When the poker world learned that PokerStars would be hosting the biggest buy-in online poker tournament ever held, there was little doubt that Fedor Holz would be in the field.
After all, the German-born resident of Austria has simply dominated the high-roller circuit – and indeed, all of tournament poker – during the last calendar year. Only 23 years old, Holz has notched an astounding 15 six-figure cashes, including five scores of more than $1 million, since September of last year. And that’s only in live play, as Holz – playing under the screenname “CrownUpGuy” – has added millions more in earnings playing online.
All told, Holz has pocketed more than $18 million playing No-Limit Texas Hold’em tournaments during the last 12 months.
So despite his recent claims of an impending “retirement” from high-stakes poker, it was no surprise to see “CrownUpGuy” take a seat in the $102,000 Super High-Roller event on Sunday, September 11th. As the most expensive online tournament ever played, and the high-roller highlight of PokerStars’ 2016 World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP), the $102k event was the perfect setting for Holz to display his uncanny talents.
And display them he did, running over the rest of the field and dominating the second day of play with an incredible run of hands. During the final table, Holz downed pocket aces with K-2 on a K-Q-6-2-2 board to dispatch Mikita “fish2013” Badziakouski in 6th place. He also shoved on a short-stacked Issac “philivey2694” Haxton holding 3-5 of diamonds, only to run up against pocket 10s. The flop even brought Haxton a third 10 for top set, but Holz also found a flush draw, which he filled on the river.
Holz put himself in a heads-up match with the Swedish sit-and-go specialist known only as “bencb789.” The winner was scheduled to claim $1.4 million, and the runner-up slated to receive $840,000, but the two pros immediately agreed to chop the remaining prize money based on their current chip counts – thus guaranteeing each a payout of at least $1,067,639.40.
With the “chip-chop” arranged, Holz – who is rumored to have backed “bencb789” with a portion of the buy-in, thus earning himself a large portion of his opponent’s payout as well – played aggressively looking for a quick finish. The final hand ran out in the Swede’s favor, however, so Holz was forced to “settle” for a second-place finish and yet another seven-figure score, while his horse officially won $1,172,360.60.
By doubling the historic buy-in of last year’s $51,000 WCOOP Super High-Roller, PokerStars intended to provide the biggest names in online poker with a stage suitable for the game’s new high-roller era. Although the tournament was expected to attract more than 40 participants, only 28 players ponied up the six-figure buy-in needed to secure a seat.
That included PokerStars Team Pro Jason Mercier, who agreed to live stream his tournament with cards up (on a time delay) to an audience of Twitch viewers. With the audience reaching 20,000 viewers at times, Mercier – who won a pair of World Series of Poker gold bracelets this summer – failed to build a stack and busted on both of his buy-ins.
Other big name pros to fall short of the finish line were Doug “WCGRider” Polk, Justin “ZeeJustin” Bonomo, Brian “tsarist” Rast, and Ben “ben86” Tollerene.
Pros who did manage to reach the six-handed final table included Igor “lechuckpoker” Kurganov (5th), Haxton (4th), and Salman “salfshb” Behbehani (3rd). Just three spots were paid, however, so Behbehani was the lone recipient of a cash – for $560,000 – alongside Holz and “bencb789.”