The main stage in the tournament room at EPT Prague has already hosted some pretty remarkable final tables this week. There was Javier Rojas’s double-quick destruction of the Eureka Poker Tour, followed swiftly by Steve O’Dwyer’s triumph in the Super High Roller. And that’s just counting the ones we’ve watched closely.
The third such encounter took place as Friday became Saturday in the Czech capital, as the last eight in the €25,000 High Roller took to the stage. They were shallow of stack but long on experience and featured players from Europe, Asia and Australasia. (Remarkably, there were no North Americans.)
When the final card was dealt, the only player still with chips was Rainer Kempe, a 26-year-old originally from Berlin, Germany, who has already made back-to-back main event final tables this season on the EPT. Before this tournament, he was $70 short of career earnings of $1 million. He has just won earned him €539,000, so the landmark is safely reached.
The victory took Kempe only about 15 hours to achieve, such is the beauty of the Single-Day High Roller. There were 64 of the best in the world at the start, but they fell just as surely as the rank amateurs.
The bubble burst when there were only 11 players left of the original 64 (and 16 re-entries), with Gleb Kovtunov the unfortunate last man out with nothing. And then the aforementioned O’Dwyer led Vladimir Troyanovskiy and Piotr Franczak out of the door before the final table was set, with Adrian Mateos in front.
These turbo events tend to go through fits and starts, particularly at the final when all the focus is on just the one group of players. After early jostling, we quickly lost Luuk Gieles, Tobias Reinkemeir, Kitson Kho and David Yan, the latter two in consecutive hands to Rainer Kempe.
Kempe then swung back to the short stack after butting into a flush of Jean-Noel Thorel, but found aces twice — both times red — to double twice and get back into contention. The second time, he took a huge chunk from Mateos and eventually Thorel sent the EPT Grand Final champion home in fourth.
Kempe was unbeatable at this stage, and this particular flurry of activity also accounted for Ramin Hajiyev in third. Kempe this time had ace-queen to Hajiyev’s ace-jack and a queen came on the turn.
If anybody could stop Kempe it would likely have been Thorel, the wily French veteran who is enjoying his second life at the poker tables after rising to prominence as a cosmetics company executive.
But the relatively brief heads up duel was also one-way traffic, with Kempe first picking off a triple-barrelled bluff from Thorel with ace high, and then taking the last with J♥10♣ against Thorel’s Q♠9♣.
Kempe had refused to even contemplate a deal three handed and, watched by Fedor Holz (among other friends, supporters and backers) closed it out in some style, continuing a superb EPT Season 12. It was another great show from Thorel that earns him €383,200. But Kempe now has his first major trophy.
EPT12 Prague – Single-Day High Roller
Total entries: 80
Prize pool: €1,960,000
1 – Rainer Kempe, Germany, €539,000
2 – Jean-Noel Thorel, France, €383,200
3 – Ramin Hajiyev, Azerbaijan, €250,900
4 – Adrian Mateos, Spain, €193,050
5 – David Yan, New Zealand, €152,900
6 – Kitson Kho, Hong Kong, €119,550
7 – Tobias Reinkemeier, Germany, €94,050
8 – Luuk Gieles , Netherlands, €73,500
9 – Piotr Franczak, Poland, €55,850
10 – Vladimir Troyanovskiy, Russia, €49,000
11 – Steve O’Dwyer, Ireland, €49,000