Event Recap - WSOP $40k NLHE
June 2, 2022
Vitaly Lunkin wins the 40K
Russian pro survives intense heads-up battle to win his second bracelet and $1.9 million
An intense two-plus hours of heads-up play concluded in an unbelievable string of all-ins, and when the dust settled, Vitaly Lunkin was the only one left, claiming the bracelet and the $1.89 million first place prize.
Lunkin bested 200 other top-flight players who ponied up $40,000 to play this one-time-only No-Limit Hold'em event that commemorated 40 years of the World Series of Poker.
Lunkin and Isaac Haxton, the runner-up, played dozens of relatively uneventful hands before descending into a frenzy, and in thirteen hands it was all over, with Haxton's 38o failing to catch up to Lunkin's Aces. And that barely qualifies as the craziest hand they played in that stretch.
The first of four all-ins in that sequence had Lunkin doubling through Haxton with pocket tens against Haxton's K3cc. Then Haxton got all-in on a Kc 5c 3h 6s board with KTss vs. Lunkin's Aces. With Lunkin one card away from the win, Ike called out for the "one time", and proceeded to spike the 10c on the river to double back into the chip lead.
Then, on an Ac 4c 5c board, Lunkin fired 2 million chips into the pot, Haxton moved all-in, and Lunkin instantly called with the Qc Ts. It was a moment of either tilt or genius, but somehow he was crushing Haxton, who was making a move with Qs 8c. The miracle red eight popped up on the turn, sending the crowd into a frenzy with Haxton just one card away from an improbable win, just for the 2c to hit the river and give Lunkin a substantial chip lead.
On the final hand, Haxton got himself entangled in an all-in with the 3d 8c vs. Lunkin's Aces on a Qd 10d 8d, and after failing to catch up had to settle for second place. It was likely a bit easier to swallow with $1.1 million in hand.
Lunkin's path through the final table was far from flashy. He rarely showed down a hand, and only eliminated Haxton. His quiet, stoic demeanor had a lot in common with his method of play, slow and steady, not making the big play but instead gradually building without much in the way of confrontation. By playing pretty snug while others slugged it out, Lunkin was able to put himself in position to win. And win he did.
Haxton's route to second was far more muddled. He came into the final table as the chip leader, but bounced around from the top to the bottom of the chip counts due in large part to some very big all-in pots. He lost a big chunk of his stack when his over pair jacks ran into a set for Greg Raymer, a hand that gave Raymer enough momentum to make it to three-handed play. At one point Ike was all in for his tournament life with K7cc and spiked a flush on the turn to keep himself afloat. In the end, Haxton's somewhat volatile style of play that got him to heads-up play was ultimately his downfall.
Greg Raymer - 3rd Place
Greg Raymer was in fourth place as the final table started, but he could have, and by all rights should have been, in much better shape had it not been for an awful string of luck during day three of this tournament. Raymer got pocket aces three times, got all-in three times, and one none of the hands. He was cracked twice, and chopped a pot when Ted Forrest also had aces.
The beginning of the final table was not kind to Raymer as he lost a good portion of his chips when Justin Bonomo doubled through him. Fossilman was fortunate enough to chip up big time in two consecutive hands. First he was the benefit of a cooler, when his aces went up against Noah Schwartz's AKo, and then he flopped a set of sixes against Isaac Haxton's pocket jacks to get him back over the $5 million chip mark.
Fossilman lost a pretty big coin flip that brought Dani Stern back into the game, but then took back the chips when he flopped a wheel. But just a few hands after Isaac Haxton knocked out Dani Stern, Raymer shoved over a Haxton 3-bet with fives; they were no match for Haxton's nines, which held, sending Raymer home and giving Haxton a 2-1 chip lead over Lunkin.
Dani Stern - 4th Place
Dani Stern was the third shortest stack coming into the final table, but he went well above and beyond expectation, with a little bit of help from Lady Luck. It didn't take very long for it to happen either. Stern found himself all-in and way behind with AJo vs. Lex Veldhuis' AKcc, and it took a river jack to spare Stern from a ninth place finish.
He wasn't quite done with river dramatics. Stern's ATo was behind Greg Raymer's pocket sevens until a 10c spiked the river, the same card that (temporarily) saved Isaac Haxton several hours later. Unfortunately for Stern, he never was higher than fourth in chips at the table, though on the bright side, he maximized the potential of that detriment.
"Ansky" met his demise courtesy of Haxton in two consecutive hands, the first of which cost him the majority of his chips. After limping on the button, Isaac Haxton shoved all-in from the big blind. After a brief period of consideration, Ansky decided to call, tabling two fives. Haxton sheepishly showed his K7cc, but the flop brought some hope to Haxton in the form of a flush draw and it connected in dramatic fashion on the turn. He pushed the remainder of his chips with QTo, which ran into the AKo of Haxton, and the unimproved board spelled the end for Stern.
Justin Bonomo - 5th Place ($413,166)
Justin Bonomo came into the final table in sixth place with some serious work to do to get into contention. The perfect opportunity arose after a Greg Raymer button raise when Bonomo woke up with AJo in the small blind. Bonomo shoved, and Raymer made the call, but was way behind with his A8o. The board blanked out, and Bonomo gained some serious firepower.
He utilized his newfound power excellently, raising and three-betting with relative ease considering his tablemates. Things took a turn for the worse, however, after Bonomo three-bet Greg Raymer and was then four-bet by Vitaly Lunkin. Bonomo quickly mucked his cards, and was ultimately unable to turn his momentum back in the right direction.
"ZeeJustin" met his demise at the hands of Isaac Haxton. Bonomo opened to 300,000 under the gun with jacks, and was called by both Haxton and Raymer in the blinds. On a 10d 9h 3h flop, Haxton led out for 300,000, Raymer folded, and Bonomo moved all in. Haxton called, revealing two slow played aces, and the turn and river bricked out, sending Bonomo to the rail.
Alec Torelli - 6th Place ($329,730)
Alec Torelli ran pretty well to make it to the final table. On Day 3 of this tournament, he was all-in with pocket tens against the pocket queens of Noah Schwartz and the 78o of a short-stacked Brian Townsend. He was lucky enough to catch not one, but both of his outs to make quads and rake in a pot of over 5 million.
"traheho" was not quite so lucky at the final table. Torelli couldn't seem to pick up a hand. In fact, besides a four-bet shove on the ninth hand of the day, Torelli didn't win one pot. After the blinds and antes ate away at him for fifty hands, Torelli decided to make his stand. He shoved with A2hh, Isaac Haxton made the call with ATo, and the board provided no help, sending Torelli to the rail.
Lex Veldhuis - 7th Place ($277,900)
Lex Veldhuis came into the final table third in chips, and from the onset he was the most aggressive player. He won six of the first seventeen hands, but it was the eighteenth hand that began his downfall.
"RaSZi" called Dani Stern's 3-bet shove with AKcc, and was well ahead of Stern's AdJh. The turn brought a third heart to the board, giving Stern a flush draw, but it was ultimately a jack on the river that gave Stern the suck out and the double-up.
Veldhuis couldn't turn things around, eventually shoving over a Greg Raymer raise with A7dd, only to run into Fossilman's kings. Veldhuis could not catch up, and he was bounced from the tournament.
Noah Schwartz - 8th Place ($246,834)
Noah Schwartz was the second shortest stack coming into the final table, and that's just where he ended up. But it's not quite as simple as it sounds.
Schwartz was quite patient with his stack, playing just one of the first eighteen hands, moving all-in and winning without a showdown. He would play only three more hands. He won one hand with a preflop raise, he eliminated Ted Forrest, and then, with only ten big blinds left, Schwartz moved all-in with Ako, running head first into the ultimate cooler hand courtesy of Greg Raymer. After re-shoving all-in, Raymer revealed the bad news in the form of two aces. There was no miracle for Schwartz, and he was sent home.
Ted Forrest - 9th Place ($230,317)
Ted Forrest brought the most WSOP bracelets to the final table but had the least chips in hand as play started today.

Forrest tried to make the best of his bad situation, but his situation was not helped by the extremely slow pace at the beginning of the final table, in which there were no flops until the twelfth hand. Even with two subsequent all-ins and calls in the next six hands, Forrest was unable to catch a break and move up. His ever-decreasing stack ultimately caused him to take a stand in a blind vs. blind situation against Noah Schwartz. His TJ was no match for Schwartz's pocket threes, and day was done early. 


Event Recap by Tim Fiorvanti

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