EPT Monte Carlo: Chouity charge continues all the way to Grand Final title

ept-thumb-promo.jpgAt about 4.10pm yesterday, the Lebanese player Nicolas Chouity seized the chip lead at the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo. There were 16 players remaining and more than a day's play before the end. But at about 9.15pm today, Chouity was crowned the latest champion on the EPT - and in the intervening 29 hours he had not relinquished the lead for even one minute.

Chouity eliminated six of his seven final table opponents to land himself the €1,700,000 first prize that accompanies the winner's trophy in these parts. If winning a poker tournament means beating everyone else, then Chouity, who, as "niccc", qualified for this tournament via a $22 rebuy satellite on PokerStars, took that policy to its extreme.

"I played my best, I ran good, everything went OK and I won," said Chouity, in as accurate and economical summary of the past two days as could be wished for. "This is the best thing that has ever happened to me."

nicolas_chouity_winner_trophy.jpg

Nicolas Chouity hoists aloft the EPT Grand Final champion's trophy

In truth, an eventuality other than a win for Chouity would have been even more surprising. He entered the final table with more than 40 percent of the chips in play. And while those around him spent the day with at least one eye on the payout ladder, which awarded a €100,000 jump in prize-money for each spot higher they could clamber, the scene was set perfectly for the big gun to pick them off one by one.

final_table_monte_carlo.jpg

The final table at the Grand Final

If those short-stacks were waiting for hands with which to double up, Chouity had the luxury of waiting for the hands with which to knock them out. The full final table coverage, available via the links at the bottom of this post, spells out the blow-by-blow action. But here's the bullet-point version, which pretty much says it all:

  • After a very cautious start from all players, Mesbah Guerfi went out in eighth. Second in chips at the start of the day, Guerfi rivered top pair with his ace-king, but Chouity had already filled a boat with pocket eights.

    mesbah_guerfi_mcft2.jpg

    Mesbah Guerfi: Out first.

  • Roger Hairabedian finished seventh. The Frenchman never had any more than about eight big blinds, and after folding every hand for the first couple of hours, he had three big blinds left in his stack when he finally put his chips in. He only had J♠3♠ and was in trouble against Chouity's A♣3♦. Au revoir Roger.

    roger_hairabedian_final_table_wrap.jpg

    Roger Hairabedian at Monte Carlo final table

  • After another long grind, characterised by inactivity, Aleh Plauski was out in sixth. Chouity's A♣Q♦ was better than Plauski's K♥T♣ when push came to shove. A queen rivered and the Chouity charge continued.

    aleh_plauski_mcft3.jpg

    Aleh Plauski: Belarussian busted

  • In years to come, this will be a poker trivia question: What was unusual about Andrew Chen's elimination in fifth? Answer: it was someone other than Chouity who knocked him out. Chen, who made a final table in Prague on season five, knows all about these tough last-day grinds. But he tried to get things moving with a 9♣7♣ shove - and ran headlong into Josef Klinger's pocket kings. Bang. Chen out.

    andrew_chen_out_final_wrap.jpg

    Andrew Chen: Two EPT finals, still searching for title

  • Herve Costa departed in fifth and he will be delighted with that. Since late yesterday, he had been playing fold 'em poker and clung on with a short stack until he became a half-millionaire. Eventually, on only the fifth hand he played at the final, his A♠9♥ was outdrawn by Chouity's K♦Q♦.

    herve_costa_mcft3.jpg

    Herve Costa: A half-millionaire

  • Chouity enjoyed another outdraw to send Dominykas Karmazinas out in third. The first Lithuanian ever to make a final, Karmazinas played pretty much perfect final table strategy until he couldn't get A♦7♠ to stand up against Chouity's A♣6♦. A six on the turn ended that.

    dominykas_karmazinas_wrap_bust.jpg

    Dominykas Karmazinas: bust in third

    All those eliminations left the heads up duel between Chouity and Klinger, a former chess champion from Austria. Klinger had been one of few prepared to get his chips in the middle during the final table, and his willingness to play poker paid dividends.

    klinger_seat_final.jpg

    Josef Klinger clung on until the heads up stage

    However, the heads up battle was brief. Klinger got unlucky when his flopped top pair, eight kicker, was counterfeited on the river, meaning he chopped a pot against Chouity. And when he picked up a pair of eights he was willing to get all his chips in pre-flop. Problem: Chouity had aces.

    handshake_heads_up.jpg

    All over at the end of play

    That, of course, was the end of that, and Chouity was not only crowned the new EPT Grand Final champion, but he also got to pose with a pair of aces as his winning hand. That must be nice.

    nicolas_chouity_winner_grand_final.jpg

    Nicolas Chouity: a winner with aces

    It's also a fitting end to another season on the European Poker Tour, which visited further flung districts than ever before, witnessed 74 days of competition, named another 12 champions without repeat, and will be back again next season for even more.

    Congratulations then to Nicolas Chouity, and all the Grand Final Main Event winners, whose names are on the prizewinner's page.

    The EPT awards are handed out in Monte Carlo this evening, while the High Roller event continues tonight and tomorrow. Stay tuned here for that.

    Here are those links to all of today's action.

    Final table player profiles
    Level 28 updates
    Final table: Level 29 & 30 updates
    Final table: Level 31 updates

    And the same is available in German, Swedish, Italian, French and Dutch. Who knows, maybe next season there'll be Lebanese.

    PokerStars.tv has video blogs. The photography on PokerStars Blog is ©Neil Stoddart.

    Goodnight all.

    Howard Swains
    @howardswains in European Poker Tour