The PokerStars.com European Poker Tour (EPT) has grown into a force that seems unstoppable. Each year, the EPT increases registrants, adds exciting stops to the tour, and becomes more prestigious. Season 5 was no different.
The last two stops on the fifth season were indicative of the EPT’s growth, even in the midst of a global financial crisis and waning tournament entries on other tours. It was at the EPT San Remo that nearly 1,200 players turned out for the €5,300 main event, and the crowds at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo showed an increase over 2008, as 935 players bought in to the €10,000 buy-in main event. It was a spectacular showing for an event monitored by poker players and fans around the world.
Day 1A brought a sizeable field of 396 players to the Monte Carlo Bay Resort Hotel in Monaco. Among them were Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel, Barry Greenstein, Daniel Negreanu, Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, Annette Obrestad, John Juanda, Tony G., Mike McDonald, Lee Nelson, Luca Pagano, Johnny Lodden, Humberto Brenes, JJ Liu, and EPT San Remo champion Constant Rijkenberg.
But when it came down to survivors at the end of the day, there were only 223 of them. Sitting comfortably atop the leaderboard was Lee Nelson with 253,600 chips, and in the second spot was Luca Pagano with 169,600. Anthony Donald Venturini was in third place, followed by Thiago Nishijima and Faraz Jaka to round out the top five.
Day 1B brought another 539 players to the tables, which put the overall registered player total for the 2009 EPT Grand Final at a stunning 935, nearly 100 more than in 2008 and setting a record for the tour’s five seasons. That also put the prize pool at €9.35 million for the tournament. Some of those who participated in the second starting day included Peter Eastgate, Joe Hachem , Vicky Coren, Gavin Griffin, Gus Hansen, Phil Laak, Glen Chorny, Evelyn Ng, Max Pescatori, Nenad Medic, David Williams, Yevgeniy Timoshenko, Sandra Naujoks, Jeff Madsen, Ylon Schwartz, Katja Thater, Dave Ulliott, Barny Boatman, rap star Nelly, and tennis pro Boris Becker.
When play wrapped for the evening, there were almost the same number left as after the first starting day. Amicha Barer was the chip leader with 207,800 chips when all bagging of the chips was done, and Dan Dyke came in second for the day with 179,700. Filling out the top five were Niccolo Caramatti, Dag Palovic, and Steve Berdah.
Day 2 found approximately 500 players coming together to thin the field, and they did so by eliminating players like Andy Bloch, Ray Rahme, Chad Brown, Ivan Demidov, Dario Minieri, Arnaud Mattern, Chris Ferguson, and Boris Becker as the day progressed. But as many departed, some like Annette Obrestad rose to the top.
When chip counts were done, there were only 138 stacks to tabulate, and Marc Naalden held on to the biggest one with 777,000 chips. Obrestad sat on 671,500 chips to hold a solid second, while Joe Ebanks, Vadim Shlez, and Peter Traply made up the remainder of the top five. Notably, Jhannes Strassmann was in sixth place and Luca Pagano was in tenth.
Day 3 saw players go quickly in the beginning levels as only 88 would finish the tournament in the money. Some who left without cash included Joe Hachem, Andre Akkari, Isabelle Mercier, Lee Nelson, and Ilari Sahamies. But play slowed as the bubble actually approached, and it was Marcel Luske who moved all-in with his last 40K after a flop. Sebastian Ruthenberg called with pocket deuces for the set, and Luske had only and ace high. When the turn brought a jack and the river a blank, Luske left as the event’s bubble player in 89th place.
As play went on, Niccolo Caramatti was the first player to cash, taking home €20,000 for his finish. Other notable exits included Luca Pagano in 55th place, JJ Liu in 44th, Steve Sung in 41st, Alex Kravchenko in 38th, Saundra Naujoks in 36th, and Sebastian Ruthenberg in 33rd. With the elimination of Walid Bou Habib in 32nd, play ended for the day, and Matthew Woodward sat in the top chip spot with 2,726,000. Ludovic Lacay was second with 2,235,000, followed by Marc Naalden, Johannes Strassman, and Steven Silverman.
Day 4 was the day that would find the eight final tablists in the end, and it took a bit to get to that point in the evening. To start the day, John Cernuto left the tournament in 31st place with €45,000, and other well-known names exiting included George Danzer in 24th, Ludovic Lacay in 21st, Johannes Strassman in 14th, and Annette Obrestad in 13th.
Upon the exits of Steven Silverman in 12th and Grayson Physioc in 11th, Marc Naalden took tenth place to leave room for one more elimination. With the last nine players at one table, it was Chris Rossiter who pushed all-in with against the of Dag Martin Mikkelsen. Looking for a double-up, the flop brought interesting cards with , and the on the turn kept hope alive. But the on the river gave Mikkelsen the straight and knocked Rossiter out of the tournament in ninth place with €125,000 for the bad beat.
That left the final eight with chip counts as follows:
Dag Martin Mikkelsen (Norway) 7,315,000
Matthew Woodward (USA) 4,560,000
Peter Trapley (Hungary) 4,365,000
Mikhail Tulchinskiy (Russia) 3,220,000
Eric Qu (France) 2,880,000
Pieter de Korver (Holland) 2,500,000
Daniel Zink (Germany) 1,865,000
Alem Shah (Germany) 1,490,000
Play started on May 3 at the final table with a slow but steady pace, that was until two of the bigger stacks tangled.
It started with Woodward making the initial raise and Mikkelsen putting in a reraise. Trapley pushed all-in from the button for 4.25 million. Woodward folded, but Mikkelsen called with pocket queens, and Trapley turned over . The board blanked with , and Mikkelsen jumped to near the 12 million chip mark. That left Peter Trapley out of the tournament in eighth place with €170,000 for the effort.
Play slowed again until Zink made an all-in move preflop with . But again it was Mikkelsen with the call, this time with the dominant . The board came down , and the best two pair won it for Mikkelsen, giving him even more of a lead over the rest of the pack. And Daniel Zink was eliminated in seventh place with €250,000.
Mikkelsen then sat back and let someone else do the work. That someone was Tulchinskiy, who called the all-in of Shah. Tulchinskiy turned over , and Shah could only show . The board again supported Big Slick when it came , which sent Alem Shah out of the event in sixth place with €350,000.
Qu was the next to put his tournament life on the line, and he did so with . Again, Tulchinskiy was the caller, this time with . The dealer slowly gave them the , and though the turn gave Qu some hope, the river took it away and sent Eric Qu out of the EPT Grand Final in fifth place with €470,000.
At the beginning of four-handed action, Mikkelsen still sat with more than 15 million chips and held a solid lead, but de Korver doubled through him, which was the beginning of his downfall. He continually bled chips through the rounds and finally found himself up all-in for his last 360K with . Tulchinskiy and de Korver both called and checked through the board of . It was de Korver with the winning hand, and Dag Martin Mikkelsen was astoundingly out in fourth place with €600,000.
Cautious play ensued for several rounds until Tulchinskiy decided to take a big risk with against the pocket threes of Woodward. The board produced to allow the threes to hold and knock Mikhail Tulchinskiy out of the tournament in third place with €800,000 for the performance.
After a dinner break, heads-up action commenced with the following counts:
Pieter de Korver (Holland) 15,270,000
Matthew Woodward (USA) 12,755,000
Action started with the 110th hand of the night, and it continued for just less than 50 hands, during which time de Korver continued to chip up and chip away at Woodward. The process was slow and steady.
Eventually, Woodward made an initial raise and de Korver called to see a flop. Woodward bet out, and de Korver check-raised all-in. Woodward finally called for his tournament life with , good for middle pair and the flush draw. But de Korver showed for middle pair with the better kicker. The turn brought a , and the on the river ended the match.
Matthew Woodward finished second at the EPT Grand Final, which was worth €1,300,000 and a memorable showing.
It was Pieter de Korver from Holland who won one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world. For his EPT Grand Final Monte Carlo victory, de Korver was awarded €2,300,000 for an outstanding struggle through a tough field and the ultimate win.
(Thanks to PokerStars Blog and PokerNews for detailed tournament information.)