EPT9 Prague High Roller: Intrigue throughout the field

The original plan for the €10,000 High Roller tournament was very different to how it has actually turned out. The idea was for this to be a friendly, intimate affair lasting two days only, maybe 30 or 40 players getting done through two 11 or 12-hour days.

But during the opening four levels yesterday, the spigot pouring players into the event never closed. As the size of the field edged ever upward, the usual social media channels began reporting the influx of entrants and that, of course, encouraged others to join the fray. Money makes money and all that.

All of a sudden we had a record field on our hands, more than 100 players, which meant a third day was hastily scheduled. The loose plan for the 41 returning today is to play to a final table of eight, which will mean a bumper Saturday where two champions will be crowned.

That is the main plot, but there are, as ever, numerous side plots emerging. On table one, for instance, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier plays on into day two in the knowledge that a decent cash could be gilded with an additional €100,000.


Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier: bonus-hunting

That would come courtesy of Roger Hairabedian, who made a bet a couple of years ago that no one would ever win the French live poker rankings for two years in succession. ElkY won in 2011 and is essentially neck-and-neck with Hairabedian at the top of the 2012 leader board right now.

According to ElkY, who restarted this afternoon with 101,400, he would need to finish in the top nine to overhaul Hairabedian and claim the bonus. But true to form, ElkY seems more concerned with the trophy.

"A fourth high roller title would be nice," he tweeted yesterday, shortly after he also lamented "I haven't won a poker tournament since #EPTBerlin high-roller. How sick is that? #wowow #sooosiiiick"

Oh to be ElkY.

Hairabedian played the High Roller himself, but busted on day one. And he is now sitting in the €1,000 turbo bounty hoping to defend his slender lead at the top of the leader board.

Another friendly adversary of ElkY - his Team PokerStars Pro colleague Eugene Katchalov - is one of the big stacks on Grospellier's table. As has been well documented, Katchalov and ElkY have spent the last quarter of the year engaged in a series of prop bets based on their poker performances.


Eugene Katchalov: laughing at ElkY

Throughout WCOOP, they had three bets going, two of which were won by Katchalov. That meant ElkY had to cycle from Cannes to Sanremo to play the most recent EPT event, and he is also now required to learn to speak Russian to give an interview to Russian media at the PCA.

ElkY is keeping coy about how the Russian lessons are progressing at the moment, but he is certainly getting into the general swing of things. He turned up for Day 1A of the Main Event resplendent in Ukraine livery head-to-toe.

For all the time they spend together, Katchalov and ElkY don't actually play that much poker against one another. But with a first prize of €365,000 up for grabs for the winner of this High Roller tournament, one suspects friendship will count for very little. They will be going at it.

Another intriguing battle today will be between Jason Mercier and his travel agent. Mercier revealed yesterday that he had initially been intending to fly back to the United States today and give the High Roller event a miss. But after he found out about the big field, he decided to play after all and would catch his flight only if he busted.

Sometimes for Mercier it seems more difficult for him to bust poker tournaments than it is for him to win them, and true to form he was the chip leader at the end of yesterday. "Don't wanna jinx it but I think I'm going to have to change my flight again," he tweeted sheepishly last night.


Jason Mercier: settling in for the long-haul

He has found himself at a tough table today (is there any other kind?) alongside Philipp Gruissem, James Carroll and "some young euro kids". One of those "young euro kids" is the former EPT Barcelona champion Kent Lundmark, who has more than doubled his overnight stack and is now back in contention.


Philipp Gruissem: did someone say High Roller?

Meanwhile the likes of Olivier Busquet, Marvin Rettenmaier, Elio Fox, Fabian Quoss make this is a dastardly line up, even if Steve O'Dwyer, Igor Kurganov, Ole Schemion and Davidi Kitai are among the early fallers.

Here's the full payout schedule for the EPT9 Prague High Roller:

1 - €365,300
2 - €210,000
3 - €121,800
4 - €96,900
5 - €74,800
6 - €55,500
7 - €44,200
8 - €33,200

9-10 - €27,700
11-12 - €25,000

Follow hand-by-hand coverage, plus latest chip counts, from the High Roller in the panel at the top of the main EPT Prague page.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour