EPT9 Barcelona: The last 26 with two to go
With 26 players remaining it's worth taking a look at who is left - players you may or may not have already come across.
Joni Jouhkimainen could be the player poised to use Barcelona as a springboard to greater success, according to the Finnish poker press.
The Finns are not exactly short of high grade players. Based on no information at all, we assume it to be a country of perpetual darkness and snow, but there must something that drives countless young blond men to play cards, destroying whatever stands in front of them along the way: Antonius, Helppi, Sointula, Wahlbeck, Kyllonen, Kelopuro, Sahamies - names universally respected, with reputations built on world class results.
Jouhkimainen may have some way to go to reach such esteemed peers, but he seems to be doing things the right way, playing and beating smaller events while dipping his toe in the larger contests of the EPT. Already the mainstream Finnish press are making enquiries, and with good reason.
Still only 21, Jouhkimainen is in his fourth year travelling the poker circuit, dating back to an Italian Poker Tour final table in December 2009. In March he won the European Masters of Poker in Portugal, beating another Finn, Tomi Huuskonen, heads-up to a first prize of $75,767. He followed that with two wins in his home town Helsinki in June before finishing second in a €1,300 event in Prague a month later. Earlier this week he chopped the Estrellas High Roller. Now he looks set to reach the last 24 of the main event. Jouhkimainen is a player in form.
He's not the only Finn still in the main event. Ilari Sahamies's progress is well documented and despite a setback earlier on that riled him a bit (the same Finnish press assured us he'll be fine tomorrow), he'll also be back tomorrow.
Much in the same way as Jouhkimainen, Aku Joentausta has also impressed. He bagged up the chip lead on Day 1A and has remained in the top ten ever since. There's something reassuring about a play who knows how to turn a big stack into an even bigger one and, when hands go wrong, regroup and rebuild. Joentausta has one just that.
Elsewhere Spaniard Samuel Rodriguez can boast an unlikely chip lead, with around 4,500,000, nearly two million ahead of second placed Jonathan Karamalakis, whose surname is among the nicest to type - like a beginner piano piece. Rodriguez has no major results to his name. No results at all for that matter. According to the Spanish press Rodriguez is unknown even to them. From Barcelona, he plays regularly in local tournaments but nothing that would ping a database. Regardless, he's playing the tournament of his life.
Still on the outer tables John Juanda, who is by far the most successful player left in the field determined by prize money, remains in good shape with 1.5 million, while Mikalai Pobal from Belarus has gradually moved up towards the leaders, much to the delight of himself and his friends on the rail.
Another player looking as suprised as anyone at his success is Romanian Anton Sinel, who clutches a cigarette as he plays, laughs, smiles and talks to friends who pay him regular visits at his table.
Luis Rufas, who reached the final table here two season ago, is among the short stacks and plays on the feature table. Also in front of the cameras are Fatima Moreira de Melo, down to just under a million, and Frenchman Alain Roy, the short stack with fewer than 200,000 chips. Another French speaker, Ilan Boujenah, is another player in peril with less than 100,000 more than Roy.
With two more players to bust before the close, it could be they who bring play to an end.