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Germans: The Bomb at EPT London

by Rebecca McAdam |  Published: Dec 01, 2011


Benny SpindlerTouching Down In London Town

What may seem to be your average, bustling, four-star hotel reveals itself to be the hibernation spot for many of the poker world’s best as September runs into October in London. Make your way through the Hilton London Metropole during this time and you’ll come across both the familiar and the surprising as the poker world merges with the every day. It all happens down the back of the hotel but not in a way that “down the back” may suggest. There are no dimly lit rooms filled with shady characters here, but instead grand spaces illuminated by lights, cameras, and well known faces; the air so thick with tension you can feel it.

The PokerStars European Poker Tour pulled into London for one of the most popular international events on the poker calendar. This season the festival offered 31 events of all different kinds to suit every pocket, but most of the prestige, as usual, lies with the main event, and indeed, the high roller.

The past few years have seen numbers for the main event moving only in one direction, for example 730 attended in 2009 and records were again shattered in 2010 when 848 took part. 2011 was a different story — 691 players made the trip, a healthy turnout but still a drop of 157. There are many reasons as to perhaps why this happened. The most obvious of all is the effect of Black Friday; the event was destined to see less qualifiers. Also a big factor for many would be the fact the World Series of Poker Europe, which usually takes place just before EPT London in the same city, was moved this year to October and held in Cannes, France. This means that the EPT would no longer gain from the WSOPE being in the same place at the right time. A straightforward, pro-longed trip to London became a disjointed affair where many players may have elected to choose between the two prestigious festivals.

Destined For Success

A massive field still, and one just as tough as any previous, saw the cream of the crop rise to the top of the £5,000 buy-in event, and this turned out to be 26-year-old German pro Benjamin Spindler. Spindler has come close to a major live title many times since he hit poker headlines in January 2009 for finishing third at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for $1.1 million. This ultimate takedown in London earns him £750,000, which brings his total lifetime earnings so far to over $4.2 million.

The former online pro, “toweliestar”, proved his worth at the felt by topping a final table that included up-and-comer Martins Adeniya, Juan Manuel Pastor, and Steve O’Dwyer. Spindler began the final table third place in chips but a few key hands sent him straight into the lead and he managed to stay there despite the attempts of final opponent O’Dwyer. The American pro took home £465,000 as a consolation prize for a fantastic runner-up finish. This was Spindler’s third consecutive cash — he finished 12th in this event in 2009 and 68th in 2010.

Here are the final table results and payouts:

1. Benny Spindler — £750,000
2. Steve O’Dwyer — £465,000
3. Andre Klebanov — £265,000
4. Juan Manuel Pastor — £200,000
5. Mattias Bergstrom — £155,000
6. Kevin Iacofano — £120,000
7. Martins Adeniya — £86,350
8. Miroslav Benes — £64,000

Other notable cashes included James Mitchell (£35,000 for 11th place), Joao Barbosa (£19,000 for 17th), Sam Macdonald (£16,000 for 27th), Salvatore Bonavena (£16,000 for 29th), Humberto Brenes (£16,000 for 32nd), and Roberto Romanello, (£13,000 for 37th).

Here is a recap of what happened at the final table:

Seat 1: Miroslav Benes — 370,000
Seat 2: Andre Klebanov — 2,30,000
Seat 3: Stephen O’Dwyer — 1,250,000
Seat 4: Juan Manuel Pastor — 1,915,000
Seat 5: Benny Spindler — 3,435,000
Seat 6: Kevin Lacofano — 2,685,000
Seat 7: Martins Adeniya — 4,736,000
Seat 8: Mattias Bergstrom — 3,620,000

Miroslav Benes became the first casualty and just to set the tone of things to come, it was at the hands of Benny Spindler. Benes began the final table with just seven-and-a-half big blinds and managed to improve but eventually was the first to go, and left £64,000 richer.

Not long after this, the German was handed a fistful of ammo from Mattias Bergstrom to make him chip leader. In this pivotal hand Spindler opened for 120,000 and Bergstrom called from the big blind. The flop was KSpade Suit 9Club Suit 8Spade Suit, Bergstrom checked, Spindler bet 140,000, and Bergstrom raised it up to 460,000. Spindler decided to call and the 3Diamond Suit came on the turn. Bergstrom bet out 700,000 and Spindler came along to see the ASpade Suit river. Bergstrom fired out another 700,000 but Spindler wasn’t going to back down and made the call flipping over ADiamond Suit 9Diamond Suit for two pair, which was more than enough to beat Bergstrom’s 5Diamond Suit 4Spade Suit.

Spindler followed this up with another huge hand, this time involving start of day chip leader, Martins Adeniya. Bergstrom, who was at this point one of the shortest stacks, opened for 150,000 under-the-gun and Spindler called from the button. Adeniya made it 475,000 from the big blind, Bergstrom folded, and Spindler moved all in. Adeniya calmly made the call and flipped over ASpade Suit KClub Suit finding himself up against the 10Spade Suit 10Club Suit of Spindler. The board was dealt JClub Suit 8Club Suit 3Heart Suit 2Spade Suit JHeart Suit and Adeniya was put out in seventh place for £86,350. This left Spindler with almost half the chips in play and set him on a direct route to the top.

Kevin Iacofano had a rough time of it; Bergstrom doubled up through him with A-Q versus Iacofano’s A-6, leaving it up to Spindler to finish him off. Spindler bet 160,000 from the cut-off and Iacofano shoved for 225,000. Spindler called and turned over 8Spade Suit 7Spade Suit while Iacofano revealed QClub Suit 10Club Suit. The board fell 9Diamond Suit 6Heart Suit 5Club Suit ASpade Suit 4Heart Suit giving the German a straight on the flop and sending Iacofano to the rail with £120,000 for sixth place; impressively this was his second EPT final-table finish.

Bergstrom was next to go but this time it was Steve O’Dwyer doing the damage. Spindler set things off with a raise of 160,000, Bergstrom moved all in for 1,340,000 and O’Dwyer made the call. Bergstrom held JSpade Suit 10Spade Suit while O’Dwyer had 10Diamond Suit 10Heart Suit. The board was uneventful and pocket tens were enough to send Bergstrom out in fifth with £155,000 for his efforts.

Juan Manuel Pastor was next on the chopping block. His first time all in on the final table saw his pocket nines run up against Spindler’s pocket aces to send him hurtling out in fourth place for £200,000. He was followed out by Andre Klebanov when his A-Q was rivered by O’Dwyer’s A-5. After originally opening for 250,000, the young German called O’Dwyer’s all in (which had him covered). Disaster then occurred as the board fell JHeart Suit 8Heart Suit 6Heart Suit 7Heart Suit 4Club Suit to give O’Dwyer a straight. Klebanov’s third-place finish earned him £265,000 as he left fellow German Spindler and his heads-up opponent O’Dwyer to joust it out.

The heads up match was short and sweet — for Spindler that is. The German raised to 225,000 and O’Dwyer three-bet to 725,000. Spindler made it 1,725,000 and O’Dwyer moved all in. Spindler insta-called and flipped over AClub Suit KDiamond Suit. The American revealed KSpade Suit JClub Suit. The board came down ADiamond Suit 8Diamond Suit 7Club Suit JHeart Suit 6Spade Suit and O’Dwyer reached his end in the event.

After his victory, Spindler said, “I was never sure of the win. In fact I got really lucky with that pair of tens against Martins Adeniya’s ace-king. I had been running really well the whole tournament and it was good to win that huge flip.”

Spindler walked away with the prestigious title, the trophy, £750,000, and the Shamballa winner’s bracelet which is worth more than €10,000.

Das High Roller

Philipp GruissemThere are plenty of other events, which run alongside the main event, and one of these was the £20,000 high roller. This event attracted 75 players this year including notables such as November Niner Phil Collins, Sam Stein, Isaac Haxton, Luke Schwartz, and WSOP main event champion Jonathan Duhamel.

In the end it was German Philipp Gruissem who took home the £450,200 for being the last player standing. His final-table opponents included Olivier Busquet, Sam Trickett, Joel Nordkvist, and Michael Tureniec. Russian Igor Kurganov was his ultimate obstacle.

Tureniec was unfortunately the first to go but straight away made himself busy again in another side event. He was followed out by Trickett and then Swedes Nordkvist and Adrian Bussman. The four remaining players — Kurganov, Gruissem, Busquet, and Rob Akery — then decided to agree on a deal. Following this, Busquet departed in fourth place and another deal was discussed. The players decided to go with the original agreement, and then the event lost Akery. The final two talked about another deal but went with the original plan in the end. The ultimate hand came when Kurganov moved all in with QDiamond Suit 6Spade Suit and Gruissem quickly called with pocket nines. The board came JDiamond Suit 6Heart Suit 5Heart Suit KClub Suit AHeart Suit and Kurganov had to make do with £318,330 for second place.

Gruissem received his second consecutive high roller title from the Tour while also boosting his poker cred and etching his name on the “ones to watch” list.

Here are the high roller final results and payouts:

1. Philipp Gruissem — £450,200
2. Igor Kurganov — £318,300
3. Rob Akery — £205,500
4. Olivier Busquet — £171,200
5. Adrian Bussman — £102,250
6. Joel Nordkvist — £72,950
7. Sam Trickett — £68,800
8. Michael Tureniec — £58,400

Winner, Winner…

On a side note, a quick look at a select few of the festival’s tournaments sees that the ladies event attracted a total of 52 players with Brit Jan Combes coming up trumps for the £8,700 top prize; Michael Benvenuti topped a 150-strong field in the £1,000 no-limit hold’em event for the first prize of £39,500; and David Williams defeated Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott heads up in the £1,000 no-limit hold’em/pot-limit Omaha event which attracted 108 players in total. Williams took home £17,300 for the win. ♠