Frenchman Kalidou Sow conquered the €5,300 buy-in 2017 PokerStars Championship Prague Main Event after agreeing to a chop with American Jason Wheeler, for €675,000. The anointed runner-up went home with €570,000.
The tournament began with 855 participants and played down to a champion on Monday at the Casino Atrium Prague.
Sow, mostly a low-stakes grinder, had long been seeking his first major title. He had 39 prior cashes for just more than $400,000, but nothing earth-shattering. He finally got the monkey off his back and took down the final semi-major poker tournament of 2017.
Prior to the start of heads-up play, the competitors agreed to chop the €1,245,000 remaining prize pool money, with the winner receiving the biggest payout.
Although he doesn’t speak fluent English, Sow wasn’t afraid to needle Wheeler, a more accomplished tournament player, mixing in some trash talk with his aggressive play.
Many first-time major champions celebrate by partaking in an evening of drunken debauchery, but not Sow. He planned a more relaxing night of dinner and a few drinks with friends prior to his flight back home to Paris.
International Final Table
Eight countries were represented at the nine-player final table. Only 3rd place finisher Michael Mrakes hails from the tournament’s host country, Czech Republic.
Wheeler, one of two Americans at the final table, won coinflips to bust Gabriele Lepore in 4th place, and hometown favorite Mrakes in 3rd.
That set up what was expected to be a long, intense heads-up match between two players who had already engaged in some trash talk. Wheeler made it clear he expected to win given that he was the more accomplished pro.
But after just 20 hands, chip leader Sow got his money in with pocket 10s against A-9 pre-flop, and his hand held up, ending the tournament.
2017 PokerStars Championship Main Event
Final Table Results
1 Kalidou Sow (France) €675,000 / $800,000
2 Jason Wheeler (United States) €570,000 / $675,000
3 Michael Mrakes (Czech Republic) €332,000 / $393,000
4 Gabriele Lepore (Italy) €249,000 / $295,000
5 Harry Lodge (United Kingdom) €196,000 / $232,000
6 Colin Robinson (United States) €147,000 / $174,000
7 Matas Cimbolas (Lithuania) €104,000 / $123,000
8 Valentyn Shabelnyk (Ukraine) €72,850 / $86,300
9 Alexander Mordvinov (Russia) €57,500 / $68,115
PokerStars recently announced the return of European Poker Tour, which is owned by the online poker site. The EPT ran from 2004 until being rebranded as the PokerStars Championship at the start of the current year.
But the tour will return in 2018 with four live events, the first in Sochi, Russia, from March 20-29. The season will conclude in Prague, Dec. 6-17.
Similarly, PokerStars is bringing back the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January 2018, after a year hiatus and PokerStars’ attempts to rebrand its live tournaments after disbanding the EPT.