EPT Prague: The final table contenders

Late last night, we found ourselves our final table eight, the octet outlasting 562 others to take their place around the feature table baize of the EPT. They are, in seat order, as follows:

Konstantinos Alexiou, 48, from Athens, Greece - 1,382,000 chips
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Konstantinos studied mathematics at university but gave up on the subject after opening his own fitness club business. He currently lives in the Greek capital Athens with his wife and 13-year-old daughter. He took up poker as a hobby three years ago, playing cash games in Greece, and taking part in tournaments abroad. Although he’s not a full time poker player, this is his third final table in only a few weeks. He won the last two and is going into the final with the second largest chip stack.

Nasr el Nasr, 23, from Berlin, Germany – 376,000 chips

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El Nasr is a student at the start of a round-the-world trip, kicking off his adventure in Prague and playing in his first EPT. The rest of his trip, which includes Cairo, Malaysia, Tokyo, Shanghai and New Delhi, will also involve some more poker stops, such as the Aussie Millions and APPT Manila. The 23-year-old initially studied Islam science but is now switching to international business. He has lived in Germany since he was five but his parents originally come from the Middle East – his father from Libya and his mother from Syria. Well known on the live poker circuit in Germany, this is his biggest success in poker so far.

Massimo Di Cicco, 50, from Sant’Elia Fiumerapido, Italy – PokerStars qualifier – 429,000 chips

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Di Cicco celebrated his 50th birthday on Thursday and is a medical dentist from Sant'Elia Fiumerapido near Frosinone in Lazio, central Italy. He has been playing Texas hold ’em for two years and started playing on PokerStars six months ago. This is only the second live tournament he has ever played; the first was a side event in Venice where he came third. He said: “I feel very emotional about getting to the final table; I never thought I’d get to this point. It’s not enough to be good in a tournament like this – you also need a lot of luck to get to the final. The biggest emotion for me is telling my wife and children about it over the phone.”

Francesco Cirianni, 53, Vibo Valentia , Italy – 807,000 chips

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Cirianni is a salesman by trade, who has been playing Texas hold ’em for the past three years, mainly live. This is his third EPT – he also played San Remo last season and Budapest earlier this year. He said: “I’m feeling more serene and happy than excited about the final table. This style of tournament is really suited to my game and getting this far is pay-back for all the losses I’ve suffered. I’m a solid player and only get knocked out because of bad beats.”

Raul Mestre, 26, from Valencia, Spain - 313,000 chips

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The explosion in poker in Spain owes a lot to Raul Mestre, a high-stakes cash player from Valencia who recently began to share his knowledge with a team of other professionals. Mestre trains, among others, the recent LAPT Punta del Este champion Jose Miguel Espinar and now finds himself at an EPT final table, the first of his career. Although he does most of his playing, and winning, around the online tables, Mestre has a couple of high finishes on the WPT to his name, as well as victory in the televised Late Night Poker Ace series in 2006. Mestre is one of the short stacks going into the final, but quite literally wrote the book on poker strategy and has all the skills necessary to make a charge.

Andrew Chen, 20, from Toronto, Canada – 309,000 chips

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Chen is a former biochemistry student at McMaster University in Hamilton (outside Toronto), but now plays poker full-time. His biggest live cash to date was in November when he came fifth at the PokerStars Latin American Poker Tour event in San Jose, Costa Rica for $61,063. He focuses on big-buy in live tournaments and regularly plays satellite events to qualify. He also plays both cash games and live tournaments online. His path to the final table today has been a little nervy. Twice he was all-in in a coin flip situation and both times had to wait until the river to hit one of his overcards.

Fredrik Nygard, 32, from Pietarsaan, Finland – 666,000 chips

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Despite playing cards for more than half of his 32 years, Fredrik Nygard is contesting his first EPT here in Prague. He plays any games he can find - blackjack, Caribbean stud, five-card stud, whatever - but is most profitable around the poker tables, where he is primarily a high-stakes, live cash player. He has played on the WPT and at the Aussie Millions, focusing on the side action there, and enjoys travelling to play. Formerly a salesman for nine years, with his own sales consultancy business, Nygard now lives in Oslo, Norway, a short hop from his native Finland.

Salvatore Bonavena, 44, from Cessaniti, Italy – PokerStars sponsored player – 1,402,000 chips

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Bonavena is an amateur player from Italy, enjoying a spectacular roll on the European circuit right now. He came second in a Notte di Poker event in Venice three weeks ago for €100,000 and is now chip leader going into the final table of EPT Prague. By day, Bonavena works for a housing association in Monza but he plays a lot of recreational poker in card rooms through Italy. This is his second EPT – he played San Remo last season but didn’t cash. He is married with two sons.

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Before the final table started, Raul Mestre gave his run down on his opponents today in Prague:


Watch EPT Prague S5: Interview with Raul Mestre Final Table on PokerStars.tv

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour