Day 3 of Event #27: $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em Mixed Max marked the start of heads-up play, and of the 32 players who started the day, only two remain. Max Steinberg, a 2012 World Series of Poker bracelet winner and the runner-up in the 2013 National Championship, will face off against Isaac Hagerling for the top prize of $372,387 and the coveted gold bracelet. Both players are guaranteed to take home a minimum of $231,501.
There were very little upsets in the round of 32. Even if you include No. 17 Daniel Buzgon’s win over No. 16 Alexander Lakhov, only four lower seeds advanced. Serbian Ognjen Sekularac, the 26 seed, delivered the biggest upset when he overcame a four-to-one chip deficit to defeat Ukranian Oleksandr Gnatenko. In the final hand the two played, Sekularac flopped top and bottom two pair against Gnatenko’s top pair. Sekularac held, and was off to the round of 16.
In the round of 16, every favorite won except for No. 5 Mike Watson. No. 12 Jason Koon advanced past Watson in a hand where both players made a full house. Watson turned a set of sevens, and the river brought a repeat ace. Watson shoved, and Koon instantly called with ace-three for aces full of threes, eliminating the Canadian. Brandon Cantu, who started the day as the number one seed, was almost upset as well until he too delivered a cooler. Buzgon, Cantu's opponent, flopped top two against Cantu’s bottom two, and was in good shape to ship a massive double up, but the turn gave Cantu a full house. The river was a brick, and just like that Cantu was through to the round of eight.
Despite receiving a little run good in the round of 16, and taking a huge lead against Steinberg, Cantu was unable to push his way into the round of four. He four-bet shoved for over 65 big blinds effective with ten-three off suit, and Steinberg snap-called with queens. Steinberg’s hand held up, and a few hands later he eliminated Cantu. On the same table, Koon defeated Dan Healey to reach the round of four. Healey jumped out to a big lead, but Koon came back and won the final all in with ace-nine against Healey’s king-three.
On the other side of the bracket, Jeremy Ausmus and his good friend Chris Johnson butted heads for the right to advance to the round of four. Like Healey, Johnson got out in front but failed to finish. Ausmus made a tough call on the river with third pair in a million-chip pot, then finished off his friend a few hands later.
The Octo-Niner then had to wait for quite some time as Yevgeniy Timoshenko and Hagerling battled in a three-and-a-half-hour marathon match. The match took so long that Koon and Steinberg completed their semi-finals match. Steinberg won rather quickly, and with thanks to a fortuitous flop on the final hand. Koon was all in and at risk with ace-queen, and was in good shape to double up against Stenberg’s ace-jack, but the flop brought a jack and the turn and river produced nothing but bricks.
Ten minutes after Steinberg advanced, Timoshenko bluff-shoved on the river with ten-high, and Hagerling called with trips. Hagerling admitted that he was catching cards in the match, which surprised Timoshenko – he thought he was just getting run over.
In the final match of the day, Hagerling jumped out to an early lead only to have Ausmus come storming back. Ausmus may have had an opportunity to win the match, but he opted to call a big river bet with a straight when Hagerling held a lesser straight. Ausmus lamented his decision not to shove, but on a paired board it's impossible to know whether or not Hagerling would've called. It was Hagerling's turn to mount a comeback, and he received a big double up when he moved all in on a king-high flop with two tens. Ausmus called with ace-ten, and was unable to find one of the three remaining aces in the deck.
Hagerling went on to take the lead, and had Ausmus on the ropes as play entered Level 25. On the last hand of the match, Ausmus check-raised all in on the turn of a three spade board, and Hagerling called with a queen-high flush. Ausmus was drawing dead, and headed to the cage to collect his $132,748 third-place prize.
Steinberg and Hagerling will return on Monday at 3 p.m. to play the championship match. Be sure to stay tuned as PokerNews will be providing you with hand-for-hand coverage of the match.