When nine players took their seats for the final table of Event #2: $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Tag Team, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) spotlight shined squarely on Daniel Negreanu.
Widely regarded by his peers among the professional ranks as the game’s brightest star, “Kid Poker” was in hot pursuit of his seventh gold bracelet – and teammates Eric Wasserson, David Benyamine, and Mark Gregorich were happy to let Negreanu take the reins.
Negreanu even got a bit lucky too, dispatching Paul Snead in 10th place via suckout when K-K caught a third king to crack A-A. Per the live updates provided by PokerNews, that pot put Negreanu just over 1 million chips – trailing only the 1.15 million held by Igor Kurganov (playing with girlfriend and pro Liv Boeree).
The final table featured several other high-profile pros, including 2014 WSOP Main Event champion Martin Jacobson (playing with two-time bracelet winner Mark Radoja), and bracelet winner Ankush Mandavia (playing with tournament crusher Joe Kuether).
Even so, all eyes were on Negreanu as he closed in on yet another bracelet win, and he managed to build the chip lead of 1.2 million to Kurganov’s 1.15 million by the time six-handed play was set.
As members of Team PokerStars Pro, both Negreanu and Kurganov are no stranger to success on poker’s most elite stages, and a heads-up match between the two appeared destined as Day 2 came to a close. Negreanu held a big lead with 1.5 million, while Kurganov lurked just behind with 929,000, but Day 3 would see the script flip.
Kurganov began the third and final day of play by busting Radoja (plus Jacobson) in sixth place ($47,271), pulling within a few big blinds of Negreanu to that point.
Negreanu responded in kind, sending the team of Javier Gomez (plus Lander Lijo) to the rail in fifth place ($63,253) – while building his stack to over 2 million in the process.
The back and forth battle continued, with Kurganov eliminating the team of David Fong (plus Anthony Ajlouny and Mike McClain) in fourth place ($86,237). That win put Kurganov over 2.2 million chips, setting the stage for a showdown between the two tournament pole-sitters.
After sending a double up over to Mandavia to chip into his own stack, Negreanu called a three-bet from Kurganov to see the Ah-7h-6c flop. He called a bet and the turn came 5d, prompting Kurganov to shove all in. Negreanu called off his last 1 million or so and tabled Ad-8c for top pair and a straight draw, but Kurganov rolled over 6h-5h for two pair and a flush draw.
Kurganov made an unnecessary flush on the river to end Negreanu’s run in third place ($119,753), much to the chagrin of the assembled audience.
After beginning with a chip advantage of 3.4 million to 1.6 million, Kurganov then waged a protracted heads-up war against Mandavia which lasted for 90 hands – during which time Mandavia clawed back to claim the lead at one point.
The comeback bid was cut short, however, when Mandavia made a straight holding Qd-10h on the Qs-9c-8h-Js board, matching the straight held by Kurganov and his Ah-10d. Both players checked to the river, which brought the Kd to improve Kurganov’s straight to the Broadway variety, and Mandavia called off the last of his stack to finish in second place ($169,323).
Kurganov was officially credited with a $273,964 win, which he shared with Boeree – his partner in more ways than one. The two have been dating seriously for several years now, their relationship blossoming after Kurganov joined Boeree – who played the majority of Day 1 – as a member of Team PokerStars.
The pair also earned their respective first gold bracelets at the WSOP, and achieving poker’s pinnacle side by side left Boeree on the verge of speechlessness during her winner’s interview with WSOP.com:
“My mind is blown right now.”
Kurganov was a bit more loquacious when describing the unique experience:
“This is genuinely an event where I’m happier about the two bracelets that we win from it.
People always say that I want to win the bracelet, but here the ratio of bracelet to money is even better than usual.”
To cap off the whirlwind start to their WSOP summer, Kurganov and Boeree also backed up a pre-series pledge by donating 50 percent of their winnings to charity. In this case, the two chose Raising for Effective Giving (REG), a charity they helped found along with other prominent poker players to focus the industry’s attention on the concept of “effective altruism.”
Asked about the motivation provided by their philanthropic goals, Kurganov was clear that the REG charity was a major part of his and Boeree’s victory:
“The charity was basically our third and fourth player.”
All told, the collection of charitable causes championed by REG received $136,982 courtesy of Kurganov and Boeree’s bracelet breakthrough.