EPT9 Prague: "Finally" - after 11 cashes Ramzi Jelassi wins maiden EPT title
The story of the EPT Prague main event final was almost reserved for one player. Then it became the story of a prickly debate over the numbers of a deal that ultimately turned to vitriol. But then it reverted to the first story, that of Ramzi Jelassi's triumph - a welcome triumph - and a first EPT title to one of the game's most enduring and talented players.
The new EPT Prague champion: Ramzi Jelassi
The final had come to life three-handed. Had David Boyaciyan not sparked some heated discussions over the back of an envelope over how much should go to whom, he would have earned more credit for reaching his second EPT Prague final table in two years. The runner-up in 2011 suspected he had an edge over Koutoupas, if not the chips, and wanted that reflected in the deal. But he had demanded more than the others were prepared to give.
The "deal" in progress
Play went on, with a fired up Koutoupas taking chips from Boyaciyan, who would be the victim of his own hard bargaining, getting his chips in on a 5-8-8 flop with pocket nines against Jelassi's ace-king of diamonds. A diamond had flopped, and others hit the turn and river. It would be Jelassi and Koutoupas heads-up, leaving Boyaciyan on the rail in third for €310,000, more than €100,000 less than tentatively agreed hours earlier in the deal.
Heads-up Koutoupas had the vocal support, but Jelassi drew on eight years of EPT experience to outclass him. Koutoupas even snatched the lead from Jelassi, but never managed to hang onto it.
But it was not swift. It took more than three hours for Jelassi to finally get the better of Koutoupas who put up the sturdiest of defences. At last though, with the hour hand long past 2am, Jelassi four-bet shoved with ace-jack which Koutoupas, somewhat surprisingly called with ten-nine of hearts. The flop brought an ace, the turn a ten, but nothing on the river to prevent Jelassi claiming the title that is rightfully his.
For Koutoupas the runner's up prize of €510,000, while Jelassi took the title and a winner's cheque of €835,000. He also receives a luxury watch from the Swiss brand Slyde, the Official Watch Sponsor for EPT9 Main Events, worth more than €5,000.
As Koutoupas was embraced by his supporters and offered congratulations/condolences, Jelassi allowed one word to slip from his mouth: "Finally." Then he could start hamming it up for the cameras, posing with his winning cards behind his ears, before becoming bombarded with phone calls and messages.
"Hello Jeff Sarwer," he said, taking his first call from the player with whom he had swapped five per cent of his action. "Thanks, thanks ... Did you see the last hand? I'm done with poker now ... My phone is vibrating all the time because people are sending me so many messages."
After being handed his trophy and Slyde watch, Jelassi asked if he could borrow the presenter's microphone. "I just want to say thanks to all the dealers, staff, Teresa and Luca. They did a great job."
"Oh, that's really nice," said a dealer named Kate on the rail.
Asked whether the victory had sunk in, Jelassi said: "I realise that I won, but with such a lot of money it will take a while before it really settles in."
"It feels great now. I'm really happy that I won...my first win. I'll be really happy when the money reaches my bank account."
On his day-to-day strategy: "I just came here and played. I got caught up in my game and played. There really wasn't anyone playing back at me. That's why I won."
The final had started in high spirits, most of which emanating from Spanish player Diego Gomez who, having worn a bow tie yesterday, today opted for a lion suit. The Spaniard's knack for getting his friends in voice would last longer than most expected. He was the short stack but was able to watch three players depart before him.
First out was Mark Herm. The American hung around for 52 hands before cashing for €75,000. Seventh place was reserved for the Belarussian Aleh Plauski, who shoved with ace-king but was cut down by Jelassi's pocket nines in the first hand after the second break. He fell short of becoming Belarus's third EPT winner, earning €108,400.
Mark Herm (center)
That took Jelassi to 11million, a colossal lead over second placed Boyaciyan who would next knock out Sergey Kuzminskiy in sixth place for €150,000.
Gomez the Lion would finally fall in fifth, earning an unlikely €196,000. He'd played only few hands at the final table, but lived twice as brightly in each. He ran his ace-nine into the pocket queens of Boyaciyan and that was that. The roar fell silent.
Diego Gomez departs
So too the tournament room, which up to then had been filled with lubricated Gomez supporters. Now they were replaced by different Spaniards, cheering their adopted countryman Ben Warrington, from London, and a former resident of Valencia, who departed in fourth place. His Spanish girlfriend had led the cheering, which ended with €250,000.
Warrington's supporters on the rail
Jelassi had rarely seemed out of control, even after a tricky Level 30, in which his stack swung down to six million before he rallied back to take the lead.
Jelassi on his way to a first EPT title
Koutoupas proved a tricky newbie to defeat, performing at his best despite the lights and the cameras, the Greek flag fluttering in the air conditioning, pinned to the barrier a few feet behind him. Rumour has it that bars across his home town of Salonika they were watching the EPT Live feed on big screens. Tonight they can be rightly proud of their hero, who may have overachieved, but never looked out of place. By finishing second he inks in the best result for a Greek player on the tour and becomes the leading Greek money winner.
For Jelassi it must feel like the culmination of eight years' hard work. Since a first cash in Baden, in 2006, to his most recent in Sanremo last season, Jelassi, not unlike Ludovic Lacay in Sanremo, has been a player many would assume to have already won EPT gold. He has five poker titles to his name, but none will feel as good as this, or will be as welcomed.
It brings to an end another EPT festival, the fifth in this most beautiful of European capitals.
You can find all sorts from this week by looking around the pages of Prague coverage. Today's coverage started with an introduction to the players, as well as their sartorial habits, before the final table got under way. We looked closely at the over and under achievers while recording the scenes as Gomez (the lion) went wild.
Once there were eight
Elsewhere the high rollers did their thing, which started with Jason Mercier leading the final table. At times the side events became as exciting as the main, with ElkY and Roger Hairabedian going to the wire, while elsewhere all-star casts were putting on a pretty good sideshow. The eventual winner was not exactly a new face, and one only hopes the result of this is that both faces remain intact. Finally a word on Dan Smith who has been unstoppable in 2012.
That's it for EPT Prague. The set is already being dismantled and the tables packed up, ready for a journey across the Atlantic to Paradise Island in the Bahamas for the tenth PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, starting in just three weeks.
Good night from Prague
It never fails to serve up a story or two and if you can't be there yourself you'll find all the news and stories from the Bahamas right here on the PokerStars Blog. That's all to look forward to. In the meantime, happy holidays and we'll see you on the beach.