As the number of German poker players on the tournament circuit continues to increase, it was expected that the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour Dortmund stop would be a popular one. In its third year, the German Open at Casino Hohensyburg brought an amazing 664 players to the tables, surpassing the previous year’s number of 411 by leaps and bounds. And as play moved through the days, it became more and more clear that this would be an EPT tournament to remember.
The EPT Dortmund began as most stops on the tour do, with the first of two starting days. Day 1A on March 10th attracted a number of well-known pros, like Alexander Kravchenko, Ivan Demidov, Rolf Slotboom, Soren Kongsgaard, Barny Boatman, Johannes Strassmann, William Thorson, Ben Kang, Casey Kastle, Michael Tureniec, Arnaud Mattern, and Sebastian Ruthenberg. It was an all-star, worldly group that made up the 306-player field, though only about 115 of them survived the day. When the chips were counted, Thorson held the chip lead with 84,500, and the rest of the top five on the leaderboard were Robert Zipf, Jan Collado-Fernandez, Martin Bjerring, and Jens Wiegel.
The second day of the event, otherwise known as Day 1B, saw an astounding 358 players register to play, bringing the overall total to 664 for the tournament. It was well over a 50 percent increase from the previous year, and the prize pool swelled to well over the €3 million mark and would be split according to the final 64 players’ finishes.
Some of the many notables in the tournament that day were Max Pescatori, Luca Pagano, Davidi Kitai, Dario Minieri, Katja Thater, Marcel Luske, Bertrand Grospellier, Noah Boeken, Danny Ryan, Peter Eastgate, Jesper Hougaard, Clonie Gowen, and reigning Dortmund champion Mike McDonald. When the second day was in the books, it saw only about 137 players left standing, with Marco Noll leading the pack with 104,700 chips. That put him ahead of Thorson from Day 1A, and Noll was followed by Peter Bueermann and McDonald.
Day 2 began with 252 players joining together to play toward the money. It took about eight hours to reach the hand-for-hand play that would determine the last player to leave without his or her buy-in or any profit from the work of two long days. And finally, it was Toby Newton, who pushed his last 11,300 all-in preflop with pocket sixes, and he was called by Claudio Cecchi and his A-4. When the board came A-2-10-J-8, that was all it took to send Newton out in 65th place and leave the rest of the players to celebrate making the money.
Malte Strothmann from Germany was the first to finish in the money, receiving €6,600 for his 64th place finish. Other notables finishing on the board that day were Michael Huber in 47th place and Joao Barbosa in 36th place. After the elimination of Mauro Piacentino in 35th, play wrapped for the day with Holger Kanisch in the chip lead with a monstrous stack of 526,500 chips. Marc Gork was in second with 441,500, followed by Sandra Naujoks, Steve Jelinek, and Mike McDonald.
Day 3 saw 34 players start and only eight of them finish. The first of the day to barely get comfortable before elimination was Riccardo Mazzitelli, who was awarded €11,600 for the 34th place finish. Others finishing early in the day were Marco Noll in 32nd place, Nasr El Nasr in 23rd, and Moritz Kranich in 21st. As the final table neared, it was the ousting of Waldemar Kopyl in tenth place that made way for the final nine to be seated at one table.
At that point, caution was the name of the game, and it took about one hour to see the final elimination of the day. Eventually, it was Florian Langmann who put his tournament life on the line with his last 170K in chips, pushing all-in with , but Luca Pagano was there with for the call. The board kept Pagano in the lead with , and the eventual ace on the river solidified the result and left Langmann out in ninth place with €50,000 for the effort.
With that, the final table was set for the following day. Long-time pro and recent addition to the Full Tilt Poker pro lineup Johan Storakers led the pack, but PokerStars pros Luca Pagano and William Thorson were on his heels. Also at the table was Mike McDonald, who was the youngest player at 19-years old but the one who perhaps wanted the win the most, as he was there to defend his title from the previous year. The chip counts and seating assignments for the battle were:
Seat 1: Holger Kanisch 661,000
Seat 2: William Thorson 829,000
Seat 3: Cengizcan Ulusu 537,000
Seat 4: Johan Storakers 1,615,000
Seat 5: Mike McDonald 746,000
Seat 6: Sandra Naujoks 586,000
Seat 7: Luca Pagano 1,115,000
Seat 8: Mark Gork 540,000
Play got off to a somewhat slow start, but that led to McDonald making a move. He had been sinking from the start and finally moved all-in for 572K against Ulusu, who was up from his starting stack. Ulusu actually flipped a coin with his to decide if he would call or not, which he did, and McDonald had pocket kings. The hand finished with McDonald doubling up.
Ulusu was crippled and all-in on the next hand with , and he had two callers in Gork with pocket jacks and Storakers with pocket sixes. The board came , and Gork easily won the hand and eliminated Cengizcan in eighth place with €83,500.
After the first break, it was Thorson who took a big hit. Kanisch was all-in with , and Thorson called with . An 8 came on the turn to give Kanisch the double-up and leave Thorson with less than 400K. Several hands later, Thorson put it all-in from the button with , but Storakers had him dominated when he called with . The board ran out , and all of Thorson’s outs were thwarted. William Thorson left in seventh place with €116,500.
Though McDonald was the chip leader at the last break, he soon took a significant hit to that stack of chips. Kanisch doubled through him, which put him under the 500K mark, though he was able to come back a while later and double through Gork to stay alive. Meanwhile, Kanisch jumped over the 2 million-chip mark, and Storakers was closing in to regain the lead.
Meanwhile, Pagano struggled. Though he chipped up through sheer aggression with multiple all-in moves and no callers, he finally found one in Gork. Pagano pushed with pocket sevens, and Gork showed A-9. The board came , followed by a blank on the river, and Luca Pagano was sent out in sixth place with €153,000.
McDonald finally put his stack to the test in another attempt to double it. The hand started with Kanisch putting in a raise, but McDonald reraised all-in for little more than 500K. Naujoks reraised all-in to try to isolate, which worked when Kanisch folded. McDonald showed , and Naujoks turned over the pocket tens. The race was over when no kings or jacks came on the board, and Mike McDonald was eliminated in fifth place with €197,000.
The next to take on the last female standing in the tournament was Storakers, who moved all-in preflop with A-Q. But Naujoks was there with the dominating A-K hand. No queens fell on the flop, turn, or river, and Johan Storakers left the tournament in fourth place with €237,000.
With three German players remaining, the only question left was which one of them would hold that title for their home country. Naujoks wanted to do it, but when trying to eliminate Gork, that plan backfired when he doubled through her to take the chip lead. However, about 45 minutes later, the two tangled again, and Naujoks doubled back through Gork.
Finally, a deciding hand began with Kanisch putting in a preflop raise, which got a call from Naujoks in the small blind. Reminiscent of an earlier move by Ulusu, Gork flipped a coin and decided to push his last 900K all-in with . Kanisch was the one who made the call with pocket sevens, and the board came to allow the pair to hold up. Marc Gork finished in third place, which was good for a €307,000 prize.
Heads-up play began with the following chip counts:
Holger Kanisch 3,666,000
Sandra Naujoks 2,980,000
Naujoks was aggressive from the start, but there was some caution involved. It took her about 20 minutes to bring the stacks nearly even. But eventually, Kanisch got all of his money into the pot on a 7-high flop with pocket jacks, but Naujoks was there with pocket aces. Naujoks took a massive chip lead with more than 5 million chips to the 1.5 million of Kanisch.
Then it was Kanisch’s turn to play slow but steady. He was able to double up with A-7 of spades versus the K-4 offsuit of Naujoks, but the latter still sat with more than 4 million chips.
The entire match took more than an hour and ended with a hand that started with a raise from Naujoks. Kanisch raised 700K more to make it an even million, but Naujoks pushed all-in with . Kanisch called immediately with , and it looked like another double-up was in order. The flop changed nothing with , but the on the turn gave Naujoks the lead. The on the river ended the game with Holger Kanisch in second place, for which he received €533,000.
Sandra Naujoks won the tournament, along with the trophy and the €917,000 in first prize money. Her representation as a Shooting Star for PokerStars would be forever in the history books, as she became the second woman to ever win a European Poker Tour main event.
(Thanks to PokerStars Blog for detailed tournament information.)