Micheal Watson has won major tournament titles on multiple tours, including victories in World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour main events. The 38-year-old Canadian poker pro can now add a Triton trophy to his growing collection thanks to his breakout performance in the 2023 Triton Super High Roller Series Vietnam $50,000 buy-in short deck event. Watson topped a field of 44 entries in the high-stakes affair to lock up the title and the top prize of $695,000.
“It feels great,” Watson told Triton reporters. “I’ve played a lot of these events and had a lot of close calls. These are the biggest tournaments, the best series so it feels good to finally win one.”
This was the 20th career title and the sixth-largest recorded score yet for Watson. This deep run grew his lifetime earnings to nearly $19.2 million, good for fifth on the Canadian poker earnings leaderboard.
Watson earned 510 Card Player Player of the Year points as the champion of this event. This was his second title and fourth final table so far this year. With 1,320 points and $1,537,515 in to-date POY earnings, Watson now sits in 57th place on the POY leaderboard presented by Global Poker.
This event ran from Mar. 11-12 at the Hoiana Resort & Golf in Quang Nam, Vietnam. Day 2 began with 10 players remaining and only seven set to cash. Watson was in the middle of the pack when the day began, and was still in fifth after Rob Yong’s pocket aces were cracked by the Q-6 of a surging Michael Zhang on the bubble.
Zhang then managed to score the first knockout at the official final table when his pocket aces held up against the K-J of Tan Xuan (7th – $116,000). Mikita Badziakouski soon followed when his A-J ran into the A-K suited of Phil Chiu. Badziakouski picked up the nut flush draw and a double gutshot straight draw going into the river, but a brick on the end sent him packing with $140,000 for his sixth-place showing.
Jason Koon, fresh off a victory in the $50,000 turbo event that saw him become the first-ever five-time Triton champion, got the last of his stack in with the flopped nut straight leading the top two pair of Zhang. Koon did not win the hand, but not because Zhang boated up. Instead, he hit running hearts to make a backdoor flush. Koon earned $187,000 as the fifth-place finisher, surpassing $43 million in career earnings in the process.
Watson scored his first elimination at the final table when his A-K won a preflop race against the pocket queens of Chiu. A queen high flop gave Chiu top set and a huge lead, but running straight cards gave Watson a nine-high straight (with his ace playing as the low end in this game where all the cards five and below have been removed from the deck). Chiu earned $242,000 as the fourth-place finisher, while Watson took the lead heading into three-handed play.
Zhang was the next to be all-in and at risk, with his Q-10 facing the pocket jacks of Watson. Zhang picked up an open-ended straight draw on the flop, while Watson improved to middle set. The turn was a blank, but the river paired the board to give Watson jacks full of kings to knock out Zhang (3rd – $320,000).
Watson held nearly a 4:1 chip lead over Isaac Haxton when heads-up play began. It didn’t take long for him to convert that advantage into the title. The second hand of heads-up play saw Watson shove from the button with KQ and Haxton quickly called with AA. The board ran out Q1010J9 to give Watson a king-high straight for the win.
Haxton walked away with $500,000 and 425 POY points. This was already his seventh final-table finish of the year, with three titles won and $4,491,140 in POY earnings accumulated along the way. His 2,948 POY points are good for third place on the overall leaderboard as the 2023 points race continues to heat up.
Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:
Photo credits: Joe Giron / Triton Poker.