Tue, Aug 8, 8:12am by Jonathan Zaun
After a field of 496 entrants in the 2017 Star Sydney Championships Main Event was whittled down to the final table of nine, an Australian poker legend found himself facing a lineup of local grinders – each looking to make their own breakthrough.
As the 2005 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event champion, and an inaugural inductee to the Australian Poker Hall of Fame, Joe Hachem was by far the most experienced player to make the final table. But poker doesn’t play favorites, and in this $3,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament – which boasted a $1 million guaranteed prize pool – Hachem was the first to fall.
His ninth-place exit was good for $28,000 – just off the pace from his famous $7,500,000 haul 12 years ago – but with Hachem gone, the remaining eight players could breathe a sigh of relief.
Per the live reporting coverage provided by Star Sydney, Hachem couldn’t crack pocket aces with his own pair of fives in the hole.
That left the final table up for grabs, and a few hours later, Sydney resident Henry Tran claimed every last chip in play to take the title – and the $300,000 first-prize payout.
Tran defeated a fellow Aussie in Bradley Hawkins, storming back from a massive chip disadvantage to do so. When heads-up play began, Hawkins – who had dominated the final table as the big stack bully to that point – owned 13,380,000 chips to Tran’s 1,500,000 stack.
But when Tran flopped the nuts holding K-10 on an A-Q-J board, and Hawkins took his K-J and went for the kill, Tran instantly scored a double to give himself a fighting chance.
A short time later, Hawkins had Tran all-in with the board reading Ad-8d-2d-Ks. Tran held As-4d for top pair and a four-high flush draw, while Hawkins had mid-pair and a higher flush draw with 7d-8c. He could finish things off with any seven, eight, or diamond, but the river brought a brick with the 6c to send Tran his second double of the match.
With the counts now essentially even, Tran and Hawkins took a moment to talk privately. After returning to the table, the pair went all-in on the very next hand, and Tran’s A-2 overcame Hawkins’ J-4. One more all-in confrontation was needed to make things official, and with that, Tran became the 2017 Star Sydney Championships Main Event winner.
Leaving aside the likely chop implications, Tran officially earned $300,000 for the effort, while Hawkins pocketed $185,000.
After the win, Tran told the live reporting team on hand how he managed to make such a momentous comeback:
“I just focused on making the best decision possible at all times.
Looking for the right spots, finding the right times and making the right bets.”
Asked about the thrill of taking down a prestigious tournament title on home turf, Tran was understandably emotional:
“It feels, unreal. I am so happy. This is a great event, it has such an excellent structure.
I really like deep stack poker and this tournament is perfect for that.”
Another player who left the tournament on cloud nine was third-place finisher Damon Zhou, who had never even played a live tournament before this week.
After growing bored with the long list for cash games, Zhou fired a $300 satellite tournament with the intention of selling his seat should he win one. He wound up securing a seat, and when tournament officials told him it was non-transferrable, he decided to play the Main Event on a lark.
Zhou wound up turning his $300 investment into $135,000 in winnings, along with a newfound penchant for tournament poker no doubt.
Full final table results can be found below:
2017 Star Sydney Championships Main Event Final Table
Place Player Prize
1st Henry Tran $300,000
2nd Bradley Hawkins $185,000
3rd Damon Zhou $135,000
4th Rafe Aman $100,000
5th Grant Levy $75,000
6th Suzy Khoueis $57,000
7th Chris Tran $44,000
8th Steve Pappas $34,000
9th Joe Hachem $28,000
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