EPT12 Barcelona: Top prize to Steve O'Dwyer in Neymar Jr Charity Home Game

"I was just coming in to see how things were set up this year," explained Steve O'Dwyer, alluding to this first day of Season 12 of the European Poker Tour.

Turns out things here at the EPT were set up quite nicely, at least from his perspective. Again.

The EPT9 Grand Final Main Event champion and winner of more than $10 million in poker tournaments lifetime hadn't even intended to play tonight's €150 buy-in Neymar Jr Charity Home Game for which the entry fees went to the Neymar Jr Project Institute to help children in need and the donated prizes ranged from Skull Candy headphones and Barcelona FC tickets to a seat in the €5,300 buy-in EPT Barcelona Main Event.

"I was just walking through and Fatima told me I needed to play," said O'Dwyer with a grin. "I was the last one to register."

Indeed, after Team PokerStars SportStar's successful beckoning, O'Dwyer was the 59th of 59 to sit down in the tournament, and when it was all over about five-and-a-half hours later, he was the only one left.

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Steve O'Dwyer

It took about three hours for those 59 to play down to a final table of nine, by which point O'Dwyer had already build a chip lead. He collected a couple of bounties along the way, too, when he knocked out both Friend of Team PokerStars Felipe "Mojave" Ramos (good for a pair of tickets to a Barcelona FC home game) and PokerStars-sponsored player Sara Chafak (worth a pair of those Skull Candy headphones).

The O'Dwyer train continued to roll through thereafter, too, as he'd be responsible for the first five eliminations of the final table.

After ousting Romania's Vasile Cristian Hutopila in ninth, O'Dwyer used pocket kings to send Team PokerStars Pro Jan Heitmann of Germany out in eighth after the latter had flopped topped pair of tens.

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Team PokerStars Pro Jan Heitmann

"The first final table of the season! Whooo!" said Heitmann with a grin afterwards to Ramos who was railing the action.

O'Dwyer then took out both David Longmate (seventh) and Kaleb Goad (sixth) in a single hand, one that saw a severely short Longmate all in before the flop, then Goad call a river all-in from O'Dwyer after the board had come J♥6♦3♦3♣8♣.

Longmate revealed 6♠3♠ to show he'd turned a full house, while Goad was calling O'Dwyer's shove with J♦9♠ for jacks and treys. But O'Dwyer had J♠3♥ on the hand, having turned a better full house than Longmate's to knock out both players.

Kasra Pour Khomamy was the next to fall to O'Dwyer in fifth after his ace-four couldn't catch up to the latter's ace-seven, and it was around then O'Dwyer estimated he'd knocked out about 15 players to that point in the tournament.

But at last some variation was introduced to the story, starting with Jose Enrique Munoz surviving multiple all-ins with a short stack before finally losing with nine-six to Norway's Thomas Udness ace-five.

Soon the final three players -- O'Dwyer, Udness, and Joao de Moraes -- were nearly even in chips, and each would take turns after that enjoying the chip lead as the all-ins continued to come.

Finally O'Dwyer stopped de Moraes in third when the latter's king-six failed to improve against O'Dwyer's eights, then came out on top after getting to heads-up with Udness, making for a successful start to the new EPT season for O'Dwyer.

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"I was just out for a walk..."

It was a successful start for others, too, as both of today's satellites saw big fields producing many players landing seats in the €1,100 Estrellas Main Event. A total of 290 participated in Event #1, a €220 "Super Sat," with 51 players earning seats. Meanwhile 251 players took part in Event #3, a €120 satellite with €50 rebuys and add-ons, and 42 of them likewise won their way into either of the three Day 1 starting flights that begin tomorrow.

Those players will be joining the many who have already qualified for the event online at PokerStars. We'll start finding out tomorrow if this year's Estrellas Main Event can come anywhere close to the record 2,560-player field from a year ago.

We'll be back tomorrow starting at noon for that event and all of the others filling the day's schedule. And like O'Dwyer, we'll be keeping our eyes and ears open and closely attuned to what's going on as we walk around -- after all, you never know when a good opportunity might come calling.

More mañana!

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Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.

Martin Harris
@hardboiledpoker in Neymar Jr