Day 6 Completed
Day 6 Completed
Kalidou Sow didn't let a little trash talk get him off his game.
Quite the contrary, he laughed off some needles thrown his way by Jason Wheeler on the way to their eventual heads-up match, where he toppled the far more experienced American transplant to win PokerStars Championship Prague €5,300 Main Event in a field of 855 for €675,000.
That prize was an adjusted payout after the two made a heads-up deal that saw each player lock up €570,000, so Wheeler secured himself a hefty payday despite the disappointment of a second-place finish.
For Sow, a small to mid-stakes recreational player from France, the win comes after he had some success for years in his bread-and-butter €1K and €2K events but found himself unable to make a mark in the bigger events he'd take shots in. He likened the step up in competition to playing in soccer's famed Champion's League.
"It's very prestigious so it's a dream to win it," he said through a translator. "When you see so many great players who haven't won it, I realize how fortunate I am to be in this position."
When asked about his mindset, Sow stressed that an old poker cliche ran through his heads every day through the six-day grind: take it one day at a time.
Every night, Sow headed back to his room, ate a quiet meal alone and got his rest before coming back the next day with the goal of another round of survival. That remained his only goal, even on the days he bagged over 100 big blinds and found himself among the leaders.
One such day was the final day, when he carried an ever-so-slight chip lead over Wheeler into the streamed final table of six. The two seemed to be on a collision course, especially after taking turns busting short stacks Colin Robinson and Harry Lodge early on.
Lodge came in slightly the shorter of the two and said after his elimination he was happy to ladder once for a €49,000 bump.
Wheeler won a flip to bust Italian bitcoin investor Gabriele Lepore in fourth after those two also had some words earlier in the day when Lepore openly questioned a raise-fold by Wheeler that turned out to be correct.
The big moment for Sow came on Hand #67, when he and Wheeler both flopped straights, Sow's being of the nut variety. The massive cooler saw Sow double through into the lead and take command of more than half of the chips.
A bit later, the barbs started flying from Wheeler. Whether Wheeler was genuinely fired up or making a calculated strategic move to try to throw Sow off his game is a question only the veteran grinder can answer. Either way, he started climbing his way back toward the top and let Sow know he was coming for the throne.
"Let's f****** go," Wheeler said after picking off Sow with ace-high. "Try to win every pot, bro. You get one cooler, you think the tournament's yours. I'm still the one to beat."
"Good luck," Sow responded with a smile.
"I don't need luck."
Then, Wheeler pulled the rug out from under Sow again when he limp-raised ace-king in a blinds battle and forced Sow to muck.
"Show me the bluff," Sow said.
"I'll show you the trophy soon," Wheeler replied.
For his part, Sow remained reserved and didn't start firing back.
"I let him get away with it because I knew he wanted to have a go at me and troll me," Sow said. "I think he thought he was facing amateur players so he wanted to get under our skin. I'm not one to play that kind of game."
Wheeler won another flip to send local hero and Day 1 leader Michal Mrakes packing in third and the heads-up stage was set. Before the battle could begin, though, talk of a deal commenced.
Sow had only a slight lead with deep stacks and Wheeler felt confident. He gave Sow only two options: leave €105,000 on the table and chop the rest evenly, or play for it all. Sow consulted with a French contingent that included EPT champ Jean Montury and EPT regular Jimmy Guerrero. They advised him to take the deal.
"He's a very good player," Sow said of Wheeler. "Accepting the deal was taking an insurance. I have no regrets and I don't have a big ego, so it was no problem."
What seemed like it could be a long match proved quite short, lasting only about 20 hands. Sow seemingly won every showdown and Wheeler just couldn't get any momentum. When they finally got the money in, Sow had Wheeler dominated with tens against ace-nine.
"Runs so pure," was all Wheeler could muster with a sigh before helplessly watching the board run out with nothing but bricks.
Wheeler congratulated Sow with a handshake before walking into the waiting arms of his girlfriend and heading to collect his bolstered payout.
As for the champ, he claimed to have only a muted celebration planned. A few drinks with friends — on him, of course — and then a flight home to Paris. There, he expects his poker career to continue as if nothing special even happened — he said he'll likely get back to playing €150 dailies not long after he sets back down.
But Sow let no matter how calm his demeanor throughout play and even after his win, this means something to him.
"I'm dreaming, this is incredible," he said.
Official Final Table Results
|3||Michal Mrakes||Czech Republic||€332,000|
*reflects heads-up deal
Kalidou Sow from Paris, France takes down the last ever PokerStars Championship held in Prague. He was against Jason Wheeler for the trophy and the €775,000 prize. He chats to Laura straight after a quick heads up battle.
Hand 109: Jason Wheeler opened the button for 425,000 with . Kalidou Sow, holding , three-bet to 1,375,000 after some careful consideration.
Wheeler did a double take on his cards, glanced at his stack, and moved in for 6,035,000 total.
Sow looked surprised for a second and instantly asked how much it was. When he heard it was 38 big blinds, he tanked some more and called.
"Ooh man, you run so pure!" Wheeler said.
There was 12,110,000 in the pot and the flop came .
"Spade, spade would be sick!" Wheeler said.
The on the turn was as blank a card as it could come, Wheeler was down to just an ace on the river to stay alive.
Instead, the hit and that was it, Sow had won the PokerStars Championship Prague while Jason Wheeler had to settle for second place.
Wheeler and Sow shook hands, before Sow high fives his friends on the rail.
We'll bring you a recap of today's action shortly.
Hand 106: Kalidou Sow raised to 450,000 with and Jason Wheeler defended big blind with . The board read on the turn and Wheeler bet 600,000. Sow called and the river was the . Wheeler waved the white flag and lost another showdown.
Hand 107: Wheeler mucked on the button.
Hand 108: Sow raised to on the button and Wheeler called with . Both checked the flop to see a board. Wheeler bet 600,000 and Sow called. The river was a and Sow won the showdown again.
Hand 101: for Jason Wheeler on the button and he limped in. Kalidou Sow checked and the flop came . Sow checked and raised Wheeler's 175,000 bet to 490,000. Wheeler folded.
Hand 102: Sow raised on the button to 450,000 and Wheeler defended with . The flop came and Wheeler and Sow checked. The on the turn was a bad card for Wheeler to hit but he lead for 375,000. Sow raised to 775,000, something commentator Griffin Benger called "Very interesting."
Wheeler tanked for a bit before folding.
Hand 103: Jason Wheeler opened for 420,000. Sow folded .
Hand 104: Sow limped in with and Wheeler checked . The flop came and Wheeler checked. Sow bet 160,000 and Wheeler folded.
Hand 105: Wheeler opened on the button for 420,000. Sow found and tanked for a bit before he called.
On the flop of , Sow checked. Wheeler checked behind. The on the turn had both players check again. The completed the board and Sow bet 570,000 into 880,000. Wheeler called with his third pair but soon had to muck.
Hand 96: Kalidou Sow made it 450,000from the button with and Jason Wheeler defended with . The flop came and Wheeler checked. Sow bet 210,000 and Wheeler called.
The hit the turn and both players checked so the on the river was seen for free. Wheeler checked and Sow bet 650,000 into 1,360,000 after some time in the tank. Wheeler called and was shown the bad news soon enough.
Hand 97: Jason Wheeler opened for 425,000. Sow folded .
Hand 98: Sow opened for 450,000. Wheeler folded .
Hand 99: Wheeler with the opened for 420,000. Sow folded the .
Hand 100: Sow with the folded.
Hand 91: Jason Wheeler opened on the button with a raise to 425,000. Kalidou Sow folded nine-five.
Hand 92: Sow found a massive hand with on the button and raised to 450,000. Wheeler folded ten-three.
Hand 93: Jason Wheeler folded giving Sow and his a walk.
Hand 94: Sow raised to 450,000. Wheeler three-bet to 1,370,000 with and Sow folded after giving it some consideration.
Hand 95: Jason Wheeler opened for 425,000. Sow three-bet to 1,310,000 with and Wheeler folded.
Kalidou Sow has a slight chip lead with a little over 14 million to 11.6 million against Jason Wheeler, and the two entered deal discussions and looked at numbers. They did come to an agreement where each player claimed €570,000 but there's still €105,000 to play for and they'll get back to the action shortly. Wheeler was adamant it was the only deal he's accept. After conferring with his friends Sow agreed.