EPT9 Berlin Day 6: Finalists have potential to rescue tournament from obscurity

What a weird week it has been at EPT Berlin.

We started with 912 players, studded with stars. It was one of the biggest events we had ever seen. So much, so predictable; we always knew this event would be a cracker. But as the clock ticked around to midnight last night, and nine-handed play was entering its sixth hour, excitement and expectation had become frustration and, at times, all out hostility. It felt as though this tournament had been declassified from "memorable" to "forgettable" and then back again, but into the much feared sub-section marked "Memorable - For All The Wrong Reasons".

No one knew very much about the nine players they were watching, and none of them was doing much to distinguish himself from the herd. They had inadvertently got themselves into the position whereby the blinds were so high compared with stacks, and the pattern of play was so firmly established, that to risk changing it up would be suicidal. The only option was to grind on.

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The nine-handed grind at EPT Berlin

Eventually Dashgyn Aliev was eliminated in ninth, ending a tortuous passage of play and establishing the final table of eight. And this morning, when looking through the list of players still remaining, things seemed a good deal more positive again. There aren't any established big names among them, perhaps, but there's reason to believe at least a couple of this final eight could go on to great things.

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The EPT Berlin trophy

Here's how they will line up in Berlin today (in chip-count order):

Robert Haigh, Germany, 5,495,000
Daniel-Gai Pidun, Germany, 5,250,000
Lasse Frost, Denmark, 3,700,000
Alexander Helbig, Germany, 3,315,000
Roman Herold, Germany, 3,050,000
Roman Korenev, Russia, 2,995,000
Pascal Vos, Netherlands, 1,750,000
Julian Thomas, Germany, 1,735,000

You can learn a little bit more about them all on the player profile page.

Top of the charts is the man with the most proven ability. Robert Haigh has had a terrific year on the European Poker Tour, even if most of his best work has been done out of the spotlight. He won a side event in Barcelona. He cashed three times in Prague, including a runner-up spot. And then he won another side event in Deauville, before two more cashes in London.

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Robert Haigh: the most proven and the most to prove

He is currently in sixth place on the EPT Player of the Year leader board and if he wins here, he'll pick up 1,000 point in that race, which will put him only a pip behind Jan Bendik. The two of them will then have to slug it out in Monte Carlo.

Haigh is 28 years old, which makes him one of the oldest at this final table. There are two 24-year-olds and only two older than 30. Every one of these players has plenty of time to improve, and their experience here will be vital.

Can the Netherlands pick up back-to-back EPT titles? Pascal Vos holds the key to that particular achievement. Will Julian Thomas be able to use his sit-and-go expertise to overcome a short stack? I'm sure there's a chapter in his book about just such a situation.

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Pascal Vos, left, chats to friends on the rail

Most importantly can any of Haigh, Pidun, Helbig, Herold or Thomas win it on home soil for Germany. There are five from the host nation on the final table -- equal for the most ever -- but can they convert?

We shall see. Play begins at noon, and you can see it all streamed on EPT Live. Or you can read all about it with hand-by-hand updates, including chip counts, on the main EPT Berlin page. The high roller event starts at 1pm. There are seven left in that, playing to a winner.

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The calm before the storm (actually taken yesterday)

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour