2017 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
$5,250 SHRPO Championship
$3 Million Guaranteed
Prize Pool: $4,301,950
August 11-15, 2017
After four days of poker, the final table of nine players emerged from a field of 887 in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Championship, and thanks to a quick play-down stretch on Day 3 the players returned on Tuesday with deep stacks for the final day of the event. That fact combined with 90 minute levels, made for an expectation of a long final table, and it played out true to form.
Martin Kozlov claimed the SHRPO Championship title, and $754,083 in prize money after more than 13 hours of play at the final table at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida. “The title means a lot because now I’m even with [Patrick] Mahoney (2016 Rock N Roll Poker Open Championship winner), he won one last time so now he has no more bragging rights. And the money is sweet, it ends a down-swing so I can’t complain,” said Kozlov right after the win, but he was also quick to thank his friends on the rail. “Yeah, I mean without my rail I would have tilted it all off for sure,” said Kozlov.
The first four levels of play saw one player fall per level. Joe Kuether was the first to fall in ninth place, but he just made his way over to the $1,100 event final table that he was also playing out on the The Big 4 television set. As the Poker Night in America cameras continued to roll, Englishman Luke Brereton hit the rail next in eighth place. Poker professional Adam Levy fell in seventh place during the next level, and the chip leader at the start of play, Aaron Mermelstein, took his leave in sixth place during the level after that.
The pace of play slowed down even more during the five-handed battle . “They had The Big 4, and after two or three hours all the tables of the other three were down to four or five players, and it took us six hours to lose two players. It was super slow, and you just had to play it one hand at a time. The structure was so good you could afford to take some beats, you could afford to lose some pots. Patience was the most important thing I guess,” said Kozlov about the slow start.
Matt Berkey and Dylan Drazen pulled away from the pack during the start of this stretch in play, and each of them took a turn with the chip lead. The three other final tables that were running as part of The Big 4 had now ended by this point of play, and you could feel a serious mood set in at the final table. Announcers Mario Ho and Joe Stapleton kept the atmosphere light as they commentated on the action for the die-hard rail birds that were still sweating the action. “It’s a great setup, yeah I loved it. With Joe and Maria commentating it was sweet,” said Kozlov when he was asked about the unique atmosphere on the television set of The Big 4.
Kozlov was the short stack at one point, but he doubled up once before the elimination of Micheal Aron in fifth place, and he doubled up again after Aron’s exit to storm to the top of the pack. “The thing that affects my mental state the most is if I’m getting downward momentum, if I’m getting upward momentum it just kind of clears my mind to focus on the strategy. So when things are going right I’m thinking more clearly about what to do strategy-wise, if things are going bad I’m just steaming,” said Kozlov about the big momentum shift and how it affected his mind-set. He continued, “Five handed I didn’t have many chips at all, and I was a bit tilted on break. I was talking to my wife, and I was like, ‘What am I going to do now. There’s not much left, I’m going to have to win a couple of all ins.’ And then I came back and won every all in, and now I’ve won the tournament.”
Yi Chi Li was down to just three big blinds when he was eliminated in fourth place, and Berkey eventually fell in third place after losing the largest pot of the tournament up to that point when Kozlov doubled up again during four-handed play. Kozlov had increased his chip lead to 16,325,000 at the start of the heads-up final against Drazen, who held 10,325,000.
Despite a double up for Drazen that brought the chip stacks close to even, Kozlov was in control of the chip lead for the entirety of the heads-up match. On the final hand, Kozlov raised to 600,000 on the button preflop, and Drazen called. The flop was dealt , Kozlov bet 400,000, and Drazen check-called.
The turn fell , and Kozlov bet 2.6 million. Drazen check-called before the river delivered the . Kozlov thought for a moment before moving all in, and Drazen tanked before check-calling all in.
Kozlov flipped over , and Drazen said, “It’s over,” before showing . Drazen was eliminated in second place, good for $528,322, and Kozlov won the 2017 SHRPO Championship. He took home $754,083 in prize money, and the SHRPO guitar pick trophy.
“I never played with [Dylan] until today in this tournament actually, and heads up was a struggle. We were just trading pots back and forth, I doubled him up, and I got lucky and made three-of-a-kind,” said Kozlov of the heads-up final.
Congratulations to the 2017 SHRPO Champion Martin Kozlov!
Final Table Results:
1st: Martin Kozlov – $754,083
2nd: Dylan Drazen – $528,322
3rd: Matt Berkey – $341,618
4th: Yi Chi Li – $252,481
5th: Michael Aron – $191,437
6th: Aaron Mermelstein – $152,547
7th: Adam Levy – $126,305
8th: Luke Brererton – $100,408
9th: Joe Kuether – $75,413