Simeon Spasov Prevails in an Epic Heads-Up Duel to Win the Merit Poker Cup

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Simeon Spasov

They went back and forth, both Simeon Spasov and Giorgiy Skhulukhiya trying to finish off the Merit Poker Carmen Series with a victory in the Merit Poker Cup and waging an epic heads-up duel.

It took until the clock passed midnight here at the Merit Crystal Cove Hotel and Casino, but Spasov finally emerged as the champion, taking the trophy and $149,600 top prize back home to Bulgaria.

Spasov is no stranger to success in No-Limit Hold’em events. He won a WSOP bracelet in a $2,000 No-Limit Hold’em event in 2022 and finished fourth in the Merit Poker Carmen Series Main Event last year. His win today, prevailing over a starting field of 459 entries, pushes his live winnings close to $2,000,000

“I put in a lot of work, and I have a lot of friends that help me,” Spasov explained after his exhausting heads-up battle with Skhulukhiya. “I put a lot of volume to be better and better.”

For Skhulukhiya, the ending was a bittersweet end to a final table run that was going smoothly until the end. The Merit Poker Gangster Series High Roller champion built up a massive chip lead at the final table, at one point holding more than double his closest challenger five-handed. He was involved in nearly every pot, always asking his opponent to pick one of his cards to show after winning a hand. The Georgian high roller was well on his way to capturing the title until fate, and a little luck for Spasov, intervened and forced him to settle for second place.

Merit Poker CupFinal Table results

*Denotes heads-up deal

Day 4 Action

Day 4 began with 20 players returning to play at 1 p.m. Matthew Davenport was the victim of a brutal river against Mikhail Zavoloka on the first hand of the day and lost most of his stack. He busted in 20th a few hands later.

One of the biggest stories coming into the day had an abrupt end. Aleksandr Ivanov and his son, Aleksandr Ivanov Jr, were both still in the hunt for the trophy but the father fell early in 19th place. Maksim Shornikau then busted in 18th after losing a race with ace-king against Spasov’s nines.

Aleksandr Ivanov
Aleksandr Ivanov

Emad Ghadamian (17th), Krzysztof Spisak (16th), and Milen Bakardjiev (15th) were the next to fall. Ivanov Jr then woke up with kings in the big blind and busted both Edgard Raffoul and Antonio Aversa on the same hand.

Spasov’s tournament nearly came to an early end when he was all in with just queen-high against Maher Achour’s jacks. Spasov, though, caught a running flush to double up. Nikolay Fal picked up a big pair in back-to-back hands, doubling up with queens against Nenad Dukic, then getting kings the next hand. Unfortunately, this time Achour woke up with aces to bust him in 12th.

Relive all the Merit Poker Carmen Series Action

Spasov eliminated Natan Chauskin in 11th before start-of-day chip leader Toni Kaukua shoved the river into Boris Smuskevicius’ straight. Kaukua was left with just one big blind and was eliminated the next hand to set the nine-handed final table.

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Spasov led at the start of the final table with 9,200,000, but Skhulukhiya wasted little time ascending to the top. Building a big pot against Smuskevicius, Skhulukhiya shoved the river, and Smuskevicius snap-called for his last 1,700,000 with trip kings. Skhulukhiya, though, had a full house as Smuskevicius was eliminated in ninth place.

Dukic then got his short stack in with top pair against Simone Andrian’s jacks, but Andrian rivered a flush to eliminate him in eighth. Andrian, making back-to-back final tables after winning this event at the Merit Poker Western Series in January, then ran his ace-queen into Spasov’s ace-king to fall in seventh.

Simone Andrian
Simone Andrian

Ivanov Jr, his dad watching attentively on the rail, then moved all in for 2,075,000 on a king-high board and both Skhulukhiya and Spasov called. Skhulukhiya bet 3,000,000 on the turn to chase away Spasov and turned over a set of jacks. Ivanov could only show a pair of kings and headed for the rail in sixth place.

Aleksandr Ivanov Jr
Aleksandr Ivanov Jr

Skhulukhiya took a commanding lead over the field, climbing over 20,000,000 with nearly half the chips in play five-handed. Zavoloka busted in fifth when Achour flopped two pair, while Ivan Zabiiakin attempted a big bluff with ten-seven, but Spasov picked him off with ace-queen to bust him in fourth.

Spasov was all in for 9,050,000 with two aces against Skhulukhiya’s ace-queen and doubled up to narrow the gap. Achour fell in third place when he was all in for his last 4,000,000 with pocket tens against Skhulukhiya’s ace-five, but the turn brought an ace to give Skhulukhiya another bustout.

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Skhulukhiya held a big lead over Spasov at the start of heads-up, 37,100,000 to 8,800,000. But it wouldn’t stay that way. Spasov came from behind to double up for 10,500,000 with ace-nine against ace-ten, spiking a nine on the flop. He took the chip lead until Skhulukhiya called Spasov’s river shove with two pair to double back into the lead.

Giorgiy Skhulukhiya
Giorgiy Skhulukhiya

Both players finally agreed to a deal and took $140,000 each, leaving aside the extra $9,600 and the trophy to play for. Spasov doubled up again with king-jack against jack-ten, then took a big lead when Skhulukhiya called a raise of 8,200,000 on the river, and Spasov showed a straight. Spasov then moved all in from the button, and Skhulukhiya called for his last 10,000,000 with king-queen. Spasov held two fives and won the race to bring the nearly three-hour-long heads-up match to an end.

Simeon Spasov and Giorgiy Skhulukhiya
Simeon Spasov and Giorgiy Skhulukhiya

Spasov was left singing the loudest note as the curtain finally fell after nearly two weeks of action at the Carmen Series in North Cyprus.

That concludes PokerNews’ coverage of the Merit Poker Carmen Series. Stay tuned for live updates from tournaments around the world.

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