EPT £1 Million Pound Showdown - Done!
High roller events on the European Poker Tour are some of the most expensive side events in the world. The Million Pound Showdown at EPT London this week was the richest we've seen on these shores. It cost £20,000 to enter, somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 and the Million Pound part referred to the guaranteed prize pool. As it happens, the 86 players soared past that generous guarantee and when they convened yesterday, they knew they were playing for a first prize of £516,000.
Step forward Jason Mercier for it is yours.
Mercier's victory here completed a remarkable few months for the young American professional. Last April, he rose to prominence as a PokerStars qualifier in San Remo where he took down €869,000 first prize. He made a World Series final table, and then he was back around the felt of the EPT last month, finishing sixth for another huge chunk. He took the short flight to London, bought into this huge event and bludgeoned his way to this final table. He'll now take another half a million pounds back to Florida.
It was a measure of the quality of the field beaten by Mercier that between the final three players - Mercier joined by John Juanda and Michael Watson - there was a triple crown won in the past year. As mentioned, Mercier is the reigning EPT San Remo champion. Watson won the $15,000 WPT Bellagio Cup in Las Vegas in the summer. And just last weekend John Juanda took down the WSOP Europe event to add to his other bracelets and titles.
The final table line-up
Add to that the multiple bracelet winner Scotty Nguyen, the online sensation Isaac Haxton, the huge cash player David Benyamine and the Team PokerStars Pro Isabelle Mercier, and we were looking at a table of the very highest quality. (For the record, the Million Dollar Man Dennis Phillips, chip leader at next month's WSOP main event final table, bubbled. It was a tough field; I'm sure you get the point.)
Isabelle Mercier has honed her game on the EPT, finishing two of the final table at the first Monte Carlo Grand Final, then making sixth spot in Deauville on season two. She's had several cashes at the World Series, including a final table in 2006, and few were surprised to see her back around the final table felt, even if she perished first today - ninth place - for £51,000.
Team PokerStars Pro Isabelle Mercier
The Team PokerStars Pro was the first casualty of Watson's early mad rush. The two Canadians were short-stacked early, but Watson was catapulted up the ladder when he took Mercier's chips with A-K against her A-J, and then he also accounted for Benyamine, who couldn't get his characteristically aggressive style going with a short stack all day. Watson gleefully heard Benyamine call when the PokerStars player found aces. Benyamine's K-J never caught up.
Watson wasn't done, and having knocked out the final European in Benjamine, he then accounted for the only other player from outside north America. That was the Japanese high roller Masaaki Kagawa, who got busy once they went down to seven. But he was eventually ensnared by Watson's A-K, especially cruel since the Japanese had A-Q. There was no outdraw and Watson had taken them down to six.
Up next for the guillotine was Haxton, whose tournament strategy, cultivated on the online tables of PokerStars, is pretty much faultless. He made no mistake in shoving pre-flop with pocket eights; no mistake, that is, except running into Juanda's aces. Again, there was no outdraw and Haxton took home another massive payday as well as another bold entry on his resume.
Isaac Haxton talked to the video blog team about the final...
Watch High Roller London 08: Isaac Haxton on PokerStars.tv
Until that point, Peter Jetton had been a fairly quiet presence at the final table, despite having the largest stack at the start of play and having held onto it as all the others shared it out. He doubled up the short stack of Nguyen, then we played through more than 90 minutes with five players. But Nguyen, in a buoyant mood throughout the final table, was finally sharing his monologue with the post-match interview crew after Juanda's K-9 outdrew his A-10.
Jetton was jettisoned soon after when he clashed with the ever-growing stack in front of Mercier. They got cute with one another pre-flop, before subtlety made way and they got all their chips in. Mercier had lowly pocket deuces, Jetton an A-J. But the ducks made a set on the flop and there's no way back.
Three handed was an intriguing battle between these form horses. Watson doubled up a couple of times but could never overtake either of his opponents, who exchanged the lead between them. Watson was obdurate but eventually succumbed with A-7 to Juanda's A-K. That left Juanda with a two-to-one chip lead, but it soon vanished in a crucial pot, the first of heads up, when Mercier called Juanda's all in with Q-J versus A-2. Mercier admitted that he thought Juanda could outplay him heads up, especially with the chips, so was prepared to get them in with a 60-40 shot.
They were good tactics as he rivered a jack to double up and then he did it again after a short heads-up duel. This time he took K-Q against A-J and flopped a broadway straight. A remarkably modest Mercier claimed he had sucked out on Juanda twice heads up. But his results of recent months reveal a real talent.
So to Juanda, who nearly completed an historic double here. He had endured a 22-hour final table in the WSOPE last weekend, triumphing well into tomorrow. He came up one short here, but London has been good to him.
Hat's off, though, to Mercier. And to another terrific double-header on the EPT. Budapest is next, and London will still be here this time next year.
Take a look back at the action from the day with any of the following links:
The showdown continues
£1 Million Showdown updates – No 7
Final table update 1
EPT £1 Million showdown player profiles
Final table update 2
Final table update 3
Final table update 4
Final table update 5
Final table update 6
And don't forget PokerStars.tv to keep you entertained for as long as you need entertaining. EPT Live will be back in December for the EPT Prague, full details of which can be found on the EPT website.