EPT Baden: Thew takes it down in Baden
Julian Thew, EPT Baden winner
There are poker players, there are popular poker players, and then there is Julian Thew.
Talk to anyone on the international poker scene for any length of time and you'll never hear a bad word said about the player from Nottingham, England. There are likely to be a few tales of crazy bets with fresh air, turned flushes, horrific outdraws and one-outers on the river. But by general assent, Thew is one of the good guys.
And now he's the good guy who also done good: Thew is the EPT Baden champion, beating 281 other players to the title and earning €670,800. He said in his pre-match interview that he wanted to pay off his mortgage by the time he was 40. He was $20,000 short and had two weeks until the big day.
Consider it paid. And how about another house? Or a car?
The day started in typical fashion in this picturesque little spa town in the Austrian mountains. We supped coffee, ate luxurious pastries, sampled sauerkraut und wurst as these eight eyed a fortune:
Vladimir Poleshchuk - Russia - 624,000
Julian Thew - England - 610,000
Denes Kalo - Hungary - 468,000
Manfred Hammer - Germany - 369,000
Anton Allemann - Switzerland - 254,000
Thierry van den Berg - Holland - PokerStars player - 227,000
Thomas Fuller - USA - 190,000
Ted Lawson - USA - 81,000
But the players had hardly had a chance to wipe the ketchup from their chops before two were on their way out of the tournament arena.
Both were skewered by Vladimir Poleshchuk, of Russia, the player with a name and unforgiving table manner to prompt a thousand "Impaler" references crackling round the media room.
On the very first hand, Anton Allemann, the Swiss player who had stayed near the chip lead for two days, was busted with ace-king on a king-high flop. Vladimir also had a king but the decisive card was the nine that had also appeared: matching the nine in Poleshchuk's hand. Auf Wiedersehen, Anton.
The very next hand and Vladimir was at it again. This time, Ted Lawson, the WSOP bracelet holder from the United States, was on his way. Lawson had king-queen of clubs, but Vladimir had found ace-nine of hearts and the flop was all red and heart-shaped. Lawson was despatched, €83,600 richer for his EPT debut.
At this point Vladimir looked unassailable, both in terms of cards and obvious headlines being produced by the journalists. In the second regard, only Manfred Hammer came close: there were plenty of "Hammertime!" shouts heard around Baden, as well as speculation as to Manfred's middle name. Anything beginning with "C" -- for MC Hammer -- would have been too perfect.
No one ever found out, more's the pity, because Hammer was next to be beaten out of the tournament and again it was Vladimir who did the damage. Manfred had 5-5, all in pre-flop, but Vladimir's ace-queen matched an ace on the flop and while Hammer was our sixth placed finisher, Vladimir broke through the million mark.
By this point, the three quietest players at the table were Thomas Fuller, from the United States, Denes Kalo, from Hungary, and Thierry van den Berg, the PokerStars qualifier from Holland.
But while better things beckoned for the first two -- Fuller, in particular, beginning a charge forward with some aggressive moves and an outdraw of J-J with 7-7 -- van den Berg slid out the door.
Thierry had certainly kept his table chatter up for the opening exchanges, but had been frustratingly card dead and ended up pushing in behind jack-nine. Fuller, who now had enough to back his ace-ten, made the call and sent the final PokerStars qualifier to the rail, €132,900 richer.
When we went four-handed, the action slowed dramatically and the stacks started to level out. Vladimir, Julian and then Thomas all took the chip lead, but never by too much, until a monster hand occurred between the Englishman and the American.
It started as a three-way pot, with only Denes sitting out after Thomas raised in early position. The flop came Kc-6c-Qh and got a little tricky: Thew checked, Vladimir checked, but Thomas slid in a half-pot bet. Thew thought for a moment but ended up raising, which got rid of Vladimir. However Thomas was going nowhere but all in, and Julian called.
We expected big hands and we weren't far wrong. Thomas had pocket sixes and had flopped bottom set. Julian had queen-eight of clubs, for middle pair and the flush draw. They wished each other good luck and the turn was revealed.
Ace. Of. Clubs.
That was the key card for Thew as he filled his flush. Thomas had re-draw outs for the full house, but none came and the young American, whose friend had predicted he'd finish fourth, was felted and out soon after.
Fuller fulfilled that friend's prophesy when he moved in with ace-six and ran into Denes Kalo's pocket sevens. Fuller was gone, with a reputation greatly enhanced by his play here. Thew, although his nemesis at the table, had also become his friend when they shared a table in Barcelona last month, and here around the final table. Thew was among many who acknowledged that Thomas had not made a mistake the whole day.
Still, Julian, Denes and Vladimir had a job to do. No room for regrets or recriminations.
But there was not much left in the day for Vladimir either and now Denes had turned assassinator-in-chief. The Hungarian had a king-jack when all of Vladimir's chips were in the middle, behind ace-queen. Denes had filled a straight by the river and ended it for Poleshchuk. He earned €225,000.
So, it was heads up - and it went on for a long time. The blinds reached 20,000-40,000, the highest ever reached in an EPT tournament.
As the action hotted up, Thew kept cool by means of his now-trademark table fan, and he was waving it casually in the air when Denes was making a power play: shoving all-in pre-flop. Thew hardly hesitated to make the call and showed his ace-eight. It was looking strong against Kalo's ace-five.
But Julian never counts chickens before they're hatched: he's put plenty of outdraws on folk far more brutal than a five popping up now. However, flop, then turn and then river were all blanks and Thew blinked, smiled, shook hands, smiled again, and began life as an EPT champion.
With a house all of his own.
EPT Baden final result:
1st - Julian Thew, England, €670,800 (+ €10,000 buy-in into EPT Grand Final)
2nd - Denes Kalo, Hungary, €375,000
3rd - Vladimir Poleshchuk, Russia, €225,000
4th - Thomas Fuller, USA, €160,820
5th - Thierry van den Berg, Holland, PokerStars qualifier, €132,900
6th - Manfred Hammer, Germany, €105,000
7th - Ted Lawson, USA, €83,600
8th - Anton Allemann, Switzerland, €60,000
9 - Gunnar Rabe - PokerStars qualifier - €38,600
10 - Sebastian Ruthenberg - PokerStars player - €38,600
11 - David Sonelin - Sweden - PokerStars qualifier - €30,000
12 - Michael Durrer - Germany - PokerStars qualifier - €30,000
13 - Age Spets - Norway - €25,700
14 - Hans Eskilsson - Sweden - €25,700
15 - Pascal Perrault - France - €19,300
16 - Peter Gould - England - €19,300
17 - Alexander Kravchenko - Russia - €12,860
18 - Hector Fuentes - Spain - €12,860
19 - Victor Goossens - Holland - €12,860
20 - Alan Smurfit - Ireland - €12,860
21 - Kalil Rahal - France - €12,860
22 - Andreas Hoivold - Norway - €12,860
23 - Jiri Vacek - Hungary - €12,860
24 - Daniel Mangas - Spain - €12,860