Orthodoxos "Cyprus Bear" Orthodoxou Wins the Merit Poker Western Series Main Event in His Native Country ($372,800)

Orthodoxos Orthodoxou

The wild, wild west conjures images of cowboys and outlaws, and of legendary names like Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy. It’s an image that is kept alive through the magic of movies and storytelling, and no one told a better story today than Orthodoxos Orthodoxou.

The Cyprus native captured the title in his home country, beating out a field of 757 players to win the Merit Poker Western Series $3,300 Main Event for $372,800. Orthodoxou began the day at the bottom of the leaderboard with 16 players remaining and ended it by hoisting the prestigious trophy to keep in his island home.

2023 Merit Poker Western Open Final Table Results

1Orthodoxos Orthodoxou$372,800
2Aleksandr Chernikov$274,500
3Ernestas Degtiariovas$168,400
4Ara Melkisetian$124,600
5Eduard Barsegian$93,300
6Justus Held$75,400
7Serge Matta$62,400
8Dominik Panka$49,600
9Vladislav Doroshkov$37,300

Winner's Reaction

“This tournament is a very difficult tournament to win. Have many professionals. Poker has started to be changed. Some aggressive players. Some professional players. This tournament I don’t believe any time in my life I would win,” Orthodoxou said following his victory.

I don’t have any strategy. I play like I feel. Like I feel in my heart. I follow my heart. Never strategy

Orthodoxou came into the tournament with just four recorded live cashes, including a 57th-place finish in the $2,200 Warm Up prior to the Main Event. He’s primarily a cash game player, estimating he’s played around five or six live tournaments in his entire life. His prior tournament highlight, he explained, was winning an $11 online event nearly a decade ago. His approach at the tables can be summed up in one word: heart.

“I don’t have any strategy. I play like I feel. Like I feel in my heart. I follow my heart. Never strategy,” he said. “I don’t know how I make raises. I don’t know how to make c-bets. It’s not strategy. I play how I feel. In the cash games the same. If I believe you make a bluff, I call you. If I believe. What I feel is how I play. All in my heart."

Final Table Action

The final day of the Main Event began with 16 players vying for a spot at the final table and a chance at capturing the title. It seemed like a long road for Orthodoxou, who began with just 1,375,000, in last place on the leaderboard. But he doubled up right before the final table when his kings held up against Aleksandr Chernikov’s top pair and flush draw.

Orthodoxou began the final table in third chip position with 9,500,000, behind chip leader Eduard Barsegian and Chernikov. With stacks bunched up together, it took nearly two hours before the final table had its first elimination. Vladislav Doroshkov jammed with king-seven and Chernikov had him dominated with king-queen, flopping top pair and ending up with a flush to eliminate Doroshkov in ninth place in what was the young Russian’s first ever live event.

Dominik Panka, the most accomplished pro at the final table, exited in eighth place after failing to win a race with ace-ten against Barsegian’s pocket eights. The final table then entered a sort of stalemate as seven-handed play lasted nearly two hours.

Dominik Panka

Ara Melkisetian rivered two pair to crack Chernikov’s aces and double up. A few hands later it was Orthodoxou’s turn to double when he was all in for his last 6,150,000 with ace-six and beat the king-queen of Barsegian. Serge Matta eventually moved all in for 4,000,000 with ace-queen, Chernikov called with ace-ten, and the chip leader hit the nut flush to eliminate Matta in seventh.

Orthodoxou doubled up again when he moved all in with straight and flush draws against the top pair of Barsegian, completing the flush on the turn. Justus Held, the online grinder known as “taxidriver,” then three-bet shoved for 8,300,000 with ace-seven, Chernikov called with ace-jack, and Melkisetian folded two nines. Chernikov’s jack-kicker played to bust Held in sixth while Melkisetian was left to rue the lost opportunity.

Barsegian, who spent most of the early portion of the final table at the top of the leaderboard, was eliminated in fifth after losing a race with ace-queen to Ernestas Degtiariovas’ sevens. Melkisetian fell in fourth place after running ace-eight into Orthodoxou’s ace-king.

Degtiariovas, the Lithuanian spin-n-go specialist also playing his first ever live tournament, then snap-called for his last 11,600,000 with top pair of aces against Chernikov’s pair of queens and flush draw. Chernikov rivered a queen to make trips, busting Degtiariovas in third as he took a 46,000,000 to 29,700,000 lead into heads-up play.

Orthodoxou doubled up when he flopped a set of fives against Chernikov’s straight draw and finishing with a full house. He then made quads with pocket threes as he took the chip lead. Finally, on the first hand after blinds increased to 500,000-1,000,000, Chernikov moved all in for 22,500,000 with two queens and Orthodoxou called with ace-ten. Orthodoxou began celebrating as soon as an ace came in the window, and “Cyprus Bear” was the champion.

The Final Hand

Orthodoxou celebrated with his rail after his win, including fellow Cypriot Andreas Christoforou who gave him some tips before the tournament. His friends convinced him to play the Main Event after his deep run in the Warm Up. Then he got to celebrate a win on home soil with them.

“This is me. Cyprus Bear,” an emotional Orthodoxou said.

That concludes PokerNews’ coverage of the Merit Poker Western Series Main Event. Stay tuned for more updates from the High Roller event and tournaments around the world.

  • Check out the results from the Merit Western Poker Series Main Event

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