WSOP 2019: Brutal Beats & Near Misses – Nikita Luther, Kunal Punjwani & Aditya Systla

WSOP 2019 Brutal Beats & Near Misses - Nikita Luther, Kunal Punjwani & Aditya Systla
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  • Attreyee K. Ganguly August 11, 2019
  • 5 Minutes Read

2019 has been an incredible year for Indian poker with Team India leaving its mark at almost all the major stops that it has attended so far. The one series that really stands out from the rest is the 50th annual World Series of Poker (WSOP). With over a 100 scores which included eight final table finishes and one gold bracelet, this was without a doubt, Team India’s most successful summer in Las Vegas till date.

After a series of interviews and features immediately following the 2019 WSOP, we now bring you a compilation of the top three most brutal beats and near misses for Team India this summer. While there was no doubt a lot to rejoice about regarding the team’s performance at the mega-series, in this feature, we will take a look at the three most crucial hands that either eliminated or led to the elimination of our Indian pros under decisive circumstances that possibly denied them the title and in two cases, the gold bracelet

Starting off the list is India’s poker superwoman and only female WSOP bracelet winner – Nikita Luther. The Adda52 pro made it to her second final table in WPT500 Las Vegas this time and that too in just three years. Luther was a hair’s breadth away from winning her first-ever WPT title before a brutal beat delivered by eventual champion Ben Farrell crushed those dreams. Luther did better her fifth-place finish from 2017, by finishing runner-up for a career-best $109,300 (~₹75.32 Lakhs).

While Luther’s bad beat came in a non-bracelet event, budding talent Kunal Punjwani’s run in $1.5K NLHE Double Stack came to a devasting end. Despite entering the final table with an above-average stack and looking poised to run deep, Punjwani exited in seventh place for a personal-best score of $74,401 (~₹51 Lakhs).

The last name on this list belongs to a player who was a surprising revelation at this year’s WSOP, Aditya Systla. A WSOP debutant, Systla came close to making the final table in the Salute To Warriors Event, but ultimately hit the rail in 14th place for $5,819 (~₹4 Lakhs). Not only was this Systla’s career-first WSOP score but also his best-ever live score to date.

While we are sure that in a series which was attended by the largest-ever Indian contingent and featured 90 bracelet events, there would have been many more bad beats delivered upon the Indian pros. However, these three hands have made the cut given the crucial times in which they occurred.


Nikita Luther – Zynga Poker WPT500 Las Vegas

Runner-Up for $109,300 (~₹75.32 Lakhs)

One of India’s most talented female poker players, Nikita Luther is at the top of her game and has been performing consistently well for the past three years. In 2017, she had final tabled the WPT500 Las Vegas event, finishing fifth for $65,000. This year, she came extremely close to capturing her career-first WPT title but missed out following a brutal beat.

Nikita Luther, Runner-Up in Zynga Poker WPT500 Las Vegas
Nikita Luther

Luther was galloping towards her first-ever WPT title after entering the final table with the third-biggest stack. She was in the driver’ s seat at the start of her heads-up match against Ben Farrell and looked poised to win the event before a brutal bad beat changed the equation.

Luther, who was chip leading heads-up, raised to 650,000 from the button and Farrell 3-bet to 2.4 Million from the big blind. Luther moved all-in for 22 Million, and Farrell called with his last 16.47 Million. Luther’s made her a near 70% favorite to win the title against Farrell’s , but the runout turned the tide in Farrell’s favor, giving him the much-needed double up. Luther’s run did not last for much longer after the bad beat, and she ultimately finished runner-up for $109,300 (~₹75.32 Lakhs).

Read our tournament report here.


Kunal Punjwani – 2019 WSOP Event 82: $1,500 NLHE Double Stack

7th for $74,401 (~₹51 Lakhs)

One of the most promising Indian players to have emerged at this year’s WSOP, Kunal Punjwani bagged his first WSOP score in the $400 COLOSSUS earlier this summer. However, his career-best score came just two weeks later in the $1.5K NLHE Double Stack. Incredibly, there were two Indians who had made it to the final table in the event – Punjwani and Kalyan Chakravarthy. While Chakravarthy was the shortest stack at the start of the last day of play and hit the rail in eighth place ($56,850 – ₹39 Lakhs), Punjwani had started out with the fourth-largest stack and was among the top contenders for the bracelet. Despite Chakravarthy’s early elimination, Punjwani carried on his fight and seemed to be doing well before his tournament run too came to an untimely end.

Kunal Punjwani

On the 48th hand of the final table, Philip Scaletta opened the pot in early position holding . Punjwani defended his big blind with to see the flop open . Scaletta led out for 2.2 Million. Punjwani who had 5,150,000 behind moved all-in. Scaletta went into the tank for some time before deciding to call. At the time, Punjwani was an overwhelming 91% favorite to take down the pot. But the and rundown gave Scaletta a seven-high straight, ending Punjwani’s run in seventh place for $74,401 (~₹51 Lakhs).

Read our tournament report here.


Aditya Systla – 2019 WSOP Event #71: SALUTE TO WARRIORS – $500 No-Limit Hold’em

14th for $5,819 (~₹4 Lakhs)

Aditya Systla made his mark in the Salute To Warriors event where he and Sachidananda Sivakumar were the only two Indians who had carried forward their stacks to Day 2. While Sivakumar failed to make much headway on Day 2, perishing in 141st place for $865 (~₹59,552), Systla almost made it to his very first WSOP final table.

Aditya Systla

Though much of Systla’s journey on Day 2 went unreported, his stack followed a steady upward trajectory with each passing level. He had amassed 900,000 in chips, by the time the final three tables were redrawn and he even eliminated Reda Bouaboula in 25th place and Luiz Ferreira in 22nd place. Down to the last two tables, Systla’s run came to an abrupt end at the hands of Lu Chen.

Chen had raised the pot to 300,000 when Systla decided to 3-bet all-in for 1.3 Million. Chen tanked for a while before deciding to call. Chen turned over against Systla’s . Systla was a 67% favorite to win the hand pre-flop, but the rundown saw Chen flopping a pair of nines eliminating Systla in 14th place for $5,819 (~₹4 Lakhs).

Read our tournament report here.

Content & Images Courtesy: World Series of Poker (WSOP)

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