Bowker and Juanda lead into EPT London final table
After more than eight hours of play it was neck and neck at EPT London. With eight players remaining, John Juanda and Kyle Bowker were almost level on chips - two very good players, two very big stacks, each amassed in very different ways. At the bell though, it was Bowker in front.
Bowker, who's track record includes deep runs in the World Series main event and as the first player ever to win two World Championship of Online Poker bracelets, already has the look of an EPT winner. Granted, none before have ever had such bushy beards, but Bowker's blinkered determination was obvious to all today, not least those who suffered because of him.
Chip leader... just... Kyle Bowker
If you were going to describe John Juanda to someone who had no notion of the holy game of poker you'd start with what seems like his impeccable health. The man glows with wide-eyed energy at the table, shining in a field of weary, slumped bodies sleeping off cheese baguettes and a late night.
But whatever it is behind Juanda's finesse, and Bowker's bruising barrage - and the two-bit analysis above is unlikely to be anything like accurate - their respective systems are working. Bowker bags up 7,165,000, just 90,000 ahead of Juanda on 7,075,000. But the difference between the two players couldn't be more striking, with both having taken very different routes to tonight's summit.
While Bowker secured his advantage with a couple of highlight reel hands, notably against last night's chip leader Chance Kornuth, Juanda's route through Day 4 had been more reserved, a slow walk up steep winding roads as opposed to Bowker (a John C Reilly look-a-like), who was catapulted to the top.
John Juanda sees off Team PokerStars Pro Thomas Bichon
They will be the ones to stop tomorrow, and they'll be sitting side by side. So, check for wind, light fuse at arm's length and retire to a suitable distance.
Lining up against them include some of world poker's deft destroyers, although the Bowker-Juanda alliance is now so strong it leaves nearly everyone else with a short stack.
Tom Marchese returns with 1,480,000 chips, winner of the first North American Poker Tour title on US soil earlier this year at the Venetian, in Las Vegas, a feat worth $827,648. It's a short stack but Marchese has $1,637,073 in tournament winnings this year alone and none of it came without hard work. Now he has EPT silverware in his sights. Forget the Triple Crown, he's after the second leg of the Grand Slam.
Per Ummer has long been easy to pick out of a crowd thanks to his sinister-looking cropped white hair. He's also a mean poker player, bagging up 1,245,000 tonight with which to cause mischief tomorrow.
Britain's last hopes rest with David Vamplew, closest to the leaders, with 3,670,000 chips, while Canada is represented by Kayvan Payman with 1,295,000. Fernando Brito from Portugal, and Artur Wasek, from Poland, complete the eight.
Here's how they'll line up:
Seat 1 - David Vamplew, UK, 3,670,000
Seat 2 - Tom Marchese, USA, PokerStars player, 1,480,000
Seat 3 - Fernando Brito, Portugal, 1,100,000
Seat 4 - Per Ummer, Cyprus, 1,245,000
Seat 5 - Artur Wasek, Poland, PokerStars qualifier, 2,250,000
Seat 6 - Kayvan Payman, Canada, 1,295,000
Seat 7 - Kyle Bowker, USA, 7,165,000
Seat 8 - John Juanda, USA, 7,075,000
Their combined success depended on the decline of others. Three members of Team PokerStars Pro were among those retuning for Day 4, first out being Chad Brown in 23rd place, while Joe Hachem and Bichon fought on as play was reduced to two tables. (Find all payouts on the prize winners page.)
But for Hachem the day ended in 15th place after a hard fought but ultimately frustrating time as one of the short stacks. Bichon followed in 14th, his exit hand a tense affair against Juanda. Both flopped a queen but when Bichon moved all-in with a jack kicker, Juanda beat that with an ace.
With the departure of American John Hall in ninth place, so ended Day 4. A short respite follows for players tonight, before the final table beginning at noon tomorrow.
Read today's journey to that final at the links below:
Our thanks to our foreign friends blogging in German, Italian, Dutch and Swedish. Take a look and see if they say the same nice things about us. Then let us know. Our thanks also to the photography of Neil Stoddart and Mickey May, both black belts in copyright litigation.
Join us tomorrow when we do all this again. A record field of 848 players started this event, now just eight remain; from both sides of the Atlantic, from East and Western Europe, and one from an Island in the Mediterranean. One more contrast - one hails from the lyrical town of Parsipity, another from the less lyrical town Plock.
Only one of those can be the new EPT London champion. I'd like to say you'll find out who that will be first right here, on the PokerStars Blog, but you'll get it quickly by watching the EPT Live coverage which starts at noon tomorrow. But anyone can watch TV, it's reading that really separates the men from the boys.
The Hilton Metrople, tonight
Until then. Good night from London.