The World Poker Tour decided in the last year to begin venturing to places around the globe as extensions of its regular season. The most recent of those exotic locations was Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, and in the first ever international poker tournament to be held there, the Merit Crystal Cove Hotel and Casino welcomed a wide variety and reasonably large crowd of players to its tables, despite its out-of-the-way location. With Jack McClelland serving as its tournament director, the tournament got underway on September 6.
Day 1A brought a field of 91 players to the tournament, including big names in the poker world like Dan Harrington, Huck Seed, Jeff Lisandro, Antonio Esfandiari, Roy Winston, Layne Flack, Ludovic Lacay, Shaun Deeb, Soren Kongsgaard, Sorel Mizzi, Danny Wong, and John Tabatabai. The latter ended up climbing into the chip lead and still held that spot when play ended for the day with 178,275 chips.
Day 1B added another 90 players, making the total registration number 181 and the prize pool $1,755,700. More recognizable faces joined the crowd on the second starting day, including Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Howard Lederer, John Juanda, Allen Cunningham, Patrik Antonius, Phil Gordon, Mike Matusow, Kelly Kim, Lee Markholt, Eli Elezra, November Nine member James Akenhead, Annette Obrestad, Jean-Robert Bellande, David Bach, and Yosh Nakano. But when the chips were bagged at the end of the night, Phil Gordon was the day’s chipleader with 157,400.
When the remaining players joined together for the second day of play for the entire field, there were 125 of them, and it would dwindle quite a bit to end with only 55. Former chipleaders like John Tabatabai and Phil Gordon took their places on the rail before the day was done, and quite a few big names joined them. But most would recognize the chipleader - Nenad Medic - who ended the day with 277,000 chips. Other recognizable names in the top ten included Antony Lellouche in third, Tommy Vedes in fifth, Huck Seed in seventh, Layne Flack in eighth, and Rep Porter in tenth.
Day 3 began with those 55 players looking to survive five levels or make it into the 21 who would still be standing when the chips were counted. Many recognizable faces failed to make it through the day, including Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Allen Cunningham, Bruno Fitoussi, Roy Winston, Dan Harrington, and Yosh Nakano. But when all was said and done, it was Layne Flack who soared to the top of the chip counts with 915,000, and he was followed by Rep Porter in second. Steven Fung was in third, and Antony Lellouche and Huck Seed rounded out the top five.
With only 21 players remaining, it would have seemed sensible to combine Days 4 and 5 into one, but organizers kept the schedule as originally set, which meant playing down to ten players. And it took little more than two levels to do it. Play got off to a bit of a slow start, but after two players left the tables, it was bubble time. That was when the very short-stacked Anthony Aboukhalil pushed all-in with his last 20K with against the of Antony Lellouche. The board came , which sent Aboukhalil out in 19th place on the money bubble.
From there, the final 18 were reseated at two tables. The eliminations came quickly from there, starting with Tommy Vedes in 18th place ($17,300). Antony Lellouche was another notable who hit the rail in 14th place ($19,030), and the day ended with Kelly Kim accepting 11th place ($20,760). When the final ten bagged their chips, Rep Porter was in the chip lead with 1,786,000, followed by Jonathan Little and his stack of 972,000. Layne Flack, Steven Fung, and Huck Seed completed the top five.
Day 5 started slowly but soon found Layne Flack to be the tenth place finisher ($20,760), followed by Nenad Medic in ninth place ($27,680), and Jonathan Little in eighth ($38,940). With one more to go, it didn’t take long for Huck Seed to push all-in with . Thomas Bichon was the caller holding , and the board came , and Seed was gone on the final table bubble with $56,240 for the seventh place finish.
The final table was set, finally, as follows:
|Seat 1: ||Thomas Bichon ||1,079,000 |
|Seat 2: ||Steve Fung ||732,000 |
|Seat 3: ||Uri Keidar ||1,753,000 |
|Seat 4: ||Rony Jazzar ||1,796,000 |
|Seat 5: ||Janar Kiivramees ||727,000 |
|Seat 6: ||Rep Porter ||1,115,000 |
Play began with Porter chipping up, and both big pots that he took were from Jazzar. That helped take Jazzar from the chip lead position to feeling as if he had to move. When he got involved with Bichon and Keidar to see a flop, it was Jazzar who bet first, which prompted a fold from Bichon and check-call from Keidar. After the on the turn, Jazzar pushed all-in, and Keidar check-called with for the flush draw. Jazzar showed for top pair, but the came on the turn for the spade flush. Rony Jazzar was eliminated in sixth place with $73,535.
Slow and steady was the name of the game for awhile after the first elimination, and players seemed hesitant to even get to a flop, much less past it. But eventually, it was Fung who doubled through Porter to stay alive, giving some life to the table.
Kiivramees never gathered much momentum at the table, so when the big blind came around to him after Fung made an initial raise, Kiivramees moved all-in for 890K with pocket fives. Fung called with pocket nines, and the board couldn’t deliver any outs for the all-in player when it came . Janar Kiivramees was gone in fifth place with $90,835.
With four players remaining, Fung took some hits when Bichon and Porter both doubled through him. But Porter took a hit when Keidar took about 500K from him in a hand, and then Bichon went on to double through Porter. Left with less than 50K in chips, Porter doubled three times to stay in action.
The fourth time wasn’t such a charm. Keidar pushed all-in with Porter in the big blind, and Porter called for his tournament life with . Keidar showed , and the board came to send Rep Porter out in fourth place with $121,115.
Bichon was suddenly the chip leader with 5 million, Keidar trailed with 1.6 million, and Fung held only 500K and needed action.
Fung was faced with that decision when Bichon pushed all-in from the small blind. Fung looked down at and made the call, and Bichon turned over . The board blanked when it came , and Steven Fung was eliminated in third place with $216,275.
Heads-up action began with the following chip counts:
|Thomas Bichon ||5,600,000 |
|Uri Keidar ||1,600,000 |
And two hands later, it was done. Keidar moved all-in on the first hand, but Bichon wasn’t ready to make the call. But the second hand began with a simple raise from Keidar, which was met by an all-in move from Bichon. Keider called for his tournament life with , and Bichon showed pocket sevens. The flop came down for Bichon with , though Keidar picked up a straight draw. The on the turn was safe, and the on the river ended the tournament. That left Uri Keidar with a second place finish and $380,645 to go with it.
Thomas Bichon of France took down the inaugural WPT Merit Cyprus Classic for a first prize of $579,165.