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English Poker Open

by Adam O'Connell |  Published: Dec 01, 2009


In recent years England has become home to some of the biggest tournaments in Europe. The World Series of Poker Europe and the European Poker Tour London (see features in this issue) attract not only the crème de la crème of European poker but also our cousins from across the pond.

So far though the international community has been boxed up in the English capital if they want to play in poker’s premier league games. Sure there’s the Grosvenor UK Poker Tour around the UK but it’s hard to imagine Phil Ivey dropping into Coventry anytime soon – sorry Grosvenor.

Nottingham’s Dusk Till Dawn (DTD) has blown the lid right off this though hosting the first ever English Poker Open at its state-of-the-art card room in Nottingham. For those living in a cave the past few years DTD was the UK’s first legal poker-only card room and incidentally the largest in Europe designed specifically for large scale events.

Sadly DTD has suffered a rocky couple of years financially, not helped by recently introduced laws greatly increasing its tax burden. However, the EPO could be its turning point.

The three-day $5,000 + $300 buy-in event ran from September 15 to 17 with a guaranteed $1 million prize pool, and attracted some of the most recognisable names in poker. Phil Hellmuth, Annette Obrestad, Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott, and Doyle Brunson were just some of the names that made their first visit to Nottingham this September.

The event failed to reach its cap of 270, attracting 213 players ultimately, which is surprising considering the star-studded field, however this is probably due to the fact only 35 seats were available by satellite, with the rest having to be bought directly.

It was not surprising then on day one that most players were wearing sponsorship tags. Usually the first day at the big events is known as the most boring day and it looked like this EPO would be no different. Each runner was given 10,000 chips and a one hour clock which was a great structure for the players but meant a much slower, cautious game.

Killer Day One
Railbirds needn’t have worried though as it quickly became something of a giant killer day. Annette Obrestad was one of the first big names out about two hours in. A failed river bluff made her weak and she ended the tournament by pushing all-in with Q-Q preflop, running into Ram Vaswani’s K-K. Phil Hellmuth was quick on her heels. After playing a number of marginal hands that failed to hit he was down to 5,000 and made a preflop push with A-K. He was called by a player holding Q-Q and busted out.

Doyle Brunson lasted longer, making it to the four hour mark, but was card dead through most of it. When he was around the 6,000 chip mark he ran into something of a cooler. Betting out from mid-position with Ks Js he got three callers. The flop came J-8-2 with two spades, Brunson bet out causing two players to fold, the last to speak in the small blind was Magnus Cornmar who put him all-in and Brunson called. Cornmar turned over As Qs and a spade on the turn knocked the legend out of the tournament.

Talking of cold decks, one interesting hand occurred between three Scandinavian players. Thor Drexel with A-A, Georgi Pleshkov with As Ks, and Oyvind Riisem with K-K. All three had their money in preflop and, as can be the curse of the game, a king came on the board to give Oyvind a massive pot.
David LaRonde
By the end of day one, out of the 213 players who sat down, only 58 remained but where there are losers there must also be winners. Roberto Romanello was the clear chip leader with 116,500. Michael “Trainwreck” Tureniec who came second in last year’s EPT London finished the day third in chips with 88,400, and notable English players doing well were John Eames on 81,200 in chips, David La Ronde on 57,900, and Praz Bansi on 51,200.

Keeping the Pace
Play resumed the following day and, despite being closer to the money, the game speeded up rather than slowed down. Within three hours more than half the field was gone, leaving 25 players behind ­— just seven off the money.

Joe Beevers, Liv Boeree, Peter Charalambous, and the Devilfish were just some of the names sent to the rail early in play.

Tureniec continued to show promise by running his table and picking up some large pots. James Moult collected a nice double up by knocking out Jamie Roberts (Q-Q v A-10). Andy Greekfish also doubled up after calling Gregory Howard’s all-in with A-K suited, spiking a king on the turn.

Down to three tables, play started to slow down somewhat as most of the big stacks were moved to the feature table. Day one chip leader Romanello ran into some bad hands and was finally put out of the tournament when his A-Q ran into A-A preflop busting him in 21st place, just outside the money. Bubble honours went to short stack Andrew Teng who pushed all-in with K-10, was called by 9-9, and failed to connect with the board.
With two tables left, play greatly tightened up. Many of the players who had been leading in day one were doing so in day two. Michael Tureniec was still dominating his table, John Eames was riding high, and David La Ronde retained his big stack.

Though there was the surprise exit of Praz Bansi after losing half his stack with A-K vs 10-10 preflop to Simon Pearson, and the other half to Eric Liu with 9-9 Vs K-J with Liu spiking a king, it was now mostly the case of short-stacks being gobbled up by big stacks.

James “Fido” Atkin, despite a heroic effort having been short-stacked all the way through day two, went out in 10th, after being forced to shove all-in on his small blind with 4c 2c and getting called by the big blind holding A-6 — an ace came on the board to decide the final nine.

Turbulent Final Table
Play started with the action coming thick and fast. Short-stack Thor Drexell, who had done so well to survive all the way to the final table, hit a wall in Martyn Bebb. Bebb pushed all-in with 10-10 and was called by Drexell holding A-10, which failed to improve, making him the first to go.

Shortly afterwards there was a three-way pot between David La Ronde, Eric Liu, and Simon Pearson. La Ronde bet out with both Liu and Pearson flat-calling. The flop came 5-3-2 and all three players checked. The turn was a king and La Ronde checked, Liu bet out, and Pearson folded. La Ronde declared he was all-in, Liu went into the tank, and after a few moments called showing K-3 for two pair while La Ronde turned over 2-2 for a set of twos. No king or three came on the river and Liu was out in eighth.

Despite knocking Drexell out earlier, Bebb had been forced to fold a couple of hands and was short-stacked. Finding 4-4 on the button he pushed all in and must have known he was in trouble when Julian Leonard, arguably the table’s tightest player, reraised to protect the pot. Getting no other callers he turned over A-Q and a cruel ace on the river knocked Bebb out of the tournament.

When it was down to six we didn’t see another player go out for another two levels. Pearson bet out with Q-Q and got reraised by Leonard, at which point he made the biggest mistake of the tournament by pushing all in against the rock himself who promptly called showing K-K. A king on the flop effectively left Pearson dead in the water and out of the tournament in sixth.

Tureniec, who had been so busy raising and reraising on day two, had so far been relatively quiet on the final table and was enjoying being chip leader. He made up for it when he got into a massive hand with second in chips, John Eames. Both players raised and reraised each other preflop before Eames shoved all in and Tureniec called.

Eames showed A-A and Tureniec shocked the watching crowd by turning over K-Q. The board came J-10-8-J-9, the crowd moaned, and Eames staggered off (like someone had stabbed him) in fifth place.

Not long after this, La Ronde picked up a boost when Leonard moved all-in with K-Q and he woke up to pocket aces. Lightning was not about to strike twice though and despite a queen on the turn there was no more help on the river for Leonard, who went out in fourth.

It was never going to be a drawn out final three with two of the big stacks being very aggressive players and one short-stack. James Moult, a local bookie, left in third place when he went all-in with A-9 and was called by Tureniec with A-8 who hit an eight on the turn.

Tureniec held a slight edge but it was not enough to overcome La Ronde who picked away at the Swede’s chips until he pushed all in with K-10 and was called by La Ronde with A-7. When no king or 10 appeared on the board, La Ronde, with a look of disbelief, won the $328,827 first prize and became England’s first EPO champion. Spade Suit