The most expensive buy-in in MSPT history, as well as the tour’s first big blind ante tournament, took place at The Venetian Las Vegas over the weekend. The $5,000 tournament attracted some of the biggest names in the game, but in the end, the title came down to real-life couple Alex Foxen and Kristen Bicknell.
Both players have had tremendous success as of late. Back in December, Foxen won more than $1.1 million after finishing second in the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic and in March won a Macau Super High Roller for $963,880. Bicknell, a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, is also having a great year having already won $872,200 in live tournament earnings.
“It’s a running thing when we’re in a tournament,” explained Foxen, who ultimately won the title. “We’ve had some strange circumstances in the past with tournaments where she’ll win something and I’ll do well too. At Bellagio, she won the $5K prelim and I finished second in the Main. In Macau, she won the high roller and I won the next tournament. There have been a lot of crazy coincidences.”
Bicknell added: “He’s run so good against me it’s crazy. He has busted me in big spots in tournaments and now he’s beat me heads up.”
Interestingly, it wasn’t the first final table the two had made together this year. Back in March, both were at the €25K Super High Roller finale at the partypoker MILLIONS Barcelona. Foxen finished seventh in that tournament for $110,312 while Bicknell took eighth for $73,541.
Registration for the tournament was open into Day 2 and dozens of players took advantage. When it closed the field stood at 178 entries, which meant there was a slight overlay. Given the guarantee, the prize pool stood at an even $1,000,000 and was dispersed among the top 18 players.
Among those to cash but fall short of the final table were Dylan Linde (11th - $19,000), Seth Davies (16th - $14,000), Elio Fox (17th - $14,000) and Sam Soverel (18th - $14,000).
On Day 3, the final ten players returned to play down to a winner, and it would take a while as the stacks were deep. The first final table elimination came when MSPT bestbet Jacksonville Regional champ Blake Whittington slow-played aces and David Malka flopped top pair holding king-queen. The chips went in on the turn and Malka was unable to improve.
Not long after in Level 21 (6,000/12,000/10,000), four players were in on a K♥2♥9♦J♣ board when Australian Kahle Burns bet 60,000. Only Jake Schindler called and the 10♥ completed the board on the river. Burns checked, Schindler bet 137,000, and in came an all-in check-raise. Schindler tanked for several minutes before calling off his last 224,000 with the Q♥9♥ for the second nuts, but it was no good as Burns had the nuts with the A♥8♥.
Online pro Conor Beresford bowed out in eighth place when his ace-nine failed to overcome Phong “Turbo” Nguyen’s ace-king, and then Pavel Plesuv took his leave in seventh place after missing a flush draw in a three-way pot.
In Level 23 (10,000/20,000/15,000), Foxen raised to 45,000 from the button with the 8♥4♥ and poker pro Joey Weissman defended with the 8♦5♦. The 5♥7♥8♣ flop had action written all over it, and the chips did go in. Foxen made a straight on the 6♣ turn and the 6♥ river actually improved him to a straight flush.
After Whittington fell in fifth place – the result of shoving jack-ten suited into Bicknell’s pocket jacks – four-handed play lasted for quite a while before Nguyen’s number was called. It happened when he jammed the button holding king-ten and Bicknell woke up with ace-queen in the big blind. The board ran out all low cards and that was all she wrote for the man they call “Turbo.”
The final three players took turns on the short stack and holding the chip lead as the blinds continued to rise. Three-handed play lasted a grueling four hours.
In Level 29 (40,000/80,000/40,000), Foxen moved all in for 1.265 million holding the K♣7♣ in the small blind and Burns called from the big with the A♦8♥. The board ran out 7♠7♥2♣9♣5♣ and Burns was left with crumbs. Bicknell finished him off one hand later.
The poker couple, basically dead even in chips, then agreed to a chop where each locked up $200,000 and left the required 10% and title to play for, which amounted to $39,000. It took just two hands to determine the winner. In the first, both players flopped top pair and Foxen doubled thanks to his kicker. In the next, Bicknell got her last few chips in with jack-three against Foxen’s queen-four. The latter made a full house and Bicknell was officially eliminated in second place.