When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail
“You’re learning about tournament poker” said Sam Grafton to Karl Chappe-Gatien after the French day trader prematurely celebrated spiking a 3-outer on the flop, only for PokerStars ambassador to smash his own 3-outer on the turn. They exchanged fist bumps and Chappe-Gatien gave a wry smile, realizing he had made a misstep calling off with Ace-Eight after Grafton had squeeze-shoved Ace-Queen.
This hand was the turning point of the 115-runner $200,000 buy-in Coin Rivet Invitational final table in Cyprus, part of the Triton Super High Roller Series. Up until that moment, it was all one-way traffic as Chappe-Gatien carved his way through the field, his instinctive, albeit crude, understanding of how to put his opponents in an ICM coffin. When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
tournament poker has a way of you toppling you from your pedestal and that it did
It also helped that the deck was hitting him in the face, adding no doubt to a sense of invincibility, a feeling that it was destined to be his day. Tournament poker has a way of you toppling you from your pedestal and that it did, as an emboldened Grafton was gifted more weapons and eventually a hammer of his own.
Having finished second in the $50,000 6-max for just shy of a million dollars just a few days ago, Grafton went one better, ultimately defeating high-stakes cash game end-boss Linus Loeliger heads-up to claim the title, the trophy, and a staggering $5.5m first prize.
Agony for Ebony
Despite the nosebleed stakes, the banter was plentiful at the final table, especially between Grafton, Chappe-Gatien, Fedor Holz, and newcomer to the high roller scene, Ebony Kenney. This was testament to the unique format that pitted wealthy businesspeople against invited poker professionals, segregating the two groups initially before combining the field to play to a winner.
After the unfortunate eliminations of Tom Vogelsang and Seth Davies in ninth and eighth respectively, both at the hands of Chappe-Gatien, it would be Elias Talvitie’s turn to hit the rail after a bad beat. With six players left, Chappe-Gatien had half the chips in play and a quintet of players at his mercy, all trying to outlast each other.
By the time Ponakovs bust in sixth, Holz had chipped up a little, but Grafton, Kenney, and Loeliger were all in the danger zone. Kenney doubled through Holz, her King-Queen holding against his King-Ten in a blind versus blind confrontation. A few hands later, she woke up with pocket jacks and re-shoved over the very active Chappe-Gatien. On this occasion, he had pocket Nines and made the call, a massive spot that would have put Kenney into comfortable second, well clear of the short stacks.
Alas, it wasn’t to be as Chappe-Gatien hit a nine on the turn and she would have to settle for $1.7m and a second fifth place finish in high rollers this week. The Americas Cardroom ambassador and Twitch streamer finished in the same position in the $25,000 buy-in event for $240,500 earlier in the week.
Holz busts and Chappe-Gatien’s “different playbook”
Wunderkind turned twenty-something retiree Fedor Holz was next on Chappe-Gatien’s chopping block after the German correctly evaluated a tough situation and made a no-fold equity cold 4-bet shove with Ace-Jack. There was a Jack on the flop, but Chappe-Gatien’s Ace-Ten of diamonds made runner-runner flush to eliminate Holz in fourth place.
With three left, Chappe-Gatien ran out of luck. He doubled up the patient and precise Loeliger and then doubled up Grafton in a pocket Tens versus Ace-King cooler. It was the Englishman’s turn to turn the screw.
A fascinating hand ensued with the big blind at 300,000 when Grafton opened to 1.1 million with Q♠️3♠️. Chappe-Gatien, playing the effective stack of 9 million, was in no mood to be bullied and called with J♥️6♥️. The flop came 5♥️2♦️9♣️ and Grafton continued for 1.5 million. Remarkably, Chappe-Gatien floated, clearly with larceny in mind. The turn came the 4♣️ and now with an open-ended straight draw, Grafton fired a 3.2 million-chip semi-bluff, leaving Chappe-Gatien with no option but to fold.
In his post-match interview, Grafton paid tribute to Chappe-Gatien’s courage, unpredictability and trickiness. He said “Karl was playing so aggressively, so creatively, really coming at us from a different playbook and that was very, very challenging. So it was a real battle all day.”
Loeliger hits rivers
As Grafton played some masterful endgame, wielding the ICM pressure on a knowing Loeliger and a conveniently card-dead Chappe-Gatien, he worked his way into a super-dominating position. In the end, Chappe-Gatien was forced to shove his five big blinds with just Q♠️2♠️, running into Grafton’s A♠️K♦️. A clean board meant we were down to two with Loeliger needing to overcome a 9:2 chip deficit.
When I double him up, I know now I’ve got to play against one of the best in the world.”
It was almost over immediately when they got it in on the second hand of heads-up, Loeliger’s K♦️T♠️ versus Grafton’s A♦️5♥️ for ten big blinds apiece. The run out was tantalizingly cruel for Grafton: J♦️8♥️4♦️9♥️K♣️. Reflecting on the contest, Grafton spoke to the toughness of his Swiss opponent. “When I double him up, I know now I’ve got to play against one of the best in the world.”
A back and forth battle commenced as the two experienced professionals played for the $1.6m difference between first and second place money. Loeliger was again on the cusp of elimination after a King flopped when he got it in with pocket Fives versus Grafton’s King-Four. An unlikely Five meant that Grafton would be once again deprived by the river.
A memory Grafton will cherish forever
In the final hand, the Loeliger moved all-in with King-Six and Grafton called with Ace-Seven. There was an Ace on the flop, but Grafton was not counting his chickens. A Six on the turn gave Loeliger a glimmer of hope, but the Nine on the river secured a famous victory.
This result is the largest of Grafton’s career after his runner-up finish in the 2019 EPT Barcelona €100,000 Super High Roller.
“It’s just a huge sort of feeling of relief when it’s all over,” said Grafton after the victory, adding: “it’s so intense out there on the felt playing against top opponents…I’m very grateful to be champion. And it’s a memory that I’ll cherish forever.”
Triton Poker Coin Rivet Invitational Final Table Results
1. Sam Grafton $5,500,000
2. Linus Loeliger $3,900,000
3. Karl Chappe-Gatien $2,600,000
4. Fedor Holz $2,100,000
5. Ebony Kenney $1,700,000
6. Aleksejs Ponakovs $1,350,000
7. Elias Talvitie $1,050,000
8. Seth Davies $770,000
9. Tom Vogelsang $620,000