Jason Koon used a mix of skill and luck to ship his first WSOP bracelet on Thursday night.
There were two hands, in particular, he won against Gabor Szabo in the Event #11: $25,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship finale that propelled him to victory.
Koon won $243,981 after conquering six straight matches. In the semifinals, he defeated 21-year-old online crusher Henri “buttonclickr” Puustinen, which brought him one step away from his first gold bracelet in his 57th bracelet event cash.
Szabo, on the other hand, had just one prior WSOP cash, a second-place finish in 2019 in the Event #7: WSOP.com Online No-Limit Hold’em for $99,361.
Here’s a look at the two big hands that really made the difference for Koon.
Hand #1: Fading the Deck
Winning races is one of the biggest keys to tournament poker, even in heads-up. The newest GGPoker ambassador even said as much after scooping the bracelet.
“These heads-up tournaments, especially when you get shallow like that, a lot of it is just going to come down to a pair against two over cards getting all in,” Koon told PokerNews on Thursday. “Yeah, it was fortunate.”
The hand he was referring to was a crucial race he played during his match against Szabo. In what turned out to be a massive game-changing pot, Koon raised the 100,000 big blind up to 230,000 on the button with and his opponent fired back with a three-bet to 700,000 with .
Szabo had nearly a 2-1 chip advantage at that point, so Koon was given an opportunity to potentially move into the lead or at least get back in the match. Instead of just calling to see a flop, he moved all-in for 3.5 million total and the Hungarian WSOP newbie made the call. Off to the races they went, and Koon’s tournament life was at risk.
The flop came out , which made Szabo the favorite with 17 outs (two over cards, flush draw, gutshot straight draw) despite still trailing in the hand. When the flipped over on the turn, Szabo picked up a few more outs (ten on the river would also work). But Koon was able to dodge all those outs on the river, which was the . He doubled into more than a 2-1 lead.
Koon found himself in a similar situation in the quarterfinals against Jake Daniels. With and a slight chip disadvantage, Daniels put it all in the pot in a race against . Much like his crucial hand against Szabo, Koon was the beneficiary of a fortunate flip when the board ran out , and he was off to the semifinals, where he defeated “buttonclickr.”
Hand #2: Will the Bigger Ace Hold Up?
After Koon won the massive flip, Szabo went back to work and grinded his way back into a slight chip lead. And then he ran into another rough hand.
Szabo raised to 320,000, double the big blind at the time, with and the GGPoker ambassador jammed for 4.6 million with . The Hungarian poker player would quickly make the call, leaving himself with just 400,000 behind. As per usual, and this is why he’s one of the best in the world, Koon put his money in the pot with the best of it.
The flop of brought very little help — nothing more than a backdoor flush draw — for the weakest hand. The turn, a , also was of no assistance to Szabo. And when the hit on the river, the tournament was over, for all intents and purposes. Koon had better than a 20-1 chip lead and the match would end shortly thereafter.
Koon used a mix of good fortune, resiliency, and smart decisions to win his first bracelet. He has $32.8 million in live tournament cashes, and he’s now a virtual lock to one day become a member of the Poker Hall of Fame (if he wasn’t already). It’s easy to see why GGPoker signed him on as an ambassador earlier this week.