It wasn’t meant to be! A win in the last major World Poker Tour event before the big season finale would have guaranteed Mukul Pahuja the prestigious Player of the Year award. But he will have to live to fight another day as he was once again just one man away from entering the WPT Champions Club.
Four months ago, in the WPT Montreal Main Event, a fellow American, Derrick Rosenbarger, stopped him from conquering Canada. Earlier this morning, a Canadian by the name of Eric Afriat denied Pahuja from establishing his reign in his home state of Florida.
Not only did Afriat stop red-hot Pahuja, but he also managed to survive a gargantuesque field of 1,795 entries, a brand new record for the WPT circuit. All this was possible because of three starting days and unlimited rebuys with the prize pool hitting the $5,763,150 mark, including a seven-figure cash specially reserved for the winner.
And after three starting days and three more regular days, the field shrunk to just six. Pahuja was the chip leader to start the final day with 118 big blinds, followed by James Mackey (73 BB), Jacob Bazeley (45 BB), Afriat (42 BB), Chance Kornuth (33 BB), and Matt Stout (22 BB).
The shortstacks were first to go. Mackey started the elimination round calling a shove by Kornuth with #ah#10s. Kornuth held #kd#qs and flopped top pair, but the #as turn ruined his chances, busting out in sixth place.
Sixteen hands later, two-million-dollar lifetime tournament winner Stout moved all-in from the button with #qd#10s. Pahuja tank-called and won the hand with #as#8h.
Bazeley, who had a big chip lead with 18 players to go, hit the rail in fourth spot after his bullets #ac#as were cracked. He raised as first to act pre-flop and was called by Afriat. The flop brought a dangerous three-card combo #jh#8h#4s that heated the action. Afriat led the betting round and after a few raises and re-raises, all of Bazeley’s stack was in the middle. The Canadian showed #js#8s for the best hand.
The three-handed play was a real grind with several double-ups and a huge 25 million pot that may have very well decided the winner. It all happened in the 121st hand of the final table with Afriat min-raising from the small blind. Mackey reraised over 2x and the Canadian min-reraised yet again only to see Mackey call. The future winner three-barreled on a #jc#5s#3s#8s#6h board with his opponent calling all the way and mucking his hand after Afriat showed #as#ks for the winning flush.
At that point, the Canadian had over 60% of the chips in play.
Mackey tried to stay in the tournament by playing aggressively but was eventually eliminated in third place after three-betting all-in with #kc#7c. Pahuja called with #9c#9s and set the stage for the heads-up display that lasted only seven hands.
The final one was a standard flip pre-flop with Afriat holding #8d#8h, while Pahuja showed #kh#9s. The #10h#6h#2d#qd#jc board didn’t bring anything new to the table that could have helped the red-hot American and secured Afriat the trophy plus the first seven-figure prize of his tournament career.
Here are the final payouts:
- Eric Afriat (CAN) – $1,081,184
- Mukul Pahuja (USA) – $691,965
- James Mackey (USA) – $441,128
- Jacob Bazely (USA) – $371,931
- Matt Stout (USA) – $308,501
- Chance Kornuth (USA) – $247,954
This is Mukul Pahuja’s third month in a row with a WPT Top 10 finish. Last month, he finished fourth in the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Stars for $320,800. Also, in February, the American finished eighth in the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open for $36,147.
The winner, Eric Afriat, had $467,249 in tournament earnings prior to the big WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown event. He has two other minor trophies, according to the Hendon Mob Poker DB: the Bellagio Cup VIII and the Isle Poker Classic 2013.
Starting Monday, Afriat and Pahuja will have the chance to compete with the best of the best in the WPT World Championship. We’ll follow their progress closely, bringing you the latest updates from the Season XII Final.