EPT8 Madrid: Like a runaway Freitez train
This is the European Poker Tour's second visit to Madrid. Those who followed events in Season 7 will remember the first; a tournament from which emerged a final table of collisions, near-misses and that inescapable sense of inevitability. It proved to be a unique final - a grand final.
The last day was broken up into two sections. In the first the final eight would play down to four. Then play would stop before restarting for a live broadcast, with hole cards shown, albeit with a two hour delay.
It would be a great spectacle to end to the season, with two Team PokerStars Pros looking to make history.
Alex Gomes, from Brazil, was on course for the last leg of poker's Triple Crown. Meanwhile Juan Maceiras was aiming to become the first Spanish EPT winner. In the end, neither came close. Gomes busted in seventh while Maceiras could do no better than fifth.
The cause? Well that was eventual winner Ivan Freitez.
Ivan Freitez celebrates
Freitez perhaps not graced with the finesse of other players, but he at least had charisma. Apocryphal stories only added to his brashness; being an apparent former revolutionary with a history stretching back to the early days of Chavez.
Players like Freitez come along from time to time, playing like they live, sweeping aside good grace, opinion and grudge, to swagger into the lead with unstoppable momentum.
A look back on last years' coverage and Freitez was teamed up with words just like "unstoppable," as well as "unorthodox". Freitez loved it, even though his opponents, and those watching were perhaps not so taken with him. More than once he was cautioned for, well, what could best be described as unsporting play, profiting each time.
That said poker is not initially about popularity. It can be about other things - skill for instance and moments of drama- but Freitez stuck with this first maxim about not needing to be popular. It served him well, knocking out two players with pairs with ace-nine, catching a card each time. When only Torsten Brinkmann was left to take him on heads-up, the talented German faced an insurmountable disadvantage, overcome more than three-to-one in chips. When his ace-king was toppled by Freitez's ten-nine no one was surprised.
"Overall he was the best player at the final table," said David Williams, working the EPT Live commentary booth. "He may have been unorthodox, but he deserved to win."