Poker Coverage: Poker Tournaments Casino News Sports Betting Poker Strategy

Buy-In: $6,117 + $367
Prize Pool: $6,569,071
Entrants: 1082

Main Event

  • Aug 19, '12 - Aug 25, '12


Updates on Final Day (Aug 25, 12)


EPT9 Barcelona: Mikalai Pobal beats Finns to first million of Season 9


At times it has felt like the first main event of the new season has been headlined by Finnish players from the start. On day one Aku Joentausta held the lead. Then heads were turned by the return of Ilari Sahamies to live tournament poker. Then a third contender emerged in the form of 20-year-old Joni Jouhkimainen, whose recent form tipped us off to a likely final table appearance.

But there was another player, lost in the euphoria and waiting for his moment. That was Mikalai Pobal who tonight confounded everyone to pull off an unlikely win, one of the biggest surprises in tour history. He claimed the EPT Barcelona title, a HD3 Slyde watch, and €1,007,550. But the biggest surprise was that he was from Belarus, not Finland.

Cheers to and for EPT Barcelona winner Mikalai Pobal

“I don’t believe that it’s happened to me,” said Pobal, who may take a while to adjust to his new status as champion. “I’m really excited about it. It is my dream which came true.”

Pobal’s bewilderment may be matched in the morning by both Finns, each of whom looked destined to earn EPT glory at one point.

Mikolai Pobal: The calm amid the storm

Sahamies might have won when he was heads up with Pobol. But Jouhkimainen should have already had it wrapped up by then. But sometimes the story that should be written is spiked never to be read. Pobal did what he needed to do and was faultless in his execution.

Hat tip Sahamies

Those with perfect hindsight will speculate on what caused the Finnish collapse, perhaps wondering whether the dinner break – which Sahamies and Jouhkimainen spent drinking and buying sequined hats for themselves and every Finn in Catalunya – was the turning point. Jouhkimainen perhaps lost some of the sparkle of his play, although not from his hats. He changed them often in what will be a nightmare for the continuity staff on the final TV edit.

“We’ll talk about it for a long time and it’s going to be real fun to watch the episode whenever it is coming on TV,” Jouhkimainen said. “It’s going to be a fun one.”

Joni Jouhkamainen: It could have been him

Before the break Jouhkimainen had 75 per cent of the chips in play. But when play resumed he conceded his lead to Sahamies, who six-bet shoved with queen-eight suited. Jouhkimainen, hat tipped Sinatra style, was forced to fold his ten-six. From this he would never recover, but Jouhkimainen had no regrets about his performance or his dinner time excursion.

“We tried to have fun with Ilari, and this Belarusian guy who won, he was taking it more seriously,” said Jouhkimainen. “But I don’t think drinking changed it too much. We were just trying to have some fun. It’s not too serious. It’s one million, but we just wanted to have some fun.”

Sahamies, who had taken fourth place in the Super High Roller earlier this week, was looking to close this one out. But Pobal was the one who kept finding the hands: finding the nut straight and the nut flush, for instance, which swung things in his favour. It wasn’t all plain sailing. In one incidence, he was forced to serve a one-orbit penalty when he mistakenly checked behind with the nuts.

Ilari Sahamies: Two final tables in a week

The final hand came when Sahamies got aggressive with nine-five. Pobal called with aces, catching another on the flop. The poker world had been turned on its head.

The final table

Much earlier, John Juanda, who had the second shortest stack when play resumed, was first to go, ahead of one of several players setting a personal best, Antonin Duda in seventh.

Antonin Duda: Czech out

Sinel Anton was also in the event of a lifetime, but was more a spectator than willing participant. The Romanian opened the day, winning a pot uncontested. He wouldn’t play another hand for several hours, at which point he was eliminated by Anaras Alekberovas, leaving a few awkward seconds later when he was reminded that his now complete absence of chips meant that he was required to vacate his seat.

Samuel Rodriguez had written his own story this week, mainly because nobody knew anything about him.

Samuel Rodriguez: Home hope

Returning as one of the chip leaders today the amiable Spaniard had the hopes of the local poker community behind him. Could he become the first ever EPT champion? Alas, no. But he had won his seat in a €50 satellite, so this was an exceptional result.

That left four, a quartet that played for several hours before breaking the deadlock. That Anaras Alekberovas would be next to leave says nothing of how much the Lithuanian impressed, impeccable in a jacket and button-down shirt, he was never rattled, always cool despite intense heat under the TV lights, and was in no way outplayed.

Anaras Alekberovas

The story of the final three will be discussed for some time, and even as Pobal celebrated, the Finns looked at ease with their results, more amused than anything. For now though a non-sequined hat tip to Mikalai Pobal, who becomes the second Belarusian EPT champion.

As the celebrations begin tonight (Sahamies was among the first to leave the tournament room), we can salute the first champion of Season 9, the first event of the Tour which now baosts an enhanced schedule, with high profile national finals preceeding the main event. The Tour now takes a few weeks to relocate the jamboree to Sanremo in Italy. The popular coastal town is the second stop of the season, starting on October 5.

It was a dramatic end to ten days of competition, which started with Dan Smith’s win in the €50,000 Super High Roller and concluded with wins for Laurent Polito in the €10,000 High Roller and now Pobal.

Catch up on the coverage today at any of the following hyperlinks. Read about this final day, how to approach a final table with help from Ivan Demidov, how Spain will have to wait a little longer for a first champion, how two drunken Finns set about bringing life to the main event final and how all this played out 12 months ago.

For now that’s everything from Barcelona. See you in Sanremo.

This EPT 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 Europe.


EPT9 Barcelona: Drunken Finns? We've got drunken Finns!

ept-thumb-promo.jpgCall us seers, clairvoyants, psychics. Or oracles, prophets or soothsayers. But a couple of hours ago we intimated at PokerStars Blog that the EPT Barcelona main event may be headed to a heads up duel between two drunken Finns. You know what? We might be right.

When Ilari Sahamies, Joni Jouhkimainen and Mikalai Pobal went on their dinner break, they were three men with their game faces on. When they came back an hour later, they were three men whose game faces had slipped a bit – and two of them were now beneath spangly trilby hats, whose sequins were glinting under studio lights.

The key factor here seemed to be the orange liquid in each of Sahamies’ and Jouhkimainen’s glasses. (Oh, it was those two in the hats, just to clarify.) A full week of total abstinence seemed to have taken its toll on Sahamies and the legendary poker hell-raiser had, it seemed, taken some refreshment.


Ilari “The Hat” Sahamies

But no one drinks alone, and certainly not a man who has made two major final tables in a week, had reportedly had a couple of good sessions online, and was breaking the longest self-imposed drought of the past ten years.

Sahamies recruited not only Jouhkimainen to his ranks, but also a packed rail of Finns and wannabe Finns: Juha Helppi, Jani Sointula, Aku Joentausta, at least, as well as Robbie Thompson and half of the TV crew.


Robbie “The Hat” Thompson

The hats changed everything. And then the hats themselves even changed. After a sustained period of three-, four-, five-, six-bet shoving, Sahamies somehow managed to wrestle the chip lead away from Jouhkimainen. At that point, the crowd noticed for the first time what colour these two hats were.

Sahamies had a silver one; Jouhkimainen had a gold. But after the pot in which Sahamies took over the lead, they swapped. Sahamies took the gold (for the leader) and Jouhkimainen took the silver. Brilliant stuff.


Joni “The Hat” Jouhkimainen

Pobal, hatless but still playing his game and smiling away, seemed perfectly happy with the situation. But then he was suddenly distracted and managed to blunder horribly. He accidentally checked the nuts on the river in position, after making an ace-high flush. He was forced to take a one-orbit penalty – ostensibly a rule to restrict collusion.

Pobal was clearly not colluding. There was no one to collude with, for starters. But he served his time on the rail, returned to the table, and the action plays on.


Mikalai Pobol: one of these kids…

If you’re not watching this, you are missing out. Head to EPT Live for all the best coverage of this drunken Finn’s party. Everyone is invited.

This EPT 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 Europe.


EPT9 Barcelona: Laurent Polito upsets the form-book to reign in Spain

ept-thumb-promo.jpgSurprise winners are part and parcel of major poker tournaments, but they tend to be rarer in High Roller events. If a seasoned commentator had looked at the line-up for the final 12 of the €10,000 High Roller event in Barcelona today – a field including Andrew Lichtenberger, Jonathan Duhamel, ElkY, Tobias Reinkemeier and Alex Bilokur – it would have taken a brave bettor to ignore them and predict a win for Laurent Polito instead.

But Polito defied form and delighted a few lucky pin-stickers, closing out to take the title after a double-quick final day. The High Rollers started with more players today than the main event final, which played out simultaneously, but they were still done before dinner time. The main eventers were still pushing chips around between their final three.


Laurent Polito: €10,000 High Roller champion

If the truth be told, and really it must, Polito took the title and the exclusive Shamballa Jewels bracelet, awarded only to the champion. But when he was heads up with Bilokur and they were all but even in chips, they agreed on a deal that actually gave Bilokur the marginally larger cheque.

Bilokur, who earned $1.1 million for winning the $25,000 High Roller tournament at the PCA last season, added another €295,451 to his coffers. Polito, whose biggest win before today was €64,000, took €270,229.


Alex Bilokur and Laurent Polito discuss their deal

Polito, though, is clearly no slouch. His string of results are almost all in the five figures even from smaller buy-in tournaments, suggesting he is the kind of player who goes deep consistently. He set about his poker silently but efficiently today, and now he has the reward.

The full payouts from today’s action are as follows:

1. Laurent Polito, France – €270,229
2. Alex Bilokur, Russia – €295,451
3. Tobias Reinkemeier, Germany – €119,660
4. Stanislav Labutkin, Russian Federation – €95,180
5. Carlos Mora Alvarez, Mexico – €73,430
6. Jean-Noel Thorel, France – €54,390
7. Bertrand Grospellier, France – €43,510
8. Joao Vieira, Portugal – €32,630
9. Kristijonas Andrulis, Lithuania – €27,190
10. Jonathan Duhamel, Canada – €27,190
11. Andrew Lichtenberger, United States – €24,470
12. Gurgen Melkonyan, Russian Federation – €24,470

(There were 101 entries and ten reloads on Day 1.)

You can see from the list above that many of the biggest names decided to go for broke early – an attempt to build a stack to make a charge at the title. But going for broke can often take you precisely there, and that meant LuckyChewy (Lichtenberger), Duhamel (the former world champion) and ElkY (ElkY) never really got close to threatening to take it down.

Tobias Reinkemeier, a High Roller champion from Monte Carlo in season six, seemed set for a showdown with the other High Roller specialist, Bilokur. But Polito found jacks to beat Reinkemeier’s ace-nine and that was that.


Tobias Reinkemeier, yet another High Roller cash

Polito continued to get the maximum out of his big hands when the field was reduced to two. And when he found queens against Bilokur’s nines, the High Rollers were off for an early night, job done.

The main event continues, so you too should continue to follow that. And then join us and the High Rollers in Sanremo in a few weeks when we will do it all again.

This EPT 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 Europe.


EPT9 Barcelona: Two drunken Finns

ept-thumb-promo.jpgWith two final tables to play to a close tonight, there were all kinds of permutations for intriguing mini-battles to develop.

We were looking forward to seeing John Juanda clash with Ilari Sahamies in a live versus online skirmish to please the purists from both environments, for example. Meanwhile on the High Roller final table we had the chance to watch Tobias Reinkemeier clash with Alex Bilokur in a High Roller specialists showdown.

The problem is that poker is run through by variance and there are no guarantees of anything. A pretty grim hand accounted for Juanda against Samuel Rodriguez early on, before Juanda had got anywhere near clashing with Sahamies. And even though Bilokur and Reinkemeier got to play much longer together, they both had big stacks a lot of the time and were intent on getting out of each other’s way.


Tobias Reinkemeier, busted in third

Reinkemeier then bust in third leaving Bilokur heads up against Laurent Polito. They almost immediately made a deal, all but chopping the money down the middle (Bilokur €295,451 to Polito’s €270,229) leaving only the title and the Shamballa bracelet to play for. Play post-deal is still some way interesting, but not as much as when they’re doing it for real.


Alex Bilokur, heads up

That moved us back to the main event final table for the hope of a real humdinger. With two Finns in the last four of that tournament, there is the potential for a really good heads up battle between countrymen.

Joni Jouhkimainen has been crushing the table this afternoon, moving into a massive chip lead of 18,900,000 to the others’ combined 13 million. The only player who seems capable of taking him on is that man Sahamies, a heads up, high stakes specialist, who cut his teeth on Finland’s casino scene.


Joni Jouhkimainen, bossing

Sahamies also proposed a way to make it more interesting: “We drink when we get heads up,” he said to Jouhkimainen, whose silence can only be interpreted as assent.


Ilari Sahamies: Drinking plans

People come to Barcelona mainly for the sun, sand, tapas and Gaudi. But I reckon a heads up, high stakes poker duel between two drunken Finns would top all that.

This EPT 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 Europe.


EPT Barcelona: The vision behind the EPT champions Slyde by HD3 watch

ept-thumb-promo.jpgYou’ll almost certainly have seen or heard about the new Slyde by HD3 watch that will be gifted to each EPT main event champion: images of the flash timepiece, which is worth €5,480, have been splashed across the digital displays in the EPT tournament room room and across this blog for the best part of two weeks.

Okay, the remaining players in the main event might be focussing on the €1,007,550 first place prize but come the winning shot they’ll find themselves in possession of an exclusive, new wave timepiece.

We caught up with Jorg Hysek Jr from HD3 to ask how the watch was put together. Hysek’s father, Jorg Hysek snr, who has been a name in the Swiss watch industry for 40 years, set up HD3 (Hysek Design 3) with two favoured designers in 2002. It initially launched as a boutique, high end watchmaker producing 30 pieces a year per model with an average price tag of $100,000. That’s collector territory, right there.

‘We thought why not bring something new to the industry? Everything has been done so why not use a new technology? Why not use touch screen? These days everyone is used to using it with iPhones and iPads. Why not bring that but not in a gadget or gimmicky way, but high-end,’ said Hysek.


Jorg Hysek jr

Being designers rather than outright watchmakers allowed HD3 a perfect segue way into this new frontier of technology. HD3 began a three-year period of research and design keeping a focus on keeping the watch as a functional, stylish timepiece which allowed for personalisation. The Slyde watch was successfully launched last year.

‘We didn’t have any boundaries. We were the rare ones of the industry that could actually do it because we weren’t just ‘real’ watchmakers. They (competitors) were shocked when they saw what we’d created,’ said Hysek.


Slyde by HD3

The watch has personalised faces that can slide (obviously) upon two axis and can be customised by downloadable HD3 software with different designs and images, just as the EPT champions Slyde watches have been.

So, apart from EPT winners, what kind of people usually buy a Slyde watch?

’They’re watch lovers who may already have five or six watches and are looking for something matching the new epoch. We’re creating a new path. You choose what’s in your watch and that’s what defines you,’ said Hysek.

is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.

This EPT 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 Europe.


EPT9 Barcelona: Spain expects but can Rodriguez deliver?


He was Spain’s best hope, its only hope, for a first Spanish winner on the European Poker Tour. That it might come on home soil only added to the spirit of Fiesta. Samuel Rodriguez was second in chips at the start today and a nation held its breath.

Things had started brilliantly. Rodriguez, dressed in the blood red colours of the national soccer team, sat in this cauldron of heat and noise trying to stay focused. The Spanish press, who before this week had never heard of Rodriguez, were daring to believe.

“He’s between two top players in Juanda and Sahamies, and we have to take a look to see how his performance is at the beginning,” said Alex Hernando, who writes for Poker 10, one of the major Spanish poker sites. “If he wins some pots he’ll feel better.”

Samuel Rodriguez in the colours of the National team

Rodriguez did win them, and certainly looked better, knocking out John Juanda. In the heat of the tournament room all the players look a little pasty, but Rodriguez was now riding the horns of momentum. How far would it take him?

Before we get too carried away it’s worth mentioning that Hernando, who has covered several seasons of the tour, as well as countless events elsewhere, was cautious in his prognosis, a little wiser than others when predicting the likely outcome of a poker tournament. He was not prepared to nail his colours to the mast, even if they were his own colours of la Rojigualda.

“We have to take into account that he’s an amateur player,” said Hernando, who pointed out that Rodriguez is a student who plays poker for fun after work. “He always says that he wants to keep it fun and enjoy it, and live the moment. So we’ll see.”

His reasons for caution were well judged. The EPT has been a tournament black spot for Spanish players, who have excelled in the past at the World Series, on the World Poker Tour and elsewhere. Just not here. Lebanon, Belarus and even neighbouring Portugal each have winners. Not Spain, which has hosted at least one leg of the tour in each of its nine seasons.

“We have been very close,” said Hernando who referred to Jesus Coretz Lizano’s second place in Barcelona in Season 7, and the four local finalists here last year. In all 15 Spaniards have reached a final table since Season 4 and the drought is starting to look conspicuous. “Hopefully we’ll do it today.”

Rodriguez looked down at another hand and found pocket eights. The young Finn Joni Jouhkimainen took it to a flop with jack-seven of spades, where two more spades gave him a flush draw. Crucially a third eight gave Rodriguez a set. The Finn got his chips in, Rodriguez snap called and was in clover until the river when Jouhkimainen spiked a spade.

Joni Jauhkimainen

It was not so much a turning point for Rodriguez than the end of the road. In the next hand he played, immediately following the demise of Sinel Anton, Jouhkimainen would deliver the coup de grace.

The duo faced off, Rodriguez flopping two pairs while Jouhkimainen found a straight draw. A spade on turn gave the Finn 14 outs, with straight and flush draws. The flush hit, crushing Rodriguez. Spain, which had provided ten per cent of the field, would have to wait a little longer for its first champion.

So long Samuel Rodriguez

“Everybody was saying at that moment we couldn’t find a winner, we’ll never do it,” said Hernando, referring to the atmosphere that clouded the local efforts last season. But for the Spanish poker community he believes there are reasons to be optimistic.

“We have a lot of good online and live players,” said Hernando, who predicts Tomeu Gomila, a finalist last year, is a likely first winner. “We have a lot of other players – Juan Maceiras, Raul Mestre, Leo Margets. I don’t want to forget anyone but hopefully it will arrive someday if not today.”

This EPT 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 Europe.


EPT9 Barcelona: A Round With...the silent high rollers


There is an awful lot to focus on in the tournament room this afternoon, including the circus stage of the main event final table, the one-last-hurrah insanity of the €5,000 six-max turbo, plus the tail end of another couple of events.

It is easy to forget about the High Roller final table surrounded by all this nonsense, and these guys don’t exactly draw attention to themselves either. I just watched an entire orbit of the nine-handed €10,000 High Roller final and – no exaggeration – not a single word was uttered by any one of them to any other.

Stanislav Labutkin chatted to a friend on the rail, and ElkY was in some kind of correspondence on his smart phone. But in terms of table chatter, this was like a movie scripted by Beckett and directed by Jarman. Silence followed silence followed a pause and more silence.

Nevertheless, the poker was intriguing as it always is in these things. It was clearly waiting for an “A Round With…” post. Here it is, the first of the Barcelona EPT festival, but certainly not the last of a long season on the EPT.

NEIL1457_HR_FInal_Table_EPT9BAR_Neil Stoddart.jpg

The very thin of the action: the High Roller final table

Context: Reconvening over night with 12 players remaining, the high rollers were all in the money but not yet at the final table. But following the quick-fire eliminations of Gurgen Melkonyan, Andrew Lichtenberger and Jonathan Duhamel, the last nine were crammed around the pseudo final table in one corner of the tournament room.

The stack sizes, in seat order, were approximately as follows:

1 – Alex Bilokur, 810,000
2 – Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier, 305,000
3 – Jean-Noel Thorel, 690,000
4 – Joao Vieira, 230,000
5 – Tobias Reinkemeier, 710,000
6 – Carlos Mora, 710,000
7 – Stanislav Labutkin, 700,000
8 – Laurent Polito, 1,400,000
9 – Kristijonas Andrulis, 170,000

At the start of the round, there was about three minutes remaining of level 19, where blinds were 6,000-12,000 (2,000 ante).

Hand 1: Tobias Reinkemeier on the button
Alex Bilokur got the action started, raising to 26,000 from mid-position. Jean-Noel Thorel (in a red hat) called from the hijack, which took the action round to Carlos Mora in the small blind. He three bet to 76,000 and only Bilokur called.

The flop came 4Heart Suit2Club Suit6Heart Suit and Mora bet 107,000. Bilokur asked for a red triangle indicating he was all in and Mora folded.

At around this time Philipp Gruissem, Fernando Brito, Igor Kurganov and Justin Bonomo appeared to have a chat about something or other, which seemed fine with all of the high rollers. But the players at the nearby €5,000 turbo didn’t like it and Pierre Neuville asked them to move on. It was fair enough: they were leaning on the back of his seat.

A cacophony of silence broke out around the High Roller final table. The blinds wordlessly increased to 8,000-16,000 (2,000 ante) in level 20.

Hand 2: Carlos More with the button
Alex Bilokur opened to 32,000 from early position and two players – Jean-Noel Thorel (mid) and Laurent Polito (big blind) – called. The flop came QHeart Suit4Spade Suit[10h] and Polito checked. Bilokur’s bet of 44,000 got both opponents to fold.

The silence thickened.

Hand 3: Stanislav Labutkin on the button
Jean-Noel Thorel made an early position raise and everyone folded.

We were plunged into a soundless vacuum.

Hand 4: Laurent Polito on the button
Tobias Reinkemeier raised to 32,000 from the hijack and Carlos Mora called in the cut off. The flop came 6Club SuitASpade Suit8Diamond Suit, which they both checked, and that took them to a 4Spade Suit turn. Reinkemeier checked, Mora bet 26,000 and Reinkemeier called. The 4Heart Suit rivered and the pattern from before repeated: a check from Reinkemeier, a bet of 35,000 from Mora and Reinkemeier called. Mora tabled AHeart SuitJClub Suit and Reinkemeier mucked.

ElkY checked out something on his phone. He has a photograph of some cats on it, don’t you know. Is that suspicious? I don’t know. Silence was followed by silence.

Hand 5: Kristijonas Andrulis on the button
Jean-Noel Thorel limped from under-the-gun and it was folded to Kristijonas Andrulis on the button. He shoved in a tower of red chips, effectively (but not actually) moving all in. His bet was 150,000; he had 36,000 behind. Thorel called.

The flop came 2Diamond Suit4Diamond SuitQClub Suit and now Thorel shoved, which Andrulis was obliged to call. Thorel had 5Heart Suit5Diamond Suit, Andrulis had KSpade Suit[10s] and the turn and river of 9Club Suit6Heart Suit helped no one. Andrulis was now sent to the rail.


Kristijonas Andrulis, out

He wandered away into the wilderness of his own crippling discontent. It was still more animated than the world he was departing.

Hand 6: Alex Bilokur on the button
Laurent Polito raised to 32,000 from late position and Jean-Noel Thorel called from the big blind. The flop came 5Heart SuitASpade SuitQDiamond Suit, which they both checked, and then the 9Club Suit turned. Thorel bet 75,000, which Polito called. The [10d] rivered and they both checked. Thorel tabled AHeart Suit4Heart Suit, Polito mucked. Chalk up another to the red hat.

Hand 7: ElkY on the button
It was folded to ElkY on the button, whose raised to 50,000. His first action of the round was to collect the blinds and antes.

The suffocating silence overcame us.

Hand 8: Jean-Noel Thorel on the button
It was folded again to ElkY, this time in the cut off. He raised to 32,000 and won again. On a roll.

He celebrated by having a quiet one.

Hand 9: Joao Vieira on the button
The most dramatic moment came on this hand when Laurent Polito opted to squeeze his cards, one either side of his stack. In all my years watching poker, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a two handed card squeeze like that. It was quite something.

Carlos Mora got a walk in the big blind. No one said a word.

That’s the end of the round. Kristijonas Andrulis couldn’t survive; Jean-Noel Thorel increased his stack to more than a million. The eight of them play on in typically raucous fashion.

Keep it down lads.

This EPT 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 Europe.


EPT9 Barcelona: The Daily Strategy: The final table


Welcome to the latest instalment of PokerStars Blog’s regular series: The Daily Strategy. Every day during season nine of the European Poker Tour, we will be quizzing Team PokerStars Pro for their advice on a specific element of major tournament strategy, aimed at introducing new players to key elements of high stakes tournament poker play.

Today in Barcelona it’s all about the final table, which you can watch on EPT Live. Ivan Demidov, who finished runner-up to Peter Eastgate in the 2008 World Series of Poker main event, knows all about what it takes to do well and talks about how to approach the day and how to handle your emotions.

Over to Demidov…

The night before the final
I don’t have any special preparations. Even back in my school days, I was always very good at exams. I’m not nervous at all, I don’t know why, it’s just the way I was in school. For this reason I think I play better at final tables than I do in general because I can get myself together, making no mistakes, or at least fewer mistakes.

I just think about it and try to tell myself how important it is. The final table is where all the money is. You can play perfect for five days and if you mess up at the final table it’s no good. I used to be a video game player before poker and that helped me. I was always doing better in tournaments rather than in regular play. It’s kind of a feature of my game.

It was the same in the run up to the World Series final table in 2008. At first I thought it was going to harm me and I’d be nervous. But actually it gave me confidence. What really helped was the final table in Europe in London (Demidov finished third in the WSOP Europe main event). I proved to myself that I knew that it wasn’t just luck, and that I really am a player and that boosted my confidence.

Arriving at the final table
First of all you have to study the seat draw. You have to know at least some general information about the players. Who’s aggressive for example? Of course I use the internet, but I’ve played tournaments for five years now so I know almost everyone and know what to expect. From that I try to work out a general strategy depending on my stack.

Ivan Demidov: “Control your emotions”

Let’s say there are aggressive players after me with big stacks. I’m only going to raise good hands that I’m willing to play. If there are aggressive players to my right I will try to re-steal them more. These are basic things you have to know.

Then I try to adapt to what is going on at the table. Sometimes an aggressive player will sit quietly for the first two hours. It happens. Sometimes they decide not to be aggressive. So when I start I sit and look for a while.

Controlling your emotions
When it’s your first final table you cannot always control your emotions. When I played live for the first time I remember turning red when I first tried to bluff. At my first final table, a small event in Russia, I was very emotional and I acted very quickly and I made mistakes. I actually remember the hand. I raised with ace-king of hearts and a good player called me. Three small cards came on the flop, including two hearts. I then bet and he called. Another card came. He checked and I bet. Then he shoved and I called – he had a pair of tens and I didn’t hit.

It may not sound as bad but it depends on other circumstances that as a player you have to be aware of. There were a lot of bad players at that final and we both had huge stacks. I should have checked the turn and stuff like that. But I did it automatically without even thinking. He checked the turn and I insta-bet. I wasn’t able to control my emotions and was too excited. I’m not sure if I can explain it but sometimes you get too excited. You start playing too recklessly and you feel like you’re the best player. I wouldn’t call it over confidence I would call it over emotional. You have to keep calm and control your emotions.

Judging a player by their stack
At the start of the final table your plan really depends on your stack size. If I’m short stacked I really don’t care if it’s the beginning, middle or end. You have 10-15 big blinds and you just have to push. That’s the only strategy.

Middle stacks are the most vulnerable and are in the worse position strategy wise. Short stacks are hard to scare. You can’t bluff a short stack – if they have a hand they’ll go. With medium stacks you can really bully them because they’re afraid to play. They don’t want to bust before the short stacks and if they have a decent stack they can wait. They think ‘okay I’ll wait a few more rounds. Maybe someone will bust and I’ll win more’. It’s much easier to bluff them and to bully them.

If I have a big stack I’ll try to play more against the medium stacks. Of course it depends on the player too. If someone is crazy and doesn’t care, that’s different. But normally it’s the medium stacks that are most afraid.

It’s about the money
It’s definitely about making more money. Of course winning is nice but second place is fine too! It’s not bad! Actually there is a math model for that called ICM (Independent Chip Model). Professional players know it. You have to understand in a tournament is not a cash game. If you lose then you bust. Even if you double up you don’t double up your expected winnings. it doesn’t mean your stack is worth twice as much money. When you play you just have to make right decisions based on ICM. That’s the only way to play. Playing for first place is mathematically incorrect. I don’t do that, I try to play right.

Handling defeat
After the World Series main event I felt depressed. I was really devastated. It’s a chance in a lifetime. It’s very hard to beat 7,000 players more than once. But I’m the kind of person who reacts emotionally at first but an hour later I just completely forget it. So the next day I was fine and I never thought about it again.

Demidov at the WSOP final table

It’s definitely a help to have friends watching you at the final table. You can talk at the breaks and they boost your confidence. They’ll tell you played a hand well and it was the right decision, even if they don’t think so! It boosts your confidence. But, when I bust they just piss me off. Actually everyone pisses me off when I bust! But when I play it’s definitely a help.

Appearing on television
If it’s your first experience on the TV table then you’re definitely going to feel uncomfortable. When I first played on a TV table I played really badly. Perhaps it’s not a big deal for some but some players will change their style because of it.

Let’s say you want to bluff or want to push a marginal hand. If I push and he calls me with aces I’m going to look dumb on TV. Or when you try to hero call you can be afraid of the same thing. IF he shows me the nuts and I’m going to be an idiot.

That affects players a lot I think. It’s experience. If they’ve played on television before then of course they’ll be used to it. It’s something I don’t worry about now but if there are inexperienced players it’s another reason why they’re going to play weaker than usual.

Still time to get excited
Of course I am excited about reaching the final table but in the past few years I’ve definitely became more professional in this regard. I’m not really sad when I bust and I’m not really very happy when I go deep. Of course there are emotions but they are much smaller than they used to be. But it’s always nice to reach a final table, especially in a big tournament.

This EPT 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 Europe.


EPT9 Barcelona: Double final table day

ept-thumb-promo.jpgToday is the end of the beginning.

It is 13 days since the first EPT festival of season nine began at Casino Barcelona and we have now reached the final hurdle. And what a grandstand finale we have lined up: two final tables, a combined prize pool of more than six million euros to chop up, and a cast of world champions, bracelet winners, Team PokerStars Pros – plus Ilari Sahamies.

It should be much more than a cameo from Sahamies as well. He is the chip leader of the last eight in the main event, where they are chasing a first prize of €1,007,550. That might be less than a couple of night’s work at the online tables for the man known as Ziigmund or Ilari_FIN, but the way he has played this week reveals a new focus and determination in the live game.


Ilari Sahamies, the main focus of the final

He made the final table of the Super High Roller, has battled through five days in the main event, and has not allowed a single drop of booze to pass his lips. His brow may be furrowed by the self-imposed abstinence (and you should probably nail down anything movable if you live in the north east of Spain tonight, when the shackles will be removed) but sober Sahamies is one hell of a poker player. Keep an eye on EPT Live and PokerStars Blog from 2pm CET to see how he gets on.

Here is the full final table line up, in chip-count order. And check out the full player profiles on the player profile page.

Ilari Sahamies, Finland, 7,885,000
Samuel Rodriguez, Spain, 6,450,000
Anaras Alekberovas, Lithuania, 4,430,000
Mikalai Pobal, Belarus, 4,410,000
Antonin Duda, Czech Republic, 3,445,000
Sinel Anton, Romania, 2,355,000
John Juanda, United States, 1,890,000
Joni Jouhkimainen, Finland, 1,510,000

Across the tournament room, another final will also be playing out. That is the €10,000 High Roller event, which is entering its third day and playing to a close.

That attracted 101 entrants and ten €10,000 reloads, which generated a prize pool of more than a million euros.

There were 12 players left when they wrapped up last night, and an amazing array of talent there too. Tobias Reinkemeier, who is many commentators’ pick as the best German player in the game at the moment, leads the way, from Alex Bilokur, the PCA High Roller Champion.


Tobias Reinkemeier, leading the High Rollers

Jonathan Duhamel and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier represent Team PokerStars Pro in the glittering line-up.

Tobias Reinkemeier, Germany, 714,000
Alex Bilokur, Russia, 673,000
Laurent Polito, France, 647,000
Jean-Noel Thorel, France, 615,000
Kristijonas Andrulis, Lithuania, 495,000
Stanislav Labutkin, Russia, 494,000
Bertrand Grospellier, France, 468,000
Andrew Lichtenberger, United States, 352,000
Jonathan Duhamel, Canada, 335,000
Carlos Mora, Mexico, 300,000
Joao Vieira, Portugal, 245,000
Gurgen Melkonyan, Russia, 213,000

You can follow blow-by-blow coverage of the High Roller on the High Roller page. It kicks off there at 1pm CET. You should also take a look at the full list of results from the side events from this festival, and check out the wrap of the €10,000 heads up, which finished late last night.

Allow ElkY to get you in the mood: “Time to #shipit and go for record-breaking 4th EPT HR Title ! GOGOGO

And here’s an intro to the main event final table:

This EPT 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 Europe.


EPT9 Barcelona: Reinkemeier leads High Rollers into star-studded final day

ept-thumb-promo.jpgThis EPT Barcelona €10,000 High Roller event can be summarised in two fragments of Jason Mercier’s tweets. Yesterday the Team PokerStars Pro was describing how he was forced to reload after busting first hand, then this afternoon he was at it again. “Table is absurd tough,” Mercier said.

That is the way things work during High Roller tournaments. “Absurd tough” is always the size of it. But when someone of Mercier’s calibre is drawing attention to it (and following up a few hours later with “Never mind I’m out”), we know for absolutely certain that this one was a beast.

It is fitting, then, that the field is headed going into its final day by two of the established monsters of the High Roller world. Leonid “Alex” Bilokur and Tobias Reinkemeier have both previously won High Roller tournaments on the EPT: Bilokur at the PCA in January this year and Reinkemeier in Monte Carlo a couple of years ago. Both those tournament yielded more than a million dollars, and Reinkemeier even has another seven figure score to his name, only four months ago in a Super High Roller event.

It’s Reinkemeier who is leading at this stage of this one, with 714,000 to Bilokur’s 673,000.


Tobias Reinkemeier: “Everything was going really well”


Alex Bilokur, close to the chip lead

“I started out pretty well and I was winning lots of pot,” Reinkemeier said. "I had 340k right at the start and was second in chips. Everything was going really well. I was playing really well too in my opinion.

“Towards the end I had a good run and made a good call against Kristijonas (Andrulis). Now I’m coming back with 700,000.”

Another three of the best known faces in poker are in the final 12. One is a World Champion, one is a wookie and the other is ElkY. All of Jonathan Duhamel, Andrew “luckychewy” Lichtenberg, and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier flirted with the chip lead today, before bagging up 335,000, 352,000 and 335,000 respectively.


Jonathan Duhamel: Yet another final


ElkY: Another familiar High Roller


Andrew Lichtenberger: Lucky Chewy

After the bubble burst in the early hours, the remaining 12 players opted to call it a night, drained from a long day’s play:

“I went to the Barcelona game yesterday and we went out for some drinks and stuff, so I didn’t have much sleep,” Reinkemeier said. “It’s almost 3am and I’m tired. Pretty easy explanation I think.”

The weary stuffed the following chips into their bags:

Tobias Reinkemeier, 714,000
Alex Bilokur, 673,000
Laurent Polito, 647,000
Jean Noel Thorel, 615,000
Kristijonas Andrulis, 495,000
Stanislav Labutkin, 494,000
Bertrand Grospellier, 468,000
Andrew Lichtenberger, 352,000
Jonathan Duhamel, 335,000
Carlos Mora, 300,000
Joao Vieira, 245,000
Gurgen Melkonyan, 218,000

The first prize in this one is €359,000, but the winner is far from a foregone conclusion. All are guaranteed €24,470, and tomorrow will decide how much more they get. The plan is to begin cutting down the last 12 at 1pm, alongside the main event, which is being streamed live on EPTLive. Another high roller exiled in the main event, Ilari Sahamies, is leading that one.

Please do return tomorrow for double final table day.

This EPT 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 Europe.

Jump to
SpinnerPage 1 of 2Next
Newsletterbanner Twitterbanner Fbbanner

Poker Twitter Feed Twitter-bird

More Poker Tweets