Toni Kaukua Wins Merit Poker Western Series $5,300 High Roller

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Toni Kaukua

The Merit Poker Western Series has reached its conclusion with the $5,300 High Roller coming to an end in the early morning after an exciting final day. Some 147 entries made for a $676,200 prize pool, which was more than double the guarantee. Only 17 players returned today to battle for the $170,000 grand prize.

Coming out on top with the grand prize victory to his name was Toni Kaukua of Finland who scored his biggest live poker result by a significant margin. The mainly online player has a plethora of big online results but had a much lighter live resume before this event, with his biggest live cash prior to this being for just over $29,000.

2023 Merit Western Poker Series Final Table Results

PlacePlayerPrize Money
1Toni Kaukua$170,000
2Andreas Christoforou$119,400
3Roman Kolotiuk$77,100
4Joseph Mouwad$57,200
5Viktor Ustimov$43,000
6Fausto Tantillo$34,500
7Osman Ihlamur$28,700
8Iulian-Remus Blebea$23,100
9Yauhen Kontush$17,500

Winner's Reaction

This victory nearly didn’t happen, as he explained afterward. He entered at the very end of registration on Day 2 to ride to the victory.

“I used three bullets, and I bought the last one and the very last moment that it was possible,” Kaukua said in his post-win interview.

Kaukua entered the day as one of the larger stacks.

“I think from the moment I sat down, I just felt good. I just felt that I had such a big edge that I could nail this thing down.”

And nail it down, he did indeed, as he was the steady force throughout the day, gathering chips from the onset of the day and continuing to rise. He would hold the advantage at the top for much of the day as the carnage would ensue among the shorter stacks below him.

Action of the Day

Jenya Gavrilovich
Jenya Gavrilovich

The day began with 17 players and would kick off quickly as the third largest stack, Jenya Gavrilovich shockingly went out in 16th place to start of day chip leader Fausto Tantillo to begin the day with some fireworks. After that, the eliminations would come very rapidly as half the field was lost in the ruckus and the final table was reached in under two hours.

After a break, the nine remaining players returned to battle at the final table, where things would not go according to chip count plan. The final table largely became a game of chicken with the multiple very short stacks waiting to see who would blink first.

Yauhen Kontush ran an unsuccessful three-barrel bluff to cut his stack from one of the large ones to the short stack where he would succumb in ninth place as the first exit from the final table. Iulian-Remus Blebea joined him to the rail shortly after in eighth place.

Osman Ihlamur
Osman Ihlamur

Turkish local player Osman Ihlamur started the final table as the big chip leader as he had a great start to the day. But things would not go as swimmingly at the final table as he lost multiple big pots and be ousted in seventh place. The same story would happen to Tantillo as his once big stack chip lead would not last and he was eliminated in sixth place.

The main beneficiary of the large stacks faltering was Viktor Ustimov, who was down as low as two big blinds at one point and was able to claw his way to several pay jumps with his small stack into a fifth-place finish.

The elder statesman of the final day by some distance was Joseph Mouwad of Lebanon, who showed his skills by having an impressive display on the stream, which was enough to earn him a fourth-place finish.

Roman Kolotiuk was one of the most interesting characters at the final table as he embraced the western theme with a cowboy hat and was often talking with his opponents. He had an up-and-down day that ended on a high as he gained momentum late to make it to third place.

Andreas Christoforou
Andreas Christoforou

Andreas Christoforou was one of the more entertaining players at the final table as he was often the driver of action with a wide opening range and showed multiple times that he was not afraid to put his chips to work. That style worked wonders against many of the short stacks, and Christoforou was able to make it into heads-up play against Kaukua.

Heads-up play would last for about 30 minutes as Kaukua’s advantage remained the same throughout with the trading of small pots before the Finn was able to end it for the title.

That wraps things up for PokerNews here on the glistening shores of North Cyprus after a successful Merit Poker Western Series.

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