This blog was written before Johnny Lodden left to play the WSOP Main Event.
The WSOP is front and center for most poker players at the moment, and I'm looking forward to getting to Las Vegas to play as well. But I'm also still thinking a lot about the European Poker Tour Grand Final in Monte Carlo, which turned out to be a very nice experience for me.
I've been playing EPTs for many years, and have come close to final tables on many occasions. Only once was I able to get there when I finished eighth at EPT Budapest back in 2008. Usually I'll go out just before the final eight, which has been a little frustrating.*
* Those finishes include 9th, 13th, 13th, 14th, 17th and 17th EPT Main Event finishes.
That's what I was thinking in Monte Carlo when we got down to 10 players and I found myself in a pretty tough spot. I was all in on the flop with a 1% chance of surviving... and I hit it! That was probably the best feeling I've ever had in poker.
The hand was a three-way all-in involving me, a shorter-stacked player (Vasili Firsau), and Steve O'Dwyer. Firsau had A♠5♦, O'Dwyer 9♦9♠, and I had A♥Q♦.
The flop came 9♣5♣2♠, making a set for O'Dwyer, and I was like "FML!" Again it's happened, I thought. I finished ninth at EPT San Remo last year, and that's not a good feeling. And here I was about to finish ninth again.
I bent over to gather my gear, then the turn came the 4♦ and I heard people go "oooooh!" But I was like, "Yeah, sure," and kept gathering my stuff. Then came the river... BAM! The 3♦! Firsau and I both made a straight, and soon after he and another player busted and I'd made the final table. That feeling was so, so good. From there it was a total freeroll. I was so happy to be at that final table, and there was no pressure at all.
I had been chip leader for a lot of the tournament. I led after Day 2 and Day 3, and was third in chips after Day 4. But I'd slipped back to the middle of the pack and was about average, but after surviving that hand I felt like I was chip leading again!
It's funny how the mind works. Coming into the final table, it's so different to have been down and gotten back up as opposed to being up and having fallen back down. In the latter case you feel like you have to get your chips back, and you might play differently as a result. But for me, I really did feel like I was freerolling.
It was also awesome to be part of that final table, which included so many good players. Every single player there was great -- O'Dwyer (who ended up winning), Daniel Negreanu, Jake Cody, Jason Mercier, Andrew Pantling, Grant Levy, Noah Schwartz, and myself. When you're at that kind of final table, you're really eager to compete and show everyone you belong there and that you're the best.
I started the final table fifth in chips, got lucky in a hand versus Daniel four-handed, and ended up finishing third. I was happy with my play at the final table and can't complain about the finish (3rd, €467,000).
I'll be playing a limited schedule at the WSOP. I'll play the $10K pot-limit Omaha and the Main Event, and probably the $5K Open Face Chinese event (in the Carnivale of Poker) which I think is likely going to be huge. I'm looking forward to all of that that, but until then I'll enjoy looking back a little more, too, to think about EPT Monte Carlo and that great feeling of hitting that 1-in-a-100 hand on the final table bubble!
Johnny Lodden is a member of Team PokerStars Pro.