WSOP Paradise: Jin Hoon Lee wins $1,500 Mystery Millions after Maria Ho dominates final table

Mo Afdhal
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Posted on: December 7, 2023 2:21 am EST

The World Series of Poker Paradise has crowned its second bracelet winner.

Jin Hoon Lee battled his way through a record-breaking field of 3,446 entrants to claim the top prize of $420,000–plus any bounties accrued– and the gold bracelet in Event #1: $1,500 Mystery Millions. The five Day 1 starting flights managed to slightly surpass the $5,000,000 guarantee and saw 338 players move on to Day 2 action, securing the minimum cash in the process.

Jin Hoon Lee (far left) emerged victorious in Event #1: $1,500 Mystery Millions

While Lee may have won the bracelet in the end, Maria Ho emerged as the dominant chip leader throughout play on Day 2 and held her advantage all the way through Day 3, only relinquishing when play reached three-handed at the final table.

The final day saw 34 hopefuls return to play down to a winner with $420,000, plus bounties accrued, for the eventual champion. Play began with a multitude of notable names still in the hunt–many of whom would fall short of the final table–including Phil Hellmuth (30th), Mikita Badziakouski (18th), Sam Greenwood (17th), Diego Ventura (16th), David Peters (14th), and Rayan “Beriuzy” Chamas (12th).

Maria Ho steamrolls at final table

The final table began with nine players, with one–Hyunsup Kim–hitting the rail before the stream went live on the GGPoker YouTube channel.

Ho wielded her chip advantage with aggression, opening pot after pot, but soon ran into trouble against short-stacked Max Pinnola, doubling him up. After that minor setback, Ho continued with her aggressive game plan, not letting her foot off the gas at any point.

Ho then turned her aggression towards Triple Crown winner Davidi Kitai, on her immediate left. In a blind versus blind confrontation, both players flopped a pair of aces. Ho’s A-J had Kitai’s A-8 in bad shape, but the Belgian sensed the set up on the turn, tanking in the face of Ho’s bet for long enough that one of the other players called the clock.

The tournament director’s thirty-second countdown elapsed before Kitai acted, rendering his hand dead. The very next hand, Ho found pocket eights on the button and opened the action. Kitai, in the small blind, moved all-in with A-K. It was essentially a coin flip, with a slight advantage to Ho, and Kitai needed to connect to stay alive. The runout provided no help, however, and Kitai fell in 8th place.

Kartik Ved, of India, found himself at risk after committing the majority of his chips with K-Q. Ho re-raised with A-9 to put him all-in and when the action folded back around to him, Ved obliged with a call. Ho held the best hand pre-flop and improved to a pair of nines on the flop. The turn card came a king, however, to give Ved the lead. With one card to come, Ho needed to hit to score the elimination–and hit she did. The river nine improved her hand to eliminate Ved in seventh place.

Ho does nearly all the heavy lifting

The next casualty to fall, again at the hands of Ho, was France’s Thomas Santerne. After an open raise from Ho, Santerne committed the majority of his chips. When the action got back around to Ho, she moved all-in and Santerne called to officially put himself at risk. Again, the players were in a coin flip scenario with Ho’s pocket tens holding a slight edge on Santerne’s A-K. Another clean runout sent Santerne to the rail in sixth place and increased Ho’s chip lead even further.

Drew Scott got lucky to double through Ho after getting his chips in way behind. The Canadian’s luck would need to hold again, however, as just minutes later he found himself all-in and at risk, but this time with the best hand. Ho’s limp from the small blind with K-J of hearts prompted a raise from Scott in the big blind, holding A-Q. Ho decided that her hand functioned best as a re-jam and moved all-in. Scott called quickly and the rest was up to the poker gods. The runout held clean through the turn, but a king on the river ended Scott’s run in fifth place.

Pinnola then found back-to-back doubles through Ho to bring his stack nearly level with the chip leader. Then, a massive pot saw Konstantin Maslak move all-in from the small blind, only to see the bad news as Lee, in the big blind, snap-called with pocket aces. Maslak couldn’t improve to take down the number one, despite flopping an open-ended straight draw, and his stack took a crushing blow. Soon after, Maslak would bow out in fourth place when his A-6 failed to improve against Lee’s A-K.

Lee takes chip lead, decimates Ho

Three-handed play saw the players start out relatively even-stacked. That is, until, a massive showdown materialized between Lee and Ho. From the small blind, Lee opted to merely limp with A-9. Ho, in the big blind, looked down at pocket fours and moved all-in, exerting maximum pressure on Lee’s smaller stack.

The South Korean made the call, however, and would need to connect with the board to stay alive. The flop came safe, but an ace on the turn left Ho drawing to the two remaining fours. The river card bricked out, though, and Ho’s stack took a massive hit, leaving her third in the chip counts.

Shortly after, Lee moved all-in from the small blind with A-9 and Ho, with only about five big blinds remaining, called it off with K-2. There was no comeback in the cards for Ho as Lee’s ace-high held through the runout to send her home in third place.

Pinnola vs. Lee for the bracelet

If you told Max Pinnola that he would start the final table with the shortest stack, but manage to ladder his way up to a second place finish, chances are he’d dismiss the possibility. Thankfully, reality is stranger than fiction and that’s exactly what happened.

Lee took the chip lead into heads-up play, but Pinnola found an early double when his second pair held up against an open-ended straight draw with two over cards. Then, after trading pots back and forth for a while, Lee laid a trap with pocket aces to regain the chip lead. Again, Pinnola battled back to wrestle back the lead, but not for long.

The two collided in a massive pot that saw both players dealt pocket pairs. Lee’s kings were way out in front of Pinnola’s nines and, just like that, the lead flip-flopped once again. This time, Lee wouldn’t relinquish his advantage. The final hand saw both players pick up a K-X holding pre-flop and the chips went in the middle. Lee held the upper hand with K-9 against Pinnola’s K-4. Somehow, the flop came king-high, pairing both players, but keeping Lee out in front. There was no miracle four to be found for Pinnola and his day ended with a second place finish.

If you missed any of the final table action or want to re-live the pain and glory, check out the full replay below!

Event #1: $1,500 Mystery Millions final table payouts

PlacePlayerPrize (USD)
1Jin Hoon Lee (South Korea)$420,000
2Max Pinnola (USA)$257,000
3Maria Ho (USA)$200,000
4Konstantin Maslak (Russia)$160,000
5Drew Scott (Canada)$127,000
6Thomas Santerne (France)$101,000
7Kartik Ved (India)$80,000
8Davidi Kitai (Belgium)$64,000
9Hyunsup Kim (South Korea)$51,000

Images Courtesy of World Series of Poker