Francois Billard Wins MILLIONS North America Main Event
When partypoker's MILLIONS North America rolled into Playground Poker Club in Kahnawake, Francois Billard, like a lot of Canadians, thought he'd take a shot at the $1 million guaranteed first prize. Five days of play later, the Rosemere, QC native was hoisting the trophy over his head, scoring his third lifetime win and biggest career cash in the process.
The MILLIONS tour is partypoker LIVE’s premier high roller poker tournament series. A bit of a new kid on the live tour block, MILLIONS is not so quietly setting records with each new event. The latest North America event teamed with the premier poker club in Canada, Playground Poker, to attract 521 players to the $10,300 event. That meant they pushed over the massive $5 million guarantee to build a prize pool of $5,210,000.
Things started to get interesting on Day 3, as 66 players returned to the felt with only 63 paying spots. It took about half a level for the bubble to burst, and then action got a little quicker. A flurry of players busted through Day 3 and collected a payout, including a few big-name Canadian players. Marc-Andre Ladouceur and Griffin Benger each won $25,000 for 46th and 39th respectively. EPT winner Mike McDonald made a return to live poker after a bit of a hiatus and managed to triple his $10k with $30,000 for 22nd place.
Day 3 ended with just 16 players remaining in the fight for the top prize and the trophy. Leading the way into Day 4 was Albertan Danick Landriault. He bagged nearly a fifth of the chips in play when the action finished, but he led a very strong Canadian showing into the penultimate day. Canada outnumbered everyone else for the final two tables, with nine maple leafs returning to the felt on Saturday.
Most of the Canadians who made it to Day 4 perished in the early going. Sixteenth through twelfth place belonged to Canadians with Senthuran Vijayaratnam, Josue Sauvageau, Seyedrohollah Ettehadi, and John Cayley all getting $40,000 for their trouble while Erik Lemarquand picked up $60,000. Jason James also won $60,000, for 10th place, and Ruben Perceval laddered to eighth place and $150,000. The UK's Ben Heath was the final casualty of Day 4, setting up the six-handed final table.
Landriault managed to survive through Day 4, but he found himself at the other end of the chip counts, bagging up the smallest to end the day. The biggest stack to start the final six belonged to American Kevin Rabichow, but Billard wasn't very far behind him with the second place stack. In addition to the two Canadians and American, Greece's Alexandros Kolonias, Spain's Paul Fontan, and Finnish partypoker pro Joni Jouhkimainen rounded out the final six.
Coming back as the short stack, High Level, Alberta's Landriault knew he'd have to make some early moves. He finally found his spot in the 14th hand of the final table after he defended his blind with to a raise from the big stack of Rabichow. Landriault check-called the board when Rabichow fired 2.4 million, and check-called Rabichow's shove on the turn. Landriault was forced to use two time extensions to make his turn decision, but when he finally called, he got the bad news as Rabichow held for a bigger pair. The river was a brick and Landriault picked up his biggest live score ever with $250,000 for sixth.
Play slowed down a lot after Landriault exited the stage, and five-handed action went on for more than five hours. Exactly 140 hands after sixth place was decided, on hand 154, Fontan became the next casualty. Billard had used the previous five hours very well, building up a massive chip lead, and he was bullying the table with all-ins. Fontan finally decided he had to call off, but it was Billard who spiked a pair to eliminate the Spaniard.
Action continued for another 40 hands or so with Billard using his stack aggressively. Rabichow managed to catch a couple doubles from him to draw close to even but Billard kept the lead for most of four- and five-handed play. Rabichow came closest to Billard when he eliminated Kolonias in fourth place and came within 20,000 chips, but when Billard rebuilt his chip lead, the final three players cut a deal after the dinner break. With Billard back in the lead, he locked up $749,030, Jouhkimainen $583,310, and Rabichow $578,990. That left $212,370 to play for. The money remaining on the table meant that whoever won the tournament would still take home the biggest bag of cash, even after the deal.
It didn't take long after the deal for Rabichow to finally get the jump on Billard. It was a fairly classic race situation with Billard's offsuit slick against the nines of Rabichow. The coin flip went to the American, but Billard wasn't going anywhere. He chipped back up again to trade the lead back and forth with Rabichow for the next 75 hands while Jouhkimainen mostly held up the rear. The Finn made a few valiant efforts to gather chips, but the big stacks and hands of the North Americans were just too much and he eventually bowed out to Billard in third place.
It had already been a grueling day, but not even heads-up proved to be a quick affair. Rabichow was badly outstacked to start the Canada/US battle but he managed to hang on and battle it out for nearly 40 more hands. He even drew close to par with Billard at one point, but just couldn't close it out. Rabichow got the last of his chips in on the turn of hand #344 with outs for the double. Billard held the best hand with two pairs, but Rabichow had a pair with open-ended outs to a straight, as well as outs to the higher two pairs. The brick river sent Billard's rail into a frenzy.
Billard is no stranger to big scores. This was his third career win, but it was his biggest score ever. The deal-adjusted prize of $961,400 exchanges for more than $700,000 USD, which is more than $200,000 better than his previous best, just over $500,000 for third in the 2014 EPT Prague High Roller. This win brings his lifetime winnings to just under $3,000,000 USD.
Next up for the MILLIONS tour is MILLIONS Vegas @ Aria, running June 28th to July 2nd. There's $5,000,000 USD in guaranteed prizes for the Main Event during the hottest poker season in Vegas.