EPT9 Berlin Day 5: Robert Haigh leads heading into final table after marathon session
Those of a purest disposition should look away now. EPT Berlin will not be the final table we might have wished for.
It's an awkward truth but after an afternoon of eliminations, tomorrow's eight-handed final will be a new experience for everyone. There is talent there, that much is certain, but a cheat sheet of biographical details will prove essential reading when they reconvene at the Grand Hyatt on Saturday to compete for a first prize of €880,000.
Leading them into that final is chip leader tonight, Robert Haigh, who secured his place out front after a tortuous period of nine-handed play that started at around 7.30pm and lasted through several birthdays. Finally, Dashgyn Aliev got his chips in with ace-queen against Alexander Helbig's pocket queens. Some tired eyes were desperate not to see an ace and none came. Aliev, whose over-achievements were worth €56,000 from the cash out desk, brought the night to a close.
As for Haigh he remains perhaps the most able player in the field, resting in sixth place on the Player of the Year leader board. His lead in this tournament is not massive, and the blinds will already be biting when play continues. But it is his to win.
Here's how they'll line up.
Seat 1 - Julian Thomas, 1,735,000
Seat 2 - Roman Korenev, 2,995,000
Seat 3 - Robert Haigh, 5,495,000
Seat 4 - Alexander Helbig, 3,315,000
Seat 5 - Lasse Frost, 3,700,000
Seat 6 - Pascal Vos, 1,750,000
Seat 7 - Daniel-Gai Pidun, 5,250,000
Seat 8 - Roman Herold, 3,050,000
The prospects of a dramatic final were not high when play began at noon. Hopes rested on a handful of players with established track records. Such players do not guarantee a thrilling final, but their absence will be felt.
First went Kevin Stani, a former EPT Tallinn winner, and the last hope for that illusive first double winner. He departed in 17th place.
Soon after American pro Olivier Busquet joined him on the rail after a rear-guard display that was arguably one of performance of the day. A series of double-ups kept Busquet alive, but only just. Finally, the weight of opposition proved too great. Devastated, he was out in 15th position.
Khiem Nguyen had looked razor sharp for much of the week, particularly coming to life in these closing stages. But he too was rail-bound in 13th place, the second highest money earner in the field falling short of a first EPT final table.
Then Calvin Andersen, one of the game's online virtuosos, struck down in tenth place. The expression of each of them spoke volumes - they'd sense, rightly one suspects, and that had they only managed to win a few chips they could have easily left Berlin as an EPT champion.
That said it would be churlish not to point out the obvious.
All the finalists played their best poker. It's not easy to fake talent and while they may not have wowed in the same way as predecessors, in this most democratic game they're entitled to their day in the sun, or at least under the TV lights. That day comes tomorrow.
It was supposed to be a short day but lasted until midnight. That meant there was plenty to talk about, such as the unstoppable Marcel Luske in the side events, the influence of the Germans on EPT Berlin, as well as the strange rituals that take place at the tables.
The winner's trophy awaits
Don't forget that as the main event packs up for the night the high roller event does the same. Read about the lively nature of some of its participants and the not so glorious behaviour of others. You can follow all the action from that event on our live coverage page.
That's all from a long day in Berlin. See you tomorrow for the final.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.