Some more details about the six players eyeing a €1.6 million first prize in the EPT Barcelona Main Event. (With thanks to Jan Kores, EPT Media Co-ordinator.)
Seat 1: Rui Sousa, 28, Maia, Portugal, – 9.1 million
It’s been 10 years since Antonio Matias won the Vilamoura Main Event to become the second, and most recent, Portuguese EPT champion. But Matias‘ countrymen have been trying hard to join him on the pedestal. Here in Barcelona last year, Pedro Marques and Rodrigo Carmo finished fourth and fifth, respectively, then Carlos Branco and Luis Medina appeared on subsequent final tables in Prague and Monaco, but they couldn’t convert either. Now Rui Sousa and Giovani Torre are in the limelight here this year. Sousa, who comes from a small town near Porto named Maia, is an experienced player whose standout online results include a WCOOP title as well as a Super Tuesday title. Sousa has racked up nearly $300,000 in reported live cashes, with his best results coming at PokerStars-sponsored events. His largest score was $86,400 for a 33rd place in the PSPC, but Sousa will set a new high after he visits the payout desk tomorrow. He’ll collect his third EPT Barcelona Main Event cash, following 18th place in 2015 and 48th in 2016.
Seat 2: Giovani Torre, 36, Funchal, Portugal – 4.45 million
Giovani Torre has played poker for a living for 10 years, from his home in Funchal on the island of Madeira. He splits his time between online and live poker games, but currently favours the live scene due to the current Portuguese legislation. The 36-year-old says he prepared thoroughly for the EPT Barcelona festival, and his summer of study has paid off. Torre qualified to the Main Event for €1,200, winning his seat through a live satellite. He turned it into what he called the “most important result of my career“. He’s already guaranteed to triple his live tournament earnings. Torre’s previous best result was $34,845 for 370th place in this year’s WSOP Main Event.
Seat 3: Simon Brandstrom, 37, Stockholm, Sweden – 18.5 million
If his name doesn’t ring a bell, it might be because Simon Brandstrom used to be known as Persson before he got married. Brandstrom, 37, is roommates with Alexander Ivarsson here at EPT Barcelona. They came close to making the final table together, but Ivarsson eventually bowed out in 10th place. Brandstrom, whose resume boasts more than $820,000 in live tournament winnings, secured himself a seat as the big chip leader in the six-handed finale. His previous biggest cash (€187,880) came six months ago here in Barcelona when he topped his €182,913 payday from the 2013 Master Classics of Poker Main Event. Both of those results came along with a silver medal. Brandstrom’s best result at a PokerStars-sponsored event came in 2016 at EPT12 Prague: he took home €120,090 for a third place in the Eureka Main Event. Brandstrom’s previous biggest score in an EPT Main Event was a 25th place finish at EPT8 Berlin. Now adding a final table appearance to his name, Brandstrom is guaranteed a new career-high score.
Seat 4: Yunye Lu, 41, Shanghai, China – 4.5 million
Yunye Lu grew up in Shanghai, but now lives in Hong Kong. The 41-year-old says he played professionally for several years, but has treated the game more recently as a hobby while he works as an investment analyst. He picked up poker 10 years ago in the United States where he studied at UCLA. Lu revealed that he had previously made some trips to Europe for cash game action, but this is his first tournament experience on European soil. Lu racked up $440,000 in reported live cashes, half of that coming from his second-place finish in the PokerStars-sponsored 2015 APPT Red Dragon. The EPT Main Event is yet to crown a Chinese champion, and Liu is a third player in the last 12 months who has a decent shot at changing that. Last year saw Haoxiang Wang finish second here in Barcelona, and Wei Huang repeated Wang’s feat three months ago in Monaco. While poker is his primary hobby, Lu also enjoys many sports activities, including snowboarding, skiing, and playing tennis.
Seat 5: Marton Czuczor, 29, Budapest, Hungary – 14.45 million
Marton Czuczor has been a familiar face on the European Poker Tour for around a decade, and while the games were arguably softer when he started travelling around the circuit, Czuczor is one of the players who has been able to step up his game. Most of his big scores, both live and online, have come in recent years. Making the final table in the record-breaking EPT Barcelona is a testament to the 29-year-old’s improvement. Czuczor will collect his 10th EPT Main Event cash here. He had a narrow miss at 2016 EPT Prague where he finished second, taking €630,000 after cutting a heads-up deal with Jasper Meijer van Putten. That remains Czuczor’s largest prize to date. Czuczor recently proved his qualities in high roller fields as well. Three months ago at EPT Monte Carlo, he finished third in the €25k High Roller for a €364,460 payday. Now guaranteed another six-figure cheque, Czuczor has locked up a fourth place on the Hungarian all-time money list with over $2.5 million in earnings. A victory would catapult him into the lead.
Seat 6: Diego Falcone, 21, Brazil – 8.6 million
Diego Falcone has a Spanish grandfather and lives in Malaga, Spain, but he officially comes from Brazil and is playing here with his Brazilian passport. He learned to play poker as a 15-year-old and became a professional player when he turned 18. He splits his time between his two homes, going back to Brazil to grind online while playing live events in Europe. Falcone won his seat in a €1,200 live satellite and reaching the EPT Barcelona is by far the most impressive achievement of his career. Nonetheless, Falcone doesn’t plan to focus on just laddering up: he wants the title and prestige that comes with it. “I’m here for the glory,” he said.