EPT10 London: Jason Lavallee dodges curse to win EPT London High Roller and £357,700
Jason Lavallee has finally put his curse to bed, winning the £10,300 EPT London High Roller event today. Lavallee, who had an overwhelming chip lead heads-up, overcame eventual runner up Simon Higgins to take what amounts to his first major title. Lavallee was relieved, and delighted, saying to friends as he won: "Curse lifted, yes!"
The "curse" had been a running joke with friends, with Lavallee racking up several high profile near-misses, including a second place at EPT Sanremo last season. Lavallee pointed out the irony of this, given his record as a heads-up specialist. As for today, it all worked out.
EPT London High Roller winner Jason Lavallee
"I picked up a lot of hands in fortunate spots and got lucky," he said, as a brief summary of the day. Laura Cornelius got the longer version.
The heads-up was brief and frankly going in only one direction. Higgins had had practically nothing when Mizzi and Lavallee clashed in a hand moments earlier. Mizzi showed two black eights to Lavallee's ace-jack. A jack hit the flop, giving Lavallee an enormous advantage.
For his part Higgins knew he'd just profited massively from Mizzi's surprise exit. As far as second place finishers go he was pretty happy with the outcome, suggesting to Lavallee that he owed the Canadian a lot of beers.
Lavallee beats Higgins (right) after a short heads-up
"I'm delighted," said Higgins. "I didn't really get the premium hands so I did have to wait, but there were lots of stacks playing flips so I thought I'd wait and ladder. The pay jumps were massive as you'd expect in a High Roller so I'm delighted to get second considering how short I was three-handed."
EPT10 London High Roller
Prize pool: £1,538,600
1st. Jason Lavallee (Canada) -- £357,700
2nd. Simon Higgins (United Kingdom) -- £242,330
3rd. Sorel Mizzi (Canada) -- £161,560
4th. Carla Sabini (Canada) -- £132,320
5th. Tamer Kamel (United Kingdom) -- £106,170
6th. David Ulliott (United Kingdom) -- £82,315
7th. Luca Pagano, Team PokerStars Pro (Italy) -- £60,930
8th. Mark Teltscher (United Kingdom) -- £44,775
The High Roller played out upstairs and without spectators, and in stark contrast the bawdiness at the main event final three flights down, in almost silence, save perhaps for the ramblings of Dave "Devilfish" Ulliot, whose anecdotes were either listened to or not, it was of no consequence to him.
He was one of 13 players returning today, led by this week's surprise package Carla Sabini.
Ville Wahlbeck would be the first faller of the day, followed by Ariel Celestino in 12th. Antonio Lafosse went in 11th spot, ahead of former EPT Madrid winner Frederick Jensen in tenth.
Talal Shakerchi was looking for a London High Roller double this afternoon, a repeat his winning performance here last season.
But he was left disappointed in ninth place, losing with ace-king versus ace-king - the kind of irritation that can only be assuaged by jumping straight into a £5K turbo contest in the main tournament room. Which he did.
That left the official last eight.
While Sabini was taking pots from Ulliot and Pagano, Lavallee was doing the same against Mizzi who found queens only to run into Lavalee's aces. His title would come from the chips he won during this crucial phase. First he knocked out Mark Teltscher, the Main Event winner back in Season 2, who was rightly concerned at the speed of Lavallee's call. The Canadian had pocket kings.
Lavallee soon moved up to three million, taking more from Sabini before knocking Luca Pagano out in seventh. As we reported earlier this week, Pagano rarely plays High Rollers, but his decision to play proved a profitable one this week.
At one point Ulliot looked to be ruining Sabini's day, reducing her to 300,000. But it was Devilfish himself who would depart next in sixth place in a three-way hand with Mizzi and Lavallee. The latter showed kings, Ulliot needed help with jacks. Mizzi though had an ace and flopped another.
Like Sabini and Ulliot, Tamer Kamel cashed in the Main Event before joining the High Roller. The Londoner, who reached the final table of the Main Event here last season, impressed this week, running through thee days of the High Roller before finishing in fifth place. He'd been cut down by Sabini's aces before shoving with ace-jack. Higgins called with pocket nines to bring Kamel's great week to a close.
A word about Carla Sabini, who played the High Roller in a spur of the moment decision after she cashed in the Main Event.
The Canadian, like Lavallee from Montreal, would end the day busting in fourth place, but for Sabini it was never about the result.
Sabini explained yesterday how she was simply happy to be playing an event alongside the best players in the world. "I don't even care if I don't make the money," she'd said. Well, she did.
Sabini played some great poker and can rightly take credit for her performances today, which ended in an unfortunate hand against Lavallee. She shoved with sevens and Lavallee turned over ace-ten. But the board filled out with two jacks and two eights, bringing the ace into play and ending Sabini's London adventure.
Sabini had held her own, even leading on both Day 1 and 2. Just to get here in the first place she had to work around the clock for a month to find time to travel to London. You suspect she may be back before too long.
That left three, and that hand between Mizzi and Lavallee that would ultimately settle everything.
And with that Lavellee took the title, the SLYDE Luxury Swiss watch from the Official Watch Sponsor of EPT Season 10 High Roller events, and a cheque for £357,700. More importantly, that monkey is well and truly off his back.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.