PokerStars Festival London: Kassam overcomes Harwood for big win at the Hippodrome

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Rehman Kassam: Festival Main Event Champion

The first PokerStars Festival to take place on European soil has its inaugural Main Event winner: Rehman Kassam, a 23-year-old law student from London, beat Daniel Harwood heads up on the very stroke of midnight at the Hippodrome Casino, London, to win £89,320 tonight.

Kassam, Harwood and Eric Cech had earlier struck a three-way deal, from which Harwood walked away with £95,000 and Cech £70,000. That allowed them to fixate on the trophy, and the £8,000 they had left on the side, and Kassam came up with all the right moves to halt what had seemed an unstoppable charge from Harwood.

It's no surprise that Kassam negotiated well: on Thursday he was sitting a law exam at university in Nottingham, before hopping on a train to London and winning a live satellite for £120 to book his spot in this event.

"Great, buzzing," Kassam said of his come-from-behind triumph.

Harwood had seemed set for first place for the longest period today, having led the tournament from the moment he knocked out Francesco Cortese in 12th place. But Kassam over-ran him heads up, winning both of the encounters when they had all of their chips over the line. Kassam had also survived an all-in confrontation earlier, when he beat queens with ace-three to stay alive.

But his feet remain on the ground, despite the windfall.

"It won't change my life," Kassam said. "I'll carry on and get my degree and then become a solicitor."

The tournament attracted 778 players, who added another 166 re-entries, each costing £990 apiece. It built a prize pool of £824,112, with the lion's share still to be divvied up when 24 players returned today.

That quickly became eight--look back on all the coverage that took us there--and a final table, at which Harwood was in the box seat. Meanwhile there were two short stacks: the Australian P.E. teacher, Cech, and Lam Van Trinh, a London-based businessman who was returning to poker after a five-year absence from the game.

They both did the necessary in the opening salvos, pushing their stacks over the line to apply as much pressure as they could. But while Cech survived, Van Trinh departed. It was absolutely standard: Trinh's 8♦8♣ lost to Yuriy Boyko's A♣Q♥. Trinh took £12,150 for eighth.

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Lam Van Trinh: Out in eighth

By contrast, Cech's fortunes were soaring. He got a double up through Ludovic Geilich when his pocket queens held, and then he was in precisely the right place soon after when he got Alexis Fleur to call all-in with K♦J♥ after Cech made what looked like a heavy-handed, late-position steal-jam. It was a perfectly placed trap. Cech had A♥A♣ and sent the overnight leader to the rail in seventh with £16,702.

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Alexis Fleur: Under pressure

Many of the rail-birds' eyes this week had been fixated, for good reason, on Geilich. He is a captivating spectacle at all levels of the game, both online and in the live environment, where he already has one UKIPT title (from two final table visits) plus an EPT fourth-place finish.

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Healthy crowd at the final

The 29-year-old from Scotland had been in or around the chip lead for 24 hours, but his high-variance strategy only took him as far as sixth this time. He flopped a pair of kings in a pot with Daniel Harwood. But Harwood too had kings, with a bigger kicker and they got it all-in on the turn.

Harwood faded Geilich's three outs and the tournament lost its most recognisable face. Geilich won £22,950.

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Ludovic Geilich couldn't find another major triumph

In a bizarre twist, the tournament was then paused for a few minutes after an invasion. The Hippodrome Casino is on the edge of London's Chinatown and today the area was packed with revellers celebrating the start of the Year of the Rooster. That meant a boisterous parade of drums and cymbals and dragons weaved its noisy way through the auditorium, a bedlam hardly conducive to poker.

Yet after the dragon left and the clock re-started, little luck had been bestowed on Le Coc--namely the last Frenchman in the field Clement Tripoldi. Facing the prospect of a blind increase leaving him with a 10 big blind stack, Tripoldi jammed with 8♣7♣ and Cech called with A♣4♥.

There were two clubs on the flop, but no more on either turn or river. Tripoldi was out in fifth for £31,510.

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Clement Tripoldi: The end of French challenge

Most of the final table phase of play today had taken place in silence. Well, apart from the bit where the dragon danced. But after the remaining four players discussed, but failed to agree on, a deal, the roof suddenly lifted. It was Harwood, who certainly seemed to enjoy winning big pots more than any of his opponents.

He leapt from his chair when Boyko called his jam. Boyko got up more slowly to depart and picked up his cheque of £43,370. Having already made the final table of the High Roller at this festival this week, where fourth place was worth £26,500, Boyko will consider this to have been well worth the visit from Dublin.

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Yuriy Boyko: Fourth in both flagship tournaments

Harwood had close to 18 million in chips at this stage, which is was more than twice as much as his two opponents combined. But they quickly struck a deal to guarantee each of them the biggest victory of their careers.

Cech got a little unlucky when his A♦8♠ lost to Kassam's J♣6♥. And that gave the ammunition to Kassam to at least have a crack at catching Harwood.

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Eric Cech: PE teacher on good form

Those chances received a tremendous boost when Harwood moved all-in with Q♥6♠ and Kassam found enough -- A♠J♦ -- to call him and double up. That put Kassam into the lead and allowed him to win the whole shebang when his K♥T♣ stayed good against Kassam's T♥7♦.

"Ah well, I'll take the biggest prize," Harwood said.

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Daniel Harwood: Out in second

That was true, but Kassam is our winner. The PokerStars Festival era is up and running. Next stop Rozvadov!

PokerStars Festival Main Event

Buy-in: £900 + £90
Players: 778 + 166 re-entries
Entries: 944
Total prize pool: £824,112

POSNAMECOUNTRYSTATUSPRIZE
1Rehman KassamUnited Kingdom £89,320*
2Daniel HarwoodUnited Kingdom £95,000*
3Eric CechAustralia £70,000*
4Yuriy BoykoIreland £43,370
5Clement TripoldiFrance £31,510
6Ludovic GeilichUnited Kingdom £22,950
7Alexis FleurFrance £16,702
8Lam Van TrinhUnited Kingdom £12,150

*Denotes three-way deal

Click for complete payouts from Main Event

Howard Swains
@howardswains in Live Poker