EPT Berlin: Soulier soars into lead as play reaches the money
The instruction from Thomas Kremser was to play six levels or into the money. That moment came with 27 minutes remaining of play tonight, a pretty good guess at how long it would take to lose 233 players.
Day 2 of any European Poker Tour event has a character of its own. Gone is the ambling, quite pointless attrition of Day 1, while the Day 3 obstacle course has yet to take its toll. Instead, Day 2 starts with a make or break period, as short stacks return, their bags packed and checked in with the bellhop back at the hotel; the big stacks return looking to build on earlier prowess. But as the day wears on all plans are thrown out of the window and the tournament normally winds up looking completely different.
Just ask Sander Berndsen and Cristian Dragomir. Berndsen led coming into today, a privilege bestowed after a good Day 1B that was worth more than 240,000 chips to the Dutchman. He lost half of that within a level, lost the rest within two.
Dragomir took several times as long to do the same, conceding his lead early to Jason Helder (who would pass them on to tonight's chip leader) before general wear-and-tear saw to it his farewell was an early one, some way from the money. The same player who sent him the rail would end Day 2 assuming the role the Romanian and Berndsen had left vacant.
Fabrice Soulier is of the honest hard-working mould of player, his time at the rock face written across his stubble-dusted face. The Frenchman earned his stripes in the midnight cash games on The Strip and the swing shift side events, away from the television cameras.
In a game weighted against longevity, Soulier now reaps the rewards of a relentless work ethic (previously highlighted in the 2007 Herve Martin-Delpierre documentary "That's Poker"), avoiding pitfalls of bankruptcy, or worse, a steady day job. He bags up 1,079,400 tonight. He's the man to beat.
Soulier leads tonight
One player left drifting in that wake is tonight's bubble boy Andrey Alexandrovich Lobzhanidze, whose celebrated elimination brought the day to a close.
Andrey Alexandrovich Lobzhanidze on the bubble
In terms of bubbles this one was fairly atypical. Play had just gone hand-for-hand when three all-ins emerged on three different tables. Thomas Kremser attended to each in turn, starting with the largest stack Karl Heinz Klose, on the feature table.
Karl Heinz Klose
Klose endured a near-death experience, effectively busting when his 7♠9♣ was crushed by pocket aces.
But with more chips than the other all-ins Klose was called back into the light, the Technicolor brilliance of Lobzhanidze's romper suit, and resuscitated when the Ukrainian also busted, Vladmir Geshkenbein's pocket queens dethroning his own ace-jack. The third all-in was a split pot and Day 2 came to a close.
Not for Lobzhanidze a return ticket tomorrow or any of the financial spoils that must seem little compared to the effort needed to get there. The same goes for Nicholas Newport who crashed out three from the money when his big ace was outdrawn by a little ace. Nothing too extraordinary about that perhaps, but the man suffered the exact same fate at EPT Barcelona. Feckless are the poker gods.
While on the topic of the fallen, a word about Fabrizio Ascari's glorious quest.
Another nail biter for Ascari
The colourful Italian returned with a little more than 77,000 today, a figure gradually eroded. But Ascari can fight with anything at his disposal, using his chips like a Krav Maga expert might use a chair or some salad spoons to fight off the rabble. Ascari survived four levels like this, at one stage lining up a huge wall of chips with which to intimidate opponents. What difference did it make that it's combined worth was only 14,000?
See you next time...
Few players dream the impossible dream like Ascari who once again tried to reach that unreachable star, then failed and left quietly.
There was good company for him on the rail. Others busting today included the Team PokerStars Pros Jan Heitmann, Arnaud Mattern, Pieter de Korver, Marcin Horecki, Johannes Strassmann and Sandra Naujoks, joined on the rail by Jeff Sarwer, Ramzi Jelassi, Lucien Cohen, Matt Affleck, Toby Lewis and Max Pescatori.
Max Pescatori (centre, seated) eliminated
But it's not about what was anymore, instead, what will be. Returning tomorrow are 119 players, each guaranteed a min-cash of €7,500. We take as long as it takes to play down to 24.
Read all about their exploits today, the good (Soulier) the bad (Lobzhanidze), the ugly (the 2.30pm at Aintree) at the links below. You can also find all the overnight scores of survivors such as Fatima Moreira de Melo, George Danzer, Roberto Romanello, Peter Eastgate, Giuseppe Pantaleo, Henrique Pinho, Sebastian Ruthenberg and Martin Jacobson on the official chip count page.
If you like puzzles and mind games you can try deciphering the German and Dutch versions of the coverage for the next 12 hours. All photography today was performed by Neil Stoddart who does to copyright infringers what Vladimir Geshkenbein does to opponents on Twitter.
We'll back at 12 noon tomorrow. Until then goodnight from Berlin.