Top 10 Stories of 2019: Triton Million - A Helping Hand for Charity

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Aaron Zang Wins Triton Million £1,050,000

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It was one of the marquee events of 2019. The Triton Million - A Helping Hand for Charity took place at the London Hilton on Park Lane back in August and was the largest buy-in tournament in history.

The £1,050,000 event ($1,283,324 according to exchange rates at the time) - the £50,000 entry fee went to charity - had the poker world transfixed in the summer of 2019, as eventual winner Aaron Zang took down the tournament for £13,779,491 ($16,754,497) after a heads-up deal secured runner-up Bryn Kenney a mind-boggling £16,890,509 ($20,537,187) prize.

Format & Dress Code

The format of the poker tournament was unique, in that it promised a 50:50 split between professional and recreational players. The only way for players to be guaranteed a seat was to:

  • receive an official invitation from Triton
  • be an invitation holder’s nominated guest.

Invitations were sent to recreational players, who were then permitted to invite a guest. These were intended to be the poker pros.

Another key difference between the Triton Million and other tournaments is that the field was split for the first day. Recreational players only played against other recreational players, and likewise for the professionals. The fields then merged from Day 2 onwards.

There was no late registration, no re-entry and players were not allowed to cover any part of their body from the neck up. Hoodies were also outlawed, and all players at the final table were required to wear suits.

Triton Million Trophy

Anticipation Builds

This was by no means the first seven-figure buy-in tournament ever held, with the WSOP hosting three 'Big One for One Drop' $1,000,000 High Rollers in 2012, 2014, and 2018, along with one €1,000,000 event in 2016 .

However, the anticipation over who would be entering the highest buy-in event of all time had the poker world abuzz.

Cary Katz, Rick Salomon, and Talal Shakerchi were the only three to have played every $1,000,000 buy-in tournament so far, and as expected they were among the entrants in 2019.

On the other hand, several players were playing in their first, with poker pros Danny Tang, Timofey Kuznetsov, Sam Greenwood, Timothy Adams and Martin Kabrhel joined by recreational players Antanas "Tony G" Guoga, Orpen Kisacikoglu, Winfred Yu, Rob Yong, and Leon Tsoukernik.

Antanas "Tony G" Guoga

First Eliminations

It took a little over ninety minutes for the first elimination in the Triton Million, as Rick Salomon got his chips in with ace-king suited for a flush draw on a queen-high board against the top set of Andrew Pantling.

The turn and river bricked and Salomon hit the rail.

Although Salomon was the first recreational player to be eliminated, plenty of professionals were also sent packing including Tom 'durrrr' Dwan, David Peters and Fedor Holz.

Tom "durrr" Dwan

Perkins Bags Day 1 Chip Lead

By the end of the first day, it was a recreational player Bill Perkins that topped the counts. Perkins was the beneficiary of a three-way all-in, but having flopped set over set against Elton Tsang, he eliminated the Chinese player and also doubled through Bobby Baldwin in the process.

"I was really worried somebody would have a flush draw," he told PokerNews at the end of the day. "I dream of monsters under my bed, I’m one of those guys. But no one had a flush draw so, swoosh.”

Perkins was joined by fellow recreational players Aaron Zang, Chin Wei Lim and Hing Yang Chow in the top ten after Day 1, with Timothy Adams, Dan Smith, Rui Cao, and Nick Petrangelo all performing well in the professional side of the tournament.

Bill Perkins

Kurganov Bubbles

With the fields combining for Day 2, just 36 players remained knowing that they would need to finish in the top 11 to make the money in this historic tournament.

In the end, it was the two shortest stacks in the tournament who tussled, with Perkins, who by this stage was the shortest stack in the tournament, doubling through Igor Kurganov. Perkins held jacks and easily beat Kurganov's tens to leave his opponent with less than two big blinds, and he was eliminated on the very next hand by Vivek Rajkumar.

Bubble Boy Igor Kurganov

Rajkumar Leads into Day 3

And it was Rajkumar who led the final table of the Triton Million into Day 3 with almost double the stack of Stephen Chidwick who sat second in chips.

"I'm a little bit tired, but obviously, I'm excited!" said Rajkumar after play concluded. "It's a pretty cool feeling, but I mean everyone else just has to play their stacks you know."

"It's a unique feeling getting deep in a tournament with this high of stakes, I love it!" he added.

Vivek Rajkumar
SeatPlayerCountryChip CountBig Blinds
1Timothy AdamsCanada5,735,00048
2Bryn KenneyUnited States5,540,00046
3Alfred DeCarolisUnited States5,455,00045
4Vivek RajkumarIndia18,000,000150
5Bill PerkinsUnited States2,000,00017
6Stephen ChidwickUnited Kingdom9,790,00082
7Dan SmithUnited States2,350,00020
8Aaron ZangChina5,060,00042

Three recreational players made it to the final table; Day 1 chip leader Perkins, along with Alfred DeCarolis and Aaron Zang. They were joined by English all-time money list leader Stephen Chidwick and high roller regulars Dan Smith, Bryn Kenney and Timothy Adams.

Final Table Action

Once play began on the final day, Rajkumar saw his chip lead take numerous knocks, including three doubles from Bill Perkins alone.
These doubles saw Perkins ladder up two spots, as Adams (8th - £1,400,000) and DeCarolis (7th - £1,720,000) both eliminated before Perkins in sixth (£2,200,000).

Rajkumar also had Zang, Chidwick and Smith double through him, with the last of these handing the chip lead to the American. Smith got it in with an overpair only for Rajkumar to have flopped two pair. However, the American rivered a set to double into the chip lead and send Rajkumar tumbling down the counts.

Dan Smith

Kenney vs. Zang

Rajkumar was eventually eliminated by Kenney in fifth place (£3,000,000), and Kenney's chip lead grew with the further eliminations of Chidwick (4th - £4,410,000) and Smith (3rd - £7,200,000).

This brought the tournament to heads-up with Kenney holding an almost 5:1 chip lead. However, a double from Zang with sixes against king-queen gave him a foothold in the contest, and he soon battled into the chip lead and closed out the tournament when his pair of eights held against the flush draw of Kenney to secure him £13,779,491.

Kenney finished as runner-up, but owing to a heads-up deal he walked away with the lion's share of the prize pool (£16,890,509) and in doing so became the all-time money list leader with over $55m in lifetime earnings.

Bryn Kenney
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Managing Editor

Based in the United Kingdom, Will started working for PokerNews as a freelance live reporter in 2015 and joined the full-time staff in 2019. He now works as Managing Editor. He graduated from the University of Kent in 2017 with a B.A. in German. He also holds an NCTJ Diploma in Sports Journalism.

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