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The atmosphere inside the Thunderdome at the Horseshoe Las Vegas was so thick with excitement, you could almost cut it with a playing card. Four men made their way to the arena in order to battle for the latest gold WSOP bracelet and top prize of over half a million dollars. When the dust settled after several hours of incredible live poker, it was Chanracy Khun who held aloft the WSOP bracelet, having beaten heads-up specialist Doug Polk to the title.
Play got underway in both semifinals at the same time, but it was the underdog of the four players, Chanracy Khun, who made it to the final long before the other semi concluded. Khun got the better of Sean Winter after an early setback, and with relative ease in the end, made painless progress to the final. In the final hand of their battle, Winter’s low straight was topped by Khun’s higher straight and the two men shook hands, Winter heading home with a score of $192,513.
Awaiting the result of the second match to finish, Khun conferred with friends and family, safe in the knowledge that he had already ‘won’ the runner-up prize of $313,362 by virtue of being guaranteed to make the final two. At the feature table felt, Doug Polk, favorite to win the event, was taking on Chris Brewer in a topsy-turvy match that went all the way into bad beat territory.
Having lost the lead, recovered it, then been slightly behind, Polk got it in bad with pocket queens as Brewer’s shove with pocket kings was called by the man who beat Daniel Negreanu for over a million dollars heads-up just a couple of years ago. With both suits covered by his opponent, Polk needed a miracle on the river as he drew to just two outs – one of the remaining two queens left in the deck.
Amazingly, it came, and Polk took off on a double-lap of the ‘Thunderdome’, as he rail cheered ‘We will, we will, Polk you!” at the tops of their voices.
With Brewer almost out of chips, it took little time for Polk to finish off his opponent, and the final was set. Polk, the heavy favorite, aiming to capture his fourth WSOP bracelet, Khun going for his first.
Coming into the final, Chanracy Khun had certainly proven his poker chops, despatching players such as Marko Grujic, Event #2 winner Alexandre Vuilleumier, Hungarian Gabor Szabo and poker phenom Landon Tice on his way to beating Sean Winter to the final duel of the event. Polk, of course, is a heads-up specialist and can correctly claim to be one of the best in the world at not only mixing up his own style when one-on-one for a title but judging his opponent’s rhythm and anticipating any patterns that present themselves.
Polk took an early lead, but a decent pot with top pair was followed by immediate pressure from Khun, and he bagged both hands to snatch the lead for himself. It all could have gone wrong for the eventual winner when his top pair with ace-king met a flop of A-J-T. Polk turned a straight with queen-nine, but his chunky bet was folded by Khun whose superb judgement meant he only lost the lead rather than possibly the match.
Khun had tried to bully his way back into the match with a premium hand, so tried tack, bluffing with six-high, only for Polk to sniff it out. Everything was going wrong for Khun, and Polk had a commanding lead of 6.6 million to Khun’s 2.9 million. The crowd swelled forward, anticipating a Polk victory. But Khun was about to flip the script.
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A few hands later, Polk went for a big pot, shoving with air on the river of a board where he could and did represent a perfectly plausible straight draw coming in. Khun was having none of it, however, calling off his stack with pocket sixes to retake the lead in one of the plays of the WSOP so far.
A few hands later, Khun had Polk exactly where he wanted him. The YouTube star was all-in with king-eight and Khun considered his option before calling with the dominant king-ten. Just a clean board away from victory, Khun’s followers massed at the front of his rail, praying for five cards not containing an eight or running straight or flush cards. They got their wish to the turn. Polk now needed a three-outer miracle to save himself, but this time it didn’t come. Khun’s rail erupted and the popular player had his first bracelet victory at the expense of the favorite to win the event and a specialist in the field of heads up poker.
“When you play heads up, you’re always going to play a different strategy against different opponents,” said Khun to PokerNews after his epic victory.
“I knew he was really, really good, so I just try to do my best. I was just luckier than him today. [On] any other day, the match would have been different. Today was my lucky day.”
Lucky or not, Khun proved king among his peers, winning six heads-up matches over three epic days to capture a WSOP bracelet so many in the game crave. He also bagged the top prize of $507,020, more than enough to make it his best-ever WSOP campaign with over 80 events still to be played.
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