Patrik Antonius, Gus Hansen, Howard Lederer, or Tony Bloom - none of them would ever have done it. It wouldn’t have been the first time that week they’d been involved in a game for a million dollars. It was the right line-up for that final table.”

As with the first final he played in, Boatman embraced the purity of the event. This time around, there weren’t even any consolation prizes. The winner would bank a million dollars. Everyone else at the final table would go home with nothing.

“It’s a lovely, clean concept. It feels like how poker should be. I loved having that shot. There’s no laddering, no ICM - you just want to win all the chips.”

Just like in poker itself, every player had a different way of reaching their common goal. Some were fast and loose, others held back.

“You really needed to keep your stack intact and keep it playable for when [the game] got fast. I decided that I was going to play fewer hands in the early stages and keep my stack at average. I stayed in the top four playing way fewer hands than anybody else. Eventually, I found my moment when Tony Bloom moved all-in with ace-three, and I was behind him with pocket tens.”

"It wouldn’t have been the first time that week they’d been involved in a game for a million dollars."

Unfortunately for the Hendon Mobster, it was the right hand at the wrong time. Bloom got lucky hitting an ace on the flop and left the Londoner short. Ten minutes later, Boatman busted with queen-ten to Hansen's ace-king.

“If I’d won that [first] pot, I was second in chips four-handed. Myself and Gus Hansen would have gone heads-up. Gus would probably still have won, but that was my chance! Everything I’d done up to that point was leading up to getting it in good in a big pot, and I remember that hand more clearly than a lot I’ve played more recently. It was everything.”

Boatman loses with tens to Tony Bloom's ace-three (1:17 in the second video) and Boatman loses queen-ten to Hansen's ace-king (15:21 in the second video). Commentary by Jesse May and Neil Channing.

Suddenly, though, everything was nothing. Except, when you’re Barny Boatman, you’re never alone.

“My brother (Ross Boatman) and a bunch of mates had come to watch me, and I went to the Green Room to find them and have a drink. They wanted to know why I’d played so tight!”

Talk inevitably turns to tactics for such a final. It was a unique experience and one that has never happened since. The Poker Million never returned.

"I remember that hand more clearly than a lot I’ve played more recently. It was everything."

“What you have to think about is so different to a normal final table. At a certain stage in the tournament, it makes sense to keep your head down. At another stage, it makes sense to accept gambles you might otherwise not. In a normal tournament, it might be an ICM disaster to get into a flip with a player with the same stack with another three players left because you’re letting those other players win bigger prizes. But whoever won it wasn’t going to fold their way there. Anyone who’s ever played a one-table satellite will know what I’m talking about. It’s a one table satellite with a million-dollar entry... into life!”

With the line-up of big names, Boatman believes that the 2010 Poker Million final was a watershed television moment for the game.

“The 2010 final was a Full Tilt event, and I was a Full Tilt Pro at the time, as were half the final table [players]! They had a little script for everybody and had us all talking about how we’re going to win the million. In the end, Gus won it and they played his video in its entirety. A bit of thought had gone into that - it made great TV. In most respects, they did a really good job, with the commentary and exit interviews. It was a high point in terms of televised poker.”

The eventual winner would triumph heads-up against Boatman’s Poker Million nemesis, Tony Bloom. Danish professional Gus Hansen had made the move from the backgammon board to the poker felt look like an easy segue. Boatman rated him, as he still does, incredibly high.

"It’s a one table satellite with a million-dollar entry... into life!"

“I like Gus Hansen a lot. He’s very clever, and he doesn’t make a big deal about how clever he is. He’s a quiet guy; I could count the conversations I’ve had with him on the fingers on one hand, but he’s very genuine. I think he was very special and a very important player. He did a lot of things differently and brought the game on a lot. When he had to make the decision in the final, he gave himself time and made the right call. There was a time when most people would have said he was the best tournament player around. He was an extremely worthy winner of that event, as was John [Duthie] in the first one. Whenever he opens his mouth, you pay attention. He’s not just talking to hear the sound of his own voice; he only speaks when he has something to say.”

Boatman was left with happy memories of the final, even if they weren’t winning ones.

“It was a good final. You don’t go into one of those expecting to win it. I wasn’t gutted. In my heat, I’d played really well, and in the final, the way that I chose to play it meant my moment never really arrived. I’d just started changing gears, three-betting more when I got those tens, and it took the wind out of my sails.”

But could the Poker Million ever return, and if it did, would Boatman play it?

"There was a time when most people would have said [Gus Hansen] was the best tournament player around"

“I think it’s made for TV. It exists in the sense of one-table satellites with one prize, but the way things are these days with shares and backers, it would present some problems to organizers. For most, it’s a bankroll issue. You don’t want to come through a field of 80 then come third or fourth and get absolutely nothing. It’s too skewed for most people. Depending on how big the buy-in was, and what the line-up was, I’d consider jumping into something like that. If you’d been around for as long as I have, unless you’re a great player, you’re reasonably good at working out what the better value things are to be playing. For me, $1k big-field events are the best value to play in. But you can see why it would be enticing to play.”

The Poker Million made stars of its winners and gave viewers a format which was guaranteed to provide drama and excitement - two commodities that are as precious to poker brands to this day. We may never see the Poker Million return for that all-or-nothing thrill, but we’ll never forget the final tables where everything really was on the line.

FullTiltPoker.com Poker Million IX

Place:London
Date:December 10, 2010
Buy-in:$25,000
Entries:48
Total prize pool:$1,000,000
PositionPlayerCountryPrize
1Gus HansenDenmark$1,000,000
2Tony BloomUnited Kingdom$0
3James BordUnited Kingdom$0
4Barny BoatmanUnited Kingdom$0
5Gary PeniketUnited Kingdom$0
6Seth WebberSouth Africa$0
7Howard LedererUnited States$0
8Patrik AntoniusFinland$0

* Data courtesy of TheHendonmob.com

Original lead image by Alin Ivanov

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  • A million dollars or nothing - @barnyboatman looks back on the Poker Million IX

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