EPT9 Barcelona: A Round With...the silent high rollers

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There is an awful lot to focus on in the tournament room this afternoon, including the circus stage of the main event final table, the one-last-hurrah insanity of the €5,000 six-max turbo, plus the tail end of another couple of events.

It is easy to forget about the High Roller final table surrounded by all this nonsense, and these guys don't exactly draw attention to themselves either. I just watched an entire orbit of the nine-handed €10,000 High Roller final and - no exaggeration - not a single word was uttered by any one of them to any other.

Stanislav Labutkin chatted to a friend on the rail, and ElkY was in some kind of correspondence on his smart phone. But in terms of table chatter, this was like a movie scripted by Beckett and directed by Jarman. Silence followed silence followed a pause and more silence.

Nevertheless, the poker was intriguing as it always is in these things. It was clearly waiting for an "A Round With..." post. Here it is, the first of the Barcelona EPT festival, but certainly not the last of a long season on the EPT.

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The very thin of the action: the High Roller final table

Context: Reconvening over night with 12 players remaining, the high rollers were all in the money but not yet at the final table. But following the quick-fire eliminations of Gurgen Melkonyan, Andrew Lichtenberger and Jonathan Duhamel, the last nine were crammed around the pseudo final table in one corner of the tournament room.

The stack sizes, in seat order, were approximately as follows:

1 - Alex Bilokur, 810,000
2 - Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, 305,000
3 - Jean-Noel Thorel, 690,000
4 - Joao Vieira, 230,000
5 - Tobias Reinkemeier, 710,000
6 - Carlos Mora, 710,000
7 - Stanislav Labutkin, 700,000
8 - Laurent Polito, 1,400,000
9 - Kristijonas Andrulis, 170,000

At the start of the round, there was about three minutes remaining of level 19, where blinds were 6,000-12,000 (2,000 ante).

Hand 1: Tobias Reinkemeier on the button
Alex Bilokur got the action started, raising to 26,000 from mid-position. Jean-Noel Thorel (in a red hat) called from the hijack, which took the action round to Carlos Mora in the small blind. He three bet to 76,000 and only Bilokur called.

The flop came 4♥2♣6♥ and Mora bet 107,000. Bilokur asked for a red triangle indicating he was all in and Mora folded.

At around this time Philipp Gruissem, Fernando Brito, Igor Kurganov and Justin Bonomo appeared to have a chat about something or other, which seemed fine with all of the high rollers. But the players at the nearby €5,000 turbo didn't like it and Pierre Neuville asked them to move on. It was fair enough: they were leaning on the back of his seat.

A cacophony of silence broke out around the High Roller final table. The blinds wordlessly increased to 8,000-16,000 (2,000 ante) in level 20.

Hand 2: Carlos More with the button
Alex Bilokur opened to 32,000 from early position and two players - Jean-Noel Thorel (mid) and Laurent Polito (big blind) - called. The flop came Q♥4♠[10h] and Polito checked. Bilokur's bet of 44,000 got both opponents to fold.

The silence thickened.

Hand 3: Stanislav Labutkin on the button
Jean-Noel Thorel made an early position raise and everyone folded.

We were plunged into a soundless vacuum.

Hand 4: Laurent Polito on the button
Tobias Reinkemeier raised to 32,000 from the hijack and Carlos Mora called in the cut off. The flop came 6♣A♠8♦, which they both checked, and that took them to a 4♠ turn. Reinkemeier checked, Mora bet 26,000 and Reinkemeier called. The 4♥ rivered and the pattern from before repeated: a check from Reinkemeier, a bet of 35,000 from Mora and Reinkemeier called. Mora tabled A♥J♣ and Reinkemeier mucked.

ElkY checked out something on his phone. He has a photograph of some cats on it, don't you know. Is that suspicious? I don't know. Silence was followed by silence.

Hand 5: Kristijonas Andrulis on the button
Jean-Noel Thorel limped from under-the-gun and it was folded to Kristijonas Andrulis on the button. He shoved in a tower of red chips, effectively (but not actually) moving all in. His bet was 150,000; he had 36,000 behind. Thorel called.

The flop came 2♦4♦Q♣ and now Thorel shoved, which Andrulis was obliged to call. Thorel had 5♥5♦, Andrulis had K♠[10s] and the turn and river of 9♣6♥ helped no one. Andrulis was now sent to the rail.

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Kristijonas Andrulis, out

He wandered away into the wilderness of his own crippling discontent. It was still more animated than the world he was departing.

Hand 6: Alex Bilokur on the button
Laurent Polito raised to 32,000 from late position and Jean-Noel Thorel called from the big blind. The flop came 5♥A♠Q♦, which they both checked, and then the 9♣ turned. Thorel bet 75,000, which Polito called. The [10d] rivered and they both checked. Thorel tabled A♥4♥, Polito mucked. Chalk up another to the red hat.

Hand 7: ElkY on the button
It was folded to ElkY on the button, whose raised to 50,000. His first action of the round was to collect the blinds and antes.

The suffocating silence overcame us.

Hand 8: Jean-Noel Thorel on the button
It was folded again to ElkY, this time in the cut off. He raised to 32,000 and won again. On a roll.

He celebrated by having a quiet one.

Hand 9: Joao Vieira on the button
The most dramatic moment came on this hand when Laurent Polito opted to squeeze his cards, one either side of his stack. In all my years watching poker, I don't think I've ever seen a two handed card squeeze like that. It was quite something.

Carlos Mora got a walk in the big blind. No one said a word.

That's the end of the round. Kristijonas Andrulis couldn't survive; Jean-Noel Thorel increased his stack to more than a million. The eight of them play on in typically raucous fashion.

Keep it down lads.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour