Day 2 Completed
|Blinds||20,000 / 40,000|
|Prize Pool||612,750 AUD|
Day 2 Completed
Among the final nine players in the 2019 The Star Sydney Championships $5k Challenge were seven Australians and one New Zealander, but they were all unable to stop the UK's Jason Gray on his ride from short stack to victory. The story of the final day was reminiscent of the journey Gray took two years ago when ended up posing for winner photos after all was done and dusted.
The second-most expensive event of the festival at The Star Sydney near Darling Harbour attracted a field of 129 entries and the top 15 spots took home a portion of the A$612,750 prize pool. Gray received the most of it, as he claimed the top prize of A$171,572 (USD$118,830) and the trophy.
"Can't have the Aussies win them all," Gray grinned as he had reduced the field from three hopefuls to a champion in two hands and claimed all the chips. While he may have roots in the UK, the world-traveler now resides in Sydney and was inducted into the Aussie Poker Hall of Fame back in 2012.
It wasn't unfamiliar territory at all. Back in 2017, Gray defeated a 142-entry strong field to win and this year he needed three bullets to finally run up a stack. After surviving the money bubble in the middle of the pack, Gray returned to his seat as the shortest stack with just 12 big blinds out of the 14 remaining players. However, he managed an early double to get back into contention.
The final table was an Aussie affair, just start-of-the-day chip leader Charlie Hawes was aiming to bring the trophy to New Zealand. However, nothing much went the way of Hawes when the field was united to one table and he had to settle for sixth place.
Down to the final three, Gray assumed control with a lot of preflop aggression while Vincent Huang and Ebon Bokody were almost even in chips. Melbourne-based Huang already had three Aussie Million rings to his name and accumulated more than $340,000 in live cashes prior to the event. He secured his second-biggest result on the live circuit thus far after finishing runner-up to Gray.
For Bokody it was the sixth live cash in Sydney. The previous best result was a runner-up finish in the WSOP International Circuit A$20,000 High Roller for A$220,210 back in December 2018 and he narrowly missed out on another seven-figure score at The Star Sydney.
Among those to return for the final day and cash without reaching the final table were Minh Nguyen and Ashish Gupta, while Vesko Zmukic, Ehsan Amiri and Andrian Chin secured several pay jumps and bowed out just prior to the culmination of the Jason Gray show.
With 10 events out of the 17 tournaments completed, the festival is gearing up for the Main Event in a few days, which comes with a guaranteed prize pool of A$1,500,000.
Final Result $5K Challenge
|Place||Winner||Country||Prize (AUD)||Prize (USD)|
|1||Jason Gray||United Kingdom||A$171,572||$118,830|
|6||Charlie Hawes||New Zealand||A$31,967||$22,140|
|9||Dejan Boskovic Sr||Australia||A$15,496||$10,732|
Action of the Final Day
With 14 players remaining out of a field of 129 entries and an average of 23 big blinds, the final day promised plenty of action right away and would not disappoint. Gray scored a vital early double through Dejan Boskovic Sr. and most of the short stacks had reason to celebrate in the first levels of the day.
Timo Hettinger was not among them, as the German saw his kings cracked by pocket fives. Mladen Vukovic ran out of chips on the feature tables and Majid Saab's kings held up against the ace-queen of Sandy Sinclair. Two of the biggest names still in contention would miss out on the final table as Nguyen and Gupta had to settle for 11th and 10th place respectively.
One by one, the shorter stacks then took their spots on the live stream table and headed to the rail. Boskovic was the first to depart, followed by Majid Saab. Eventual champion Gray won a flip with queens against the ace-king of Saab, who was eliminated right after. Zmukic had nursed a short stack for a long time on the final day and took eighth when he ran into the trips of Vincent Huang.
For Kiwi Hawes, the tournament ended in sixth place when he lost a flip to Bokody and Amiri could not spin up his short stack either. By then, Gray was right in it with two hero calls and a mix of small ball poker and pure aggression before the flop. There were setbacks for the Brit, but the elimination of Andrian Chin in fourth place vaulted Gray into the top spot, a position he would not surrender anymore for the short-lived remainder of the event.
After pulling into a comfortable lead when winning a pot off Bokody, Gray snap-called the jam of Bokody for 15 big blinds with queens and the king-jack suited of Bokody failed to connect with the board.
It then took longer to figure out if the heads-up would be played with an ante or not, as one further hand was all it took to crown a champion. Huang got it in preflop with king-queen and Gray had the best of it once more with ace-queen. An ace on the flop reduced the outs of Huang to just a gutshot and the turn and river bricked.
That wraps up the PokerNews live updates for this event, however, another three exciting tournaments will be featured from start to finish in the days to come with the A$1,100 Six-Max Event, the A$20,000 High Roller and the A$3,000 Main Event.
In the first hand of heads-up play, Jason Gray raised on the button and Vincent Huang decided to shove. Gray snap-called with the bigger stack.
The flop came with the ace in the window to deliver a pair of aces to Gray but it also gave Huang the gutshot to a Broadway.
The turn was the which didn't change anything.
The river completed the board with the to seal the deal for both players as Huang was eliminated as the runner-up for A$106,043 while Gray claimed the win for A$171,572 and the trophy. Both players shook hands with a big smile on their faces.
A recap of today's action is to follow.
Shortly after losing a portion of his stack to Jason Gray, Ebon Bokody was in the small blind and jammed for 600,000. Gray checked his cards and quickly called.
The board came and that ended Bokody's run in 3rd place for a payday of A$76,545.
Gray will take a comfortable lead into the heads-up duel with Vincent Huang.
Ebon Bokody completed his small blind and Jason Gray opted to check in the big blind.
The flop came , Bokody bet 40,000 and Gray called.
The turn brought them the , Bokody bet 130,000 and Gray called again.
The river completed the board with the for both players to check. Bokody tabled for the missed straight draw for Gray to pick up the pot with with the pair of eights.
The three remaining players have just gone for another 10-minute break.
On the flop, Vincent Huang on the button made it 50,000 to go and Jason Gray called from the big blind. The turn was checked and the fell on the river. Gray checked and Huang bet 200,000 to force a reluctant fold from Gray.
Ebon Bokody raised to 70,000 from the button and Huang called in the big blind. The flop brought and Huang led out to win the pot right there.
Bokody then defended his big blind and check-raised a king-high flop against Gray to rake in the pot.
Jason Gray raised from the button and Andrian Chin shoved in the big blind for around 625,000 which Gray called immediately.
The board ran out for Gray to flop top pair and improve to two pair to eliminate Chin in fourth place for A$56,244.
Vincent Huang limped the button and Ebon Bokody checked in the big blind. The flop was checked, Bokody then bet the turn for 50,000 to pick up a call and made it another 150,000 to go on the . Huang called but mucked when Bokody tabled his cards.
That pot vaulted Bokody to 1.4 million and into a solid lead. Up next, Andrian Chin jammed for 260,000 and Bokody called from one seat over on the button.
The two live cards for Chin worked, as he flopped a pair on the board to double once more.