The European Poker Tour main event heads to the final table tomorrow with Martin Finger of Germany holding just a two big blind lead over nearest rival Nicolas Levi with eight players remaining.
Ironically, as play entered its ninth hour, Finger seemed like the player most in need of a night off.
The German was on a flyer. A series of suspect decisions (or bad situations) cost him a large chunk of his stack, being at the mercy of Levi and Ari Engel, not to mention headline writers looking for a play on words to Finger. The last hand though, eliminating Patrick Renkers with Ace-King against Queens, brought the colour and confidence back to his face. Recharged and re-armed with 5,800,000, Finger must now be one of the favourites.
Chip leader Martin Finger
For Levi, who was leading until Finger struck, it marks a major step towards that first major title that he has coveted for so long. A regular on the European Poker Tour for many years, his friend and countryman Arnaud Mattern won the first running of the Prague leg some five years ago. A win for Levi would mean just as much, and the 5,690,000 he has to play with represent his best chance yet.
The field is some way behind them with Danyel Boyaciyan in third place. The bulk of his 3,770,000 stack arrived on his lap in dramatic fashion when Yann Brosolo and he got their chips in pre-flop – millions of them, which left Boyaciyan, who won the Master Classics last month, with the chips and a smile on his face when his nines cracked Brosolo’s aces.
But we’ve said it before – the chip lead does not a champion make. At least not with a day’s play to go. Here’s how they’ll line up:
Seat 1 – Mads Wissing, Denmark, 420,000
Seat 2 – Guillem Usero Cavallo, Spain, 1,405,000
Seat 3 – Nicolas Levi, France, 5,690,000
Seat 4 – Martin Finger, Germany, 5,800,000
Seat 5 – Andreas Wiese, Germany, 1,615,000
Seat 6 – Ari Engel, United States, 1,670,000
Seat 7 – Denys Drobyna, Ukraine, 1,180,000
Seat 8 – Danyel Boyaciyan, Netherlands , 3,770,000
Engel proved himself more than capable of handling the business end of an event like this, and his five-and-a-half years of live tournament cashes will have proved invaluable in such a high stakes environment. Standing and chatty when things are going well, thoughtful and seated when not, the man originally from Brooklyn will be a menace tomorrow.
Denys Drobyna will do likewise, an obvious talent with the right degree of self-confidence as well as the brass balls to make a run on the title tomorrow. Andreas Wiese will state his case to the contrary while Guillen Usero will hope to top his fifth-place finish in the WPT Barcelona earlier this year. All though have work to do.
None more so than Mads Wissing.
For every hand he played today Wissing must have walked ten paces. The Dane was never in his seat longer than a hand, choosing instead to pace up and down slowly, free from distractions. Not the type to rush into unforced errors, Wissing played solidly, neither approaching the lead nor allowing his stack to run the risk of impotence, until the closing stages that is. By then he was down to just eight big blinds. Everyone was surprised at how the day ended, none more so than Wissing. But his task tomorrow is monumental.
The tournament room
A word on Ignat Liviu who crashed out in tenth place. It’s easy to dismiss a player you’ve never seen before and who only speaks in foreign jibber-jabber to some giggling friends on the rail. But Ignat was one of the most hard-to-move players this week. Even today, when a hand reduced him to 130,000, he never threw in the towel. It wasn’t something he would even consider. Top marks.
Had we seen Team PokerStars Pro Juan Manuel Pastor wheeled out of the Prague Hilton on a hospital gurney this afternoon no one would have asked why. The Spaniard, who to watch is certainly one of the most expressive players, was reduced to 50,000 from 750,000 in just two hands. A few moments later he was bad beaten out of here, all within half an hour. He managed a smile and a handshake at the end, but he may sleep badly tonight.
Juan Manuel Pastor’s last stand
His fellow Team PokerStars Pro Jude Ainsworth fared somewhat better, perhaps borrowing Pastor’s share of luck. Twice he caught a six on the river to double up in the most unlikely spot, grinning a the absurdity of it all. He got to 14th place and the sixes ran out.
Other eliminations included Chris Moorman in 15th, scoring his first EPT cash. Former EPT Dortmund winner Mike McDonald made yet another deep run on a second title only to fall in 27th.
That’s the short version, read the long version of an action filled day at the links below.
Follow all the action in French and German by clicking on the relevant link. You can also find a list of all the prize winners and payouts on the appropriate page. All images today are copyright Neil Stoddart whose copyright legal team have the power to cancel Christmas.
Play resumes tomorrow when the final table starts at 12 noon. Until then there’s the small matter of the PokerStars Tenth Anniversary Party to attend to, a few words and perhaps a photo of which, will follow tomorrow.
Until then, goodnight from Prague.