After a long summer and a bit of a break after the World Series of Poker, the new season of the PokerStars-sponsored European Poker Tour got underway on August 11. Players from all over the world anticipated Season 7, as it boasted of some new stops and changes for its whirlwind European schedule of events. One of those stops was its first one, and the festivities kicked off at the luxurious Swissotel in Tallinn, Estonia.
The first of two starting days was on August 11, and there were 182 players in the field, including Vanessa Selbst, one of the newest Team PokerStars Pros making her EPT debut. Others in the field included Ville Wahlbeck, Luca Pagano, Alex Kravchenko, Annette Obrestad, Scott Montgomery, Praz Bansi, Ivan Demidov, Arnaud Mattern, and Carter Phillips. Less than half of them made it through the day, though, as only 89 bagged up chips. Ali Tekintamgac of Germany led the pack with 203,200 chips, followed by Matvey Linov, and the rest of the top five were Artem Litvinov, Mauro Palazzo, and the aforementioned Pagano.
The second starting day brought another 238 players to the tables, setting the total field at 420 players and the prize pool at €1,596,000. That amount was going to allow 56 players to be paid at least €6,350 for their efforts with €400,000 set aside for the winner. Some of the big names in the Day 1B field included Bertrand Grospellier, Dario Minieri, Katja Thater, Juha Helppi, Shaun Deeb, Kevin MacPhee, and well-known member of the poker media Benjamin Gallen. When the day came to an end with 120 players left standing, it was Perica Bukara atop the leaderboard with 210,600 chips, with Santiago Terrazas in second with 176,300 and the rest of the top five was Mattias Jorstedt, Volodymyr Pilyavsky, and Jonathan Weekes.
Day 2 brought all of the remaining players together, all of whom hoped to make it ever closer to the money. But some who were eliminated through the day and wouldn’t see any money for their efforts included Ville Wahlbeck, Alex Kravchenko, Max Lykov, Nicolas Chouity, and Jeff Sarwer. Names like Mattern and Thater made it through with the 84-player field that survived, and the man with the most chips was Jonathan Weekes with 751,900, followed by Ivan Demidov holding 480,400 chips. The rest of the top five were Perica Bukara, Steven van Zadelhoff, and Aleh Plauski.
Day 3 moved many of the players quickly toward the money bubble, though players like Scott Montgomery, Michael Keiner, and Katja Thater failed to make it that far. During hand-for-hand play, it was Yotam Bar-Yosef who pushed all-in from the big blind with , but the original small blind raise from Chady Merhej represented , and Merhej did call. The board came , and Bar-Yosef was ousted in 57th place on the bubble. That left the other players guaranteed €6,350 for their efforts, and some notables cashing in through the rest of the day included Tomer Berda in 53rd place, Pierre Neuville in 41st, and Luca Pagano in 26th place for his record 15th cash on the EPT. That left 25 players to finish the day, and Perica Bukara was the leader with 1,326,000 chips. In second place was Konstantin Bilyauer with 1,240,000, followed by Arnaud Mattern, Jonathan Weekes, and Ivan Demidov.
Day 4 began with Vitalijs Zavorotnijs exiting in 25th place with €8,000, and some of the other recognizable names that followed included Ivan Demidov in 22nd place, Johan Storakers in 15th, and Toni Ojala in 12th. After Vallo Maidla of Estonia took 10th place, the last nine players were seated together and playing for the eight seats of the final table. Finally, it was Jonathan Weekes who had fallen from his previous day’s chip lead and been relegated to a stack of about 750K, and he moved all-in with . Arnaud Mattern snap-called with , and the flop improved his odds even more when it came . The on the turn and on the river ended the tournament for Weekes, who took home €25,000 for ninth place.
The final table was then set with chip counts as follows:
|Seat 1: ||Konstantin Bilyauer (Russia) ||2,498,000 |
|Seat 2: ||Steven van Zadelhoff (Netherlands) ||805,000 |
|Seat 3: ||Kevin Stani (Norway) ||2,586,000 |
|Seat 4: ||Nicolo Calia (Italy) || 637,000 |
|Seat 5: ||Bassam Elnajjar (Lebanon) ||744,000 |
|Seat 6: ||Dmitry Vitkind (Russia) ||502,000 |
|Seat 7: ||Arnaud Mattern (France) ||3,720,000 |
|Seat 8: ||Mikko Jaatinen (Finland) ||1,166,000 |
On Monday, August 16, those players returned to play for the win. Mattern started with the chip lead and his attempt to be the first player to ever grab a second EPT title. When play got underway, Mattern wielded his big stack and intimidated others, though Bilyauer did challenge the leader on several occasions and took some of his chips.
But when Elnajjar decided to move all-in from the small blind, original raiser Mattern made the call and Jaatinen, who had reraised Mattern initially, got out of the way. Elnajjar showed , but Mattern had him quite dominated with his . The flop of showed up with a flush draw for Elnajjar, but despite the sweat, the on the turn and on the river allowed the aces to hold. Bassam Elnajjar was eliminated in eighth place with €32,000.
Play moved forward at a reasonable pace, and the next to push was short-stacked Calia, but he was called by shorter stacked Jaatinen. The latter doubled through Calia, leaving him with only 125K. Those chips went all-in on the very next hand with , and Bilyauer was the caller holding only in the big blind. The flop of hit Bilyauer with a pair of fours, and the turn and river cards allowed that hand to stay the best one. Nicolo Calia had no choice but to leave the tournament in seventh place, taking with him the corresponding €47,000 in prize money.
van Zadelhoff decided to put the rest of his chips into the pot from the small blind with , but it just so happened that Stani looked down at in the big blind. The call was made and van Zadelhoff was going to need some serious help. Some of that help came in the form of a straight draw on the flop, even a straight flush draw, but the on the turn and on the river prevented that from happening. Steven van Zadelhoff headed to the rail in sixth place with €63,000.
Only moments later, Jaatinen was ready to take another risk, and he moved all-in from the small blind with . Mattern was the original raiser and made the call with his which dominated his opponent. The two watched the dealer produce a board, and Mattern was able to scoop the chips and solidify his chip lead. Mikko Jaatinen, on the other hand, headed to cash out for €80,000 for his fifth place finish.
Chips then began to change hands quite drastically. Vitkind doubled through Bilyauer, and then Bilyauer doubled through Mattern to jump into the chip lead. Stani had also chipped up enough to grab second place on the leaderboard. And as play continued, Bilyauer contined to climb well over the 4.5 million mark.
Vitkind, on the other hand, was going to need another double-up to stay alive. He went into battle with Bilyauer and Stani to see a flop of , at which point Vitkind threw out a bet. Bilyauer chose not to stay involved, but Stani raised all-in. Vitkind decided to call all-in for his tournament life with for middle pair, but Stani showed for the overpair. The on the turn changed nothing, nor did the on the river. Dmitry Vitkind exited in fourth place with €120,000.
Stani was then in the chip lead, and Mattern had climbed back into the second place position, but a big hand that found Stani taking more chips from Mattern put the latter on the short stack.
Mattern then got into a preflop raising battle on a subsequent hand with Stani. It was Stani who moved all-in, and Mattern immediately called and showed , a hand that dominated the of Stani. The flop of was a safe one for the queens, but the dropped on the turn to give Stani the set. The river was the , and Arnaud Mattern was prevented from making EPT history and claiming his second title on the tour. The disillusioned Team PokerStars Pro departed in third place with €160,000.
Heads-up play then began with the following chip counts:
|Kevin Stani ||8,600,000 |
|Konstantin Bilyauer ||4,200,000 |
Stani was the clear aggressor during the first rounds of the battle, and he climbed above the 10 million chip mark and left Bilyauer in a somewhat desperate position. Bilyauer was able to double up once with K-Q over pocket sevens when a king hit on the turn, and Bilyauer continued to gather a little momentum by taking some small pots to make a steady run.
But it wasn’t long before the two got involved in another big hand. It started with a flop, and they checked to see the on the turn. Bilyauer bet, Stani raised, and Bilyauer called. When the appeared on the river, Bilyauer bet again, but this time Stani raised all-in. Bilyauer took some time with his decision but finally called all-in for his tournament life. Stani showed for the straight, and a disappointed Bilyauer simply mucked his losing hand. Konstantin Bilyauer took home €250,000 for the second place finish.
Kevin Stani of Norway claimed the first EPT title of Season 7, and his Tallinn victory came with a trophy and €400,000 in cash.