Martin Kozlov proved he doesn’t just have skill, he has stamina as well.
The Aussie triumphed after a 13-hour, 246-hand marathon final table at Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open $5,250 Championship in Florida, taking down a first-place prize of $754,083. Kozlov topped a field of 887 entries for his largest live cash, besting the $665,709 he won for his World Series of Poker bracelet in 2016.
“It was super slow, and you just had to play it one hand at a time,” Kozlov said to tournament reporters after wrapping things up past 1 a.m. local time Wednesday. “The structure was so good you could afford to take some beats, you could afford to lose some pots. Patience was the most important thing I guess.”
Official Final Table Results
Plenty of strong players were among the 113 who cashed in the event, including Christian Harder, Harrison Gimbel, Taylor Paur, “Johnny World” Hennigan, Paul Volpe, Ari Engel, Shaun Deeb and Shannon Shorr.
With 11 players remaining in the event, Kozlov and Berkey played one of the most interesting hands of the tournament. According to the live updates, after defending his big blind from a button raise, Berkey check-called three barrels, with the last being an all-in shove, on a board of . Kozlov showed down for a set, but what made the hand so noteworthy was the fact that Berkey turned over for just jack-high.
The attempted hero call set Kozlov up nicely for a final table run as he doubled to 60 big blinds. Two-time WPT champ Aaron Mermelstein, however, was the chip leader heading into the official final table of nine with over 150 big blinds.
Perhaps the most notable presence at the final table was Joe Kuether, a Wisconsin native who has been a strong force in recent years on the tournament scene. That’s because Kuether was the only player to advance to more than one final table of the “Big 4” at SHRPO, having also made the $1,100 final table.
Kuether doubled through Berkey early but would still go out ninth courtesy of a cooler as he shoved over an open from Dylan Drazen while holding pocket kings only to see Drazen turn over two aces and hold to bust him.
The only Brit at the final table, Luke Brereton, got in a flip for his tournament life by shoving with 20 big blinds over a button open from Yi Li. Li called with and paired up against Brereton’s to send him packing.
Kozlov got nothing going in the mean time and slipped to the shortest stack with just over 20 big blinds. His momentum from the previous day resumed when he found ace-queen and jammed on the button, doubling through the chip leader when Mermelstein found ace-jack in the blinds and the board ran out a dead ten-high.
A cooler developed at 40,000/80,000/10,000 on Hand #80 when Mermelstein opened for 175,000 under the gun and Michael Aron three-bet to 475,000 on the button. Adam Levy picked up the and jammed for 2,650,000 but Aron held and busted Levy in seventh after flopping a king.
Mermelstein slipped to the shortest stack six-handed, and he fell victim to the old-fashioned aces limp under the gun, which Berkey successfully pulled off when Mermelstein found two jacks in the big blind. He shoved over two limps and a raise with 24 big blinds, and Berkey picked him off with the bullets to move into the lead.
Berkey would slip a bit after losing some pots, but he’d replenish his count courtesy of Aron when the latter shoved all in for 26 big blinds on the button with and Berkey called for most of his chips with pocket nines. A flop gave Berkey a sweat, but two bricks hit to give him the pot and the knockout.
That’s when Kozlov finally made his move into the lead. On Hand #182, Kozlov min-raised at 75,000/150,000/25,000, and Berkey made it 800,000 to go from the button. Kozlov shoved all in for 6 million and Berkey called with jacks. Unfortunately for him, Kozlov had queens and won without improvement to leave Berkey on 20 big blinds.
Berkey managed to outlast Li, but he’d get no further. Kozlov got the rest when he min-raised on the button in that same level and Berkey tried shipping for 3.8 million. He couldn’t get it through as Kozlov had , flopping Berkey’s dead when two queens hit the felt.
Kozlov and Drazen were deep with 109 big blinds and 68 respectively, and with over $200,000 to play for, the battle commenced. Kozlov took the early rounds, but Drazen raised and called a three-bet shove while holding pocket tens and doubled through Kozlov when the Aussie couldn’t find a three-outer with , evening things up at around 50 big blinds apiece.
However, two hands later, Kozlov ended it. He made it 600,000 preflop on the button and Drazen called. Drazen called a small bet of 400,000 on the flop and then a big bet of 2.6 million on the turn. The river prompted Kozlov to shove all in. Drazen wound up trying for a hero call with , but Kozlov once again had a set, this time .
“The money is sweet,” he said. “It ends a downswing so I can’t complain.”
Photos courtesy of Seminole Hard Rock
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