PokerStars Festival London: An orbit with the qualifiers and the WSOP stars

When we checked in yesterday on the satellite event for the £2,200 High Roller at this PokerStars Festival London, we watched Valentin Fruze and Mikhail Drozdov among eight players to book their seat in the highest buy-in tournament for a mere £170. Satellites have been making lumberyards out of toothpicks ever since a certain Mr Moneymaker. These two are just the latest to give it a try.

When they bagged and tagged at around 2am last night, only 47 players were still involved. Both Fruze and Drozdov were still among them and today have the chance of completing their spin-up. The last 34 players are paid in this tournament, with a min-cash worth £3,110. The top prize is £67,290.


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When play got under way again today, the tournament had moved up on to the balcony to accommodate the Main Event in the main card room. And lo and behold both Fruze and Drozdov were on the very same table from which they qualified yesterday. It was a return to the scene of the success.

Today they had significant company. James Akenhead, the former November Niner, was in Seat 7 and was wielding the ninth-biggest chip-stack in the room. Matthew Ashton, who only narrowly missed out on World Series Player of the Year honours in 2013, was in Seat 5. And Enzo Del Piero, a high-stakes cash-game regular who has been showing up more and more on the tournament scene, occupied Seat 9. He too was stacked; the seventh most of anyone.

Here's the full line-up:

1: Mikhail Drozdov - 91,000
2: Arsh Grover - 70,500
3: Nicolas Cardyn - 115,000
4: Valentin Frunze - 164,500
5: Matthew Ashton - 95,000
6: Robert Willis - 95,000
7: James Akenhead - 171,500
8: Enzo Del Piero - 192,500

It was now a serious game as the bubble loomed and blinds were at 1,500/3,000 (500 ante). Here's how the first orbit of the day went down.

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Players arrive for Day 2

Hand 1: Button with Robert Willis

The button was drawn in Seat 6 which meant Nicolas Cardyn was in mid-position when he saw the first hand deemed worth a raise. He made it 6,500 to play and Enzo Del Piero called in the big blind.

At this stage, Del Piero's principal focus seemed to be the waitress, any waitress, as two of them walked past ignoring his politely raised hand. He wanted a cup of tea, but was getting no respect.

Instead he saw a flop: 4♥8♥2♠ and checked it. Cardyn checked back. They also checked the Q♣ turn and 6♥ river and Del Piero said, "Ace!" He showed A♥7♦ and Cardyn mucked. And then the waitress reappeared and took Del Piero's order. Everybody loves a winner.

Hand 2: Button with James Akenhead

Action folded all the way round to Del Piero again in the small blind, and he completed. Mikhail Drozdov, one of our satellite heroes, checked his option and this was the second flop of the day: 8♠3♣J♠.

Del Piero bet 3,500 at it, which Drozdov called, and then the J♣ fell on the turn. Del Piero slowed down and Drozdov bet 5,000. Del Piero quickly folded.

Hand 3: Button with Enzo Del Piero

Robert Willis opened this pot with a raise to 6,500 from the hijack. Willis has his left index finger in a black sleeve, likely the result of some kind of injury, but a slyly sinister accessory that wouldn't look out of place on a Dr Evil style villain.

And villain is indeed the role Willis played in this hand, at least from the perspective of Arsh Grover. Grover called from the big blind and the two saw a flop of 8♠3♣J♠. Grover checked and was then faced with a bet of 7,500 from Willis. Grover check-raised to 22,500 and Willis moved all-in.

Grover called and Willis turned over his J♣T♥ in a manner that suggested he wasn't sure if it was good. But after Grover showed his 6♠7♠ and the turn and river brought the 7♦ and 5♥ Willis was good. Grover became the first player to hit the rail as Willis moved to about 160,000.

Hand 4: Button with Mikhail Drozdov

As Grover was gathering his things, the dealer flicked out another seven hands. Valentin Frunze seized a chance to raise to 6,500 from under the gun and watched five folds behind him.

Cardyn defended his big blind with a call but then check-folded the flop of 7♥A♥6♣ when DRozdov continued for 9,000. That's another win for a qualifying hero.

Hand 5: Button with the ghost of Arsh Grover

It was a dead button and Brian Willis opened to 6,500 from UTG+1. Del Piero, who was in the hijack and the cutoff at the same time, called and everybody else got out the way.

The flop fell Q♠J♦6♣ and Willis continued for 7,500. But he couldn't shake Del Piero, who called.

The 2♦ appeared on the turn and Willis slowed to a check. Del Piero picked up the betting lead and put 12,000 over the line. Willis quickly folded.

Hand 6: Button with Nicolas Cardyn

Action folded to Cardyn on the button and he opened to 6,500. This was a remarkably familiar opening raise size. Frunze called in the small blind and then Matt Ashton, who had not yet voluntarily committed a chip to any pot, called from the big blind too.

Ashton doesn't play very much live poker, opting to focus on his online game where he plays under the moniker MUSTAFABET. But when he does, he does so very successfully. That 2013 World Series was sensational, including the title in the $50,000 Players Championship and three other final table appearances. Only a very late surge from Negreanu at the WSOPE in France reigned Ashton in.

The flop here fell J♥4♦J♦ and there were three checks. Ashton glared sideways at the two opponents to his right.

The 9♠ came on the turn and Frunze bet 9,500. Ashton halted the glaring and folded, but Cardyn called.

The 2♥ completed the board and Frunze bet another 12,500. Cardyn called, but then mucked with clear frustrated disappointment when Frunze showed his K♥9♥. Fruze rivered a flush and Cardyn's actions seemed to suggest that he had a jack.

Hand 7: Button with Valentin Frunze

Del Piero got involved again. He had had a hand off, so it seemed only fair. He opened to 7,500 from UTG+1 and action folded around to Willis in the big blind. He turned over the 2♦ and folded.

Hand 8: Button with Matt Ashton

It had been a pretty good orbit for Frunze and his was compelled to open another pot when action folded to him in the cutoff. But Ashton, with the button in front of him, put in the first three-bet of the day, making it 17,000 to go.

Both players in the blinds folded, and Frunze also elected to give this one up. He had still had a profitable orbit, along with Del Piero and Willis. Rough luck for Grover, however, whose tournament lasted one day and three hands.

You can follow live updates of Day 1A of the Main Event and Day 2 of the High Roller with our friends at PokerNews.

All the PokerStars Festival London schedule information is available on the PokerStars LIVE App, which is available on both Android or IOS.


Howard Swains
@howardswains in Live Poker