Jose ‘Nacho’ Barbero is off to quite the start this year. The Argentinian poker player has recorded two of his three largest tournament scores in the early months of 2023. Barbero’s hot streak began when he finished fourth in the $25,000 PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) for a career-best payday of $1,551,300. Just a month after that huge score, Barbero emerged victorious in the Triton Super High Roller Series Vietnam $15,000 buy-in seven-max event, earning $600,000 and his first Triton Poker title.
Barbero now has nearly $7.2 million in recorded tournament earnings to his name, the most of any Argentinian player in the history of the game. He was also awarded 936 Card Player Player of the Year points as the champion. With the 1,680 he earned in the PSPC, Barbero now sits in fourth place in the 2023 POY race standings presented by Global Poker, with 2,616 total points and more than $2.1 million in to-date POY earnings.
This $15,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament attracted 172 total entries, breaking the Triton tour record for field size that had been set just a day earlier in the kickoff event of the series in Vietnam.
The record field was narrowed to just 37 competitors by the end of day 1. Day 2 saw the money bubble burst, with big names like two-time POY winner Stephen Chidwick (22nd), European Poker Tour champion Steve O’Dwyer (20th), Tan Xuan (13th), _World Poker Tour and EPT winner Michael Watson, and online tournament superstars Linus Loeliger (9th) among those who cashed.
Seth Davies was the first to hit the rail at the official final table. The American high-stakes crusher got his last few big blinds in from the small blind with J-4, and ran into the J-5 of Barbero out of the big blind. Barbero made a four-flush to drag the pot and send Davies packing in seventh place ($102,100). This was already Davies’ seventh POY-qualified final table of the year, with more than $2 million in earnings across those cashes. As a result, he now sits inside the top ten in the POY rankings.
Alex Kulev soon followed when his pocket nines lost a race against the A-Q of Kiat Lee. Kulev earned $138,000 as the sixth-place finisher. Two-time bracelet winner Aleksejs Ponakovs was eliminated when his A-K was unable to outrun the pocket nines of Barbero. Ponakovs was awarded $178,000 for his fifth-place showing.
A battle of the blinds spelled the end of Lee. Jans Arends raised from the small blind with pocket aces and called Lee’s three-bet jam. Lee’s A-6 was in rough shape, and when his turned open-ended straight draw bricked, he was left with less than a small blind remaining in his stack. He was soon sent home with $222,000 for his efforts.
Bracelet winner Brian Kim was the short stack entering three-handed action. He got all-in with A-10 leading the A-9 of Barbero and was in great shape to double up, but a nine on the river knocked him out in third place ($271,000).
Heads-up began with Barbero holding 22,100,000 to Jans Arends’ 12,300,000. Barbero had improved his chip advantage to roughly 2:1 by the time the final hand was dealt. Arends, a bracelet winner from The Netherlands, went out swinging, with his final hand being a huge multi-street bluff attempt. Action started with Arends limping from the button with 76. Barbero checked his option with A2 and the flop came down 844. Barbero bet 400,000 and Arends raised to 1,400,000 with his gutshot. Barbero called with ace high and the turn brought the A. Barbero check-called a bet of 3,000,000 and the 3 completed the board. Barbero checked again and Arends moved all-in for 5,300,000. Barbero went into the tank, but eventually made the call with his aces and fours with an eight kicker from the board. Arends showed his bluff and was eliminated in second place, earning a career-best live payday of $406,000 for his runner-up showing.
Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:
Photo credits: Triton Poker / Joe Giron.