The tournament poker world has not been immune to the worldwide financial crisis, but some tours fare better than others. The PokerStars.com European Poker Tour is one that seems to have ignored the trends by continuing to draw record crowds. While every stop on the sixth season of the EPT has not been record-setting, the tournament at the Hilton Hotel in Prague certainly was.
Action began on Day 1A with 217 players at the tables, including names like Katja Thater, Marcel Luske, Shaun Deeb, Arnaud Mattern, Ben Kang, Julian Thew, Sandra Naujoks, JP Kelly, and Pieter de Korver. And when the day came to an end, there were 117 players remaining, and Marc Gork was the chip leader holding on to a stack of 169,200 chips.
The second starting day brought another 367 players to the tournament room, and that pushed the size of the entire field to 584 and the prize pool to €2,842,100 with €682,000 of it to be awarded to the winner of the tournament. The field boasted of such players as Luca Pagano, Antony Lellouche, Huck Seed, Sorel Mizzi, Sebastian Ruthenberg, Noah Boeken, Bertrand Grospellier, Mel Judah, Leo Margets, Dario Minieri, Alex Kravchenko, and tennis legend Boris Becker. When play stopped for the evening, there were 211 players remaining with Jude Ainsworth in the lead with 162,700 chips.
Day 2 combined the starting fields with 328 players, but the majority of them were eliminated before the end of the action, as amateurs joined big names like Grospellier, Thater, Luske, and Boeken on the rail. Even Day 1A chip leader Gork was ousted during the flurry of action. And when the clock ran out for the day, there were only 95 players bagging their chips, and Yann Brosolo had the most with 574,000.
Day 3 found the field of 95 players quickly thinning toward the money bubble, and some who didn’t make it that far included Yann Brosolo and Sandra Naujoks . With 81 players remaining, hand-for-hand action ensued, and two hands captured the attention of the room and they played out concurrently. Antonin Teissere doubled through Mikko Turtainen to stay alive, another player was not so lucky. Tim Kahlmeyer was the all-in player holding , and Pieter de Korver had him covered in chips only with . But the flop hit de Korver with . The turn and ended it for Kahlmeyer, who was ousted in 81st place on the bubble.
As play continued on with the rest of the field guaranteed a minimum payout of €8,000, there were some notable eliminations, including Arnaud Mattern in 63rd place, Nicolas Levi in 52nd, Florian Langmann in 46th, Marcin Horecki in 30th, and Pieter de Korver in 29th. Ultimately, when Jakob Carlsson took 25th place, action was halted. Eyal Avitan sat atop the leaderboard with 1,938,000 chips, far ahead of the rest of the players surviving the day.
Day 4 consisted of the playdown to the final table, and the elimination of Boris Yanpolskiy in 24th place got the action rolling. Notable bustouts throughout the day included Antony Lellouche in 19th place and Yann Brosolo in 13th, and the ten-player field was soon shortened by the ousting of Juha Lauttamus in tenth place. With all of the remaining players at one table, it ultimately came down to Priyan de Mel tangling with Stefan Mattsson to see a flop. Mattson bet, but de Mel check-raised all-in with and the flush draw. But Mattsson called with pocket threes for the set. The came on the turn and on the river, which ended it for de Mel, who took home €42,600 for the ninth place finish.
The final table was then set with several history-making feats. Luca Pagano was to sit at his sixth EPT final table having already made his 13th cash, and Jan Skampa became the first player to make back-to-back final tables - this one and the EPT Vilamoura that saw him finish fourth. The entire table was set up as follows:
|Seat 1: ||Anthony Roux ||2,839,000 |
|Seat 2: ||Stefan Mattsson ||3,553,000 |
|Seat 3: ||Laurence Ryan ||1,338,000 |
|Seat 4: ||Gustav Ekerot||502,000 |
|Seat 5: ||Sven Eichelbaum ||658,000 |
|Seat 6: ||Jan Skampa ||3,985,000 |
|Seat 7: ||Eyal Avitan ||2,627,000 |
|Seat 8: ||Luca Pagano ||2,119,000 |
Action began with one of the short stacks making a move. Eichelbaum raised preflop, but when Ryan reraised from the big blind, Eichelbaum considered for a long time before finally calling all-in for his tournament life with . But Ryan turned over the dreaded pocket aces, and the board changed nothing when it came . Sven Eichelbaum was the first to go from the table, and he took €50,000 for the eighth place finish.
Next up was Ekerot, the other starting short stack, and he pushed with . Avitan reraised all-in to isolate from the small blind, which worked, and he flipped over pocket aces. The board only bettered Avitan’s hand with for the full house, and Gustav Ekerot was gone in seventh place with €71,000.
Pagano tried to find spots to pick up some pots, and he thought it good enough to start with a raise holding . When Mattsson reraised from the big blind, Pagano pushed all-in, and Mattsson called with pocket queens. The flop of was relatively uninteresting, but the on the turn gave Mattsson the set but Pagano the straight draw. But the on the river only completed Mattsson’s full house, and a disappointed Luca Pagano was eliminated in sixth place with €100,000.
As Mattsson climbed into the chip lead, he took the opportunity to raise from the small blind, but Ryan in the big blind reraised. Mattsson came over the top with an all-in move, and Ryan called for his tournament life holding pocket jacks. But Mattsson gladly showed pocket aces. The board blanked with , and Larry Ryan was ousted in fifth place with €135,000.
Mattsson continued to stay aggressive with more than half of the chips at the table, though Skampa was aggressive during four-handed play. Skampa climbed within range of Mattsson, but it was Roux in trouble as the short stack. Roux proceeded to double through Skampa twice to stay alive, while Skampa regained some ground by doubling through Mattson.
But Roux was not willing to settle down. After an initial raise by Avitan in the small blind, Roux raised it up in the big blind. Avitan pushed all-in with , and Roux called with pocket tens. The flop was ideal for Avitan when it came , and the subsequent on the turn and on the river ended the tournament for Anthony Roux, who took home €171,000 for the fourth place finish.
Suddenly, Mattsson was the short stack while Skampa and Avitan battled it out for the chip lead. But Mattsson fought on and doubled through Skampa to stay alive. But over the three-hour battle, Mattsson lost more ground.
Ultimately, Mattsson pushed all-in from the small blind with , and Avitan called with . But the flop couldn’t have come better for Avitan when it brought . Mattson still had the straight and flush draws, but those hopes were crushed when the came on the turn and the finished it off on the river. That left Stefan Mattsson out in third place with €255,000.
Heads-up play started without official chip counts but it was reported that Avitan held a 2-to-1 chip lead over Skampa when play began.
The two exchanged the chip lead and played extremely cautious poker for well over three hours. Skampa stayed patient but aggressive when needed, and he finally pushed into the chip lead and never looked back.
Skampa started the final hand with a raise, and Avitan pushed all-in for his last 4.2 million chips. Skampa called with pocket jacks, and Avitan showed the . The board was revealed as , and Eyal Avitan was eliminated in second place with a prize of €454,000.
Jan Skampa went from a fourth place finish at the EPT Vilamoura to a first place victory at the EPT Prague, in his home country no less. He was awarded a trophy and €682,000 for the feat.