Hailing from Bangkok, Thailand, poker pro Punnat Punsri’s phenomenal year continued with another live tournament achievement in the bag. This time, Punsri upped his earnings by US$ 2,600,000 after taking down the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series Main Event in Cyprus. He has now catapulted to the top of the Hendon Mob Thailand All Time Money List. Somuchpoker had a chance to get to know the champ, discuss his poker life, and recent successes.
SMP: Wow what a spectacular run this year! You kicked off the year with two takedowns at the Venetian High Rollers, eight cashes this summer at the WSOP – nearly snatching a bracelet a couple of times – then now winning the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series $100K Main Event for a US$ 2.6 Million payout. How does it feel to run so good?
Punsri: Yeah it’s been a surreal experience. It was obviously great to get the year off to a perfect start by winning back-to-back PGT high rollers, as that set a precedent towards me aspiring to further improve and potentially make it a full breakout year, despite it being my first time properly playing on the tournament circuit. The WSOP 2022 represents a different challenge as I bracelet hunted a wide range of NLH events, from lower buy-ins to 50k high rollers. Having some very deep runs provided me with an additional boost of confidence, with my second place finish in the $1,979 Poker Hall of Fame Bounty the highlight of my career prior to this win in Cyprus. I believe that poker success is testament to work ethic, perseverance, insightful working groups, as well as mental and physical health. Obviously luck also plays a major factor, and I am super grateful for all the experiences I’ve had this year. The diversity and breadth of support has been overwhelming, both from my family (huge shoutouts to my dad and grandmother for supporting me in a unique side career path that is unconventional to Thai culture) and friends (both inside and outside poker), and it is these positive energies that will continue to drive me to compete at the highest level.
SMP: This was your first Triton event, how did it feel playing amongst the elite? How did you mentally prepare for it?
Punsri: Playing against world-class players with vast tournament poker experience haalways been very challenging; thankfully I had good results earlier in the year playing in very tough fields which gave me a motivational impetus to keep on wanting to improve. I try to go into each event without expectation of success, but rather focus on the fact that I want to play every hand to the very best of my ability. I always believe poker is a game where self-reflection is very important. Playing very high buy-in events definitely adds more pressure, but I see it as an opportunity to test myself against the very best – see where my flaws are, which areas of my game require most improvement – in addition to acclimatizing myself to high-pressure situations.
SMP: Did you feel you had an edge against the big players?
Punsri: Having an edge would obviously be an overstatement. However, I do play an unorthodox style at times and deviate constantly based on meta game analysis and what I believe my opponents perceive of my tendencies. I would say that sometimes being a wildcard or relative unknown helps, as people may not expect you to be capable of some plays. Nonetheless, the experiences I’ve had this year definitely made me realize the various facets of my game that I should work on, just through playing versus world class players and seeing how they navigate through difficult spots. It’s a challenge yet a privilege at the same time to be able to constantly learn new things everyday.
Screen grab Triton Poker
SMP: Let’s talk specifics. Your recent Triton victory, at three-handed Wiktor Malinowski had 71 BB, you had 69 BB, Wayne Heung had 26 BB, what was going through your mind when you four-bet shoved Malinowski with pocket Tens? What other hands would you have followed through with the same action?
Punsri: It was a very high-pressure moment and my decision was made fast due to the fact that I had no time banks remaining. Although Limitless had been playing honest the entire day against me despite being on my left, I thought once Wayne Heung chips up slightly that he might start to be looking for spots to three-bet bluff from the small blind vs my button opens – this includes a bunch of Ax and Kx hands that I want to deny equity against. The correct play with my hand is probably to just call preflop and play tens in position, but within the thirty seconds that I had I thought that I wanted to force his entire linear three-betting range (that largely consists of two over-cards) to fold. For example, AQ suited has to pure fold due to ICM. Even with his hand it’s very very tough and I honestly don’t know what I would have done in his position. I think shoving queens and AK suited in my spot would have been the correct play. [Recap at the bottom of the page]
SMP: This was a life changing victory, how does it feel to win $2.6 Million?
Punsri: It obviously feels great to win any poker tournament, but to win a Triton Main Event is truly a mesmerizing experience. It really did catch me by surprise, and to have overwhelming support from all over the globe made the victory feel even more special.
SMP: Last year you participated in buy ins from 5K-10K, this year you’ve upped that significantly to 50K at the WSOP where you came in 3rd and 100K at Triton. How did you evolve from smaller stakes to high stakes, and how long or fast did it take?
Punsri: I wouldn’t say it’s exactly an evolvement, since my cash game history has already seen me move up from very low stakes to very high over the past decade. I think it’s more to do with my progression as a tournament player, and how I felt I required sufficient experience at a particular stake before transcending towards a more difficult challenge. The 10k high rollers in Vegas during December 2021 and January of this year were really important in helping me develop an understanding of how to approach different stages of a tournament. I got the opportunity to play against world class players at different stack depths and that in itself has fuelled my haste development.
SMP: What has contributed to the progression of your game in such a short time?
Punsri: A willingness to learn and really good friends within the industry who constantly provided valuable input that are suited to my game.
SMP: How will this breakthrough year change your life?
Punsri: Gaining recognition has its pros and cons, hopefully I use it well to benefit myself and those who have always supported me in the right ways. It is obviously still sinking in, but I will use this latest achievement as a motivation towards achieving success in future endeavors and aspirations.
SMP: What would you like to achieve in poker?
Punsri: Obviously it’s hard to set concrete goals in poker, I see constant self-development as a big achievement; people are generally prone to become complacent when they achieve certain titles or accolades in life, my plan is to use this as fire to try and get better everyday. In terms of more tangible goals, I would like to win a WSOP bracelet for Thailand, and a major title in the UK as that has always been my second home.
SMP: Let’s have the readers get to know a bit of your poker background. When did you start playing poker? What or who sparked your interest and why?
Punsri: I’ve been playing for over 10 years. I started playing poker with friends and my dad since I was in high school, then played cash games at casinos while I was pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the UK. I played some tournament poker prior to the COVID pandemic at some Asian stops, but started to take it more seriously since WSOP 2021. My father played a key role in triggering my aspirations to achieve success in tournament poker, as he outlines the prestige of winning accolades, but more importantly the invaluable memories and experiences you are able to acquire from competing at new ventures against elite competition.
SMP: Do you prefer cash games or tournaments?
Punsri: I used to exclusively play cash games until very recently – as of now I would say I enjoy both, but personal goals are clearer in tournaments and I would say the sensations and excitement you get from going deep in tournaments are much more satisfying.
SMP: When did you taste your first win?
Punsri: I actually won a high roller tournament for UK students (300 GBP buy-in) at the GUKPT Coventry Goliath in 2017. That was won in front of many friends I knew from my local casino in Bristol, it was a great feeling.
SMP: Live poker is not legal in Thailand, how do you get practice? What tools have helped your game?
Punsri: I play poker abroad since I was studying in the UK, thus familiarizing myself with foreign players from various backgrounds since I was young. I would also say discussing poker with my closest friends within the industry has been most helpful towards my progression.
SMP: When you travel for poker, do you go with a team or a few friends or solo?
Punsri: I generally tend to go to tournament stops alone, but I have close friends who play cash games in places like Vegas so when I go there I never feel lonely. For other stops, particularly in Asia, I am planning to bring more UK friends with me if feasible, so they can get to explore the unique cultures/traditions and tourist attractions different countries in Asia have to offer. I have a life mentor, Cos Paparestis, who I went to WPT Prime Cambodia with, and we are planning to visit more of these Asian stops next year.
SMP: How has poker changed your life?
Punsri: Getting to know great people and establishing lifelong relationships with them is the best thing that has happened to me in poker. Poker has also enabled me to live a life well traveled, garner unique life experiences from a relatively young age, and develop various invaluable skill sets that are highly applicable to other areas of life.
Punri’s 2022 achievements
Prior to his Triton victory, Punsri kicked off 2022 with back to back victories at the Venetian High Rollers in Las Vegas to taste his first ever six figure payout. In the summer, he cashed 8 times at the 2022 WSOP, nearly snatching two bracelets, finishing 3rd at the $50K NLH High Roller 8-Handed for over half a million dollars and 2nd at the $1,979 Poker Hall of Fame Bounty for US$ 170K.
Jinho Hong and Punnat Punsri heads up at 2022 WSOP $1,979 Poker Hall of Fame Bounty Photo Credit – WSOP/ PokerNews
Triton Poker SHR Main Event recap
99 runners coughed up the US$ 100,000 Main Event buy in to amass a US$ 9,900,000 prize pool. Being that it was Triton, the biggest names were of course in attendance, among them included founder Paul Phua in 11th place and American pro Isaac Haxton in 13th place. The final table was a mixed bag of players from different continents. Three were Asia young guns looking to pick up their biggest career score. Standing in their way was the massive stacked Polish pro Wiktor Malinowski.
Two and a half hours in, the field trimmed from 9 players down to just 5. Hong Kong’s Horace Wei was out first joined by Russians Artem Vezhenkov, Artur Martirosyan, and France’s Gregoire Auzoux. It was at this stage when Punsri began his steep ascent, first landing a double up on a cooler with Kings over Queens against Denmark’s Henrik Hecklen. Punsri shipped more by eliminating USA’s last hope Jason Koon, on a flip with spiking the Ace to dust . From there, it only took 40 minutes to secure the win.
Punsri outdrew Hecklen to claim the rest of the Dane’s chips. This nearly evened him up with Malinowski with 69 BB to the Pole’s 71 BB. Lagging behind was Hong Kong’s Wayne Heung who was sitting on 26 BB. Less than a half hour later, the game took a sudden turn. The two big stacks went head to head resulting in a game-changer double up for Punsri and Malinowski chunked down to 2 BB. From the button, Punsri min-raised with , Malinowski three-bet from the small blind, Punsri four-bet jammed, Malinowski called with . With the board running , Malinowski missed all of his outs. A few hands after, Malinowski fell to Punsri to give short stacked Heung a sweet pay jump. With his massive advantage, Punsri went on to end Heung to seize the massive US$ 2.6 Million first prize.
Buy in: US$ 100,000
Prize pool: US$ 9,900,000
ITM: 13 places
Final table payouts
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