In the midst of Season 6 of the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour, a new stop brought players and media to the beach city of Vilamoura, Portugal. Many made a vacation of the trip, as the luxurious resort area and picturesque sites warranted some time away from the poker tables, but they were all there for the primary reason of playing – and hopefully winning – an EPT tournament.
The first of the two starting days brought a total of 136 players into the Casino Vilamoura, some of whom were the recognizable faces of Jason Mercier, Chad Brown, Shaun Deeb, Katja Thater, Mike McDonald, Arnaud Mattern, and Ludovic Lacay. But when the day was done, 71 players were bagging their chips, and Ljubomir Josipovic of Austria was the chip leader with 192,900.
The second starting day brought another 186 players to the tables, and among them were some big names like Peter Eastgate, Vanessa Rousso, Bertrand Grospellier, Huck Seed, Andy Black, Dario Minieri, Johannes Strassman, Praz Bansi, and EPT Warsaw champion Christophe Benzimra. When the numbers were tallied, the total number of participants came to 322 and the prize pool came to €1,561,700, with €404,793 of that reserved for the eventual winner and the top 48 spots paying out. The day ended with 106 players still standing from the second flight of players, and Jeff Sarwer of Canada held the lead with 143,400 chips.
Day 2 brought a total of 177 players back to the casino to play ever closer to the money bubble. More than half the field disappeared in the process, including Bansi, Brown, Thater, Deeb, Mercier, Luca Pagano, and JP Kelly. But the Day 1B chip leader stayed strong throughout the day and finished as the chip leader again, this time with 549,800 chips, and Anthony Lellouche came up behind with 484,700.
Day 3 started with 69 players and took some of them into the money, but not before players like Andy Black, Alex Kravchenko, and Rolf Slotboom exited the field. Finally, it was time for hand-for-hand play with 49 players left, and it took only moments for Sergey Lebedev to push all-in with A-Q on a flop of J-2-Q. Jeff Sarwer called with K-10, and the 9 on the turn made that straight. Another 9 came on the river to end the day for Lebedev, who finished on the money bubble. That allowed Alexandre Brail to become the first to cash in the event, taking home €7,652 for the 48th place finish. Other notables who cashed included Johannes Strassman in 46th place, Ross Boatman in 35th, and Jan Heitmann in 27th. And with the elimination of Nicolo Calia in 25th place, play stopped with 24 remaining and Anthony Lellouche as the chip leader with 1,134,000.
The last of the players gathered on Day 4 to play down to the final eight, and the action began with the elimination of Mohamed Razab in 24th place. Lellouche took a grand fall from chip leader to his exit in 20th place, which was worth €10,151, and other notables who left throughout the day were Joao Barbosa in 19th place and Jude Ainsworth in 13th place. After Santiago Terrazas left in tenth, the final table bubble play was in progress when Joao Silva doubled through Claudio Coelho, leaving the latter very short-stacked. Coelho pushed all-in for his last 83K with , but Sarwer reraised all-in to isolate with . The board came , which gave Sarwer the nut flush and Coelho a prize of €23,426 for finishing in ninth place.
The final table was then set for November 22 as follows:
|Seat 1: ||Ryan Franklin ||1,047,000 |
|Seat 2: ||Jan Skampa ||926,000 |
|Seat 3: ||Jeff Sarwer ||1,983,000 |
|Seat 4: ||Antonio Matias ||3,003,000 |
|Seat 5: ||Andrei Vlasenko||371,000 |
|Seat 6: ||Joao Silva ||780,000 |
|Seat 7: ||Michel Abecassis ||488,000 |
|Seat 8: ||Pierre Neuville ||1,027,000 |
Action began with the short stack finding an opportunity to move rather quickly. Vlasenko decided to push from the big blind with pocket nines, and original raiser Franklin reraised all-in to isolate with pocket tens, forcing Matias to fold out of the way. The two remaining players watched the board come out with , and Andrei Vlasenko was eliminated in eighth place with €31,234.
Matias was strong from the outset of the final table, staying aggressive and building his stack even higher, though he did suffer one setback when Neuville doubled through him. Silva was pushing quite a bit and with some success, as he doubled through Sarwer twice in the first few levels of play.
But when Abecassis doubled through Franklin, the latter looked to change his luck. He pushed several times, and eventually he found a caller in Sarwer. Franklin showed pocket eights for his all-in stack, but Sarwer happily flipped over pocket jacks. The board was only good for Sarwer when the flop came , and the turn and river changed nothing. Ryan Franklin was left with a seventh place finish and the €46,851 that went with it.
Abecassis needed another double and attempted it with his last 344K chips and from the big blind. Matias called with , which got better on the flop. The on the turn helped Abecassis a bit, but the on the river ended his hopes. Michel Abecassis was ousted from the tournament in sixth place with €62,468.
Then it was Silva who got involved with Skampa and Neuville to see a flop of . Skampa led out with a bet, but Silva raised. Neuville got out of the way, but Skampa reraised all-in with pocket queens, and Silva quickly called with pocket jacks. The turn was a blank , and the river of simply gave Skampa the better full house. Joao Silva was gone in fifth place with €78,085.
Despite Skampa’s victory over Silva, he took a big hit when his bluff ran into a solid hand of Sarwer, and the double-up hurt Skampa. The ultra-short-stack moved all-in from the small blind soon after with , and Sarwer was there to make the call from the big blind with a dominating . The board blanked with , and Jan Skampa was eliminated in fourth place with €117,128.
Neuville was the short stack during the lengthy three-handed action, though he was able to double through Sarwer once to stay alive and jump over 1.5 million chips. However Sarwer and Matias sat on more than 4 million chips each and Neuville had some work to do to stay in contention. And he was able to double once more, again through Sarwer.
Sarwer had a rough time, especially when he got into a significant pot with Matias and ended up folding it when Matias made an all-in move. But as the chips started to fall, Sarwer continued to look for action and found it. All three players started the hand to see a flop, but when Sarwer bet, Matias raised all-in, and Neuville check-folded out of the way. Sarwer thought quite awhile about his decision but finally called with , though that top pair was not good enough to beat the pocket tens of Matias. The came off on the turn, though, which gave Sarwer two pair, but the on the river gave Matias the better two pair - tens and treys. Jeff Sarwer was painfully eliminated in third place with €156,170.
Heads-up play then began with chip counts as follows:
Antonio Matias 8,235,000
Pierre Neuville 1,275,000
Matias started out strong but Neuville finally found a hand with which to move. Neuville pushed all-in with 8-7 after a 9-10-5 flop and turned jack, and Matias called with K-9. The straight held up with the 6 on the river, and Neuville doubled to nearly 2 million.
Neuville patiently waited for his next opportunity which came after the duo saw a flop. Neuville bet, Matias check-raised, and Neuville pushed all-in with for top pair and the straight draw. Matias called immediately with for two pair. A came on the turn to give Matias the full house, and the decided the match officially. Pierre Neuville finished in second place with €257,681.
Antonio Matias from Portugal won the EPT Vilamoura tournament and he took home a trophy and €404,793 in prize money for the accomplishment.