Tonight’s coverage of the Main Event of the World Series of Poker Europe featured play on days three and four, with the first hour focusing on reducing the field to the 36-player money bubble, and the final two hours taking us down to the final table of nine. Unlike the Main Event in Las Vegas, very few amateurs even entered the European tournament, and the quality of play has been very high. Let’s see how these two days played out.
Day 3’s featured table included chip leader Ian Munns, as well as Praz Bansi and Steve Zolotow, while table two had two of the most decorated players in the world of poker, Daniel Negreanu and Men Nguyen.
Negreanu had been under 10,000 chips early in the tourney, but had been slowly building up his stack ever since. He started strong on day 3 when he raised to 3,800 with pocket jacks, only to have Kim Wooka go all-in for her last 29,300, close to 30% of Negreanu’s stack. Negreanu, who had been doing his best to avoid coin flips, decided to make the call, and after Wooka hit her ace on a flop of 3-5-A, Negreanu caught one of the two remaining jacks on the turn to knock her out.
With the blinds and antes at 1,000-2,000-300, Peter Gould raised to 5,100 with . Praz Bansi then re-raised to 14,200 in the small blind with . The big blind had both players beaten with A-Q suited, but chose to fold, however, Gould called with his weak ace. The flop came 4-4-J, and Bansi led out with a bet of 12,500, which Gould called. A second spade, the 3, fell on the turn, and Bansi checked. Gould then tried to take the pot with a bet of 28,000 into the 57,500 already in. Bansi called, and then called again when Gould fired out 48,000 on a rivered . Bansi took down a pot of over 200,000.
Negreanu got fortunate a little while later, when Christian Kruel raised to 6,500 with A-Q of hearts, which Negreanu called on the button with K-J of diamonds. The flop brought 10-4-A, with one diamond. Kruel led out with a bet of 10,200 and Negreanu called. The turn paired Negreanu’s jack but he was still behind when Kruel checked to him. Negreanu bet out 16,200, and Kruel called. Negreanu then spiked a third jack on the river, and bet 36,600 after Kruel checked once more. Kruel made the good laydown, and Negreanu took the pot.
A hand that typified some of the uber-aggressive play that has marked this event saw November Niner Antoine Saout raise to 7,100 with Q-10, only to have Tommy Pavlicek three-bet to 21,500 with 10-8! After Saout called, the flop brought 6-K-3. Saout led right out with a bet of 28,500 with just queen high, but Pavlicek, not to be outdone, raised to 60,000 with just ten high, causing Saout to lay it down.
Steven Fung and Yevgeny Timoshenko fought another war of aggression. After Timoshenko made a raise with A-K, Fung re-raised to 20,000 with A-4, which Timoshenko called. The flop of Q-10-5 saw Timoshenko check, but Fung bet 26,000, which was called. The turn brought the , which was the third heart to fall, with Fung’s 4 being the only heart in either hand. Timoshenko checked again, and this time Fung bet 46,000, which Timoshenko once again called. With 191,700 in the pot, the river card was the . Fung fired a third bullet, this time 99,000, and Timoshenko finally laid down the better hand.
Three of the top British players got involved in a pot when November Niner James Akenhead raised to 8,200 under the gun with . Devilfish Ulliott called with pocket sixes, and Ram Vaswani also called in the big blind with 10-5 offsuit. All three caught at least some of the 3-4-5 flop. Vaswani checked and Akenhead bet out 22,500. Ulliott went all-in for his last 153,200, and Akenhead called with his wheel. Ulliott had one foot out the door, but spiked the on the river to make a bigger straight and take down the 335,700 chip pot.
The final two hands on the money bubble both featured pocket aces. In the first, Eric Liu raised with pocket kings, only to have Vaswani re-raise with his aces, Liu went all-in, and Vaswani doubled up to 336,000 when the board fired blanks. In the second, Jon Tabatabai wound up all in with his aces against Peter Gould’s pocket sevens. Gould flopped the seven, and rivered a full house to send last year’s runner-up to the rail with nothing to show for three days of hard work. However, with 36 players left, all the remaining players were guaranteed at least £ 21,000 for their efforts.
The second hour of the telecast began with a focus on Matt Hawrilenko, who had quietly become the chip leader during the third day’s play. With a full 1/3 of the players remaining in the field being bracelet winners, expectations were high for lots of dynamic play leading up to the final table. The featured table included Hawrilenko, Ulliott and soccer legend Teddy Sheringham, one of the very few amateurs remaining. Sheringham eliminated Ulliott early on, when his A-Q caught two pair against Ulliott’s K-9 suited, and the Devilfish departed in 35th place.
We finally caught our first glimpse of Barry Shulman, as he played a hand against Doyle Brunson. After Brunson raised to 18,000 with A-K, Shulman called with J-10 of spades. The flop was Q-J-4, with no spades, and both players checked. After the came on the turn, Shulman rightly assumed his pair was good, and bet 25,000, which Brunson called. When the fell on the river, Shulman, who had been playing the same type of tight game that allowed his son Jeff to reach the November Nine, checked, and Brunson tried to take the pot away with a bet of 47,000 into 93,000. Shulman, however, made the call and put a big dent into Brunson’s stack.
Brunson managed a double up soon after when he caught a good flop against Men “the Master” Nguyen. After Nguyen had raised to 25,000 with A-Q, Brunson pushed all-in with A-10 offsuit, which Nguyen called. However, Brunson hit not one, but TWO tens on the flop to take control of the hand, and he doubled through Nguyen.
With 27 players left, there was a redraw for seats, and the new featured table included Sheringham, Brunson, Negreanu, Bansi, Eric Liu, Shulman and Nguyen. The first fireworks at the new table came when Nguyen raised to 22,000 with 10-9, which Negreanu called on the button with pocket tens, and Brunson also called in the big blind with a pair of sixes. The flop of K-10-7 saw Brunson check, and Nguyen bet 40,000, which Negreanu smooth called. When a 9 came on the turn, giving Nguyen two pair but leaving him drawing dead, he went all-in, and Negreanu called, moving Negreanu up the leader board with over 600,000 chips.
Negreanu then showed off his skills in a hand against Bansi. Bansi raised pre-flop to 21,000 with pocket sixes, and Negreanu called in the small blind with the 10-8 of spades. The flop showed 7-5-3, with two spades. Negreanu checked, and Bansi bet 32,000, which Negreanu called. When the hit the turn, Negreanu now took the lead in the betting with just his draws, putting out 56,000 chips. Bansi called, and when the river brought the , Daniel’s bet of 80,000 into a pot of 234,000 looked very much like a value bet to Bansi, who finally folded.
A huge pot developed between Steven Fung, who had been playing a wild, aggressive style all day, and Jason Mercier, who was using his big stack very effectively to control his table. After Fung raised to 28,000 with A-10, Mercier re-raised to 76,000 with pocket tens. Fung then went all-in for 350,000, and Mercier called. A board of 9-K-K-J-6 sent Fung home, and made Mercier the first player over a million chips in the tournament.
With 18 players left, there was another redraw for tables, and the featured table wound up with 5 bracelet winners, including Negreanu and Brunson. Brunson got involved in a key hand early, which began with Negreanu raising to 28,000 with J-10 of clubs, Brunson calling with A-Q of clubs and French professional Thomas Bichon calling in the big blind with K-6 of spades. The flop was 4-3-8, with two spades. Bichon and Negreanu checked, and Brunson bet 60,000, which Bichon called and Negreanu folded. When the came on the turn, Bichon checked once again, and Brunson bet 150,000 into the pot of 228,000, only to have Bichon push all-in with his draws! Brunson, although ahead in the hand, couldn’t find a call, leaving him severely short stacked. He was eliminated soon after.
When the last two tables began, Jason Mercier was the chip leader. However, right behind him, both in chips and table position, was Israeli amateur Saar Wilf. Mercier, though, put on a display of power poker to simply dismantle the amateur, despite being out of position. After forcing Wilf to lay down a hand post-flop where Mercier’s pair of fours were leading Wilf’s A-J, the two were at it again a little while later, when Mercier raised to 39,000 with K-10, which Wilf called with A-K. The flop of J-2-5 saw Mercier make the continuation bet of 48,000, which Wilf called. After a queen came on the turn, Mercier fired a second bullet of 107,000, but Wilf raised him to 250,000. Somehow, Mercier sensed weakness in the bet, and went all-in with king high!!!! Wilf finally laid the hand down, and Mercier became an overwhelming chip leader.
Wilf’s descent continued in a hand against Antoine Saout. After Mercier raised to 39,000 under the gun with 9-8 and Wilf called with pocket sevens, Antoine Saout went all-in for 369,000 with pocket fives! Mercier folded, but Wilf made the great call. However, after a harmless flop of K-9-J, Saout spiked the miracle 5 on the turn, and won the 817,000 chip pot when a 10 fell on the river. Wilf went out in 16th soon after.
Shulman knocked out Vaswani when his pair of eights held up against Vaswani’s suited 10-9. Sheringham was knocked out when Mercier’s A-K beat his K-Q. Bichon left in 12th when he ran pocket tens into James Akenhead’s kings, and Keith Hawkins departed in 11th when his A-K failed to catch up to Bansi’s pocket nines.
With 10 players left, all the players moved to one table, with Jason Mercier holding more than ¼ of the chips in play. Fittingly, he was to knock out the final table bubble boy, who turned out to be Eric Liu. Liu was all-in with pocket queens against Mercier’s K-J of clubs, but the flop of A-K-10, with two clubs, was a disaster for Liu, and when blanks came on the turn and river, we had our final table.
The final table action will be telecast on February 28th, and figures to have a continued high level of play. With Mercier leading the way, he will be challenged by (in order of chip stack): Akenhead, Bansi, Shulman, Markus Ristola, Saout, Hawrilenko, Chris Bjorin and Negreanu. See you then!
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