Damir Zhugralin had less than 20% of the chips when he reached heads-up play in the 2023 Merit Poker Retro Series $10,500 High Roller, but that didn’t stop him pulling off a stunning comeback to capture the title and $350,000.
The chip leader for much of the final table, Uri Reichenstein, finished as the runner-up for $246,300.
The tournament, which took place at the Merit Crystal Cove Hotel and Casino, saw 153 entrants where the 20 players were in the money and shared a slice of the $1,407,600 prize pool.
2023 Merit Poker Retro Series $10,500 High Roller Results
Final Day Highlights
Just 22 players came back on the final day on the soft bubble. All of them shared the same goal with the aim of finishing inside the paid places. Tinay Aksoy started the session with two big blinds but he was unable to produce any magic and was the first player eliminated.
Adi Rajkovic tried to be patient to secure a minimum cash prize of $16,500. However, as the bubble dragged on, his stack dwindled. He had no choice but to go all in with pocket sevens. Eventual winner Damir Zhugralin called his shove and made a pair of kings, to confirm Rajkovic as the bubble boy.
After the bubble burst, the field quickly narrowed down to two tables, with short stacks like Jovan Kenjic (17th, $18,700) getting eliminated. It didn’t take much longer to reach the final table, as only three and a half hours passed between the “shuffle up and deal” and the elimination of Aleksandr Chernikov. The Russian player finished 10th ($26,300), despite being the chipleader after the bubble. Once again, it was Zhugralin who sent him to the rail.
The final table started with the aforementioned Reichenstein as the chip leader. He utilized his big stack to apply pressure on his opponents. Day 1 chipleader Daniel Kyosev was the first to fall to him (9th, $35,700), followed by Hassan Barakat (8th, $47,500) and Sonny Franco (7th, $59,100). After these eliminations, the remaining six players took a dinner break.
However, Day 2 chip leader Maxime Chilaud (6th, $70,900) didn’t stay at the table for long after the break. Reichenstein eliminated him, further increasing his stack. He went on to eliminate all the other players, from Denis Kapustin (5th, $88,500) to Mustafa Biz (3rd, $158,600).
Only Milos Petakovic managed to avoid Reichenstein’s grasp. But his tournament still came to an end in fourth place for $117,600.
Reichenstein began the heads-up with 12,500,000 chips thanks to his onslaught, while Zhugralin had only 3,000,000 chips. However, Zhugralin managed to double up on the very first hand, and secured consecutive doubles soon after.
Thanks to his last double up, he took the lead, which he maintained until the end.