Baltic Festival: Keys unlocks secret to Baltic chip lead
It's a thankless task following British poker players at major international tournaments across the world. Sure, there have been the occasional triumph, but more often than not it's a story of so near and yet so far. No one told us - no one even hinted - that all we had to do was come to the Baltics.
For it's here, in the Main Event of the inaugural PokerStars Baltic Festival, that James Keys, a Briton, is the chip leader going into the final day; Thomas Partridge, a Briton, is third in chips; and Natasha Ellis, a Briton, is also still among the final 17 players still standing. Britannia rules the day!
Day two proper began at noon in Tallinn with 121 players still in the hunt and only 32 places in the money. We were thinking we might be here all night as the loose target was to play down close to a final table. But as is so often the case, the pace was rapid from the off. Ten, twenty, thirty players departed, and suddenly the bubble was in sight.
That's when it got cruel. It always gets cruel, but try telling Katja Thater that. She one one of the big stacks at that stage, and she had pocket kings all in pre-flop against Keys' pocket jacks. Then: bing! A jack on the flop, Thater was out, and Keys cruised into a lead that he never relinquished.
The bubble burst when Michael Fardan also cracked pocket kings. This time they were in the hand of Christian Schneider and it was a battle of the blinds on the bubble. Eeeeew. Fardan had A-Q and turned an ace, which sent Scheider back to Austria penniless and the rest of them into the money.
One of the remaining few was the Team PokerStars Pro and World Champion Peter Eastgate. This is the last tournament he will play before traveling to Vegas next week to hand his world crown over to the latest victor from the November Nine.
Although the €2,455 Eastgate picked up for 23rd place (he ran into the straight of Johan Nilsson to end his participation here) will qualify as the most "min" of "min-cashes" for the nine million dollar man, this year has been sensational for Eastgate. Among other successes, he won a side event at the PCA, finished second at EPT London, and capped the year with another deep run. A more than worthy world champion.
Tomorrow, though, we will play down to that winner. Unlocking Keys will be the target. Can anyone go father than Fardan? Or will Partridge pick off the pear pair of them. Enough. I'm going to bed.
Full chip counts are on the chip-count page. Take a look back on the day as it unfolded with our level-by-level updates, the links to which are below. Or read it all in Swedish, if you're a masochist. Video blogs are available at PokerStars.tv, and thanks again to Rene Velli's trigger finger.
Play resumes at 2pm. Be sure to join us.