Whenever the European Poker Tour (EPT) comes to Monte Carlo, several things are assured. There will be an atmosphere like nowhere else, a huge prize pool to contest, and a final table that goes on forever.
The latest epic wrapped at 10.30pm local time tonight and gave the poker world a new and fearless champion: Marcelo Mesqueu, who became the first Brazilian ever to win on the EPT. He banked €939,840, and was cheered all the way to a spectacular win.
Little known outside of Brazil before the start of play, the 55-year-old from Rio de Janeiro, nonetheless came to the final table with a rowdy Brazilian rail and eased into his role of tournament boss, and only grew in confidence as the hours slipped by.
By the end, he had worn down all five of his final-day opponents, the last of a 1,073-entry field. He took advantage of some cagey opening levels, where the tournament dragged on for seemingly several hours of nothing much. But it actually was decisive. It was during this period that Mesqueu won the tournament, building a stack to then steamroller the final levels.
Mesqueu beat Denmark’s Morten Hvam heads up, with Hvam settling for €564,640.
Stacks were pretty big at the start of the final table, with even Dragos Trofimov, who had the shortest of the six, sitting with 39 big blinds. And even though the late stages yesterday had been characterised by big hands and big pots, caution quickly became the name of the game today.
START OF PLAY CHIP COUNTS
Morten Hvam, Denmark – 7,350,000
Marcelo Mesqueu, Brazil – 6,890,000
Hugo Pingray, France – 5,525,000
Erkan Soenmez, Germany – 4,850,000
Jaime Cervantes, United States – 4,735,000
Dragos Trofimov, Moldova – 3,085,000
The first three hours ticked by without any eliminations, as the players got a feel for final table play. Morten Hvam, the overnight chip leader, was trying to bully his way through, but frequently ran into opponents with big hands, while Hugo Pingray pulled off the most spectacular early bluff. He managed to get Jaime Cervantes to fold trip aces when the river brought a possible flush. Nobody was taking too many unnecessary risks.
Marcelo Mesqueu made the biggest moves in this early period and took over the chip lead. But even he wasn’t able to knock anybody out as the day trickled into its fourth and then fifth hour. James Hartigan, in the commentary booth, observed that it had nearly been 24 hours since the last elimination, of Ramon Colillas in seventh place yesterday.
When they came back after the break before Level 31, there now were two legitimate short-stacks, in front of Pingray and Erkan Soenmez. Soenmez three-bet squeezed with A♦Q♦ on the first hand of the level and got Mesqueu and Cervantes to let their hands go (with ace-seven and pocket eights, respectively). But after that, caution descended again and they made it to the dinner break without further significant incident.
Mesqueu, however, had added to his stack even more. Nobody could get near him. He ended this period with more than 16 million, while no one else had more than 6 million. It meant that immediately after the dinner break, two players had fewer than 10 big blinds, and another had fewer than 20. Was this going to go bang, bang, bang?
“It feels like the hose has been kinked, and if we can just unkink it, it could go quickly,” said Joe Stapleton in the commentary booth. We did indeed then unkink that hose.
The first two postprandial hands were short-stack shoves, which went uncalled. Then the third was a push from Trofimov with K♦10♥ and a call from Mesqueu, with A♥6♦. However there was a king on the turn and a ten on the river, so Trofimov survived.
Two hands later, and Soenmez was all in with A♦2♥ and was called again by Mesqueu, with 5♣3♦. This time the flop came 5♥3♠Q♣, which was two pair for Mesqueu. The turn was the A♥ giving Soenmez plenty of opportunities, but the river was a blank. And finally we had the first elimination of the day, with the German PokerStars qualifier’s ride ending in sixth.
Soenmez was in the event for a $530 investment, and he cashed out for €167,050.
Mesqueu was now in shoving mode. Why not? All the others had tiny stacks and he could pressure all of them, denying them the chance to ladder. However, Pingray woke up with A♦K♦ when Mesqueu pushed with K♥9♠ and Pingray called.
But — wow — after a dry flop of K♦5♣J♥, the turn was the 9♣ and that was gin for Mesqueu. Pingray hit the rail in fifth, banking €228,460, as the Brazilian rail went wild.
It was easy to forget that there were other players involved at this stage, such was Mesqueu’ss dominance. But Hvam then reminded everyone that he was still a threat when he was the man sitting in the big blind with 9♠9♥ after Cervantes open-raised to 1 million, from a stack of 1.8 million, under the gun. Cervantes had A♠J♦.
Mesqueu folded his hand, but Hvam pushed all in. Cervantes called, and then the board of 4♠K♠8♥K♣5♣ was totally dry. Hvam’s pair held and Cervantes was out in fourth, picking up €298,710.
Hvam now had a playable stack, while Trofimov had only five big blinds. We had gone eight hours without a bust-out, then three came in 30 minutes.
Make that four.
Trofimov was knocked out in a weird hand, which might actually have ended up in even more fireworks than it did. Mesqueu, holding J♦8♠, made a min-raise from the button. Hvam, in the small blind and holding J♣6♠, made the call, and Trofimov moved all in from the big blind with his A♥4♣. Both opponents called.
They were therefore three-way to a flop of 6♥9♣J♠, which gave top pair to Mesqueu, but two pair to Hvam. Mesqueu bet, Hvam called. Mesqueu then bet 500,000 on the 2♥ turn, and Hvam called, and the dealer then put the 9♥ on the river. Hvam’s two pair was now counterfeited.
Both active players checked, and that meant another sizeable pot went to Mesqueu, with Trofimov making his way out. Trofimov picked up €397,590 for third place, having laddered up quite extraordinarily.
The two remaining players then prepared for heads up, with Mesqueu sitting with 126 big blinds to Hvam’s 34. It was a big lead, but certainly not unassailable. Perhaps aware of that, the pair decided to look at the numbers and discuss a possible deal. However, they opted to play on.
The first major pot of the heads-up duel went, of course, to Mesqueu. Hvam opened his button with K♦Q♠ and Mesqueu three bet with A♦3♠. Hvan’s call took them too a dangerous flop of 7♠A♥Q♦. It went bet/call here, followed by a check of the 8♠ turn. Then the 8♣ river brought a bet of 2 million — nearly one third of Hvam’s stack — by Mesqueu.
Hvam made a crying call, leaving himself with 13 bid blinds after Mesqueu took it down.
That was soon doubled, when they got to a flop of Q♥J♦K♠ and Mesqueu had 10♣2♣ and shoved his open-ended straight draw. Hvam called with his K♥7♦, i.e., top pair, and the turn and river bricked out. And then, not long after, he doubled again, when both players made two pair — Hvam with J♠7♠ and Mesqueu 8♠5♦ on a board of 7♥2♦5♣8♦J♦.
The run-out swung it both ways, Hvam hitting top pair, Mesqueu turning two pair, and then Hvam hitting the river to stay alive.
That really was as good as it got for Hvam because Mesqueu then went on another run where he was unbeatable. He hit a few cards, sure, but he definitely also put his chips to work and left Hvam nowhere to hide. (Hvam did once get Mesqueu to fold middle pair, when Hvam only had a paid of deuces. But it was a small pot.)
The final hand — the 168th of the final table — was what amounts to a cooler in these situations. Hvam opened his button with K♣10♦, from a stack of 16 big blinds, and Mesqueu woke up with K♥K♦ and three bet. Hvam called.
The flop was 6♠9♦7♦ and Mesqueu slid out a bet of 1 million. Hvam, with his two over-cards and a gutshot, moved all-in, and Mesqueu snap-called.
The turn and the river was 5♣ and J♦ and that was the end of that.
Finally, Brazil — the dominant force in online poker — had its EPT champion. And there’s now only one word for it: Vamooooooooossssss!
€5,300 EPT Main Event
Dates: May 2-7, 2022
Entries: 1,073 (inc. 326 re-entries)
Prize pool: €5,204,050
Note: Earlier versions of this report referred to the winner as Marcelo Simoes. He informed reporters after play was complete that his preferred name is Marcelo Mesqueu.