How the West Was Won: Mohamed Mokrani Ships the Merit Poker Western Series $3,300 Main Event for $342,500
The action has come to a close in the 2024 Merit Poker Western Series $3,300 Main Event here at the Crystal Cove Hotel and Casino in North Cyprus. It took nearly ten 60-minute levels for a winner to emerge from the 24 players who made it to the final day. France's Mohamed Mokrani was crowned the champion, outlasting the 672-entry field and defeating Nichan Khorchidian in a brief heads-up duel to take home the title and top prize of $342,500.
Mokrani started today as the fifth-largest stack and went mostly under the radar before a late night surge catapulted him ahead of perennial chip leaders Felipe Ketzer and Khorchidian during three-handed play. Mokrani only had $15,211 in recorded lifetime tournament earnings prior to this event, and today's win is nearly forty times greater than his previous-best cash of $8,124.
The Main Event caps off another successful tour for Merit Poker, a brand whose stock is quickly rising in the poker community. The $1,500,000 guarantee was easily eclipsed, with the final prize pool confirmed at $1,854,720.
Western Series $3,300 Main Event Final Table Results
Action of the Day
Only 24 players made it to the fourth and final day, and with eleven of them starting the final day with 25 big blinds or less, the action was fast and furious from the off.
Among those short stacks were Nariman Yaghmai and Amir Touma, who couldn't find any momentum and would become the first two casualties of the day. In contrast, Khorchidian wasted no time building a stack. He would wake up with pocket queens to eliminate Azamat Tulepbergenov in the opening level to find himself among the chip leaders and would remain as one of the top two stacks all the way to the final table.
Other players who were eliminated in the first two levels of the day included Wael Sarkis (20th - $15,390), Ara Melkisetian (18th - $17,600), Aleksandr Kirichenko (16th - $17,600) and Andreas Christoforou (15th - $20,400).
Khorchidian would eliminate the latter two players and by this point in the tournament was the biggest stack in the room, rivalled only by Ketzer, who had begun to build a monster stack of his own after turning a straight against Clement Bonnant and getting max value.
Shortly after, Ketzer knocked out Ihar Soikain a brutal cooler to pull even with Khorchidian.
Start of day chip leader Ermanno Di Nicola fell to Khorchidian two spots shy of the final table in a blind on blind confrontation. Khorchidian then woke up with pocket aces to eliminate Day 2 chip leader Giuliano Boellis in tenth place and had a dominating chip lead heading into the final table.
Hadi Khordbin came into the final table with the shortest stack and became the first final table casualty after getting pipped by Day 1a chip leader Samy Barka, who became the next player to hit the rail after paying off Ketzer's flopped straight. That hand left Barka with just eight big blinds and he bust moments later. Barka was followed out the door by Antoine Hasbani (7th - $57,300), and Mustafa Ercan (6th - $69,100).
Damir Zhugralin started the final table as one of the shorter stacks but did a good job accumulating chips from there, finding himself in third place after the elimination of Ercan. His momentum came to a crashing halt after getting the money in preflop with pocket aces, only for Khorchidian to flop a Broadway straight to secure the KO in the nastiest beat of the evening. Khorchidian ousted Christophe Panetti next to set up a lengthy three-handed battle.
Three-handed play would last over two hours. The stack sizes, with Ketzer and Khorchidian having massive stacks and Mokrani being short, would create a unique situation where Ketzer and Khorchidian had to tread very carefully in an attempt to outlast the resilient Mokrani. The latter doubled up, became short-stacked and then doubled up again to close the gap between himself and Ketzer while Khorchidian still maintained a dominating chip lead.
Ketzer eventually ran into Mokrani's pocket aces in a critical turning point that saw the eventual winner take the chip lead for the first time. Mokrani finished Ketzer off with cowboys and entered heads-up play with a modest lead over Khorchidian.
Much like a classic duel in the Old West, heads-up play was over in the blink of an eye. Mokrani picked off a bluff from Khorchidian in the second hand of heads-up play to take a 2:1 chip lead and won a flip with pocket nines to claim the final pot of the night, the title and the top prize of $342,500.
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