It was the last stop on the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour (EPT) prior to the Grand Finale in Monte Carlo, and through the years, San Remo has grown to be one of the EPT’s most popular. As poker grows in Italy, and Europe for that matter, San Remo has become one of the player favorites. And this year would break records and show what poker in Italy was really made of.
With players like Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano rallying the cause and drawing more attention to the San Remo stop, the EPT found nearly 1,200 players lining up to play in the €5,300 tournament. The two starting days made it workable for the casino on the Italian Riviera, and the outcome was a phenomenal event that would provide the lead-up to the much-anticipated Grand Finale in Monte Carlo less than a week later.
Day 1A found a large field of 578 players taking to the felt, and it included names like Chad Brown, Tom McEvoy, Jason Mercier, Annette Obrestad, Greg Raymer, Alex Kravchenko, Marcin Horecki, Ludovic Lacay, Dario Alioto, Casey Kastle, Soren Kongsgaard, and Mike McDonald. But when the action was stopped for the day, it was Dragan Galic who sat atop the leaderboard with over 100K in chips.
Day 1B brought an even 600 players to the mix, making for that complete field of 1,178. That day’s field included even more notables, including Peter Eastgate, Hevad Khan, Isabelle Mercier, Luca Pagano, Lee Nelson, Katja Thater, Patrik Antonius, Julian Thew, Michael Martin, Shirley Rosario, Markus Golser, Johnny Lodden, Evelyn Ng, Sebastian Ruthenberg, Marcel Luske, and Bill Chen. Upon completion of the action, Ljubomir Josipovic was the chip leader with a chip count in the 75K range.
When all of the players joined together for Day 2 play, there were 469 of them, less than half the starting fields. And while many players like David Saab, Luske, Thater, and Mercier left the tournament, it was the Day 1A chipleader Dragan Galic who consistently chipped up and led the pack. When the day came to a close, Galic was far ahead of the rest of the players, as he sat above the half-million mark in chips and left the field with a long way to go to catch him. All in all, there were 124 players left.
Day 3 started with those 124 players and sped toward the money bubble. Arnaud Mattern was one who was eliminated before the money, as was Bill Chen. And finally, it was Joakim Hall who pushed all-in after a flop. Fabio Zappietro called with , but Hall’s pocket kings looked good. They stayed on top when the came on the turn, but the on the river pushed Hall out in 113th place.
That made way for some key eliminations in the money, the first being Alex Kravchenko, who left in 112th place with €5,800. Tom McEvoy finished in 107th place and Joao Barbosa in 100th. As the day went on, Alexia Portal was gone in 57th place, Michael Tureniec in 39th, Josh Prager in 37th, and Dominik Palte in 33rd. Play was then halted, with Galic still in the chip lead, well ahead of the rest of the field.
Day 4 began with the intention of reaching the final table, and it didn’t take long to achieve that goal. The 32 players that started quickly dwindled as Fabio Mazzarello did the honors of leaving in 32nd place, and notable Benjamin Kang left in 29th. It was Steven Silverman’s elimination in 17th that put the remaining players at the final two tables. And as the goal neared, it was Dragan Galic who sent Gianni Giaroni to the rail in tenth to put the final nine at one table. That was when play slowed, and an hour went by before the final table bubble player was discovered.
Pierre Neuville was becoming short stacked and pushed preflop with . Gustav Sundell reraised to isolate and turned over pocket queens. The board came , and Neuville was ousted in ninth place with €78,800.
The final table was then set, with Galic still leading, for the next day as follows:
Seat 1: Kalle Niemi 641,000
Seat 2: William Reynolds 2,531,000
Seat 3: Alex Fitzgerald 721,000
Seat 4: Danilo D’Ettoris 686,000
Seat 5: Gustav Sundell 2,625,000
Seat 6: Constant Rijkenberg 932,000
Seat 7: Dragan Galic 3,098,000
Seat 8: Ovidiu Balaj 625,000
Action got underway on April 23 with blinds at 20,000/40,000 and a 4,000 ante in Level 26. Though it seemed to begin cautiously for most players, it was Danilo D’Ettoris who was ready for action. After he made the initial raise, Constant Rijkenberg reraised all-in preflop with pocket fours, and D’Ettoris called with . The board came , and D’Ettoris became the first to go from the table, taking €114,000 for the eighth place finish.
Then it was time for some double-ups, the first one going to Ovi Balaj through Rijkenberg. A few hands later, Rijkenberg doubled through William Reynolds, and Kalle Niemi doubled through Rijkenberg. Finally, though it was the hand in which Reynolds doubled through Alex Fitzgerald that left the latter crippled with only 140K chips.
Fitzgerald then moved all-in but found Balaj and Dragan Galic as the two callers. After the flop, Galic bet and Balaj folded. Galic showed for top pair, and Fitzgerald turned over for king high. The came on the turn, but the on the river pushed Fitzgerald out in seventh place with €171,000.
Only three hands later, Balaj found himself with 640K and pushed all-in with pocket nines. Reynolds looked down at pocket sixes and reraised all-in to isolate, which was successful. Another success for Reynolds came on the flop when it showed to give him the set. The followed on the turn and the on the river ended it for Balaj in sixth place, which was worth €229,000.
It was Galic who surprised everyone by not finding any momentum at this final table. After holding the chip lead since the first day of play, the Croatian player had a tough time on the last day. Finally, Galic made the all-in move with pocket nines, and Rijkenberg was there with and the call. The board could not have been better for the latter when it the flop came for the straight. The on the turn and on the river ended it for Dragan Galic, who took home €314,000 for fifth place.
Then play slowed tremendously. With the exception of a few more double-ups, there were no eliminations for nearly 100 hands. But Gustav Sundell was able to double twice through Reynolds, and Niemi doubled twice - once through Sundell and another time through Rijkenberg.
It was after the dinner break that the action ramped up. Reynolds had doubled just before dinner through Niemi, and he tried it through Rijkenberg after the break. Reynolds made the all-in move with , and Rijkenberg called with . The board ran out , and Williams Reynolds was forced out in fourth place with €377,000.
Three hands later, Niemi made a preflop raised that found Sundell reraising all-in in response. Niemi called with , and Sundell showed . The dealer produced , and Gustav Sundell was eliminated in third place with €480,000 in prize money.
Heads-up action then began with Rijkenberg holding the chip lead over Niemi, and it only took five hands to determine the match.
Rijkenberg made the initial raise, and Niemi reraised. Rijkenberg called, and the two saw the flop. Niemi bet over 1 million chips, and Rijkenberg called. After the on the turn, Niemi pushed all-in for 2.765 million and his tournament life, and Rijkenberg called with pocket aces. Niemi showed . The came down on the river, and Kalle Niemi was finished in second place with €862,000.
Constant Rijkenberg of the Netherlands took the EPT San Remo champion’s title, trophy, and amazing €1,508,000 first place prize.
(Thanks to PokerStars Blog and PokerNews for detailed tournament information.)