The 10,450 euros spent on the Mixed-Max buy-in at the WSOP Europe comes with it a certain understanding. Those wishing to participate in the event know they'll be up against the game's best players. They know they'll have to battle through a full table, shorthanded table and then heads-up matches to win the bracelet. They know that the better they do during the first two days, the stronger their chances of picking up WSOP gold. The Mixed-Max event is a grind, and this year Jon Aguiar can claim that he put in the effort needed to earn his first WSOP bracelet.
Aguiar defeated two-time WSOP champion Brandon Cantu for the title, but not after significant drama. After playing the final match until the Casino's closing time on Day 3, action was suspended the following day as both players entered Day 1B of the WSOP Europe main event. When the two returned a day later, Cantu's lead vanished almost instantly, as Aguiar hit a few key river cards to put his opponent at a major disadvantage. The final hand came down to a race with Aguiar's A-K facing Cantu's 2-2. An ace flopped and Aguiar had won the 258,047 euros.
"It's been a long time coming," said Aguiar to the WSOP. "You play this game for a long time, and this is all you want. To win an event like this, in this way, and to play for so long, and to spend so much time waiting while other matches were going on and having to come back and play the main event, it's all been a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be heads-up for a bracelet for so long. You try to put it out of your mind. You have to prepare yourself mentally for this. It's a dream come true."
As Aguiar was deservingly all smiles, Cantu's reaction on Twitter told a different story.
"As I can't sleep I sit here and can't stop thinking about how robbed I was," said Cantu. "I just realized I will never get over this."
Cantu, who earned 159,459 euros for second, felt that the scheduling of the final match was in favor of Aguiar, who was able to rest and prepare. Cantu wanted to play the match the following day when he believed Aguiar wouldn't be 100 percent.
"I guess it was just too much to ask for to play the tourney in a timely manner," Cantu tweeted at Tournament Director Jack Effel.
It's understandable that Cantu feels this way, because most of the tournament, he was in complete control. After Day 2 play (six-handed), Cantu had 738,000 in chips, with his closest competitor, Paul Tedeschi, having 278,000. In this format, players keep their chips as they enter heads-up play, giving Cantu a major advantage moving forward. Cantu then defeated Phil Hellmuth, Martin Jacobson and Roger Hairabedian to make the finals. Aguiar began the heads-up format with one-third of Cantu's chips and defeated Jason Mercier, Marvin Rettenmaier and Faraz Jaka.
"I don't think anyone who played this tournament knows how much heads-up poker I played and how confident I am at it," said Aguiar confidently. "I'm well-regarded as one of the biggest nits in poker. But then I get heads-up and I play almost all my buttons. That took every one of my opponents off guard and it took them too much time to adjust. I won't have that advantage next time. I knew that if I got heads-up, I would have a really good chance at a bracelet."
Aguiar dedicated the victory to his late grandfather and also became the second consecutive Portuguese WSOP champion.
Other notable finishers included Phil Hellmuth, who made his 94th career WSOP cash, Event 3 champion Roger Hairabedian, Bertrand Grospellier and Jason Mercier
Below are the complete results of WSOPE Event 5:
Event 5: Mixed-Max Event
Buy-in: 10,450 euros
Prize pool: 921,600 euros
Players in the money: 16
1. Jonathan Aguiar (258,047 euros)
2. Brandon Cantu (159,459)
3. Roger Hairabedian (86,087)
3. Faraz Jaka (86,087)
5. Konstantin Puchkov (42,094)
5. Marvin Rettenmaier (42,094)
5. Martin Jacobson (42,094)
5. Kristijonas Andrulis (42,094)
9. Paul Tedeschi (20,443)
9. Vladimir Troyanovskiy (20,443)
9. Jennifer Tilly (20,443)
9. Phil Hellmuth (20,443)
9. Bertrand Grospellier (20,443)
9. Jason Mercier (20,443)
9. Mike Watson (20,443)
9. Joe Keuther (20,443)