EPT9 Prague: The cast list for the final 21
After a breakneck couple of days in Prague, where eliminations were occurring at what seemed to be about ten a minute, tournament officials decided to play on until there were 21 players remaining for the penultimate day, instead of the usual 24.
That means that today's race to the final table of eight is between fewer candidates but will be conducted with greater intensity. You can watch the action progress on EPT Live all day and tomorrow, but here's an idea of the cast-list you will be watching.
Ben Warrington, UK, 2,618,000 chips - The tournament chip leader is a high-stakes online player from the United Kingdom, but if his screennames (kidcardiff on Full Tilt, kidcardiff6 on PokerStars) suggest some kind of affinity with the capital of Wales. According to online poker databases, Warrington has cashed for more than $2m in online tournaments but has a relatively meagre haul in live events, with a 47th place at EPT Barcelona in 2010 his largest recorded score.
David Boyaciyan, Netherlands, 2,469,000 - Like numerous Dutch players, Boyaciyan cut his teeth in the casinos of Amsterdam and recorded his first major score about a year ago when he won the €5,000 Master Classics of Poker for €382,200. He was then a complete rookie - a banker by trade - but one month later, here in Prague, Boyaciyan consolidated that performance when he finished runner up to Martin Finger in the EPT main event. That was worth €535,000. And here he is again going deep, having won a live satellite to book his seat.
Ramzi Jelassi, Sweden, 1,975,000 - A fixture on the tour since the earliest seasons, Ramzi Jelassi earned his first EPT success when we still went to Baden, back in 2006. He returned to university a couple of years ago, and used to bring text books along to the poker table. But he has shown rare focus this week and has been close to the top of the counts all week. A fearsome Swedish player who will be many commentators' tip for the title.
Sergio Aido Espina, Spain, 1,792,000 - One of two players still attempting to end Spain's search for a maiden EPT title, Espina appears to be a relatively new convert to poker. He has three recorded results, all in the past six months, with his first outright win coming in Barcelona in October for €88,500.
Andreas Berggren, Sweden, 1,619,000 - The second big-stacked Swedish player in the mix is slightly less well known than Ramzi Jelassi, but is similarly feared. He won the prestigious Swedish poker championships in 2010 - imagine a pool of blonde-haired, blue-eyed piranhas all feasting on one another - and if you can survive that, you can survive anything.
Mariusz Klosinski, Poland, 1,524,000 - A little known Polish player, who has already locked up the biggest result of his career so far. His two previous cashes - one for €337 and one for €1,500 - came in the Czech Republic last year. This is set to be considerably bigger.
Aleh Plauski, Belarus, 1,450,000 - When PokerStars Blog asked for your predictions for the winner of this event, we received a flood of nominations for Aleh Plauski. The Belarussian has made more than $2m in online tournaments, where he is best known as "cooltwister", and also made the final table of the EPT Grand Final in 2010, where his sixth place was worth €300,000. Plauski suffered a shocking beat mid-way through yesterday's play, when his ace-ten lost to another ace-ten that four-flushed. But Plauski regrouped and is back with a workable stack.
Sotirios Koutoupas, Greece, 1,450,000 - Emerged from the pack on day three when he suddenly became one of only three players at that stage to have more than a million in chips, Koutoupas confidently held on to his stack through day four and has locked up his first tournament cash.
Diego Gomez Gonzalez, Spain, 1,433,000 - The second Spanish player still with a chance of bringing home his country's first EPT title, Gonzalez is anther unknown quantity. He was on the right side of the outdraw with ace-ten that knocked Aleh Plauski back yesterday and will need to kick on from here to stand a chance.
Mads Amot, Norway, 1,250,000 - Another of the Scandinavian contingent bossing proceedings in Prague, Amot's assured table manner is in keeping with his professional status. His recorded results are not especially scintillating - 78th at EPT9 Barcelona his biggest result - but he is clearly oozing confidence at this level.
Jeff Sarwer, Canada, 1,233,000 - After bursting on to the poker scene in 2010 with a number of high-profile tournament successes - including third place at EPT Vilamoura and second in a High Roller in Berlin - the former chess prodigy took a short break from poker at the beginning of this season. But he has returned to the site of his first EPT appearance to turn in one of his best performances to date. He has been tipped to take down something major very soon, and Sarwer is apparently back to his best this week.
Sergey Kuzminskiy, Russia, 1,166,000 - Russians dominated the opening few days of EPT9 Prague, but now Kuzminskiy finds himself with the most chips of the three remaining, and only in 12th place overall. Something of an unknown quantity, Kuzminskiy has gone about his business all but silently. We won't know much more about his game unless he makes the final table.
Jose Manuel Nadal, Mexico, 1,109,000 - It must be darned cold in the Czech Republic for anyone hailing from Mexico City (it's cold enough for any of us) so Sordo has successfully stayed in the warm for as long as possible. He has one of the longest results sheet of anyone left in the field, with cashes across the LAPT, the World Series, the WPT and the EPT. He may be the shark in the water here; he is clearly a top-quality player.
Mikhail Petrov, Russia, 1,034,000 - Another of the three Russians still surviving about whom we know typically little. He has a good batch of tournament results from the past couple of years, but nothing more valuable than his 35th place at the EPT Grand Final last year. Anyone with more than a million chips at this stage is still a good bet for the final table, though, so there could be much more to find out about Petrov yet.
Dany Parlafes, Romania, 810,000 - One of the most decorated players you've probably never heard of, Dany Parlafes has had a healthy stack throughout this tournament and is set to continue a rich vein of form. He finished fourth in a 2,000-strong field in Vienna in October, and won a €700 buy-in tournament in Barcelona in June. This is now his best EPT performance to date.
Johnny Lodden, Norway, 763,000 - Redefining what it means to be a "swing" player, the Team PokerStars Pro takes roller-coastering through tournaments to a whole new level. Lodden has been chip-leader and short stack in the course of the past three days, but is never out of it. With 12 EPT main event cashes already assured, he is long overdue another final table.
Mark Herm, USA, 612,000 - The lone American remaining in Prague, Mark Herm has had seven World Series cashes and one at the PCA but none on this side of the Atlantic. Until now. He is one of the short stacks returning for day five, but has sufficient tournament experience to turn it around.
Jorma Nuutinen, Finland, 463,000 - Flying the flag alone for Finland, Jorma Nuutinen is a regular face in the casinos of his native Helsinki and has recently been spotted at the Estrellas Poker Tour in Spain as well as on the EPT. Of course, he also plays high stakes online. Don't they all in Finland?
Marco Leonzio, Italy, 416,000 - Historically, Prague has always been a good hunting ground for Italian players, but their hopes now reside solely with the short-stacked Leonzio. Leonzio has a startling cashing record on the EPT, and has made the money in Vilamoura, Prague, Deauville, Madrid, London Loutraki and Monte Carlo, as well as in IPT events in Nova Gorica, Sanremo and Campione. His highest finish was fifth place here in Prague, the year Roberto Romanello won.
Iosif Beskrovnyy, Russia, 390,000 - With almost no fanfare, Beskrovnyy was the chip leader through the first two days of this tournament, but has been forced to cling on to a small-ish stack through days three and four. But he is still in the mix as the money gets progressively bigger.
Roberto Romanello, UK, 341,000 - The most successful live tournament player still in the field, Romanello has won a WPT title, an EPT title and is one of the most obdurate performers in the live game. He lost most of his stack late on day four with jacks against kings, and will need all of his tenacity to make another final table here.