EPT8 Madrid: McDonald busts, but Ibanez unstoppable en route to final
As is sometimes the case, one player dominated the main event today on his way to amassing a sizable lead going into tomorrow's final. That this player was previously unknown to us before the event started was also not unusual, but the manner in which Ricardo Ibanez assumed the chip lead tonight left onlookers rubbing their eyes.
Up against a field of talented players used to assuming the lead with subtlety, tact and timing, Ibanez resorted to brute force and, well, good fortune, to maximum effect; a display that at times jarred, contrary to the natural rhythms of the game. He bagged up 3,216,000 chips at the close, some 800,000 ahead of the field. Not that his success was not entirely of his own making.
Ibanez played with determination and focus, spending breaks alone like a boxer finding his core strength before entering the ring, gathering his thoughts as his friends waited on his every move. It worked today. The question remains whether it will do so tomorrow.
As play started most assumed João Paulo Simão would be there to find out. But as rapid and unexpected was Ibanez's ascent, was Simão's descent. He had seemed unbeatable, but two big bluffs would unravel the young Brazilian who surprised everyone on his free-fall from first to last, not least the players, who found the 23-year-old a tricky opponent.
João Paulo Simão
"The Brazilian guy was difficult to play," said Romanian finalist Andrei Stoenescu. "He called every three-bet and every four-bet, it was pretty tough. He was pretty reckless."
Stoenescu should be considered something of a dark horse in tomorrow's final. Largely unnoticed today, Stoenescu may not have the tournament reputation of others but has an online cash record that would make most people's wallets burst (of which we'll have more detail tomorrow). Mark his card now as a potential EPT champion.
Someone who will not become champion, for the second time, is Mike McDonald.
The development of the Canadian pro has been like a serialised novel to those on the tour. We were there when the goofy 18-year-old kid in braces cashed in EPT Prague in Season 4. We were there months later when he won EPT Dortmund. We thought we were about to see him reach a fourth EPT final today. We've seen so many of his career highlights that it only feels right that we're invited to his wedding.
Alas, McDonald's bid to become the first double winner, and to have his name inked into poker's history books, fell short once more, busting in ninth place. Had he gone on to win tomorrow his record would have been cast in gold; his result this week still evokes awe.
"There are a lot of hands in hindsight that I could say 'oh, I made a mistake there'," said McDonald at the end of play. "I think for the most part I played pretty well today. Obviously I'm not that happy with the result right now but I'm fairly happy with how I played."
McDonald takes with him some of the expectation that would have supplied tomorrow's final with fireworks. But the finale to the main event still has plenty to offer.
Ilan Boujenah, who we profiled in yesterday's round up, stretched out his good form into a fourth day, as did Frederik Jensen. A hat tip also to Frenchman Nicolas Levi, reaching his second final table of the season following his third place finish at EPT Prague.
After a day which Levi described as "studious," the Frenchman steered a stack of 20 big blinds through a difficult day for another shot at what Levi covets most, an EPT title.
"Well, in a year or two's time the money will probably mean more, but right now I'm stupid enough to look for number one," said Levi . "But the thing is it's my eighth or ninth final of a big tournament. So there's eight or nine players per final table, so surely I should win one in nine, right?!
"That's not how odds work and I'm short stacked right now but we'll see," he added. "But I want this so much and I'll do everything I can tomorrow. I'm going to play really good and be a tough guy to beat. We'll see how it goes."
Also seeing how it goes will be French rap star Bruno "Kool Shen" Lopes, Scottish champion Fraser Macintyre and "The guy who checked the Royal Flush on the river", Jason Duval.
Here's how that final table will line up:
Seat 1 - Ricardo Ibañez, Spain, 3,216,000
Seat 2 - Frederik Jensen, Denmark, 2,144,000
Seat 3 - Fraser Macintyre, United Kingdom, 2,473,000
Seat 4 - Bruno Lopes, France, 1,452,000
Seat 5 - Andrei Stoenescu, Romania, 1,974,000
Seat 6 - Ilan Boujenah, Israel, 1,382,000
Seat 7 - Jason Duval, Canada, 963,000
Seat 8 - Nicolas Levi, France, 709,000
Catch up on everything that happened today on our live coverage page, and at the links below.
Day 4 Seat Draw and it's a cracking final 24
Steady start unless your name is Dypvik
Donkey skin is not transparent
Reign in Spain falls mainly on everyone else
Familiar story for McDonald
Simao continues to show Brazilian flair - will he make the final?
Gettting the right break
All relatively quiet on the outer table
That's all for Day 4 of the EPT Madrid main event which concludes tomorrow with the final eight players return to Casino Gran Madrid for a shot at a first prize of €545,500. We had a hunch that it would be a good one. Turns out it will be.
Until tomorrow, it's goodnight from Madrid.
All photography © Neil Stoddart