Kevin Vandersmissen heads EPT Snowfest final table
After a tense and prolonged day at the European Poker Tour Snowfest, Kevin Vandersmissen takes the main event chip lead into the final day, the leader of eight players who will return tomorrow to play to a new mountain champion.
With the strange combination of bright warm sunshine and alpine skiing taking place outside, inside the last 24 convened at the Alpine Palace tournament room for a straightforward day of attrition, where fierce rivalries were cemented and camaraderie exposed as merely superficial.
That Vandersmissen leads is testimony to his wise head, a head that spent the day propped up lazily on his left arm as he played with the insouciance of youth.
Chip leader Kevin Vandersmissen
The Belgian, one of four returning today, knew when to strike and when to let others risk their chips, starting today with 803,000 and finishing on 4,512,000 some two million plus ahead of second place Cristian Dragomir with 2,293,000. The gap was further still to third placed Philip Meulyzer with 1,758,000.
Vandersmissen in action
Notable was his achievement of this despite the many distractions that cropped up, rivalries that may be the defining element of tomorrow's final, one that will line up like this...
1. Kevin Vandersmissen - 4,512,000
2. Giacomo Maisto - 986,000
3. Vladimir Geshkenbein - 1,678,000
4. Philip Meulyzer - 1,758,000
5. Denis Murphy, PokerStars qualifier - 997,000
6. Morten Mortenesen - 740,000
7. Cristian Dragomir, PokerStars qualifier - 2,293,000
8. Koen De Visscher - 1,543,000
From that cast there should be enough positive charge to spark some kind of showpiece. Romanian Cristian Dragomir, no stranger to table talk (just ask Phil Hellmuth), for one, as well as player he clashed with more than once today, Russian prodigy Vladimir Geshkenbein.
Giacomo Maisto, who spent much of the day checking share prices on his iPad, failed to emulate his Day 3 form today, dropping instead from 1,548,000 to 986,000 (remember inflation). But, as an unorthodox Italian player, he could still cause trouble, like a wounded boar.
Koen de Visscher took his punishment well, dusting himself off after several beatings. Morten Mortensen, Philip Meulyzer and Irishman Denis Murphy remain the dark horses capable of upset.
It was not to be a repeat of last year's Vilamoura event for Pierre Neuville. The amiable Friend of PokerStars, who missed nearly half a level yesterday having mistakenly believed there to be a dinner break, got stuck in again today, reaching 11th place before Vandersmissen sent him to the rail.
There were other notable performances including that of Team PokerStars Pro Alex Kravchenko, with a personal EPT best 15th place finish, and that of Hans Erlandsson of Sweden, who at one stage let himself make a bluff too far, stripping him of all but 38,000 of his once six-figure stack. Erlandsson mounted a swift comeback, one that stretched late into the day where he was ultimately dispatched by Geshkenbein.
Geshkenbein may prove to be the most watchable player tomorrow. The Russian, who won an APPT High Roller event in 2009, aged just 19, led the event earlier in the week and never really dropped too far down the leader board, remerging today with the same manic unpredictability.
His black leather jacket and cropped hair, along with his icy-blue eyes, reinforced his image of an unpredictable maverick, not unlike the Top Gun Pete Mitchell kind, the type to pull off scenes of spectacular wonderment, all while upsetting the brass. All of it was performed with a grin, bordering on a smirk as he irreverently tore through opponents. He upset Dragomir, and stirred trouble when he could. He may just be the ingredient that makes tomorrow's showdown a classic.
The Geshkenbein stare
His main rival may just be Dragomir, perhaps the most experienced player at the table, and one who caused his own brand of commotion. It's fair to say the Romanian - actually the Romanians - are this event's vocal chords. There always seems to be a vacancy and he and Cristian Tardea filled it well, glad handing each other as if poker had suddenly become a team game.
There were moments when it bordered on unsporting, notable on De Visscher who lost two pots, to great oppositional cheer, without uttering a word of protest. But perhaps something should have been done, and the joy shared by the countrymen does raise the question of what would happen when they play each other. If they play each other.
Koen de Visscher
Funnily enough that question was answered late in the day when it was a tearful Dragomir (yes, tearful) who maintained the game's authenticity by sending Tardea to the rail in tenth place.
Any other questions will be answered tomorrow. If you're looking for something to keep you occupied until then check out the links below detailing all of the day's eliminations and incidents. You can also find profiles of the finalists on the relevant page.
As usual direct your foreign friends to our sister blogs where all of this is available in German, Dutch, French and Italian. Thanks also to our photographer Neil Stoddart, who along with taking pictures did at least one coffee run.
"And my stack was THIS big..."
Just the final table to go then, starting tomorrow at 2pm. Until then, it's goodnight from Hinterglemm.