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German Efficiency At Irish Winter Festival 2012

by Jennifer Mason |  Published: Jan 01, 2013


Tim Hartmann won the 2012 Irish Winter Festival €1,000 main event, outlasting a field of 385 to secure a huge €100,000 first prize after 12 hours of play, during which the final table first had to be reached, then beaten — no mean feat considering the line-up of day two survivors.

Notable by their late-stage absence were many a previous champion of this and other major European events. Neil Channing, Jude Ainsworth, Liam Flood and IWF title-defender John Keown were all on the rail or in the side events before the money (40 places in total were paid). Although the bubble had burst on day two, it was always going to be tough to reach a final table of nine with 158 players returning to the felt, and in the end a total of 19 players made day 3 at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin, led by Declan Wallace with 877,000 chips.

It was a cosy affair at the top of the chip rankings, with veteran pro Julian Thew, Daniel Nestola and Ronan Gilligan all within one small pot’s reach of overtaking the leader. Trevor Dinneen, at the opposite end of the spectrum, returned with just 96,000, but he was to make his short stack last all the way to the final table, generating him an €8,400 prize for 9th place.

It seemed that about half of those players eliminated in the early part of the day were sent to the cash desk by one man: Tim Hartmann. Hartmann already possessed a chunky chip pile that was to become (by increments equivalent to others’ stacks that he absorbed whole) a skyscraper.

The poker gods seemed to be determined that Hartmann do most of his stacking by toiling in very richly seamed set mines. Will Fitzpatrick fell to his threes in this manner and Jamie Martin to his sixes, all within the space of an hour. He proved his versatility in the bust-out department by ending Ali Duncan’s run to the final table in 11th (€5,550) with a dominating ace, then went back to flopping sets to eliminate start-of-day leader Wallace in an eye-watering aces vs. queens cooler.

If asked on which day they’d wish to be on form, that is, make good decisions, win races, and generally run best, undoubtedly tournament players would say the last one. While contenders like Francesco Macari, John O’Shea and Marc McDonnell had rocketed up the leaderboard in previous sessions, Patryk Pietnoczko popped on to the radar on day 3 with the elimination of Thomas Finneran. An all-in preflop outdraw (A-Q against the Kings of one-time chip leader Finneran) started the young Polish player’s upswing in fortune that ended heads up on the final table.

Pietnoczko’s first major coup was against Hartmann, whose continual attempts to put pressure on the shorter stacks (and everyone was a shorter stack at this point) backfired when Pietnoczko flopped a set of sevens and called all-in for 680,000, finding his opponent with an open-ended straight draw which failed to hit.

Trevor Dinneen’s short-stacked run ended when Marc McDonnell picked up queens and called his all-in bet (with eights); Dinneen’s exit gave Pietnoczko the extra accolade of being the longest lasting online qualifier — one of “Six Survivors” who outlasted the rest of the 129-strong group. All six of these deep-runners receive free entry into the 2013 Irish Open main event.

Out in 8th place (€11,400) was Ahmed Eydan, another player who navigated the tricky medium-then-short-stacked waters with aplomb until running a dominated ace into Ronan Gilligan. When the popular Gilligan soon afterward doubled through Hartmann, it was to chants from the rail of “go on Gilly!” Go on he did; all the way to a podium finish and €35,000 payday.

First, though, Daniele Nestola busted in 7th (€14,400) having experienced poker’s equivalent of a bad day at the office. Pietnoczko took the last of Nestola’s chips, then quietened down for a short period while Hartmann got back into the saddle, eliminating Jay O’Toole in 6th (€18,300). O’Toole had maintained a very healthy stack after getting half of it on day two from promising chip-accumulator Andrew Grimason in what has to be the hand of the tournament — a perfect runner-runner quad nines to bust Grimason’s aces full.

The final table broke for dinner, and when play restarted Julian Thew held the spotlight. At first it was due to his seeming difficulty in outmanoeuvring Ronan Gilligan, who was picking off a bluff here, a lead out there. Then, having dropped to 800,000, he called Marc McDonnell’s fourbet preflop shove with A-Q, spiking a queen to beat McDonnell’s A-K and end the aggressive player’s title shot abruptly in 5th soon after.

Fourhanded, day two’s relentless climbers, Thew and Gilligan, were now pitted against Pietnoczko and the off-and-on huge chip leader Tim Hartmann. After displaying a little of what gave Thew his old nickname “yo-yo,” he was the next to hit the rail, busted by Hartmann whose timing in picking up aces was pretty much spot on. While Thew was collecting his €28,350 prize money, Gilligan started a stack see-saw of his own, first losing a chunky pot to Pietnoczko, then one to Hartmann, before performing a quick double-up-then-bust-out that left his rail with nail-bitten fingers. His 3rd place prize money of €35,000 might have gone some way to soothe their nerves.

Heads up status was achieved before 11 p.m., however it would be 2am before a winner was crowned. Hartmann began with a 6:1 chip advantage, doubled his opponent once, took it in his stride and continued with his button aggression. It seemed, however, that everything he did turned sour. Pietnoczko foiled him preflop with the occasional shove, hit the nut straight with 4-5 offsuit and generally eroded his opponent’s stack gradually but consistently.

Signs of frustration began to appear in Hartmann’s demeanour. Headphones went on. The table fell silent. Finally, Hartmann lost a lead he’d held in an iron fist since the start of the final, but matched his once stack-dominated opponent’s determination with an equally tenacious grasp on tournament life. Slowly he pulled back, and after three hours of one-on-one tussling, regained the same 6:1 chip lead he’d held when they first faced each other as last men standing.

Eventually, the blinds had climbed to 40,000/80,000 and Pietnoczko’s stack (at just over 1 million) ran out of wiggle room. He called all-in with A-8 after Hartmann put him to the test with A-4. A four on the flop brought the hand, and the tournament to an end, giving the young German the trophy, €100,000 top prize and a relieved-looking grin.

An interesting side note about runner-up Pietnoczko (who took home a far-from-shabby €56,000 in prize money himself): unimpressed with his own bottom-third chip stack at the start of day 3, he was seriously considering just catching the return flight to Poland he’d already bought, and letting his stack pay him what it would just by blinding down. Convinced that the possibility of a six-figure payday was real and not to be missed lightly, he stayed.

Congratulations to all 40 players who shared in the €385,000 total prize pool, and see you at the next one. ♠