Moneymaker, Mateos and Kulev Win Big but Who Will Take Down the Triton Montenegro Main Event?

  • $40,000,000 was re-disributed in the first eight events of the Triton Montenegro
  • Alex Kulev took down the $100,000 buy-in, while Adrian Mateos won the $50,0000
  • The three-day Main Event concludes later today, with a prizepool of $21,375,000
  • Phil Ivey competes on the final table, having already cashed nine Triton events this year
The Triton Montenegro trophy
The Triton Montenegro Main Event will conclude today, but who will claim the win? [Image: Triton Montenegro]

Poker’s nonpareil head to Pržno

The second stop on the Triton Tour 2024 has brought poker’s nonpareil to the Balkans, specifically Montenegro’s Adriatic Coast, more specifically the beautiful Maestral Resort and Casino in the picturesque village of Pržno. $40,000,000 was redistributed in the first eight events, the largest chunk of which went to Bulgarian-Irishman Alex Kulev who took down the $100,000 buy-in tournament for $2,566,000. 

Other notable victors include Spain’s Adrian Mateos who bested the 159-runner $50,000 event for $1,761,000, Canada’s Mike Watson who triumphed in the $30,000 event for $1,023,000 and Tennessee accountant turned poker boom-instigator Chris Moneymaker who won the $25,000 opening event for $903,000. 

an eye-watering $125,000 buy-in tournament attracting 171 entrants

The three-day Main Event concludes later today – an eye-watering $125,000 buy-in tournament attracting 171 entrants, generating a prizepool of $21,375,000. The overnight chip-leader is Wai Kin Yong, son of Malaysian businessman and bookmaker Richard Yong. To win the $4,737,000 first prize, he will have to beat a star-studded final table that includes poker legend Phil Ivey, the in-form Alezsejs Ponakovs and frog poison aficionado Bryn Kenney.

The Moneymaker Effect

Moneymaker’s name is synonymous with the poker explosion of the early-mid 2000s but 21 years after his historic victory, he is making waves again in the poker world. In 2021, he became a brand ambassador for Americas Cardroom (ACR), a role that has him making regular appearances as the public face of the company. In 2021 and again just a few weeks ago, he final-tabled ACR’s flagship big buy-in tournament The Venom, finishing fourth and sixth, respectively. 

Moneymaker made the trip to Montenegro for the start of the Triton Series and immediately made his presence felt, taking down the $25,000 GGMILLIONS Live, riding his luck down the home-straight to clinch a famous victory. Having limped meekly into the money as the shortest stack, Moneymaker went on a heater, barely losing a single hand on his way to the $903,000 first prize. 

I could have put it in with any hand and I would have won. I ran pure.”

“I wasn’t going to lose today”, said a jubilant Moneymaker after his heads-up opponent Brian Kim was dispatched. “I could have put it in with any hand and I would have won. I ran pure.” He certainly had an air of invincibility about him as he spiked three-outers and six-outers to send his beleaguered opponents to the rail. 

Mateos and Kulev take down Events 7 and 8

Events #2 through #6 were won by Andy Ni of China, Mike Watson of Canada, Artsiom Lasouski of Belarus, and Igor Yaroshevskyy of Ukraine, all taking home chunky paydays in the $669,000 to $1,172,000 range. It was a hectic first week but there’s always a sense that Triton Series build to a crescendo. Week 2 began with the 156-runner $50,000 and 102-runner $100,000 events, won by Mateos and Kulev, respectively.

Mateos is one of the greatest tournament players of all time, a sublime talent who exploded onto the scene eleven years ago at the age of just 19 when he won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Europe Main Event. He had already taken down the Estrellas Madrid and within three years he would be an European Poker Tour champion and three-time bracelet winner. He added a fourth WSOP title in 2021 and buoyed by this latest result, he sits on top of Spain’s all-time money list with $43.8m in lifetime live winnings. 

a new high water-mark for the baby-faced assassin

Kulev’s win in Montenegro is a new high water-mark for the baby-faced assassin whose rise in the past four years has been nothing short of meteoric. A cash game grinder in Dublin’s Fitzwilliam card club, he switched to online tournaments at the start of this decade and quickly moved up the stakes. After the pandemic lockdowns were lifted, he took his fearless, aggressive brand of poker on the road and almost won the WSOP Closer in 2021. 

A year of solid grind followed and by the end of 2022, Kulev was a fixture on the highroller circuit, both live and online. In the 30 short months since, he has accumulated almost $20m in total winnings and already has the reputation in the upper echelons as one of the best. Do not be surprised if this $2,566,000 result contributes to an eight-figure year for Kulev on the live felt. 

Ivey headlines ‘The Big One’

The big one in Montenegro, however, is yet to be decided and there are quite a few serious contenders. Kenney might be the winningest tournament player in poker history but I suspect the eyes of the poker world will be affixed on Ivey who has already cashed nine times this year in Triton events. He made three final tables in Jeju and one in Montenegro but failed to get over the line for his sixth Triton title. 

one to watch is Latvia’s Ponakovs who, similar to Kulev, has exploded up the ranks

Yong is a canny operator and knows how to use his chiplead to apply ICM pressure on the chasing pack. Another one to watch is Latvia’s Ponakovs who, similar to Kulev, has exploded up the ranks since late 2021. He won the online highroller bracelet in 2021, the live highroller bracelet in 2022 and has been playing the nosebleeds ever since. 

Also in with a chance are Dejan Kaladjurdjevic, Igor Yaroshevskyy, Mikalai Vaskaboinikau, Samuel Ju and Elizabeth Chen, all of whom have deftly navigated their way to this prestigious final table which starts at 2pm CET

At the denouement of this tournament, the wizards of No Limit Hold-em will make way for the magi of Pot Limit Omaha for the remainder of the series. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *