Heads-up poker has become one of the most popular forms of the game, though it’s always been acknowledged that it heightens play to its purest form. There are only two players, so every hand matters, and strategy is involved with every move. Observations must be made and used right away, and every chip seems to have more importance. When the $10,000 buy-in Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship appeared on the schedule, there was no doubt that it would be popular among the players and watched by fans around the world.
The field was capped at 256 players, and there was no problem finding that many players for the event. The prize pool was then set at $2,406,400, and the top 32 players - those making it through to Round 4 - would be guaranteed a payout of at least $17,987 for their efforts. Day 1 took the players through Round 1, and there were 128 going into Round 2 but only 64 coming out with a win.
Day 2 brought those 64 players back, and Round 3 played out fairly quickly to find the 32 players in the money. Round 4 took the field down to 16, and the night came to an end when Round 5 was complete. The eight players moving on to Day 3 and Round 6 were as follows:
Jason Somerville vs. Kido Pham
Faraz Jaka vs. Ayaz Mahmood
Alexander Kostritsyn vs. Ludovic Lacay
Ernst Schmejkal vs. Vanessa Rousso
On Sunday, June 20, the Round 6 matches got underway. It didn’t take long for Somerville to cripple Pham and secure his place in the next round, and Kostritsyn then took out Lacay to move on. Mahmood eliminated Jaka to stay in the game, but the last match went on for quite some time. It was Rousso and Schmejkal who battled for approximately four hours before the match was finally decided when Schmejkal put his opponent to the test with an all-in move. Rousso called for 407K with , which was ahead of the of Schmejkal, but the flop gave him a flush draw. The on the turn made that flush, and the on the river only served to end the match, as Schmejkal moved on. Payouts were made to Kido Pham, Faraz Jaka, Ludovic Lacay, and Vanessa Rousso for $92,580 each.
The semifinal round was set, with each player holding 1,920,000 chips, as follows:
Jason Somerville vs. Ayaz Mahmood
Ernst Schmejkal vs. Alexander Kostritsyn
The first match didn’t take long at all, as Schmejkal aggressively took on Kostritsyn and didn’t let up until the last hand got them involved on a flop. A bet and call led them to the turn. Kostritsyn was the bettor that time, and Schmejkal check-raised. Kostritsyn took his time but finally reraised. Schmejkal made the all-in move, and Kostritsyn reluctantly called with . However, Schmejkal had the feared for the trip kings. A came on the river to make the full house for Schmejkal and eliminate Alexander Kostritsyn in fourth place, which was good for $214,289.
The second match took longer but eventually came down to one hand in which some preflop raising led Mahmood to push all-in and Somerville to call all-in for his last 1.55 million. Mahmood turned over , and Somerville showed , and the race was on. However, the race took an interesting turn when the flop came to give Mahmood the pair of aces. The on the turn and on the river allowed that to stand, and Jason Somerville was eliminated in third place with $214,289.
The final match-up was determined and set to begin at 10:45pm:
Ernst Schmejkal vs. Ayaz Mahmood
Each player began the best-of-three round with 3.84 million chips and 40-minute levels.
The first match started with Mahmood slowly but surely inching ahead in the chip counts. But it seemed that Schmejkal was waiting for the right moment, found it, and took over the lead. The two ended up trading the lead back and forth for some time. After several hours, Schmejkal took a commanding lead by doubling through Mahmood to grab 6.65 million chips to the 1.03 million of Mahmood. But soon after, Mahmood doubled back to even the stacks.
The match went on for six hours. It was after 5:00am that the battle came to an end. It started with Schmejkal all-in after a limped flop with against the of Mahmood. But the hit on the turn, and Mahmood doubled to 7.55 million chips, leaving Schmejkal crippled.
Finally, Schmejkal pushed his last 130K all-in and doubled up. The next hand saw him try it again, this time with , but Mahmood had . The board came , and the match was over. Ayaz Mahmood declared a hard-fought and exhausting victory.
The two players decided, along with the help of the tournament staff, to put a hold on the festivities since the sun was rising outside the Rio. They agreed to return to finish the tournament at 7:00pm on Monday, June 21.
Match 2 got underway with Schmejkal eking out a lead, but Mahmood doubled to 6.21 million and left Schmejkal with only 1.47 million. However, Schmejkal doubled to even the stacks. The two went back and forth with the chip lead again, but at the time that they decided to take a dinner break at 11:30pm, Schmejkal had 4,105,000 and Mahmood was nearby with 3,575,000.
Something changed by the time they returned with full stomachs. Mahmood was relentless and aggressive, taking the lead and never looking back. And not long after, the two got involved in what would be the final hand of the night. They started with a flop, and Schmejkal made a bet of 250K. Mahmood check-raised to 600K, and Schmejkal reraised to 1 million chips. Mahmood quickly moved all-in with and the pair of tens, and Schmejkal called all-in for the remainder of his chips with for top pair. The on the turn brought straight outs for Mahmood, and the made that straight. German Ernst Schmejkal lost his second and last match of the finals, and he was awarded $386,636 for his second place finish.
Ayaz Mahmood claimed the Event 35 bracelet for Pakistan, and the long-time pro walked away with $625,682 and the WSOP bracelet.