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EPT Main Event

  • Apr 01, '08 - Apr 05, '08


Updates on Day 4 (Apr 05, 08)


EPT San Remo: Jason Mercier, a PokerStars qualifier from Florida wins in San Remo

EPT San Remo winner Jason Mercier

Jason Mercier could have been in Amsterdam right now. Having won his ticket to the EPT San Remo on PokerStars Jason was all set to travel here with a few buddies until at the last minute his friends opted instead for a trip to the Dutch capital. Faced with a journey here alone, whilst they lived it up in Holland, Jason almost cashed in his seat. The decision not to cancel was a good one for the 21-year-old, earning him € 869,000 as the EPT San Remo champion.

From Fort Lauderdale in Florida, Jason turned his back on a career in teaching after discovering online poker and developing that into a lucrative source of income. The EPT San Remo was just his second major live poker tournament and having busted out of the PCA on the first day (his first live event) he may have been forgiven for thinking he needed a little more practice.

Instead he came to San Remo, and in amongst the euphoria of a partisan crowd cheering on their home players he came out tops, beating Frenchman Antony Lellouche heads-up in just two blink-and-you'll-miss-them hands.

It came down to a simple case of Jason betting, Antony moving all-in and Jason calling. Pocket sevens against A-Q for Jason which hit a second queen on the flop. Bang, this one was done. Two hours 40 minutes. Jason, in traditional EPT victor fashion, looked like he'd just finished a shift - happy but not tuned in to that millionaire way of thinking and what all this would mean - $1,340,867 and a seat to the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo next week.

"The two handed heads up was a surprise. I really wasn't sure what he had when he raised so much, I thought maybe a weak ace, maybe a small pair, maybe just nothing so I figured the opportunity with KQ would be significant. Plus I'd still have the lead 3.4m to 2.6m."

Here's how the final table lined up...

Seat 1: Gregory Genovese - Italy -- 694k
Seat 2: William Thorson - Sweden -- 418k
Seat 3: Eric Koskas - France - PokerStars qualifier --449k
Seat 4: Jason Mercier - United States - PokerStars qualifier -- 1,591k

Seat 5: Anthony Lellouche - France -- 1,192k
Seat 6: Dario Minieri - Italy - Team PokerStars Pro -- 1,832k
Seat 7: Dag Palovic - Slovakia -- 585k
Seat 8: Marcus Bower - United States - PokerStars qualifier -- 278k

The final started with some theatrics, a vignette if you like, starring Eric Koskas as the lead (who had moved all-in) and Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri in a supporting role. The two talked it over for a while making for some entertaining spiel, particular as both players have developed valuable reputations as being a little crazy. Eric wanted a call, Dario wanted to know what Eric was holding before he did. Ruthless assasins had become nervous all of a sudden. What are they doing talking?

"You think I bet all-in on the first hand with nothing?" asked Eric. "I'm crazy but not stupid!"

Dario would fold, eventually, a slow introduction to the rapid-fire final ahead.

PokerStars qualifier Marcus Bower was the short stack on the day and as hand after hand passed him by it was only a matter of time before he'd be outside in the sun, away from this artificially bright place, with €76,700 to spend.

PokerStars qualifier Marcus Bower

Coming over the top of a Lellouche bet, Bower moved his stack in. The camera closed in on Marcus wearing a winter scarf, white rimmed sunglasses and a look of inevitability on his face. It got back to Antony who called with A-J, whilst Marcus showed his pocket fours. It all looked good for the American until the river which delivered the fatal ace.

Slovakian Dag Palovic has built something of a reputation for himself in the fourth season of the EPT, marked out as a bit of an extrovert as well as being unpredictable. Dag made the final of the EPT Prague last December so was due some respect. Back then he finished seventh and he was destined to have the same fate in San Remo.

Dag Palovic

He moved in with pocket queens on a flop of 2-3-8. But he knew things were about to get bad when Dario Minieri insta-called holding a set of threes, a hand that evoked a Slovakian death growl from Palovic. Eights on the turn and river were no good for Dag who was out from the second final of the year for €111,800.

An hour and a half into the last day William Thorson would exit next. He led out only to be re-raised by Mercier, before re-raising all-in himself. A call by Jason with A-K put him ahead of Thorson with A-Q, a match-up that was stopped dead with a king on the flop.

William Thorson

A formidable master of tournament poker wherever he plays, Thorson was out in sixth, unable to go that step better than his third place in Dublin back in season three. €140,600 presumably little consolation.

Gregory Genovese arrived at Casino San Remo today cast as the understudy to Dario Minieri. Had anything gone wrong for Dario - a cataclysmic collapse in the first few hands perhaps -- Gregory would have stepped up as the 'Italian to cheer for'. In the shadows of Dario, Gregory would play a solid final in his own right, doubling up when he needed to, playing a tight game other times.

Gregory Genovese

Ironically Dario started the pot that would eliminate his countryman, a 90k raise before Gregory moved all-in. What looked to be a simple case of Italy versus Italy took a different turn when Mercier called the all-in. Dario did the same but took no further part in the hand when, on the 7-A-5 flop Jason bet out again, changing Dario's mind. It left Gregory's fate to be determined by the two cards Jason had in front of him - A-3 for a pair against the T-9 of Gregory. The result was predictable, Gregory Genovese out with € 188,500.

Twenty minutes later the flamboyant Frenchman Eric Koskas would be next to go, crushing the hopes of the non-Italian table entertainer. No more talking, no more dramatics. The oft time chip leader from this week was eliminated by Mercier (again) in fourth place, the start of a shift up in pace at the San Remo final.

PokerStars qualifier Eric Koskas

The hand had made it to the river reading 5-J-6-8-8. Before the last eight had hit the baize Eric had moved all-in, a ballsy move that put the pressure on the big stacked American who spent time thinking it over. Whilst everyone speculated on what hand Eric could have Jason was holding 9-5, good for a pair of fives that could only beat a Koskas bluff.

He called and found that to be exactly what he was up against - just ten-high for the Frenchman who had suddenly been bumped out ahead of his own schedule, €223,600 for his efforts, but not enough to wipe the look of pain from his face.

The big shock in amidst all this was the premature exit of Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri. An Italian superstar on Italian soil seemed too good to pass up for the press and not least the locals who had put their hopes of EPT victory on his young shoulders, wrapping themselves in the Italian tricolore, using hotel bed sheets to create banners of support.

Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri

Even the neutrals seemed ready to concede that this would be the week of Dario; this pocket battleship of a player who scampered his way through the field even when hands had backfired on him, leaving him in a hole. When they did his style was to lob in some dynamite and blast a way out; getting the crowd on their feet once more in the process.

To play a hand against him seemed to those watching like a gut-wrenching ride for whoever was involved - like waiting for your test score after a math exam. But one hand would change all that, actually carried out by a former math teacher. Jason Mercier again, setting the test that ultimately Dario would fail, silencing those bedecked in flags and thick accents in the process.

"I was planning on staying out of Dario's way until I got down to three-handed or heads-up because obviously you have to take a chance on that." Jason would say later.

The two went into the hand with over five million chips between them, a colossal chip lead making this an unexpected clash that would leave everyone asking 'what happened?' The pot was already 719k high when they saw a flop - 2h-7d-8d. Antony Lellouche must have been wondering what was going on.

Dario made it 200k and Jason moved all-in. Time to throw out the script - Dario insta-called.

"He raised from the button and I looked down and saw an ace and was planning on three betting all the way as standard." Said Jason. "When he flatted I really wasn't sure what he had. I was pretty much planning on giving up unless I hit an ace or a flush draw and a wheel or something like that. When I hit the flush draw I decided it was more profitable to check raise all in so then I get value if he bluffs. Then also I didn't want to have to call the all in if I bet out 500k."

Dario looked worried. He was ahead but not as far as he'd like to have been, showing pocket queens to Mercier's A-4 of diamonds. There were two diamonds on the flop but also the threat of an ace. The turn added to that, a four of hearts. With the appropriate dramatic pause for television, the crowds and enough tension to bring the players to their knees, the river card was dealt - a three of diamonds and a flush for Mercier. Sudden elimination for Dario Minieri.

The crowd made a noise, kind of the exact opposite of a loud roar. Suspended in disbelief the colour drained from Dario's face as behind him his friend Luca Pagano looked the same. From a sense of jubilee at the start today to a horrid anti-climax, the Italian dream of a home winner was over and it had catapulted Jason Mercier into a position of total domination. The shock of the week, the shock of the season.

Jason Mercier - United States - PokerStars qualifier - 5,782,000
Antony Lellouche - France - 1,392,000

A word should be said about the Frenchman, an accomplished and well-respected pro who had made the final in London earlier this season and is among the elite of French players on the European circuit. A gracious winner and noble in defeat, he stood little chance against the might of the sky line his opponent's stack made. It took Jason Mercier two hands to win the EPT San Remo.

EPT San Remo runner-up Antony Lellouche

Antony found pocket sevens, a good hand heads up, and moved in. It just didn't work out. Jason's flush draw hit on the river and it was second place for Antony and a runners-up cheque for €505,000.

"I knew he was a tough heads up player, he played good all day long." said Antony. "I got two sevens, a huge hand heads-up and I have the short stack so I don't care about a coin-flip, so I pushed in my chips. I finished second by playing four pots of less than 100,000. But I think I played good. Not my poker but good poker.

"Of course I'm happy for the money but finishing first in an EPT event means a lot to me. I made one final and I played very bad in that final in London so I wanted to show to myself I could finish first. I finished second by playing good so I'm happy... 85 per cent happy... 15 percent not happy!"

Jason performed the obligatory procession as EPT winner. First the TV crews, then the cameras before the rest of the press pack got a word from the winner. He chatted briefly to sixth place finisher William Thorson on the way who asked a favour - to hold his winner's trophy a second. "It means a lot more to you than its cash value" he said, shaking Jason's hand.

So no regrets about turning his back on Amsterdam..?

"Oh my god, no! Actually the funniest thing is I was planning on selling my San Remo seat because my friend backed out of coming three weeks before. Two of my online friends said they were going but they weren't going to play the event 'you can meet up with us' and I thought screw it and I go. They're very good friends now."

Jason had reluctantly turned down Amsterdam for four days of hard graft at the poker table; graft that paid off in spectacular fashion and presents the possibly of an upgrade once he can pencil Amsterdam back in to his plans. For now that involves Monte Carlo next week and then the World Series.

Monte Carlo Grand Final bound... Jason Mercier

That would wait though. Now he had to find a phone to call mom back in Florida, he family having spent the last two days watching his progress on EPT Live.

"I told you when there were 32 left I'd win it..." he said down the phone.

Absolutely. Jason Mercier, the new EPT San Remo Champion.

The final table result of the EPT San Remo...

1st - Jason Mercier - United States - PokerStars qualifier -- €869,000
2nd - Antony Lellouche - France -- €505,000
3rd - Dario Minieri - Italy - Team PokerStars Pro - 287,000
4th - Eric Koskas - France - PokerStars qualifier - €223,600

5th - Gregory Genovese - Italy - €188,500
6th - William Thorson - Sweden - €140,600
7th - Dag Palovic - Slovakia - €111,800
8th - Marcus Bower - United States - PokerStars qualifier - €76,700

To catch up on the earlier action today you can check back on the posts form today below...

Italy braced for final table triumph

Final table player profiles

Final table live update

This EPT Blog is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at

EPT San Remo: Final table live updates

Jason Mercier, a PokerStars qualifier from the United States, wins the EPT San Remo and €869,000.

5.55pm - Antony Lellouche from France, eliminated in second place for €505,000.
In just the second hand of the heads-up match Jason bet pre-flop. Antony Lellouche pushed all-in and Jason called. It only took a few seconds. Antony showed pocket sevens whilst Jason showed K-Q. The flop came Q-A-4 putting Jason within two cards of the title. The turn was an eight, no help for Antony. "One more time" said Jason as he waited for the river, a deuce. After two hours 40 minutes the EPT San Remo has its champion.

5.50pm -- The heads-up is about to begin...

Jason Mercier -- United States -- PokerStars qualifier -- 5,782,000
Antony Lellouche -- France -- 1,392,000

5.40pm - Dario Minieri, Team PokerStars Pro from Italy, eliminated in third for €287,000.
Dario and Jason have built up a 719k pot for a flop of 2h-7d-8d. These two are equal in chips, way ahead of Antony Lellouche and there would certainly be sparks if they clashed.

Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri

Dario bet 200k and Jason moved all-in. Dario insta-called and Jason showed Ad-4d. Dario looked worried, he was ahead showing his pocket queens, but it was not that easy. The turn 4h gave the American outs but this would go to the river. A three of diamonds...

A reverse-roar from the Italian crowds. Quiet and stunned Dario Minieri was out of the EPT San Remo in third place. It's the shock of the tournament. It's the shock of the season.

Dario looks dazed, so too Luca Pagano standing in the background. From owning this final Dario is rail-bound less than two and a half hours later. Casino San Remo is now a room full of people talking about the wreckage of the biggest pot we're likely to see. It's now Jason Mercier and Antony Lellouche heads-up.

The aftermath of a Dario Minieri elimination...

5.35pm - Eric Koskas, PokerStars qualifier from France, eliminated in fourth for €223,600.
The board has made it to the river, showing 5-J-6-8-8 and Eric moves all-in immediately. The decision to call is with another PokerStars qualifier Jason Mercier. It's a few minutes of thinking before the end of this hand, but he eventually calls. Eric shows a ten high bluff to Jason's 9-5; good for a pair and the pot making him the new chip leader on 3,475,000.

Eric Koskas

Kara Scott talked with Eric Koskas after he was eliminated in fourth place...

5.30pm -- Play resumes after a short break, with blinds now 15k/30k with a 3k ante.

5.25pm - Latest chip counts...
Dario Minieri - Italy - Team PokerStars Pro - 2,395,000
Jason Mercier - United States - PokerStars qualifier - 2,368,000

Antony Lellouche - France - 1,270,000
Eric Koskas - France - PokerStars qualifier - 956,000

5.15pm - Gregory Genovese of Italy, eliminated in fifth place for €188,500.
Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri made it 90k which Greg re-raises to 122k all-in. Eric has a look but folds whilst Jason calls the 122k. Dario too. They see a flop 7-A-5.

Jason immediately bets 120k giving Dario the chance to get out. It leaves the showdown between Gregory and Mercier; the Italian showing T-9 whilst Jason has A-3 for a pair. It was all over on the turn for Gregory who leaves with the handshakes of the other finalists. After two hours we're down to four.

5.04pm - Greg bets, Eric moves all-in and Eric calls in a flash. Both leap up from their chairs, Greg showing A-K and Eric with pocket sevens. As the board is dealt both players jump around behind the table, like prize fighters keeping their arms loose waiting for the order to fight clean and get stuck in. the board misses both. Eric doubles up, leaving Greg with 179k.

William Thorson

4.55pm - William Thorson, Sweden, eliminated in 6th place for €140,600.
William bets, PokerStars qualifier Jason Mercier, re-raises, William re-re-raises all-in and Jason calls. This hand was like a slinky, tumbling over itself with one player bound to be left on the floor. William showed A-Q but Jason had him pipped with A-K. A king on the flop left William needing queens. An ace on the turn put end to that. We're down to five players.

Kara Scott caught up with sixth placed finisher William Thorson...

4.45pm -- Eric raises 75k and Greg re-raises all-in, getting the crowd to their feet, especially when Eric announces 'call'. No, hang on, he asked for a 'count', and the excitement is tapered back a little. Eric will be all in if he calls and by the looks fo things he wants to call, meanwhile Gregory jogs on the spot. But Eric doesn't call. He lays it down.

4.30pm -- A word with seventh place finisher Dag Palovic...

"As soon as Dario called I knew he had a set. I know tomorrow I'll feel lucky, because this is my second 7th place in three EPTs. But right now I'm disappointed. I hope to do better in Monte Carlo.

"I hope Dario will win - he broke my mobile phone yesterday! I had it in my hand when he threw his hands in the air, and my phone went flying. I hope to get some nice 'verde' from him because he'll finish in the top three here!"

4.20pm -- There's a ten minute pause as players take a break.

Dag Palovic

4.15pm - Dag Palovic, from Slovakia, eliminated in seventh place for €111,800.
On a flop of 2s-3d-8d Dag Palovic moved in getting an insta-call by Dario who showed pocket threes for a set. For Dag red pocket-queens and the vague escape clause of a flush. He blurted out a few Slovakian words of irritation as the turn and river were dealt, two inoffensive eights, eliminating Dag from his second final table of the year. Dario adds to his stack, now even more of a favourite.

PokerStars qualifier Marcus Bower

3.55pm - Marcus Bower, PokerStars qualifier from the United States, eliminated in eight place for €76,700.
Antony Lellouche started the pot with a bet of 70k. Marcus Bower, wearing a dress scarf and white rimmed shades, moved all-in from cut off, chewing gum as he waits to see if anyone will call his 155k. Gregory in the one seat thinks about it but eventually folds and it gets back to Antony who calls with A-J. Pocket fours for Marcus who looked likely to double up until the river brought an ace. We're down to seven.

Kara Scott talked to eighth placed finisher PokerStars qualifier Marcus Bower...

3.45pm -- PokerStars qualifier Marcus Bower is the short stack, extremely so, with just a couple of blinds left to his name. It will be make or break for Marcus soon.

3.30pm - William Thorson and Antony Lellouche tangle in a pot. It was a slow builder which William took with a surprise full house.

Watch for yourself... the Battle of San Remo...

3.16pm -- Eric Koskas moves all-in first hand with a board reading 8s-6s-6c-3h. This hand would take eight minutes. Speech play makes an early appearance with Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri answering back, creating a school yard spat where one kid challenges the other to a fight with neither wanting to throw any punches. Eric wants Dario to call but Dario wants to know what Eric's cards are before he does.

It's 370k to call. "If you show me both cards I'll show you one", says Eric, a reference to Dario's offer to William Thorson yesterday. The chatter goes on, in part like an SNL sketch, other times like a bad SNL rehearsal.

"You think I bet all in on the first hand with nothing?" asked Eric. "I'm crazy but not stupid!"

"Okay I fold", says Dario. Ten minutes played... one hand.

3.15pm - Cards are in the end with blinds at 12k/24k with a 3k ante.

3.10pm - A loud roar can be heard from one end of casino to the other as the players are introduced. A little extra for Dario and Gregory.

This EPT Blog is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at

EPT San Remo: Final table player profiles

The finalists

Seat 1: Gregory Genovese, 37, Rome, Italy - 694,000 chips
Investment broker Gregory, 37, has only been playing Hold'em for a year but has played Italian poker - a form of five-card draw - for a long time. This is his firsta major live tournament - he qualified via a live satellite back in his home city of Rome. Aside from his passion for poker, Gregory is a massive soccer fan and every Sunday goes to watch AS Roma - the same team that Dario supports. Gregory is being cheered on in San Remo by girlfriend Diana - the couple have a 17-month-old baby Gianmarco.

Seat 2: William Thorson, 25, Varberg, Sweden - former EPT finalist - 418,000 chips
William, who turned 25 last Saturday, is one of the most popular players on the EPT tour - everyone's "favorite fisken". With his fearless attitude and sharp tongue, he can terrify everyone at the table while still wearing a huge grin on his face. Willie Tann once said, as a joke, that when he got old he wanted to be just like William.

William Thorson

Final table bubble at this year's PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and two more major final tables without a win including 3rd place in last season's EPT Dublin. He also came 13th in the 2006 WSOP for $907,000. With all this in mind, William is determined to win San Remo. Online, William focuses on Omaha cash games but prefers tournaments when he plays live. Outside of poker, William is keen on horse-trotting and he and his father own several trotting horses back in Sweden.

Seat 3: Eric Koskas, 35, Marseilles, France - PokerStars qualifier - 449,000 chips
Eric - "moumouth" on PokerStars - is one of France's best-known and most colourful poker characters. This is his first EPT final table although he won the €1,000 side event at last year's Grand Final two years ago. He has played strongly here in San Remo - lying 2nd each day but says he played horribly in the last few minutes of Day 3 and lost 65% of his chips including a $1m million pot against Jason Mercier.

Eric Koskas

Eric, who married his wife Julie during the 2006 World Series and has a 17-month-old daughter Lea-Marie, is looking forward to the final table and desperately hoping for a heads-up against his great friend Dario. For the last year, he and Dario have been playing $5k heads-up against each other on PokerStars but have had to postpone their nightly game while they play EPT San Remo. He also came 118th at this year's PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January for $16k.

The video blog team talked to the players before today's final...

Seat 4: Jason Mercier, 21, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, PokerStars qualifier - 1,591,000 chips
The EPT San Remo has been a baptism of fire for 21-year-old Jason, playing in only his second live event. He mainly plays cash online. The American spent three years studying to become a maths teacher before discovering online poker which he has now turned into a lucrative career. Although he busted out on Day 1 of the PCA, he captured the chip lead on Day 2 in San Remo and hasn't looked back since.

PokerStars qualifier Jason Mercier

Jason qualified via the Steps system on PokerStars but almost pulled out when his travel buddies opted for a trip to Amsterdam instead. Outside of poker, Jason is a huge basketball fan and coaches the team from his former high school. He rates William Thorson as the biggest challenge at the table today "I'm glad I've got position on him", he said. He also says hi to his best friend Darko back home.

Seat 5: Antony Lellouche, 28, Paris, France - former EPT finalist - 1,192,000 chips
Parisian Antony Lellouche mainly plays live poker in high stakes cash games around the world. He is both respected and well-liked by his peers and mentors, including the "godfathers" of French poker Claude Cohen and Jan Boubli. Antony turned pro nine years ago, honing his skills at the smallest limit games at the Aviation Club. Fearless and intuitive, Antony has already made two WSOP final tables and come close in two EPT Grand Finals - 12th in 2005 and 21st in 2007. In October, he came 6th at EPT4 London for €140,081 - making this his second final table in one season.

Seat 6: Dario Minieri, 23, Team PokerStars Pro, Italy - former EPT finalist - 1,832,000 chips
Dario Minieri is among Italy's best known poker players following a lightning-quick rise to the top. Aged 16, he started playing the card game Magic: The Gathering and soon discovered he was well-suited to become a champion. It was during a Magic tournament that a friend introduced Dario to PokerStars and online poker.

Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri

Aged 18, he kicked off playing low-stakes heads-up games but before long had become an online legend - the first player to earn a Porsche with his PokerStars Frequent Player Points. His online success has also translated to live tournaments. In 2006, Minieri came 3rd at EPT Baden and made the top 100 at the 2007 World Series. Still only 23, he has earned $300,000 in live tournament winnings. Now a member of Team PokerStars Pro, Minieri is playing in more and more live tournaments and working toward buying an Aston Martin with the Frequent Player Points he is now accumulating.

Seat 7: Dag Palovic, 33, Bratislava, Slovakia - former EPT finalist - 585,000 chips
Dag is used to the limelight after a career as child actor on Slovakia TV and later presented his own TV music chart show. He studied law in Vienna, French in Belgium and also an MBA in Prague. His first game of poker was when he was 22 - an evening of five-card draw which he won. He waited another nine years to play his next game and hasn't looked back since then. In December Dag came 7th at the EPT Prague for €93,600. Dag is engaged to fiancée Zuzana, a model - currently shooting the cover for Marie Claire in Miami, she is hoping to make it to San Remo in time for today's final table.

Seat 8: Marcus Bower, 24, Pennsylvania, USA - PokerStars qualifier - 278,000 chips
Marcus "ALLin2k5" Bower is on his first EPT final table and clearly has his sights on the top prize. His success so far is extra special for him as he is also half Italian. Although today's short stack, he is confident he can come back. Marcus plans to give a large portion of his tournament winnings to his brother's charity "Physicians for Humanity" which helps underprivileged children who can't afford private health care.

Marcus has being playing poker for 4 years - mainly plays razz and NLHE - both online and in casinos. He rarely plays tournaments and this is by far his biggest win. He turned pro as soon as he left school but is still considering returning to college to study media and communications. He qualified via the PokerStars Steps satellites for San Remo - starting one morning and qualifying by the afternoon.

This EPT Blog is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at

EPT San Remo: Italy braced for final table triumph

It's Saturday afternoon in San Remo and for an update on the weather check back to any of the introductions from this week. But as for the atmosphere inside Casino San Remo there's been a subtle change overnight. Today the last remaining eight players of the EPT San Remo will play down to a winner and many people are already speculating that it could be the best final yet.

Yesterday we started at 3pm with 31 remaining. Just a seagull's squawk after the stroke of midnight PokerStars Sponsored player Johannes Strassmann busted on the TV bubble, a three-way pot that threw together A-K against A-Q against jacks.

Today there were none of the long queues to enter the casino, no crowds at the registration desk, no busy activity by tournament officials dealing with dozens of tables, no crowds in the lobby. But we built it and they will come - the queues to enter the casino will be long and will be at the registration desk too, and the same crowds will gather in the lobby. The day is primed for a long day of world class poker. Some people will end it happy, some sad, and the bar staff will work overtime until their fingers can no longer pour coffee or open the champagne.

There's just one table today, the one under lights, banked by bleachers and likely to go down as one of the most partisan the EPT has ever seen. The structural integrity of the TV set will be pushed to the edge by the Italian crowds and press who, realism aside, have taken it upon themselves to demand nothing less than a win.

The man they've put that faith in is a young AS Roma fan and Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri. The 23-year-old has a bankroll of talent, topped only by his frequent player points and has made this final with a performance that rocked the room like only the Rolling Stones could have done before. Casino San Remo shook this week, and it will shake again today.

As insurance the locals have another man to cheer for, Gregory Genovese. Not quite as chipped up as his countryman Gregory will step into the breach as far as fans are concerned should disaster strike for Dario, but he'll need to work fast, starting as he does some way behind Dario the chip leader. But until then it's Minieri all the way.

There are others of course, fully capable of winning and fully aware of the bias against them. PokerStars qualifier Jason Mercier is just a short distance behind Minieri, second in chips, whilst Frenchman Antony Lellouche is in third place, one of three players with over a million, and will want to finish better than London last year. And Sweden's William Thorson, who has EPT and WSOP main event final tables to his name, will always pose a big threat to everyone.

After all this is poker and crowd bias can only mean so much. As much as it's nice to have friends on your side this is no team game; no amount of support can change the cards, the opposition or your own ability. Once Thomas Kremser gives the order to shuffle up and deal it's each to his own for as long as it takes.

A reminder of the chip counts and seating positions...

Seat 1: Gregory Genovese - Italy -- 694k
Seat 2: William Thorson - Sweden -- 418k
Seat 3: Eric Koskas - France - PokerStars qualifier --449k
Seat 4: Jason Mercier - United States - PokerStars qualifier -- 1,591k

Seat 5: Anthony Lellouche - France -- 1,192k
Seat 6: Dario Minieri - Italy - Team PokerStars Pro -- 1,832k
Seat 7: Dag Palovic - Slovakia -- 585k
Seat 8: Marcus Bower - United States - PokerStars qualifier -- 278k

You can keep up to date on the day's events on the PokerStars blog throughout the day and you can also watch the final table live via EPT Live coverage which will have every card covered from start to finish.

This EPT Blog is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at

EPT San Remo: Final table in place after a long day at the baize

When the final nine players squeezed in around the feature table to play until one more of them was gone, nobody really expected the night to go on much longer. Typically these stages are a patient yet spirited pause whilst the short stack finds a hand to move all-in with; then they bag up, grab coats and call it a night.

Not this time. It was past midnight Riviera time when the last hand blasted a hole through to Saturday, a three way all-in that will send the adrenaline surging for hours yet, ending any hope of sleep for some time.

Kara Scott and the video blog team have the wrap up of the day...

Before that William Thorson had moved all-in with K-J, had been called by Anthony with A-Q and had hit two jacks on the flop to double-up. We played on. Then after a slight delay to retrieve a card that had stuck beneath the rim of the table, PokerStars qualifier Marcus Bower doubled-up through Dag Palovic, pocket nines for Marcus against the Q-J that Dag used to call. The pair held. We played on.

PokerStars qualifier Marcus Bower

Then a hand that got people's attention. PokerStars Sponsored player Johannes Strassmann raised and Marcus Bower re-raised. When Gregory Genovese moved all-in and the other two followed suit people were on their feet demanding drama. So to this - a three-way scrimmage between Marcus with pocket jacks, Genovese with A-K and Johannes with A-Q. It actually presented the possibility that two players would bust out making for a seven seat final.

Gregory Genovese

The flop was a knife to the heart of Johannes Strassmann, coming as it did K-4-T. It made an ace or queen inadequate and the turn and river were blanks, sending the young German out in 9th place - so close to his second EPT final table of the season.

"I'd say it was the worst moment of my poker career" said Johannes. But I suppose it's not that bad. I'd still rather go out in 12th than to get so close."

It also denied us a final table with five players who had previously reached that stage of a final before. Instead we'll settle for four...

  • Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri finished third at EPT Baden in season three for €125,780.
  • William Thorson played out a memorable final table against Roland De Wolfe in season three at EPT Dublin where he came 3rd for €184,780.
  • Antony Lellouche of France made the final of EPT London this season, finishing 4th for €97,843.
  • Dag Palovic became the highest finishing Slovakian when he made the final of EPT Prague last December, finishing 7th for €93,600.

Had Johannes Strassmann made the final it would have been five. With this field it's perhaps no wonder it took a while.

It also didn't take a sociologist to work out that Dario Minieri was the crowd favourite, just as he had been all week, his every hand greeted with whooping, hollering, flag waving, like every hand was a party or New Year's Eve.

Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri, chip leader for tomorrow

Commentators and fellow pros alike may dub Dario to be a maniac, super-aggressive, all manner of words that strike fear and caution into the souls of anyone looking for an easy ride. He may well be all that, but he's also incredibly talented, and his journey this far was as well earned as it was celebrated.

Lining up alongside him tomorrow will be young American PokerStars qualifier Jason Mercier. The 21-year-old from Florida came into the day chip leader, having started the previous day way down on just over 20k. In contrast to Minieri Mercier's journey through day two Jason was less showbiz, playing instead with a more workmanlike approach - playing his own game for only the second time live.

Second in chips PokerStars qualifier Jason Mercier

There are two other PokerStars qualifiers at the table, popular Frenchman Eric Koskas and American Markus Bower, both of whom dodged elimination today finishing as the two short stacks. Between them sit the likes of Dag Palovic and William Thorson. Thorson has the reputation of a giant and plays like one too, today showing the class to lay down hands and begin again, particularly against his nemesis Minieri.

We lost a series of strong players as the day played out. Londoner Paul Alterman would go first with chip leader from day two Ville Nyman, a PokerStars qualifier from Finland, following in 27th place. American Todd Brunson, a mighty player from the familiar backdrop of Las Vegas finished in 24th place whilst another former finalist Marcus Golser from Austria busted out in 21st.

Peter Roche, a familiar player on this and previous seasons of the EPT recorded his best cash finish to date, eliminated on 18th place in a flush draw hand against Eric Koskas, and popular PokerStars Sponsored Player Jan Heitmann was unable to hold on longer than 16th place.

Finally two players thought to be among the best young tournament players in the game today were within fingertip reach of both making the final. American Isaac Baron fell inches short in 11th place whilst his countryman Mark Flowers feller inches shorter in 10th.

Here's a look at the chip counts going into the final tomorrow...

Dario Minieri -- Italy -- Team PokerStars Pro -- 1,832,000
Jason Mercier -- United States -- PokerStars qualifier -- 1,591,000

Anthony Lellouche -- France -- 1,192,000
Gregory Genovese -- Italy -- 694,000
Dag Palovic -- Slovakia -- 585,000
Eric Koskas -- France -- PokerStars qualifier -- 449,000
William Thorson -- Sweden -- 418,000
Marcus Bower -- United States -- PokerStars qualifier -- 278,000

That will do for today. Another EPT is within sight of its winner with a table packed with talent. Four days of intense world class poker led to disappointment for Johannes Strassmann, but well earned relief for the rest.

All the hard work will pay off for someone tomorrow when the final begins at 3pm local time. You can tune in once again to EPT Live to follow play from start to finish - the first hand to the last. You can also follow updates here on the PokerStars Blog.

To recap on all the details on the day visit the links below...

The last 31 battle down to a final

No let up in eliminations

Good news for Lellouche but the day ends for others

The Dario show continues but Jan Heitmann hangs on

Meanwhile on the other table

Things slow down as we get to 13

The Italian Job

Countdown to the final

So close but not far enough

This EPT Blog is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at

Monte Carlo beckons for the EPT finale

If you want to find out what EPT tournaments are really like from the fun side of the rail and fancy trying it out in one of the most exclusive poker destinations in the world than your last chance to qualify for the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo is fast approaching. It's the biggest and the best tournament in Europe if not th world and Kara Scott has the details...

This EPT Blog is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at

EPT San Remo: So close but not far enough

Action switches from two tables to the one table of nine and we're just one elimination from our EPT San Remo final table.

There's a raise from William Thorson which is re-raised all-in by Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri who has been the figurehead in this third day with all big hands seeming to orbit around him.

William Thorson

William went into a deep think on this one whilst Dario rose from his chair and walked around in the shadows of the TV set, talking with friends on the rail.

"A few years ago it was my dream to play with you," said Dario coming back to face William. It was a touching moment of hero recognition from Dario but as far as William was concerned it was just a shame he was admitting this now.

"I need one more minute" replied William, who then added "I know you're crazy but are you stupid? Will you show if I fold?"

Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri

"I can't tell! You'd give me the same answer..!" said Dario, the apprentice firing back at the master. But then a sudden U-turn. "I'll show you... you'll tell me what you have?"

In the end neither players would show. With too much at stake William finally mucked his cards. Another victory for Dario in so many ways.

It was fast becoming a tense last stage and another big hand would grip the table.

PokerStars qualifier Jason Mercier

PokerStars qualifier Jason Mercier raised only for fellow qualifier Eric Koskas to re-raise. Jason called and they saw the flop come 7h-Ts-9s which was checked by both. The turn was the five of hearts which Eric checked again. But this time Jason pushed in making it a colossal call to the Frenchman.

It took some time but Koskas passed. No one wants to leave on the TV-bubble - still nine players in the EPT San Remo.

This EPT Blog is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at

EPT San Remo: Countdown to the final

Felipe Ramos was eliminated by Anthony Lellouche in 13th place shortly before the dinner break, having scrapped with the Frenchman earlier on for the majority of his stack. It was a simple case of sixes for Ramos, sevens for Lellouche which put an end to Brazils' hope of its first EPT champion. Felipe Ramos out in 13th place for € 22,400.

Back from the break and four more eliminations were all that stood between this point and the final table. Denmark's Jonas Klausen would be shown the door in 12th place just minutes after play restarted, moving in from the small blind. J-8 of clubs for Isaac Baron against Klausen's pocket sixes. Two clubs on the flop and a third on the turn gave Baron the flush. Klausen out in 12th place for € 28,750.

Isaac Baron

Despite raking in the pot that sent Klausen out Isaac Baron couldn't prevent his tournament ending in 11th place. The American tangled with Dag Palovic before his exit hand, a melee that left him with few options but to move in. Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri was the man to bust him.

Baron moved in with A-8 with Dario calling and showing A-Q. No help came to the American, out within touching distance of tomorrow's final; out for € 28,750.

As reported yesterday Brandon Schaefer, as well as other distinguished pros, regard Isaac Baron as one of the best players in the world. Those same people dub Mark Flowers to be his closest rival. But alas, neither player will make the final table with Flowers eliminated in 10th place.

A few minutes prior he lost a bundle of chips to Dario Minieri, a pot that had left him with limited options and he pushed in with pocket threes. Dag Palovic had discovered pocket kings and made the call. No three made its way to the board and Flowers was out with € 46,300.

Whilst all the seriousness went on in the card room the video blog team explored an untapped element of the game - the poker playing lookalikes...

Photos © Neil Stoddart

This EPT Blog is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at

EPT San Remo: The Italian job

As play pauses for a one hour dinner break the video blog team took a closer look at Italian poker...

This EPT Blog is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at

EPT San Remo: Things slow down as we get to 13

In contrast to the EPT Warsaw which you might remember staged a day three that lasted a few minutes over two hours, the EPT San Remo has nothing like that kind of pace, even with Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri at the reins.

He did managed to get the crowd, (who were already on the feet) to jump up and down on their feet, when he pushed in with pocket nines and watching as Dag Palovic laid down his pocket jacks - a break for the Italian.

Dag Palovic of Slovakia

Earlier on Palovic had been the beneficiary in a similar hand with Dario, all-in with A-K against Dario's pocket jacks. The mother of all flops hit the board - A-A-J, with a king on the turn.

Meanwhile the fourteenth place finisher is German PokerStars qualifier Henrik Brockmann. He pushed in with A-Q and Mark Flowers called with pocket kings. A king hit the flop ending all hope of a revival for the German, who picks up € 22,400 for three days work.

This EPT Blog is brought to you by PokerStars, the official sponsor of the European Poker Tour. Win your way into the biggest events Europe has to offer at
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