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Giuliano Bendinelli Wins Largest European Poker Tour Main Event In History

The 31-Year-Old Italian Came Back From Being Down To A Single Big Blind To Earn More Than $1.5 Million As The 2022 EPT Barcelona Champion


The 2022 European Poker Tour Barcelona €5,300 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event attracted a record field of 2,294 entries to the Casino Barcelona, creating a prize pool of more than $11.3 million for the largest EPT main event in history. After two starting flights and five more days of intense action, Italy’s Giuliano Bendinelli emerged victorious as this year’s champion.

“I can’t believe it. It’s the best day of my life. I’m speechless,” Bendinelli told PokerStars TV after coming out on top.

The 31-year-old hardly had an easy road to the title. In fact, at one point during six-handed play, he was down to just more than a single big blind. He managed to spin that short stack back up and take down his first EPT title and the top prize of more than $1.5 million.

“I can’t believe it happened today. I’m proud about how I played, but I also won some showdowns,” Bendinelli said when asked about his ‘chip-and-a-chair’ comeback. “I’m grateful to be here.”

This was by far the largest score yet on Bendinelli’s tournament resume, blowing away the $131,125 he earned as the winner of the ‘Monaco Cup’ side event at the 2013 EPT Grand Final Monte Carlo. He now has nearly $2.4 million in lifetime tournament cashes to his name.

In addition to the money and the title, Bendinelli also secured 2,160 Card Player Player of the Year points for the win. This was his first qualified score of the year, but it alone was enough to catapult him into 66th place in the 2022 POY race sponsored by Global Poker.

The huge turnout for this event resulted in the top 328 players making the money. Plenty of big names made deep runs, including 2018 World Series of Poker Europe main event winner Jack Sinclair (78th), bracelet winner Harry Lodge (68th), bracelet winner Jaspal Brar (60th), 2021 champion of this same event Simon Brandstrom (53rd), two-time bracelet winner Michael Wang (44th), 2005 EPT Copenhagen main event winner Noah Boeken (42nd), 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure winner Maria Lampropulos (36th), 2017 PokerStars Championship Prague winner Kalidou Sow, Jack Salter (15th), and 2018 World Poker Tour Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown champion Scott Margereson (8th).

Jimmy GuerreroThe final day began with just six players remaining, with Patrik Jaros in the lead and Bendinelli in fourth chip position. He fell to the bottom of the leaderboard when he three-bet shoved from the button with A-Q and ran into the A-K of Jimmy Guerrero, who had opened from under the gun. Guerrero called and held to double into the chip lead, leaving Bendinelli with just 475,000 in his stack, with the blinds of 200,000-400,000 and a big blind ante of 400,000.

Bendinelli found a quick triple-up, and then another double-up to rebuild his stack to nearly 10 big blinds. His double-up came at the expense of Kayhan Mokri. The Norwegian was left short after losing that hand, and was soon the one all-in and at risk. Mokri’s A-J was unable to come from behind facing the pocket kings of Brazil’s Neville Costa, and Mokri was eliminated in sixth place ($344,514).

Despite starting the day with the lead, Patrik Jaros was ultimately the next to fall. Jaros three-bet shoved for around 30 big blinds with pocket sixes. Guerrero called with pocket nines. Jaros found no help from the board and was knocked out in fifth place ($447,896).

Fabiano Kovalski’s run in this tournament also came to an end via a preflop clash of pocket pairs. His eights were unable to overcome the pocket tens of a resurgent Bendinelli and the field was narrowed to three. Bendinelli moved into the lead, while Kovalsi took home $582,238 as the fourth-place finisher.

Play was stop-and-go during three-handed action, as the remaining contenders paused a couple of times to discuss possible deals. In the end, they decided to play on. A classic preflop coin flip then resulted in the next knockout. Neville Costa three-bet jammed for around ten big blinds over the top of Bendinelli’s button open. Bendinelli called with QHeart SuitJClub Suit. Costa’s 9Spade Suit9Heart Suit remained ahead after the AClub SuitKHeart Suit3Diamond Suit flop, but the QSpade Suit turn gave Bendinelli a higher pair. The 7Diamond Suit on the end made Costa’s elimination official. He earned $756,504 for his third-place showing.

Bendinelli took 44 million into heads-up play, while Guerrero had 24.82 million. The pair agreed to a deal that saw Guerrero lock up $1,287,847, while Bendinelli guaranteed himself $1,465,154. That left $70,713 and the trophy to play for.

Guerrero managed to battle his way into the lead not too long after the deal was made. He then pulled away, building more than a 3:1 advantage before Bendinelli began his own comeback. Bendinelli won a race with Q-10 beating pocket nines to close the gap considerably and then won a healthy pot with pocket jacks to regain the lead. The two traded the advantage a few more times, but Bendinelli was on top when the decisive hand arrived.

Bendinelli raised to 3,000,000 from the button with 8Heart Suit8Club Suit and Guerrero called from the big blind with JSpade Suit7Spade Suit. The JHeart Suit9Club Suit8Spade Suit flop gave Guerrero top pair and a gutshot. He check-called a bet of 2,500,000 from Bendinelli, who had improved to bottom set. The JClub Suit on the turn gave Guerrero trip jacks and Bendinelli eights full. Guerrero again check-called, this time for 5,500,000. The 8Diamond Suit on the end gave Guerrero a full house, while improving Bendinelli to quads. Guerrero bet out 3,800,000. Bendinelli moved all-in, and Guerrero called with his jacks full. Bendinelli leaped out of his chair and began to celebrate before going back to turn over his quad eights, which earned him the pot and the title. Guerrero took home the $1,287,847 he negotiated for as the runner-up.

Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:

Place Player Earnings (USD) POY Points
1 Giuliano Bendinelli $1,535,867 2160
2 Jimmy Guerrero $1,287,847 1800
3 Neville Costa $756,504 1440
4 Fabiano Kovalski $582,238 1080
5 Patrik Jaros $447,896 900
6 Kayhan Roshanfekr $344,514 720
7 Michael Pinto $265,050 540
8 Scott Margereson $203,940 360

Photo credits: Danny Maxwell / Rational Intellectual Holdings Ltd.