EPT Season 10 Comes to a Close with a Marathon Heads Up Battle in Monte Carlo
Friday night and Saturday morning saw the final Main Event of the PokerStars European Poker Tour Season 10 come to a close as Jack Salter and Antonio Buonanno battled for the coveted EPT Grand Final Title, along with a big hunk of change to go with it.
The 10th season of the EPT started back in September 2013 in the cultural Mecca that is Barcelona. 1,226 players threw tier hats into the ring to compete for the first title of Season 10, but it was Tom Middleton who was able to keep hold of his chips in order to raise the trophy and a cheque for €942,000. Amazingly, Tom had been the end of day chip leader from Day 3, and never looked like not making the final table. Middleton is a high stakes online player with a great pedigree, and before coming to Barcelona, already had nearly $1 Million in live tournament earnings.
He beat out Finnish professional Kimmo Kurko, who is no slouch either. Before the €750,000 he won in Barcelona was taken into consideration he had over $1.1 Million in live earnings, including a €2,000 EPT side event title.
The final hand saw Kurko open with a min bet with Ac4s, only for the more aggressive Middleton to three bet. Kurko decided it was time to make a stand, pushing his remaining stack over the line. Tom called, holding 5s5h. The board ran out Th6c7cKh8h to see Tom Middleton scoop the pot, and the title.
Barcelona also host3edthe first super high roller of the year. This €50,000 buy in event was won by well known Russian Pro, Vitaly Lunkin. He beat out Eric Seidel to pick up the title and €771,300.
The next stop on the tour was the one a short train ride away from me. The London leg of the Tour had a new home at the Grand Connaught Rooms, with the cash games being hosted by the PokerStars Live Card Room at the London Hippodrome Casino. A mere 598 players stumped up the £5,250 to buy their piece of the dream of being the newest EPT Champion. Robin Ylitalo was the one to live that dream when he beat Georgios Karakousis holding AcKc against the Greek’s As6d. The board wasn’t a factor, and Ylitalo won £560,980 holding just Ace High with a King kicker.
Apart from the winner, the big story was the rise of Leo McClean from relative obscurity to joining the professional circuit. He Won his way into the main event through PokerStars online satellites for just £93, and his 3rd place in this event for £249,850 far outstripped his previous live cash for £1,900 earlier in the year. Leo had a big rail supporting him, and this former Project Manager seemed to be enjoying himself at the table, and gained many fans from the legions watching the live stream.
London also saw the second Super High Roller of the season, this one with a £50,000 buy in. The event attracted 57 players, and saw a battle of the Germans heads up. Martin Finger was the one to emerge victorious against Tobias Reinkemeier, adding this win to his 2011 EPT Prague Main Event Win for two thirds of the EPT Triple Crown. He added £821,000 to his bankroll for this win.
The tour went into a little break at this point before returning in December to head over to Prague where the biggest ever Prague EPT Main Event was held. With 1,007 players generating a massive prize pool of €4,883,950, the final table was crammed full of professionals, including Stephen Chidwick, Ole Schemion and Max Silver. None of these three made it to the heads up battle where Julian Track’s Tens held up against Georgios Sotiropoulos’ QsJc pre flop shove from the button. Track took home €725,700 after a deal heads up where both players agreed to split the pot and take €700k each, and play for €25,700 and the title.
After a quick recess for Christmas and the New Year, the European Poker Tour was transposed to the Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. The PCA is one of the big highlights to the poker calendar, and not just for the poker. Players from a Europe shrouded in Winter really enjoy a trip to sunnier climes, even if most people would require a second mortgage to buy a round of drinks.
The $10,300 Main Event had a $10,000,000 guarantee that, due to adverse weather conditions in the USA stopping players making the trip, was only just met. The final table was a long affair, running as it did for more than 16 hours. A deal was finally done 3 handed with Dominik Panka, Mike McDonald and Isaac Baron all taking away over a million dollars. Baron busted in third, leaving Mike McDonald at the final hurdle to become the first two time EPT champion. He won his first back in 2008 at EPT Dortmund, but was unable to clinch his second title while in the Bahamas. The last hand saw McDonald three bet shove is last 22 big blinds with 7c4c. Unfortunately for him, Panka snap called holding Ad2c. The flop fell 2s5sJh to increase Panka’s lead. The 7h turn reversed that however, and McDonald just needed to fade an Ace or a 2 on the river to double up. The River had other ideas, and delivered the Ac to give the title to Panka. Panka now tops the Polish all time money lists with the addition of the $1,423,096 for this win.
This wasn’t the only action in the Bahamas, as there was also a $100,000 Super High Roller as well. Fabian Quoss was able to provide Live Stream commentator Joe Stapleton with more bad puns that I could count on his way to this title and $1,629,940 in prize money. He beat out Dan Shak in the heads up match and the final hand was less than a standard spot. Quoss limped from the button with 8s6h, and Shak checked his option holding JhTc. The hit the felt showing Td7cQs, giving Shak top pair and Quoss a gutshot straight draw. Shak check called Quoss’s 200k bet to bring the turn card. The 9d completed Fabian’s straight draw, giving him the lead. Shak check shoved over the German’s 425k bet and Quoss nearly called before Shak’s chips were in the middle. Shak was behind, and the Ac on the river was of no help, giving the title to Quoss.
The Bubble for this Super High Roller was also of note, as 2 players were eliminated in the same hand, with neither of them starting the hand with a full Big blind to their name. I’d recommend watching the replay available on PokerStars.tv just to gauge quite how ridiculous this bubble was. The hand is right at the end of the video in the link.
The Deauville leg of the tour followed quickly on the heels of the PCA, with just over two weeks between the two events. Combined with the Global Poker Tour’s European Poker Awards the Deauville Main Event saw previous runner up Sotirios Koutoupas go one better when he prevented Eugene Katchalov from clinching his Triple Crown. 671 players generated a prize pool of €3,211,200, €614,000 of which ended up going back to Greece with Koutoupas. The last hand was a cooler for the member of PokerStars Team Pro when he got his remaining 36 big blinds in with AsKc in preflop against Koutoupas’s Ah3s. The flop reduced Eugene’s equity to almost nothing as it left the 3d3h5c staring up from the felt. The turn and river ran out 2h and Qh, changing nothing, and busting Eugene in second for €379,500.
March saw a return to the Hofburg Palace in Vienna for the first time in several years. 910 players had tried their luck by entering the event, creating a massive prize pool of €4,413,500. Day 1a chip leader Oleksii Khoroshenin was the player to emerge victorious after the 7 days of action. He is a regular on the tour, and has been since Season 8, but only started the day with $278,873 in live tournament winnings. The €578,392 he won jumped him from 20th in the Ukraine All Time Money list to 7th.
A deal had been done 3 handed, leaving €50,000 to be played for along with the title and other goodies. Marko Neumann took the biggest share of the prize pool with €638,127, while Khoroshenin took €528,392 and Anthony Ghamrawi pocketed €446,481.
Neumann busted in third when Oleksii flopped a straight against him while Marko had top pair. Oleksii’s winning hand was the Ks3s, and he got it all in on a 5s7c4s flop against Anthony Ghamrawi’s 7h6d for what was essentially a flip. The Ts turn brought in the Ukrainian’s flush draw, and the meaningless river was the Ad. Anthony was probably not too upset as he had a great return on his investment. He had won his seat in a €320 satellite in February for a 1,389,525.3% ROI.
April brought the back to back finale to the season, with the Sanremo and Monte Carlo legs barely having any break between them. Sanremo grabbed the headlines, and not just in the poker media. Vicky Coren-Mitchell’s second EPT title grabbed headline in the UK from mainstream media, including the BBC, The Guardian, The Mirror and other major news outlets. Vicky had won EPT London in Season 3, and came into the final table as the short stack. She kept control of her game, and on Easter Sunday 2014 beat Giacomo Fundaro Heads Up for the title. The last hand was a cooler as Fundaro heald Aces against Vicky’s QsJc. Vicky raised in position and Fundaro decided to be a little tricky, and just called. The flop put Vicky firmly ahead as it brought Jd7sQc to give her two pair. She bet out after Giacomo’s check, only for him to three bet. Coren-Mitchell got a stack count and made the call. The turn was the Ts, and again Fundaro check shoved after Vicky had bet 1 Million chips. Vicky called, and saw she was in great shape. The river was the 4s and the European poker Tour had it’s first two time champion. Coren-Mitchell picked up €476,100 for this well deserved win, and the accolades of being the first ever two time champ.
Vicky has always been a great ambassador for the game, and I wrote an article following her win, singling her out as a prototype for a new type of sponsored player.
A few days later and the European Poker Tour was back for the Season 10 finale in Monte Carlo. We started off with the €100,000 Super high Roller, which was won by High Stake Head up specialist Dan Colman for €1,539,300 when he beat Dan “Jungleman” Cates in a heads up battle that showcased two of the best Heads up players on the planet right now. A Deal had been done three handed, and was lead by Igor Kurganov who was eliminated in third place.
In an ICM deal, Colman was guaranteed €1,298,300, while Cates got €1,168,300 and Kurganov picked up €1,128,300. €115,400 was left for second while first picked up an extra €241,000 to go with the title and trophy.
The event had notable for the large number of Macau based players making an appearance, with three of them making the final table. Macau is now undoubtedly the home of high stakes poker, and some of the games are even enough to make some of us blanche at the figures in play.
The Main Event followed the high roller, and was a €10,600 entry event, which attracted 650 players. The €6,500,000 prize pool started several deal negotiations on the final table, but they kept breaking down as players refused to take a chip chop.
The main culprit for torpedoing these talks was eventual winner Antonio Buonanno. The former businessman is now a full time professional poker player, with his biggest cash before this Main Event being a $231,147 from a 4th place in Event #57 of last years WSOP.
The final table took over 18 hours to resolve, and about half of that was the heads up match between Antonio and Jack Salter. I missed most of this as it didn’t finish until around 7am Monte Carlo time, and I had a tournament of my own to play the following day. From what I understand, the heads up play was less than stellar, as both players seemed more concerned with not losing than actually winning the title.
Salter had worked out a staking deal with several players, Martin Finger among them, to ensure that he cleared €1 million regardless of the final outcome.
When the Heads Up battle finally reached an impasse, it ended up like this:
In the 310th hand of the final table, Salter limped on the button with KcQh. Antonio checked his option with Th5h. The flop fell Qc5s5c making it almost a certainty to see all the chips in the middle. Well, in any other heads up match that is. In this case, both player checked the flop to bring the turn of Ts.
Antonio checked, and Salter fired out a min bet of 300k. Buonanno came back over the top to 900k and Salter called. The final card was the 8h, and Antonio moved all in, putting Salter’s tournament life at risk. “What the **** man!?” cried an obviously unnerved Jack. “So tilt.” Salter had been visiting the tank all day, so the fact it took 4 minutes 35 seconds wasn’t a massive surprise. At this point, Antonio called the clock, and Salter let the time run out which killed his hand.
This left Salter even shorter, as we went into hand 311. Buonanno opened his button to 600k, and Salter decided this was his time, and shoved for 4.95 million. Buonanno quicly called and his As4h was ahead of Salter’s Kd7d. The board ran out Jh9s2hQd3s and Antonio finally won the title with Ace high. Antonio pocketed €1,240,000 for winning this long final table, while Salter picked up €765,000 from the prizepool, plus whatever he had arranged with his backers in the strange deal they agreed.
It could be said that this heads up battle, the longest in EPT history, was an anti climax to such a great season, but the action is so controlled by the players and their decisions, I actually find this type of final table to be very interesting.
Season 10 of the European Poker Tour has been full of action, surprises and fun. Season 11 starts in August when the hundreds of people that make this tour run like a well oiled machine head to Barcelona to start the cycle all over again.