Christian Harder Wins PokerStars Championship Bahamas Main Event

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Christian Harder won the first ever PokerStars Championship event on Saturday, defeating Cliff Josephy heads-up to win PokerStars Championship Bahamas (PokerStars photo)

Just 2.5 months ago Cliff ‘JohnnyBax’ Josephy was at the final table of the WSOP Main Event with a player he once backed in the pre-Black Friday era of online poker. Josephy eventually finished eventually busted in third while his one-time horse, Gordon Vayo, finished second.

Christian Harder improved that narrative on Sunday night at the final table of the PokerStars Championship Bahamas Main Event. Josephy finished runner-up while Harder, once also backed by Josephy, took home the title and just over $400,000.

It took just seven hands for the first elimination on the night and much to the delight of his legions of fans on PocketFives, it wasn’t Josephy. Harder opened the action, raising to 140,000 from UTG. Rasmus Glaesel moved all in UTG+1 and Harder called. Glaesel showed AhKc and found himself racing against Harder’s TcTh. The board ran out 8d6h3s6c6s to give Harder a full house and eliminated Glaesel in sixth.

That handed seemed to provide some momentum for Harder, but it also seemed to spell the beginning of the end for Michael Gentili, who started the final day with the chip lead. Over the course of the next five hours, Gentili saw his chip stack evaporate mostly at the hands of Aleksei Opalikhin. Josephy eventually finished him off.

After Harder opened to 275,000, Josephy moved all in for 1,785,000 before Gentil called off the last of his stack from the small blind. Harder folded and Josephy showed KsTs while Gentili had two live cards, 9s7c. The Kh7s6h flop put Josephy ahead and he stayed there through the Js turn and Kc river to eliminate Gentili in fifth place.

At this point Harder had almost 2/3 of the chips in play but again he sat back as another player was eliminated. Josephy opened to 240,000 before Michael Vela re-raised to 1,000,000. Opalikhin called his last 295,000 before Josephy folded. Vela showed KcKs and Opalikhin tabled Tc9d. The AcAdAh flop left Opalikhin drawing thin and while the Th turn and 9c river gave the Russian two full houses, they weren’t big enough and he was out in fourth place.

Another 90 minutes of play passed with Harder still in command before the next elimination. Harder raised from the button to 350,000, Josephy called from the small blind but Vela moved all in for 1,485,000. Harder and Josephy both called. Harder and Josephy both checked through the 8d7d6d3h4d board. Harder showed AcQs for ace-high while Josephy tabled KdJh for a king-high flush and Vela tabled and mucked Ah6h to be eliminated in third place.

When heads-up play began Harder held 12,130,000 chips to Josephy’s 9,175,000. Play was paused to allow Harder and Josephy to discuss a chop and after just a few minutes the Americans agreed to a deal that saw Harder take $419,664 and Josephy $403,448 with an additional $10,000 going to the eventual champion.

Just 20 minutes later Harder finished Josephy after a preflop all in spot. Josephy raised to 400,00, Harder raised to 1,100,000 and Josephy move all in for just over 6,000,000. Harder called and tabled AdJs which had Josephy’s As8h dominated. The 9s5c4sKs9c board was no help for Josephy and he was eliminated in second place leaving Harder standing tall with the first major title of his career.

The $5,000 buy-in event, which replaced the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, attracted 738 entries. Last year the $5,300 buy-in PCA had a field of 928 and Mike Watson took home $728,325 for first.

The next PokerStars Championship event is in Panama, March 10 – 20. In the meantime, the PokerStars Festival event hits London, England January 22 – 29.

Final Table Payouts

  1. Christian Harder – $429,664*
  2. Cliff Josephy – $403,448*
  3. Michael Vela – $259,980
  4. Aleksei Opalikhin – $191,420
  5. Michael Gentili – $140,940
  6. Rasmus Glaesel – $103,780
  7. Brock Allison – $76,400
  8. John Dibella – $56,260