The bare data of a final table scarcely tells the story of how those players got there. But let's lead with the facts and get to the nitty gritty later.
Today at the King's Casino in Rozvadov, we successfully trimmed the returning field of 30 down to the final table of eight in a little less than seven hours' play. Thomas Erler, of Germany, will be the leader heading into the final, where the eight will line up as follows:
Seat 1: Thomas Erler, Germany, 1,642,000
Seat 2: Ronald Szczerba, Germany, 409,000
Seat 3: Dirk Recknagel, Germany, 257,000
Seat 4: Kasparas Klezys, Lithuania, 1,224,000
Seat 5: Bart Lybaert, Belgium, 1,508,000
Seat 6: Fabian Leib, Germany, 1,179,000
Seat 7: Giovanni Mazza, Italy, 873,000
Seat 8: Bülent Demirtas, Germany, 1,145,000
They are all seeking a first prize of €115,000. That's the gist of it, but there are sub-plots aplenty.
Take the story of Dirk Recknagel, for example. He returned to King's today with 45,000 chips and had a seat right by the rail. He slumped in his chair for the first few orbits, squeezing his cards so casually that pretty much any of the spectators could have seen them if they had wanted to.
Even after he was tipped off to this by tournament staff, he said he didn't really care. He knew he just had to get his chips in with his first half-decent hand and he knew he would be called. His game plan was nothing he had to disguise.
When he pulled the trigger, he had A♥9♦ and was in terrible shape against Kasparas Klezys's A♦K♥. But he managed to turn a nine, double up, sit up a little straighter and never looked back. He could barely lose a pot and clung on all the way to the final.
Klezys also played an exceptional day of poker, arguably among the best this arena has ever seen. He was the player who, late last night, got caught bluffing by Ronald Szczerba and yielded the chip lead to Bart Lybaert. By Klezys knows that there's a lot of power in forcing others to play big-pot poker, and never backing down. He was a tyrant all day, and didn't pull up even when the monstrous stack of Lybaert sat to his left.
Klezys and Lybaert largely stayed out of each other's way, but one blind-on-blind skirmish soon got massively out of hand. Lybaert three-bet Bülent Demirtas's opener, Lybaert four bet them both, Demirtas folded but Klezys five bet right back. Lybaert called.
But after Klezys c-bet the raggedy flop, Lybaert let it go. Klezys could not resist showing T♣3♣ - a perfect five-betting hand if ever there was one - and took the chip lead.
However, soon after that, he lost it again when Demirtas suspected the Lithuanian was up to his old tricks and shoved over a four bet for more than 700,000, with A♣6♥. This time Klezys had the goods - A♠K♦ - but Demirtas rivered a six. That pretty much explains his big stack at this final too.
By these standards, Fabian Leib and Giovanni Mazza had pretty steady days as they increased their healthy stacks into the six and seven-figure monsters you need to make the final. Of course, they had to do their own share of bullying to secure their spot, but it was all in a day's work for both of them. They had been getting busy for a week, so this was nothing new.
All of which takes us back to Erler, our chip leader. Of all the players at the final, he had probably the most consistent climb in only the right direction. He knocked out a short stack holding ace-king to get things started, the won a massive pot from Lybaert after he turned a straight and faded Lybaert's flush draw.
Then another big slick sent Rinaldo Aquino back to Brazil. Aquino's ace-queen was outkicked on an ace-high board.
It leaves us with an intriguing final, awash with personal duels and scores to settle. There's a short-stack ninja in the midst and at least four big-stack bullies.
Full details of the players who bust before final are on the payouts page. Join us at noon tomorrow as we play to a winner.