EPT Warsaw: Benzimra schools the kids to take Polish poker crown

October 25, 2009


You might have thought that this season’s EPT was all about poker’s kids running the schoolyard. But just as anyone older than about 22 might have considered packing up and going home, the French player Christophe Benzimra won the Main Event of EPT Warsaw, halting a run of three whipper-snapper champions at the beginning of this term.

At 47, Benzimra was the oldest player at today’s final table, the second oldest player to feature at any final table so far this season, and the oldest since his countryman Jan Boubli won in Barcelona on season two. But having only taken up poker three years ago, Benzimra has learned the trade among the wild youths of the EPT. For five days in Poland, he was at least the equal of all the three-bet, c-bet crowd – and takes the Polish equivalent of €358,644 after dishing out that clip round the ear.


Christophe Benzimra

It was around 9pm when he finished off Alfio Battisti, the PokerStars SuperNova Elite and 24-year-old protege of Dario Minieri. That was the youngest final-table participant against the oldest, but it was done in a flash. “I’m the coach,” Minieri had said of Battisti. “I’m like Mickey in Rocky.” But only a few hands into the mano-a-mano scrap, Battisti was floored by Benzimra’s top two pair. Battisti’s flush draw missed.

“They were better than me,” said Benzimra. “I am not a professional player, I play just for my pleasure and let’s say today that the luck was with me.”


Alfio “Rocky” Battisti, with Dario “Mickey” Minieri on the rail

To get to that stage, they’d seen off all others, with two particular eliminations the most notable. Oleksandr Vaserfirer was such a monstrous chip leader coming into the final that no one expected him to be overhauled. But drip, drip, drip, his chips dribbled away throughout the afternoon and his aces were cracked by Benzimra’s jacks in a whopping three way coup. Vaserfirer’s flames were eventually doused in third.


Oleksandr Vaserfirer

On the results table from this particular event, Vaserfirer’s name will appear forever above that of the Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano’s. But on many other lists, Pagano’s name is at the very summit. He finished fourth here, losing almost all of his chips with A-K against Battisti’s A-Q when winning the 70-30 race would have made him a massive chip leader three-handed.

But even finishing fourth was enough for Pagano to overhaul Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier at the top of EPT tournament leaderboard. Pagano extended his lead as the player with the most in-the-money finishes on the EPT (12), and the most final tables (five). He acknowledged here that he was fortunate in the early stages of the tournament, hitting sets to outdraw bigger pairs, and rivering quads in another early pot, so he wasn’t too aggrieved by the beat that effectively knocked him out.

“To tell the truth, I must be happy,” Pagano said. “But when you can taste it…” He tailed off in disappointment after another story of so near, but yet so far.


Tonight, though, Pagano will join the celebrations of Benzimra, who was a popular winner in Warsaw. We’ll see him again at the Grand Final in Monte Carlo – part of his winner’s prize is a buy-in there – but there’s a good chance he’ll also be in Portugal next month, which is our next stop.

Click over to the prizewinners page to see who won what in Warsaw. Then take a look at all these links below, where you’ll find a blow-by-blow, level-by-level account of all that happened.

Final table player profiles
Level 21 updates
Level 22 updates
Level 23 updates
Level 24 updates
Level 25&26 updates

And check in with our German and Polish blogs too. They’ll be happy to have you.

Video blogs are at PokerStars.tv — like the one below telling us how the tournament wrapped — and all photos on PokerStars Blog are (c) Neil Stoddart. That’s your lot. Goodnight.

Watch EPT 6 Warsaw Day 5: Benzimra wins title on PokerStars.tv


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