The 2023 Merit Poker Retro Series $3,300 Main Event has come to an end late in the night at the Merit Crystal Cove Hotel and Casino. The key quality needed to win this year's edition was patience, as it took four lengthy days to determine the last player standing.
Out of the 1,233 entrants, 143 were in the money and shared a slice of the $3,375,480 prize pool. And after the dust settled, Darko Svesko was crowned the winner and secured the trophy and $567,000 first-place prize.
After a tough battle on the final table with "a lot of ups and downs", he managed to defeat Oleg Netaliev in heads-up play. With his runners-up finish, the Russian player earned $417,900.
"I feel absolutely amazing," said Svesko a few minutes after lifting the trophy. The feeling was even better for the online professional player, considering it was his first time here in Cyprus. "So, to play the Main Event for the first time and win, it's impossible. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience", he added, still a little bit overwhelmed by his victory.
However, happiness wasn't the only emotion he experienced. He went through the motions during a "really tough, exhausting day with long hours."
"The final table was a big roller coaster," Svesko told PokerNews. "It was up and down all night, shifting from a big stack to a short stack all the time". Despite the swings, he managed to emerge victorious in the series' showstopper.
Final Day Action
Just 28 players returned to the felt on the final day of action, with the players guaranteed a minimum payday of $17,210. Over the next eight hours, players began to find themselves on the wrong side of the rail. Following the elimination of Yossi Eluz (10th - $42,900), the nine-handed final table was established.
There was nothing to out of the ordinary to take place in the first 40 minutes but the final table then exploded into life with a double elimination. Nenad Dukic picked up pocket jacks and saw off Ara Melkisetian and Thomas Eychenne in a three-way all-in encounter.
Dukic continued his onslaught soon after, sending Dominik Panka to the payout desk in seventh place. Dukic flopped trips in a battle of the blinds and saw his opponent move all in on him, which was met with a snap-call.
Ruslan Volkov had one of the worst beats of the day after his aces were cracked by the ace-queen held by David Hu. The latter went runner-runner to make a flush and bring the tournament to its final five players.
Hu, a short stack soon after, was next to depart after his ace-ten could not overcome Netaliev's king-deuce after their chips were committed preflop. A king on the river saw Hu bow out in fifth place for $142,400. Netaliev claimed his second final table scalp after another all-in preflop situation. Dukic's deep run came to an end in the blink of an eye after his jacks ran into the Russian's aces.
A third successive elimination from Netaliev brought in heads-up play, after his pocket eights held out against Michel Atallah's overcards. Netaliev went into the final showdown with 70% of the chips in play and one hand on the title.
A big bluff from Svesko saw him narrow the gap and ten minutes later he had the chip lead. And then a few hands later, Svesko was announced as the winner after he picked up pocket kings and got it in versus his opponent's ace-queen. There was a drama-free runout for the Serbian which confirmed his Main Event triumph.