EPT8 Madrid: Boujenah in form but Simão shines to lead last 24
Three tables now remain in the European Poker Tour main event in Madrid; containing the final 24 players set to return tomorrow to reach one of eight seats in Saturday's finale.
At this stage of play we usually tell you about the chip leader, and we will, it's João Paulo Simão from Brazil who bags up 1,973,000. But he's only part of the story tonight, after a day of balls, bubbles and prize money.
He shares the limelight with Ilan Boujenah, who day-by-day insists on putting in superlative performances, something he did again today, bagging up 1,153,000 to finish the day in second place.
Boujenah, from Israel, ended Day 1 in second place and Day 2 in eighth. He is explosive, emotional and occasionally out of order (tamed today by Nicolas Levi), but in poker you don't need to set a good example for the kids, and tonight he rightly sits among the leaders.
"I've had a pretty good year with a lot of deep runs," said Boujenah, who has nearly $600,000 in prize money in the past 12 months alone. "I'm very happy because it's the first time I've had a deep run in an EPT.
Boujenah is second in chips
Boujenah split the bubble in Deauville and cashed in Prague, the only two EPT cashes of his career so far. But the stack he takes into tomorrow will leave him well placed for a run on the title.
"I'm always confident," he shrugged. "This is who I am. I have no doubts. It's going to be good."
Chip leader Simão, one of several today, was no pushover, finishing the day in style by eliminating two players with ace-king against the queens of Andries Swart and the pocket sevens of former finalist Konstantinos Nanos.
Chip leader João Paulo Simão
An emotional Simão, 23, from Belo Horizonte in Brazil, shook hands with Swart but could only hug Nanos, who, in a touching moment, took time to reassure his young vanquisher.
"I met him (Nanos) today but we always stayed together in the break," said Simão. "He was a very nice guy and I was upset to knock him out. But what can I do? I had ace-king, I had to call. But I didn't want to knock him out.
"It was a perfect day," he added. "I started with a good stack, I went up, lost flips, won flips. Then at the end of the day I won a triple all-in. Sleep now then come back tomorrow to take it down."
Simão powered into the lead
It brought to an end a day scattered with the usual hallmarks of a bubble day. A slow procession towards the money bubble building pressure that was released in just one hand; McLean Karr taking the free fall on the first hand of hand play.
That opened the door for cash finishes for the likes of Barny Boatman, Johnny Lodden, James Sudworth, Toby Lewis, Dermot Blain, Henrique Pinho, Dmitry Vitkind, Kevin MacPhee, Alex Kravchenko and Oliver Busquet.
Busquet's departure came after a day, actually two days, of playing a chronic short stack. Busquet nursed just a handful of big blinds for much of the day before finally succumbing to jacks with his own pocket tens.
"I'm a little bit disappointed but honestly I had 3,500 at level 2 of Day 2 so it's hard to complain once you cash in a tournament when you had ten per cent of your starting stack on day two," said Busquet. "But you always want to go further than you did."
Going further once more is former EPT winner Mike McDonald. It seems that whenever there's a former champion left it's invariably McDonald, and a look at his EPT record explains why.
The 22-year-old has cashed seven times prior to Madrid, six of which were inside the top 24 with three of those being final table appearances. It's a remarkable record but one that is growing more and more predictable. McDonald, whose every move seems deliberate, from betting to blinking, is a calm, considered and lethal poker player. It showed again today. If he does the same tomorrow it should set up a great final.
Joining them tomorrow will be some familiar names, such as Bruno Lopes, Taylor Paur and Tristan Clemencon, as well as Jason Duval, formerly known as "Royal Flush Guy" who checked said flush on the river in level 1 of the tournament. Melanie Weisner was almost on that list, busting in 28th place.
It was an entertaining day on the EPT and tomorrow promises even more. Catch up on all the day's action on the Live Coverage page, and at the links below.
McDonald leads heading into Day 3
Day 3 seat draw
The pressure of being a modern day Poker Star
Happy memories for Barbosa
Sudworth among those in bubble trouble
As the bubble approaches...
Boatman on course once more
Heroes fighting for a berth in the final 24
In tribute to (bubble boy) McLean Karr
EPT Live Lite set for tomorrow
Beaten Busquet gives lesson in short-stacked play
Kenny Hallaert, big stack balla to micro grinder
That's all from Day 3 at the EPT main event in Madrid, where just 24 of the 477 who started out this week with good intentions, remain. They return tomorrow for a noon start. Don't forget that as well as following the action on the PokerStars Blog you can also watch all the action for yourself on EPT Live Lite, which begins its broadcast tomorrow from the start. No hole cards but plenty of room for imagination, the very building blocks of the PokerStars Blog.
Join us then. For now it's goodnight from Madrid.