EPT9 Barcelona: Brilliant Sahamies poised for glory
Ilari Sahamies cares not for the facets of everyday life. The Finn has worn the same non-descript grey tracksuit for most of the week. He's ambivalent towards TV cameras. He peppers any quotes to the press with unusable expletives. He forgets what the blinds are and goes home only two nights a week. He'll also spend €2,000 for a massage therapist to rub his naked head.
He doesn't care about any of this because his life is poker. "That's Ilari," say the Finnish press and they're right. Ilari knows poker, and he's brilliant at it.
Making it look easy: Ilari Sahamies
So unmoved is he by details that he may not even know the kind of week he's having, although one suspects where poker is concerned he has every corner covered.
Tonight he reached his second final table of the week, following the Super High Roller last weekend where he earned €291,900 for fourth place. Sahamies had been irritated by that perceived shortfall, and joined the main event runners the next day to shake it off. Frankly, he's been in his comfort zone ever since.
Sahamies in action
Sahamies admitted that he is beginning to enjoy Barcelona, even if he has been forced to curtail his usual party instincts. "I am not drinking, that is the only difference," he said when asked how he accounts for his remarkable form this week.
But his old fans need not be concerned that the old Ilari is gone forever. "No, no, no, no, no," he said, when asked if he was now going teetotal. "Of course not...I will drink again, but not today."
Sahamies leads the final with 7,885,000 chips, eliminating Ole Schemion in the last hand of the night to secure his lead ahead of Samuel Rodriguez. The Spaniard Rodriguez had led at 24 and was one of five locals at the start. Now, having performed well against more experienced opponents, he becomes Spain's only hope to end the home nation drought - not only for a first EPT win on home soil, but of a first win anywhere.
First cash, first final, first Spaniard?: Samuel Rodriguez
It's time to consider who now can actually stop Sahamies. If experience was key it would be John Juanda.
Juanda, who has performed with predictable élan this week, is certainly capable, and has five World Series bracelets to prove it. His problem will not be experience but a stack of 1,890,000. Juanda though is among that rare breed that can make a short stack do tricks.
Last of the non-Europeans: John Juanda
Had Joni Jouhkimainen, from Helsinki, had more than 1,510,000 chips he would also have ranked as an obvious contender. He's still obvious, and a glance through his record shows not only a talented player but also one on form. Can he overcome the disadvantage of the short stack at the start to take on his countryman? Could the unlikely figures of Sinel Anton from Romania or Mikalai Pobal from Belarus pull out the shock win of the week?
A star in the making: Joni Jouhkimainen
Earlier today we detailed eight rookies who had less than $10,000 in live winnings. Today all of them smashed their personal bests, while four - Anaras Alekberovas ($1,107 career earnings), Mikalai Pobal ($9,805), Antonin Duda ($723), Samuel Rodriguez ($0) - can now claim to have reached a first major (or minor for that matter) final. Credit should go to all of them.
Here's how they'll line up at 1pm tomorrow:
Seat 1. Anaras Alekberovas - 4,430,000
Seat 2. Ilari Sahamies - 7,885,000
Seat 3. Antonin Duda - 3,445,000
Seat 4. Samuel Rodriguez - 6,450,000
Seat 5. John Juanda - 1,890,000
Seat 6. Joni Jouhkimainen - 1,510,000
Seat 7. Mikalai Pobal - 4,410,000
Seat 8. Sinel Anton - 2,355,000
That the rookies will be returning tomorrow was because the familiar faces disappeared into the crowd early.
Lucille Cailly, Roberto Romanello and Alain Roy each departed in the first level, their combined earnings eclipsing the entire field barring Juanda. For Cailly it was a second deep run in a row following her second-place finish in the Grand Final. For Romanello it meant the end of another run of a second EPT title, keeping the debate alive.
Not this time for Roberto Romanello
We also lost Fatima Moreira de Melo, whose stature at the poker table increases every tournament. She recorded a career best finish, busting in 16th place. An ice cream later and the pit-bull herself was well on her way to chilling.
The pit-bull herself, Fatima Moreira de Melo
The final eight now return tomorrow where after photographs and interviews have been carried out play will start at 1pm. That will actually be 2pm when EPT Live begins its broadcast with a one hour delay.
Laurent Polito leads the assembled high rollers. You can track his progress and everyone else's in our High Roller coverage, one of countless side events this week, the results for which can be found here.
Events tomorrow should be worth following from the start, particularly if previous years are anything to go by.