EPT Prague: A look at the finalists

Seat 1: Juha Lauttmaas, 22, from Vaasa, Finland - 567,000
Juha only took up poker two years ago and turned pro after six months. He kicked off with online $5 Sit and Goes, within four months was on $100 SNGs, three months later on $500 SNGS and now has turned his attention to the cash games, where he players in $5k and $10k heads-up and short-handed games. He played at EPT Barcelona but went out in 59 th place – "I was pretty much the bubble" he said.

Seat 2: Kristian Kjondal, 21, Oslo, Norway 740,000
In the world of high stakes online poker, Kristian "Kris85" Kjondal is already a huge name and has turned over at least $250k in 2007 alone. In March he came 4 th in the EPT Monte Carlo Grand Final for € 471,180 and at EPT Dublin this season, he came 23rdt for € 10,210. He was nominated Online Player of the Year in the Pokerstars' Scandinavian Poker Awards in January but beaten by his good friend and fellow Norwegian Johnny Lodden. He also came 21 st in the WSOP $10k Pot Limit Omaha event for $25k in July.

Seat 3: Gino El Diablo" Alacqua, 46, Milan, Italy - 660,000
Gino is a relative new-comer to poker after taking the game up 18 months ago. Nevertheless, the Sicilian is already pretty successful and currently ranked 26 th in the Hendon Mob's All Time Italy money list. He won the Campione d'Italia €1k Main Event this summer, was a runner-up in the 2006 Italian Championship, and also achieved a further win and two final tables in side events. His total live tourney winnings now total nearly $130k – not to mention here in Prague. Gino, an antiques dealer, is currently single but hoping to find love in the Czech capital. In Italy he's well-known for his Mephistophelean look, hence his nickname "El Diablo". He mainly plays live (both tournaments and cash) – and also a small amount on online on PokerStars as 'jim29'.

Seat 4: Markus Golser, 34, Salzberg, Austria - 352,000
Markus Golser is one of the best-known players on the European circuit – and also one of the most experienced after 14 years as a pro. When they opened a card room in his home city of Salzberg, Markus was one of the first through the door and has never looked back. In those days, he focused on 3/6 Limit Stud, only taking up Texas Hold'em at the start of the European Poker Tour. He said: "I came 27 th in Season 2 EPT Grand Final, 11th in Season 3 Baden and 14th in Season 3 Grand Final – so my results are getting better and better. But this is my first final table."

Seat 5: Mikael Norinder, 43, Stockholm, Sweden - 1,036,000
Mikael "Micke" Norinder took up playing poker three years ago after one of his four children died and he decided he wanted to spend more time with his family. He still own two clothing & furnishing stores in his home city of Stockholm, Sweden, but now plays poker full-time. This is Mikael's fourth EPT but the first time he has cashed. Last month he came fifth in Amsterdam Master Classics. Most of his winnings come from online tournaments and he considers himself a tourney specialist.

Seat 6: Nedzib Suman, 53, Trelleborg, Sweden - 216,000
Nedzib doesn't speak a word of English, but since arriving at the Prague EPT, he has been happily chatting away to his fellow players in Swedish and somehow assuming they will understand him. Married with three grown-up children, Nedzib has been playing 5-card draw his whole life – taking up Omaha and Texas Hold'em five years ago. In 2006, he won the Malmo Omaha Open and Swedish Omaha Open. This year, he won Omaha in Malmo Open and came sixth in Swedish Open Omaha. He's one of Sweden highest-ranking players.

Seat 7: Dag "Lucky D" Palovic, 32, Bratislava, Slovakia - 759,000
Dag is used to the limelight after a career as child actor on Slovakia TV. Later, he presented his own TV music chart show. He studied law in Vienna, French in Belgium and also an MBA in Prague. He stopped studying after he taking up a directorship at a Bratislava advertising agency. He first played poker when he was 22 – just one evening of five-card draw which he won. Nine years later, he played again in a coffee shop home game – and was hooked from then on. EPT Prague is his biggest win to date. Dag's fiancée, Zuzana, is busy modelling this week in Spain so can't be here to cheer him on – but the couple plan to marry soon and start a family.

Seat 8: Johannes Strassmann, 22, from Bonn, Germany - 245,000
Johannes, a former Starcraft Player, became a professional player in October 2006 – leaving behind his army training to become a reserve officer in order to concentrate on poker. He started with a bankroll of just $500 and has never made a deposit since – learning the game with an online poker school. At first, he focused on 3/6 Limit Hold'em but then switched to Texas Hold'em. He now prefers online cash games, short-handed or heads-up $2k NLHE. He bought in direct to EPT Prague with PokerStars. His best tournament result so far was EPT3 Monte Carlo with 23 rd place for $ 44,253.

Seat 9: Arnaud Mattern , 28, from Paris, France - 980,000
Hailing from Paris but now living in London, Arnaud is the current holder of the French Backgammon Championship title. He won the Gutshot Poker Masters in 2006 for a $51,000 prize. Before turning to poker in 2004, Arnaud's main game was backgammon: in his own words, he "crushed the tournament circuit and cash-games all around the world". The switch to poker has been very successful, both live and online. The Frenchman likes the poker circuit: "it's a good opportunity to do what I love: meeting people, partying, learning new languages and of course playing cards." This is Arnaud's first EPT cash, and he starts the final table second in chips – with already the largest payday of his career.
Brad Willis
@BradWillis in