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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Christophe Benzimra of France Wins EPT Warsaw

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Already on its fourth stop of the season, the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour landed in Warsaw, Poland on October 20. Though it has never been one of the tournaments that draws the bigger crowds, and considering many US players were making their way to Las Vegas for the WPT Bellagio event, many players nevertheless relished in the opportunity to take to the tables at the Casinos Poland for any kind of EPT action.

The first starting day was predictably low, with only 88 players in attendance for the 25,000 PLN buy-in. Among the bigger names in the crowd were Peter Eastgate, Luca Pagano, Alex Kravchenko, JC Alvarado, Marcin Horecki, Angel Guillen, and Arnaud Mattern. But when the chips were counted at the end of the day, only 64 players remained, and reigning EPT Barcelona champion Carter Phillips held the lead with 194,850 chips.

The second starting day found 115 players at the tables, making for a total of 203 and a prize pool that consisted of 24 paid players and a first prize of nearly 1.5 million PLN. The field included such names as Bertrand Grospellier, Katja Thater, Dario Minieri, Scotty Nguyen, Ludovic Lacay, Sebastian Ruthenberg, William Thorson, Vitaly Lunkin, Shaun Deeb, and Sorel Mizzi. At the end of the day, there were 84 players still standing, and Antony Lellouche sat atop the leaderboard with 131,475 chips.

Day 2 saw the remaining 148 players join together to play down to a more reasonable number, and it took less than five levels to do so. As the action progressed, there were numerous casualties, including Lacay, Kravchenko, and Grospellier, but when the clock stopped, there were 56 still seated, and Clayton Mozdzen was in the chip lead with 332,300 chips.

Day 3 looked to play down from 56 players to 24, at which point the bubble would have burst. And along the way, players like Peter Eastgate, Carter Phillips, Sorel Mizzi, and Mel Judah were eliminated.  After Thomas Pettersson left in 26th place, bubble play began, and it took nearly an hour before Domantas Klimciauskas went to see a flop of {J-Clubs}{9-Hearts}{8-Clubs} with less than 25K left behind. That was when he bet, Oleksandr Vaserfirer called, and Klimciauskas called all-in with {A-Spades}{J-Spades}. But top pair wasn’t good against the pocket eights of Vaserfirer that turned into a set. When the turn came {4-Hearts} and the river {4-Spades}, the full house knocked Klimciauskas out on the money bubble. And play then ended with 24 players and professional Canadian chess master Jeff Sarwer in the chip lead with 956,500 chips.

The 24 players that returned on Day 4 would play until there were only eight left. As it happened, several notables exited early in the day, as Shaun Deeb was eliminated in 22nd place, Vitaly Lunkin in 20th, Antony Lellouche in 19th, Peter Hedlund in 18th, and Jani Sointula in 12th. After Sarwer was ousted in tenth place, the final table bubble play began, and it didn’t take long before Alexander Debus pushed all-in for his last 178K. Luca Pagano called with pocket queens, which were the favorite against the {A-Spades}{6-Spades} of Debus. The board came {6-Clubs}{5-Clubs}{5-Hearts}{8-Hearts}{4-Clubs}, and the queens held up to eliminate Debus in ninth place, which was worth a payout of 85,870 PLN.

That left the final table set for the next day as follows:

Seat 1: 
Luca Pagano
984,000
Seat 2:
Anatoly Gurtoyov
332,000
Seat 3:
Oleksandr Vaserfirer
1,854,000
Seat 4:
Alexander Klimashin
266,000
Seat 5:
Clayton Mozdzen
978,000
Seat 6:
Ruslan Prydryk
658,000
Seat 7:  
Alfio Battisti 552,000
Seat 8:
Christophe Benzimra
465,000

Play got underway with action on the second hand of the final table. Gurtovoy made the all-in move with his 324K short stack holding {A-Diamonds}{Q-Spades}, and it was set up to be a race situation when Vaserfirer called with pocket jacks. The board came {K-Diamonds}{8-Clubs}{7-Hearts}{7-Spades}{9-Diamonds}, and the pair on the board only complimented that of Vaserfirer, and Anatoly Gurtovoy was eliminated in eighth place with 133,570 PLN.

The other beginning short-stacked player didn’t take long to move either, as Klamishin pushed all-in preflop with pocket nines. Benzimra called with {A-Hearts}{K-Hearts}, and the flop of {A-Spades}{4-Diamonds}{2-Hearts} gave Benzimra top pair. The {3-Spades} on the turn and {3-Hearts} on the river changed nothing, and Alexander Klimashin was ousted in seventh place with 186,050 PLN.

Action slowed for the next level, as Vaserfirer maintained a healthy chip lead with some aggressive plays, though Pagano moved up the ladder slowly but steadily. It was Mozdzen who lost consecutive pots to go into Level 23 with only 430K.

Mozdzen soon moved all-in with {A-Spades}{K-Clubs}, but Battisti happened to wake up with pocket aces with which to make the call. The board blanked with {Q-Spades}{9-Diamonds}{2-Hearts}{7-Clubs}{3-Diamonds}, and Clayton Mozdzen was sent out of the tournament in sixth place with 233,750 PLN.

The rest of that level found Vaserfirer staying aggressive and involved and Pagano still climbing, but Prydryk found little to work with as the game progressed. Finally, Prydryk got into a preflop raising war in a hand that saw Benzimra pushing all-in. Vaserfirer considered his options and made the call with pocket aces, and Prydryk called all-in with pocket queens. Benzimra reluctantly turned over pocket jacks, but the flop came {10-Hearts}{4-Clubs}{J-Diamonds} to give him the set. The {7-Diamonds} turn changed nothing, as was also the case with the {K-Clubs} river card. Benzimra climbed into a solid second place, though Vaserfirer maintained the lead, and Ruslan Prydryk was gone in fifth place with 295,770 PLN.

The four remaining players continued the action as Pagano pushed upward and Vaserfirer lost ground temporarily but soon moved back into the lead. But Benzimra eventually took it, and it looked to be a fight to the finish. Eventually, though, the foursome took an extended break, presumably to discuss a financial arrangement, and about 30 minutes later, then returned with smiles and play resumed.

But the smile on Pagano’s face wouldn’t last long. He had Battisti all-in, Pagano with A-K and Battisti with A-Q, but a queen hit the board on the flop and the rest of the board blanked, allowing Battisti to double through and leaving Pagano with less than 150K and in the big blind on the very next hand. Pagano pushed on that hand with {A-Diamonds}{5-Diamonds}, and Bezimra was there holding {Q-Hearts}{10-Clubs}. The board again hit Pagano’s opponent on the flop with {Q-Clubs}{6-Clubs}{5-Hearts}, and the {4-Hearts} on the turn and {4-Diamonds} on the river ended Luca Pagano’s run in fourth place with 357,790 PLN.

It should be noted that with that finish, Luca Pagano became the all-time money leader on the European Poker Tour, which is quite the accomplishment considering the massive EPT fields and hectic tournament schedule.

The last three players began the action with fairly even stacks - around 2 million each. Vaserfirer started strong again, chipping away at Battisti and taking control. But one hand in which Benzimra doubled through Vaserfirer left the latter with only 650K and in a somewhat desperate position.

Vaserfirer soon moved all-in with {A-Clubs}{8-Hearts}, but Battisti was there with {A-Hearts}{K-Spades} and looking to avoid the dealer’s tendency to give out bad beats. The board came {Q-Clubs}{Q-Diamonds}{J-Hearts}{3-Diamonds}{5-Diamonds}, and Vaserfirer found no help, thereby being eliminated in third place with 500,900 PLN.

The heads-up match was delayed by an hour as the two opted for a dinner break, but when they returned and began the duel, the chip counts were as follows:

Christophe Benzimra
3,360,000
Alfio Battisti 
2,729,000

Benzimra was the aggressor at the beginning of the match, and eventually chipped down below the 2 million-chip mark, Battisti finally pushed back a bit. But the hour-long battle finally came down to just one hand.

Benzimra started it with a raise, and Battisti reraised. Banzimra called, and the flop came {A-Clubs}{7-Clubs}{5-Clubs}. Battisti made the initial bet, and Benzimra raised. Battisti responded with an all-in reraise, and Benzimra called quickly with {A-Diamonds}{7-Spades} for top two pair. Battisti showed {K-Clubs}{10-Hearts} for the flush draw and his tournament life. The {8-Hearts} on the turn didn’t help, nor did the {5-Hearts} on the river, and Alfio Battisti was eliminated in second place with 834,870 PLN.

Christophe Benzimra of France won the EPT Warsaw title, along with the trophy and 1,493,170 PLN.

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