Mark Radoja managed to accomplish quite a bit today in the $10,000 Heads-Up No Limit Hold’em Event 16. The Guelph, Ontario poker pro not only won Canada’s fifth bracelet of the summer, he also managed to buck a trend that had to be somewhat disconcerting to the bracelet winners frequenting the Rio.
You see, Radoja did something neither Allen Cunningham nor Scott Clements were able to do last week—beat a relative unknown to add another bracelet to their already impressive jewelry collection.
Even though it looked as though a second gold bracelet was simply not in the cards for Radoja during the early goings of his final round, when his opponent, Don Nguyen of Huntington Beach, CA, jumped out to a quick chip advantage.
Radoja got down to his last lamer of chips early on, but he never gave up and rallied back from the short stack to capture his second bracelet as well as $258,960. Nguyen earned $159,950 for second place, which is far and away the biggest WSOP score of his career.
The win is a big one for Canada, but it is arguably even bigger for Radoja, who has turned in some of the most consistent results over the past three years. For three consecutive years, Radoja has been heads-up for a bracelet. He won his first bracelet in a $5,000 No Limit Hold’em Shootout event in 2011, took second to Matt Matros in the $1,500 Six-Handed No Limit Hold’em event last year, and now has one of the more prestigious bracelets of the WSOP in this high buy-in heads-up poker event.
The road to the finals was no easy path for either player. Each had to win seven separate heads-up matches just to get to the final round and each faced off against bracelet winners and top poker pros along the way. Here is a look at each players’ path to the finals:
Round 1: Johannes Meyer
Round 2: Douglas Polk
Round 3: Ludovic Lacay
Round 4: Ankush Madavia
Round 5: Alex Venovski
Round 6: Phil Hellmuth
Round 7: Justin Bonomo
Round 1: Steve Saraf
Round 2: 2012 Heads-Up Champion Brian Hastings
Round 3: Jan Kasten
Round 4: Ali Eslamis
Round 5: Craig Bergeron
Round 6: Sean Winter
Round 7: Ben Sulsky
This year’s $10,000 buy-in Heads-Up No Limit Hold’em event drew 162 players, up from a field of 152 last year. In a change from last year’s procedure, players who did not receive a bye in the first round effectively played in a series of two-man satellites into the event. Each player in the opening round received a $5,000 rebate, regardless of whether they won or lost.
With that new wrinkle, the prize pool for this event came in at $1,522,800 with the top sixteen finishers receiving a payday. Each round delivered some interesting and memorable matches. Some of the pairings that drew quite a bit of attention included two-time bracelet winner Vanessa Selbst vs. Heads-Up Sit-N-Go specialist Bryan Pellegrino squaring off in the opening round, Justin Bonomo defeating Jason Mercier in the round of 32, online phenoms Phil Galfond and Ben Sulsky playing in the Round of 16, and Mark Radoja and Phil Hellmuth exchanging chips and some barbed words in the Round of Eight.
The final four pitted Sulsky against Nguyen and Radoja against Bonomo. Nguyen managed to oust Sulsky in less than an hour, while Radoja needed a little more time before besting Bonomo to set the final.
Here are the top eight finishers in this year’s $10,000 Heads-Up No Limit Hold’em Event:
1st: Mark Radoja – $336,190
2nd: Don Nguyen – $209,648
3rd: Justin Bonomo – $110,485
4th: Ben Sulsky – $110,485
5th: Phil Hellmuth – $54,024
6th: Randy Lew – $54,024
7th: Sean Winter – $54,024
8th: Russell Rosenblum – $59,024