EPT Prague: Final table, level 26 & 27 updates (blinds 30,000-60,000, 5,000 ante)
2.05pm: And relax...
That's the end of level 27. Level 28 is up next, but first it's a 15-minute break. -- SY
2pm: Skripka poker
The level looks to be running down without further eliminations. Skripka and Romanello flirted in the blinds, Skripka completing, Romanello raising and Skripka re-raising to take the pot. Five minutes left on the level. - SB
1.55pm: Not a good flop for queens
Peter Skripka opened for 160,000 from the hijack and Roberto Romanello three-bet to 560,000 from the cut-off. Skripka made the call. Both players checked down the A♣K♦3♣2♥6♥ board at an incredibly fast rate with Skripka tabling A♠J♥ to trump Romanello's Q♠Q♦. It was pretty far from being the perfect flop for pocket queens. -- RD
1.45pm: Leonzio loosens up
Marco Leonzio started the day as chip leader but he's hardly put his stack to work at all today. That just changed, though, as he played two hands in a row.
Firstly, he raised to 180,000 from the cut-off and was called by Roberto Romanello. There was no more betting through the Q♦6♦8♠7♥T♠ board and Leonzio took the pot after he revealed ace-ten.
That might have upped his confidence as the very next hand he raised to 180,000 from under the gun. Marcin Horecki called from the big blind to see the 6♠3♥J♠ flop where he check-called a 220,000 continuation bet from the Italian. Both players checked the 8♦ turn before Horecki led out for 430,000 on the 4♠ river. Leonzio thought for 30 seconds and slid his cards into the muck. -- MC
1.40pm: A flop
A flop of 7♦7♠A♣ and Marcin Horecki bet 65,000 from the small blind which Marco Leonzio called in the big blind. They both checked the T♦ turn for a T♣ river, at which point Horecki bet 275,000 to win the hand. -- SB
1.35pm: More for Wales
Roberto Romanello has extended his lead a little further after taking a pot off Peter Skripka. Romanello raised to 135,000 from under-the-gun and Skripka defended from the big blind to see a 2♥J♥5♠ flop. It can't have suited him, though, as he check-folded to a 175,000 bet from Romanello. -- MC
1.31pm: Double for Bono
Emilliano Bono has just doubled through Marcin Horecki. Bono is the tightest player at the table and has been a short stack for the majority of the last two days. He's certainly been flipping well and that trend didn't change when he flopped a set with his pocket fours.
The action passed to Bono in the small blind who shipped it in for 850,000. Horecki looked at his first card and didn't look too interested but as he peeled the second his jaw dropped open a little; a sigh perhaps? The total shove was for 850,000, around a quarter of Horecki's stack and the Team PokerStars Pro obviously had a decision in front if him.
Against some players I think Horecki would have snap called with his A♠6♦ but Bono had been showing down bigger hands only. "You want me to call?" asked Horecki. Bono shrugged.
"Do you want me to call or not?" he asked again. "So sick." Horecki made the call.
The door card was the 4♣ and Bono leapt to his feet and started shouting in Italian (this has proved to be standard procedure for the player from Rome). The board ran out 4♣Q♠A♥K♣9♠ as Bono doubled to 1.7 million. Horecki down to 2.5 million. -- RD
1.25pm: Rolling Romanello
Roberto Romanello has never sounded so sure of a call. After Peter Skripka opened from the button for 170,000, Romanello raised to 605,000 from the small blind. When Skripka moved all-in Romanello looked up to the floor staff calling the hand and in his clearest voice said: "Call." Then, fearing this might be misconstrued, he said call again.
Romanello turned over K♥K♦ to Skripka's 3♥3♣. Breathing heavily, suspended in a black and white world of win or lose, Romanello waited for the board. First a flop of 7♣5♠8♦. Then a 4♥ turn to give Skripka chop options. Then a T♣ river card to double up the Welshman.
Romanello made no victory noise. Skripka tapped the table. Romanello up to around 5,500,000 chips now to Skripka's 2,600,000, and now takes the chip lead. -- SB
1.20pm: Chip leading double up...
... for Roberto Romanello. Details coming soon. -- SY
1.18pm: Horecki lets one go
Peter Skripka is back into the chip lead after forcing Marcin Horecki off a hand. The Polish pro raised to 140,000 from the button and Skripka called to go to the 7♥7♠A♣ flop where the action went check-check. The turn came A♠ and Horecki faced a check-raise up to 275,000 after he bet 105,000. Call. The river came 2♦ and the Russian led out for 925,000. Horecki thought for a long while but folded. -- MC
1.15pm: Skripka on top
Peter Skripka has inched into the chip lead with more than five million. -- SY
1.10pm: "Don't bluff the Romanello!" - part two
It's not the first time that we've heard Roberto Romanello talk about himself in the third person and, in fact, it's not the first time we've heard him utter these words: "Don't bluff the Romanello."
Romanello opened for 155,000 and was called by Marco Leonzio in the big blind. Both players checked the 2♠A♦T♣ flop before Leonzio led 230,000 into the 6♥ turn. Leonzio made a large 700,000 bet on the T♥ river, asking a question for over half of Romanello's stack. The Welshman slowly but surely made the call and Leonzio quickly mucked his hand. Romanello said: "Don't bluff the Romanello," and showed the 9♥.
He is up to 2,800,000 now and has a favourable seat draw with Peter Skripka, arguably the other most aggressive player at the table, directly on his right. -- RD
1.05pm: Marco the man
Flashes of action, sparked mainly by Marco Leonzio. After Marcin Horecki bet 120,000 from the cut off Leonzio called on the button for a flop of 7♣2♣5♣. Horecki threw in another 115,000 which Leonzio bumped up to 410,000. Horecki paused for a moment but then passed. Leonzio took the blinds and antes on the next hand with a cut-off raise that went uncontested. -- SB
1pm: Has he found what he's looking for?
Emilliano Bono seemed like he wanted to continue further in a hand versus Roberto Romanello but folded rather than pulling the trigger. Romanello raised to 145,000 from the cut-off and Bono was the only caller from the button to go to the A♣8♥K♣ flop. Romanello continued with a 180,000 bet causing Bono to tank. The man from Rome kept looking back at his cards but ultimately folded to leave himself with just over one million chips. -- MC
12.54pm: Post-flop poker
Team PokerStars Pro Marcin Horecki had raised and taken the blinds on the previous hand when he opened for 115,000 from the hijack. He found call from Marco Leonzio in the cut-off and Peter Skripka on the button. Leonzio was the only player who claimed to like the 9♠5♠T♥ flop and bet 350,000. Skripka quickly mucked and Horecki took a little longer to do so, but pass he did. Leonzio scooped 450,000. -- RD
12.52pm: Level up
That's the end of level 26. We move straight into level 27 without a break. Blinds are now 30,000-60,000 with a 5,000 ante. -- SY
12.51pm: Another one gone
Jan Bendik has become the sixth-place finisher at EPT Prague after he was eliminated by Peter Skripka. Bendik, with A♣K♦, bet 150,000 from early position which Skripka raised to a little more than 2,000,000 from the big blind with 9♣9♥. The flop was kind to Bendik, landing as it did J♣K♥T♣. But the 9♦ turn changed that, and the 4♠ river card confirmed the man from Slovakia's elimination. Skripka up to nearly 5,000,000. -- SB
12.50pm: The storm before the calm
A quiet patch after two early eliminations. Raise and take being the order of the day, the only flop seen in anger came after a bet of 115,000 from Marcin Horecki on the button which was called by Marco Leonzio in the small blind.
The flop came 8♥Q♦5♦ at which Horecki bet 135,000 to win the hand. - SB
12.37pm: Bevand out in seventh for €71,000
Manuel Bevand has just been busted by Roberto Romanello who has now chipped up to around two million. Bevand shoved his remaining 500,000 into the middle from early position and Romanello announced all-in from the small blind. Jan Bendik passed in the big blind.
"King!" pleaded Bevand, half-jokingly it seemed, as he stood and pumped his arms out wide. The Frenchman knew only too well that he was a dog to Romanello's pocket pair and the 8♠7♥3♣ flop did him no favors. The A♦ turn failed to help either, and as the 7♠ river fell the Frenchman nodded as if to acknowledge his solid run - and that today was not his day. Bevand scores €71,000 for his seventh-place finish. -- RD
12.28pm: Nulli and void
Roberto Nulli is the first player to be eliminated from this final table. He open shoved for 700,000 from under the gun. Bevan tank-folded what he later said to be king-queen, and it turned out to be a good fold as Team PokerStars Pro Marcin Horecki flat called one seat later. Another player to wisely fold was Roberto Romanello in the big blind who open folded pocket nines.
The board ran T♥Q♦3♥4♦J♣ hitting top set for the Pole to take us down to seven players. Nulli takes home for €54,550 for his efforts. -- MC
12.22pm: Good hand for Bevand
Manuel Bevand just moved all-in on the button, getting called by Marcin Horecki and Marco Leonzio in the blinds.
They checked down the board of 4♥5♦5♥J♣J♥ and Bevand tripled up, showing J♦Q♥ to Horecki's Q♣3♣ and Leonzio's A♥K♦. - SB
12.18pm: It's Thomash Kremsher
Shocking evidence here of hard boozing by Thomas Kremser and his tournament team. It was only noon and already they were chucking it down their throats.
Actually, Kremser had just kindly bought Christmas champagne for his whole team, including dealers, as a thank you for their hard work this week. Team PokerStars Blog is still waiting for its bosses to buy them a Christmas drink. It may be a long wait...
12.16pm: The Bendik double
PokerSars qualifier Jan Bendik was the short stack at the start of play and got it all in on the very first hand. He shoved on the button and was called by Manuel Bevand in the big blind:
The board ran A♣Q♣J♠9♣J♥ to double up Bendik but leave Bevand on around 130,000. -- SY
12.13pm: Off we go
The final table at EPT Prague is under way. Sounds like we have a double up for Jan Bendik on the first hand. Details to come. -- SY
11.55am: Any minute now
There's a raised stage at one end of the tournament room and players are taking their seats. We should be under way shortly. -- SB
11.50am: Final table day
Welcome to live coverage of the final table of the European Poker Tour in Prague. A total of 563 players has been reduced to just eight who return today to play to a winner who will walk away, or be carried away if he's Italian, with a first prize of €640,000.
Who are these noble gladiators? We're glad you asked. Details of all the finalists, their likes and dislikes, or thereabouts, is all detailed below. -- SB
Seat 1: Marco Leonzio, 38, Pineto, Italy - 5,075,000 chips
Leonzio, 38, has played poker for many years but only took up Texas Hold'em three years ago. The real estate agent, from Pineto on the Adriatic Sea, is usually a cash game player who uses his winnings to play live events.
The EPT Prague final table is by far his best result, although he has two previous EPT cashes, finishing 16th in Vilamoura earlier this year and 118th in San Remo last season.
Seat 2: Peter Skripka, 24, St Petersburg, Russia - PokerStars player - 4,010,000
Skripka has been playing poker for six years, mostly as a professional, and usually focuses on multi-table tournaments with buy-ins ranging from $200 to $500.
The PokerStars player has cashed online for $100,000, form he has brought with him to live poker in Prague. Skripka, a keen FC Zenit fan, said: 'I will try to play some good poker at the final table, not just fold.' It's a mark of modesty from the Russian, who has impressed many people on his way to the final.
Seat 3: Roberto Romanello, 34, Swansea, Wales - 1,220,000
Romanello is a well-known figure on the international poker circuit, and has played numerous EPT events. His best result on the tour to date came in Copenhagen in February, where he finished sixth. He also cashed in Barcelona last month.
Since turning professional in 2005, Romanello has made nearly $900,000 in live tournament earnings. Romanello took up poker while convalescing from a sports injury and in the first two weeks of playing qualified for a WPT event. He also enjoyed a deep run at his first WSOP in 2006 and final tabled the £5,000 WSOP Europe pot-limit Omaha event last year.
Romanello, who comes from Swansea, in Wales, still helps his family run their chain of up-market fish-and-chip shops.
Seat 4: Roberto Nulli, 35, Italy - 745,000
Nulli began playing online poker in 2005 and plays at PokerStars.it under the name 'nemo33838'. His best result to date is a 13th place finish at EPT London worth £30,000 and he's now in the money again.
This is his second live tournament final table, following his runner up finish in February at a €1,500 no-limit hold'em event in Portomaso, in which he earned €17,900.
The father of two prefers to play live cash games, principally pot-limit Omaha and 2-7 lowball. Nulli also loves to travel and while his prize money from Prague will go towards more poker, some will be used for a non-poker holiday.
Seat 5: Jan Bendik, 46, Poprad, Slovakia - 445,000
Bendik, who owns an electricity company, has been playing poker for six years now as a hobby, which now dominates his free time.
Poker has been a very fruitful for Bendik and he's amassed more than $600,000 in tournament winnings up to this event. This is his first EPT main event cash but he has finished in the money in three side events, including victory in the EPT Barcelona €1,000 event three weeks ago, worth €68,860. Jan is being vocally supported by friends on the rail.
Seat 6: Emilliano "MiloRomaAA" Bono, 35, Rome, Italy - 1,530,000 chips
Bono started playing poker live in 2007 and online a few months afterwards. Poker is still just a hobby for Bono, who works as a real estate agent, but he is a regular on PokerStars, mainly playing multi-table tournaments.
The married father-of-two won his seat in the EPT Prague Main Event in a live satellite and this is by far his best live result to date, although he nearly made the final of the IPT Venice Main Event in January, where he finished ninth for €9,000. Bono loves fitness and travel and is excited to make the Prague final.
Seat 7: Manuel Bevand, 34, Paris, France - 615,000
Manuel Bevand played his first EPT in Warsaw in 2007 and since then has cashed six times, including in 23rd at last season's Grand Final. Prague has been particularly good for Manuel. He finished 19th in Season 5, 22nd in season 6 and has now reached the final - his best live result to date.
Originally from Lyon, the 34-year old turned pro in 2006. Bevand has always enjoyed games, programming video games on the family computer at age eight and becoming a noted computer game designer for a big French studio. Bevand also excelled at the card game Magic : The Gathering.
After cutting his teeth playing cash games - live and online - Manuel is now focused almost exclusively on multi-table tournaments. He has written an advice manual for aspiring poker professionals and is the founder of the popular "Club Poker Radio" show.
Seat 8: Marcin Horecki, 33, Warsaw, Poland - Team PokerStars Pro - 3,290,000
Born in Poland, Horecki is a former member of the national alpine skiing team but was forced to quit the sport due to injury. Horecki studied for BA and MA degrees and then worked in corporate finance. He also began playing Magic: The Gathering around this time, a game that would introduce him to the poker tables at PokerStars.
In 2006, he came close to making the final table of the €1,000 NLHE event at the Barcelona Open and this gave him the confidence he needed to turn pro. He has a total of six EPT cashes to date including his career-best third place finish at EPT London in Season 5 earning £303,439.
Horecki joined Team PokerStars Pro during the WSOP in July 2008. He is currently leading the Polish All Time Money List.