Ivan Freitez takes Grand Final lead as Gomes seeks historic triple


It was down to business at the European Poker Tour Grand Final today, the simple matter of reducing three tables to just one. Simple? Yes, by definition, but the journey there was anything but, complete with fluke, twists and a chip leader curse that at times seemed to turn the tournament on its head.

The penultimate day of a major tournament is rarely predictable, with the chip count swings obvious from the start when Ole-Kristian Nergard departed, once the mighty chip leader, now backfill. We didn't know at the time but Nergard would be a symptom of a general condition which affected many of the leaders today.

The feature table at the Casino Gran Madrid

Having the most chips today was no blessing. Simon Higgins held it early on, and then lost it within three hands, crashing out in 12th place in a race against Pedro Pellicer. Then Pellicer found himself out front, only to be on the rail minutes later, despatched by Alex Gomes within a level of restarting after dinner in 11th place. Neither would be considered less than skillful players but they were at the mercy of the poker gods, and today they weren't being picky.

Simon Higgins

Ivan Freitez holds the chip lead tonight, with 5,995,000. It remains to be seen if that poisoned chalice spills over to tomorrow's final. The Venezuelan's ascent was unorthodox and fortuitous, while occasionally tipping over into mean-spirited, with more than one angle-shot picked up by Tournament Director Thomas Kremser.

Chip leader Ivan Freitez

Regardless, the Venezuelan made the most of every big hand he woke up with, and his supporters on the rail a few feet away loved every second. He leads, the question of for how long can wait until tomorrow.

Here's how they'll line up for the final table...

Seat 1 - Eugene Yanayt, USA, PokerStars player, 2,420,000
Seat 2 - Tamas Lendvai, Hungary, 1,655,000
Seat 3 - Juan Maceiras, Spain, Team PokerStars Pro, 3,150,000
Seat 4 - Andrey Danilyuk, Russia, PokerStars qualifier, 2,645,000
Seat 5 - Andrew Li, PokerStars SuperNova Elite, USA, 1,210,000

Seat 6 - Ivan Freitez, Venezuela, 5,995,000
Seat 7 - Torsten Brinkmann, Germany, 1,875,000
Seat 8 - Alex Gomes, Brazil, Team PokerStars Pro, 1,670,000

Beyond Freitez, the name that stands out is that of Team PokerStars Pro Alex Gomes. Gomes returns tomorrow on the brink of a remarkable achievement. Should he win, he becomes only the third member of the Triple Crown club, players with World Series, WPT and EPT titles, a big deal that simply cannot be overstated.

Alex Gomes

There also appears the name of Juan Maceiras, another Team PokerStars Pro, who could become the first Spanish winner of an EPT. Both are talented players with a blinkered determination to succeed. Either would prove worthy holder of the EPT Grand Final Champion title.

Juan Maceiras

As would the others. Getting this far takes guile, finesse and ability, and hat tips are owed to Torsten Brinkmann (determined), Andrew Li (dangerous), Tamas Lendvai (capable), Eugene Yanayt (good) and Andrey Danilyuk (efficient), details of each will feature in tomorrow's coverage.

Thomas Pettersson

As usual you can find the extended highlights of everything that happened today by clicking through the links below. You can also find details of all those players eliminated today, and previously in the money, by checking out the prize winners and pay-outs page, which includes the names of players like Victor Ramdin, Raemon Sluiter and Dag Palovic.

Level 21 (cont.), 22 & 23 updates
Level 24 & 25 updates
Level 26, 27 & 28 updates

Our thanks to our foreign cousins blogging in German, Dutch and Swedish today. Also to photographer Neil Stoddart for all of today's images, an additional selection of which can be found on the picture gallery page. Profiles of the players returning tomorrow can also be found here.

We'll be back tomorrow when things get really interesting, and by that we mean even more interesting than all the times we've said "tomorrow will be interesting." The final table of the EPT Grand Final will begin at 2pm and will play down to four players, or to 6.30pm, whichever comes first.

Then the remaining players will take a break (with the option of filling the break with a trip to the ETP Awards ceremony) before returning at 9pm to play the final table in front of live television cameras, broadcast across Europe and on PokerStars.tv.

The winner's trophy

The players, crew and staff will be locked into the tournament room, sequestered, with the broadcast shown with a two hour delay. That means our coverage will resume at 11pm and continue until we have a new EPT Grand Final champion.

You really read all that and got this far?

See you tomorrow at 2pm.