The tournament was a highly-anticipated one. While the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour had been traveling Europe for six seasons and was no stranger to Germany with its popular Dortmund stop, the addition of Berlin to the line-up in 2010 was one that looked to bring players from all over the country, one that incidentally has seen a tremendous rise in the popularity of poker. The Grand Hyatt Hotel was to be the host of the event, and organizers planned for up to 1,000 players for the Main Event and side events that would kick off on March 2, in what would become the largest poker tournament ever held in Germany.
On Day 1A, there were 388 players in the ballroom of the hotel, which was located next to a prominent casino, for the first of two starting days for the €5,000 buy-in Main Event. The field was filled with pro players, some like Tom McEvoy who made the trek from the United States to participate, and others from Europe like Vicky Coren, Arnaud Mattern, Katja Thater, Juha Helppi, Barny Boatman, Praz Bansi, Ludovic Lacay, and Antony Lellouche. And the Germans were well-represented by the likes of Sebastian Ruthenberg, Ben Kang, and George Danzer. When the day was done, only 196 of them survived the action, and it was Kfir Yumin at the top of the leaderboard with 213,500 chips, followed by Rachid Ben and his stack of 163,800. The rest of the top five included Carlos Oliveira, Simon Boss, and Stefan Huber.
Day 1B brought a whopping 557 players to the tables, making for a total field of 945 and a complete prize pool of €4,725,000. The first prize was guaranteed to be €1 million and that is what it was, while a total of 144 players would be paid from the remainder of the pool. Final data showed that players came to Berlin for the event from 48 countries, making it one of the most diverse to date, as well as the largest ever in Germany. Included in the field were names like William Thorson, Marcel Luske, Antoine Saout, Max Pescatori, Chad Brown, Noah Boeken, Luca Pagano, Sandra Naujoks, Johnny Lodden, Jan Heitmann, Mike McDonald, Carter Phillips, Nicolas Levi, and tennis legend Boris Becker. Many of them left the tournament as the day proceeded, and only 288 remained at the end of the day, with Tu Tuan in the top spot with 212,600 chips. Marc Inizan held 177,000 for second place, while Lennart Holz, Dimitri Hefter, and Christophe Gross made up the rest of the top five.
All of the Day 1 survivors gathered for Day 2 of the tournament in one room, and the field of 484 quickly dwindled. Players like Jeff Sarwer and Peter Hudlund didn’t make it far into the day, and others like Florian Langmann, Fatima de Melo, and the aforementioned Becker left before the money bubble burst. And said bubble came upon the field so quickly that by the time the staff determined that 145 players remained and hand-for-hand play should commence, another player was eliminated, and there were 144 players in the money. In the short time between that point and the end of the day, some of the players to cash out were George Danzer in 136th place, Max Pescatori in 132nd, and Rikard Rilander in 125th. That left 124 players and Stefan Huber in the chip lead with 1,087,500 chips, followed by Team PokerStars Pro Johannes Strassman with 794,500. The others in the top five were Rehne Pedersen, Jude Ainsworth, and Jonas Gutteck.
Day 3 got underway with the intention of thinning the field to the final 24, and that feat was accomplished in about nine hours. The in-the-money finishes started with Nicolas Chouity in 124th place, and other notables who followed included Andrew Feldman in 119th place, Bruno Fitoussi in 109th, Christer Johansson in 99th, Ben Kang in 94th, William Thorson in 89th, Sam Chartier in 68th, Dennis Waterman in 59th, Marcel Luske in 48th, Julian Thew in 44th, Christophe Gross in 26th, and finally Jan Collado in 25th. It was then that the day was called and chips were bagged, only to find that Kevin MacPhee was in top chip position with 2,526,000, followed by Theo Jorgensen in second with 2,408,000. Marc Inizan, Ketul Nathwani, and Stefan Huber rounded out the top five.
Day 4 played down to the final table, but not without an interruption that made international news. Armed and masked gunman rushed the lobby of the Grand Hyatt midway through the afternoon, reportedly stole quite a bit of money, and escaped without being caught but not without having frightened everyone in the ballroom and surrounding areas. The frantic run for cover found poker tables from side events overturned, and chips strewn everywhere on the Main Event tables. But once the gunmen left and it was determined that no one was critically injured from the incident, time was given for everyone to calm down before tournament organizers went to work to reconstruct the tournament. It took quite some time, but everyone was amiable and understanding, and action finally resumed to continue the tournament action.
Throughout the day, several well-known players exited the tournament deep into the money, such as Johannes Strassman in 23rd place, Joao Barbosa in 22nd, Theo Jorgensen in 20th, Jude Ainsworth in 19th, and Stefan Huber in 15th. Late into the evening, there were nine players remaining until Norman Kastner got the remainder of his chips all-in with , but Marc Inizan called with . The best hand only got better on the board, and Kastner was eliminated in ninth place with €50,000 for the accomplishment.
With that, the final table was set with chip counts and seating assignments as follows:
|Seat 1: ||Marko Neumann ||2,185,000 |
|Seat 2: ||Marc Inizan ||3,655,000 |
|Seat 3: ||Kevin MacPhee ||6,070,000 |
|Seat 4: ||Artur Wasek ||3,530,000 |
|Seat 5: ||Marcel Koller ||3,590,000 |
|Seat 6: ||Nico Behling ||960,000 |
|Seat 7: ||Ketul Nathwani ||4,685,000 |
|Seat 8: || Ilari Tahkokallio ||3,940,000 |
Players were ready to go and action went down on the very first hand of the day. Behling pushed his very short stack all-in, but he and Neumann both held A-Q and chopped the pot. Behling moved all-in again on the next hand, this time with a familiar looking . Koller called with pocket tens, and the board brought nothing of interest when it produced . That was all it took for Nico Behling to become the first to exit the final table, taking with him €72,000 for eighth place.
MacPhee proceeded to extend his chip lead. His sheer aggression brought him pot after pot, and he quickly climbed toward the 9 million chip mark. At the same time, Inizan was risking it all just to stay in the game, and he was able to double through Koller to gather 4.4 million and leave Koller with only 1.7 million.
But it was Neumann who chose to move next, doing it with . MacPhee called with pocket sevens, and the flop only helped MacPhee when it showed . The came on the turn, followed by the on the river, which ended the tournament for Marko Neumann, who walked away with €120,000 for the seventh place finish.
Then it was Koller’s turn. Though he had chipped up to 2,395,000 million, he decided to make the push with , but original raiser Tahkokallio made the call with pocket queens. The dealer had no ace for Koller, only , which left Marcel Koller out in sixth place with €165,000.
Five-handed action saw MacPhee climb further up the leaderboard as he quickly hit 12 million chips. But Nathwani was under 2 million and decided to make the push holding . MacPhee called with , and the board fell to give MacPhee the pair of nines and 14 million chips in total, while Ketul Nathwani busted from the tournament in fifth place with €210,000.
MacPhee found some hurdles along the way to total domination, though, as Inizan doubled through him in the subsequent rounds and Tahkokallio took a solid pot from him. MacPhee was down to 12 million and Tahkokallio climbed, even taking the chip lead at one point, to provide competition for MacPhee.
Finally, it was Wasek who decided to make his move. After attempting to limp into the pot, Inizan raised from the small blind, which prompted Wasek to push back for his last 1,655,000 with pocket queens. But Inizan called quickly with pocket kings. The flop gave Wasek many outs when it showed , but the turn was the and the river the , leaving the kings to hold up. Artur Wasek was eliminated in fourth place with €280,000.
The last three players were then sent on a dinner break, and the chip counts at that time were reported to be 12,260,000 for Tahkokallio, 10,760,000 for MacPhee, and 5,690,000 for Inizan.
Inizan came back aggressive after the break and took down a significant pot to start the action, but he was unable to maintain the momentum. He subsequently got involved with MacPhee on a flop. Betting and raising prompted an all-in move from Inizan, and MacPhee called with for the straight. Inizan showed for top pair and a draw, but his hand couldn’t be helped, especially when the turn brought a and the river an . That was the end of the line for Marc Inizan, who left with €350,000 for third place.
The heads-up match then began with the following chip counts:
|Kevin MacPhee ||17,675,000 |
|Ilari Tahkokallio ||11,035,000 |
Over the course of the first few rounds, both players were aggressive, but MacPhee picked better spots and slowly chipped up to over 20 million chips.
However, Tahkokallio found a spot for a double-up with less than 6 million chips left in his stack. He pushed on a board of with pocket deuces, and MacPhee called with . An fell on the river to allow the set of deuces to hold up, and Tahkokallio was back up to nearly 12 million. And the next hour or so found him climbing back into the lead.
MacPhee took the lead back, but both players exchanged chips for hours, not only by way of playing solid games and not looking to risk everything unnecessarily, but there was also a €400,000 difference between first and second place payouts, not to mention the coveted EPT title and first ever EPT Berlin title. Thus, play continued late into the night.
Finally, it happened. The two went to see a flop of . Tahkokallio bet, MacPhee raised, and Tahkokallio moved all-in for his last 9 million chips with for the straight draw. MacPhee wasted no time calling with and the pair of fours with the draw. The on the turn brought more outs for Tahkokallio with the possible flush, but the on the river finished MacPhee’s straight. That left Ilari Tahkokallio with a second place finish and the €600,000 that went with it.
Kevin MacPhee won the EPT Berlin event, which came with a trophy and a whopping €1,000,000 in prize money.