EPT9 Deauville Day 5: Unstoppable Remi Castaignon takes massive lead into final
If it's ever appropriate to say that this might not have been the final table line up we were expecting, now might be the time to say it.
Of the 23 players who returned to the Casino Deauville this afternoon, six specifically had less than $10,000 in career earnings, and of those, four had won nothing at all. At the other end of the scale there were three players that had amassed more than half a million in earnings each, eclipsing the others with major titles and results around the world.
One of many all-ins today
Well tonight that world was turned on its head, with the greenhorns outlasting the veterans, led by the chip leader going into the final table, Remi Castaignon. He bags up a staggering 9,900,000 tonight after a long day at the tables, one that could potentially make this a short final tomorrow.
Remi Castaignon takes a huge lead into tomorrow
Not only is his stack three times that of the second placed Walid Bou-Habib, but with blinds so high - currently 40,000/80,000 with a 10,000 ante - it's not just the short stacks that are in peril.
They'll line up as follows:
Seat 1. Joseph El Khoury, Lebanon, 1,710,000
Seat 2. Jeffrey Hakim, Lebanon, 895,000
Seat 3. Enrico Rudelitz, Germany, 2,690,000
Seat 4. Franck Kalfon, France, 1,195,000
Seat 5. Robert Romeo, Belgium, 1,440,000
Seat 6. Walid Bou-Habib, Lebanon, 3,835,000
Seat 7. Noel Gaens, Belgium, 1,720,000
Seat 8. Remi Castaignon, France, 9,900,000
It's a line-up notable for those that it does not include as well as those that it does. Castaignon, Romeo and El Khoury are making their first ever live cashes, while Rudelitz can rub together career winnings of about four grand. Each of them is now guaranteed €60,000.
It's also a red letter day for Lebanon, a country that was represented by less than two per cent of the starting field. They now make up 37.5 per cent of the last eight. While Bou-Habib is best placed, Jeffrey Hakim is the country's most prolific finisher. He's also perhaps the most recognizable player remaining, but his task tomorrow will be difficult, returning with the short stack. Gaens and Romeo meanwhile will fly the flag for Belgium.
Short stack Jeffrey Hakim
The home nation, which has struggled in previous Deauville finals (Lucien Cohen being the obvious exception), can claim two finalists. As well as the leader Castaignon, Franck Kalfon will return. Each will dream of home soil glory tonight but Castaignon in particular will know the hopes of a large French poker contingent rest on his shoulders.
While they dream of the first prize of €770,000 others will rue the day as fallers in the 12 hours of play today.
Scotland's Gordon Huntly would depart in 18th place, falling short of a first EPT final, but registering his best finish on the tour since EPT London last season.
The interest surrounding Joseph Mouawad was not necessarily because of his nationality, but because he stood to become the second "Joseph Mouawad" to win EPT gold. Alas, "Joe" Mouawad fell in 17th place, saving the EPT record keepers an awkward time with some asterisks.
Andrey Gulyy watched his father Yury on EPT Live
Watched from the rail by his son Andrey, Russian player Yury Gulyy recorded his best EPT finish in 15th place, but it was the departure of James Mitchell, in 12th, that marked the biggest surprise of the evening.
Mitchell, an Irish Open winner in 2010, had been among the leaders all week, and put on a display of self-assured poker. It seemed inconceivable that he would fail. But it was not to be Mitchell's day. The Londoner looked crestfallen as he was guided to the pay-out desk in a daze. His 12th place will feel like 11 places too soon. But he will return.
As the clock edged past midnight Cyril Andre, chip leader when he woke up this morning, departed in 11th place, followed by Jean-Pierre Petroli in tenth. It was left to Glen Cymbaluk to bring proceedings to a close. The short-stacked Canadian shoved with pocket nines and was called by Castaignon, whose lead was cast in cement when he flopped an ace to bring play to a close.
It may not be full of familiar faces but it remains an intriguing finale. It's worth remembering that earlier today we predicted that most EPT final tables end in level 32 to 34, with only occasional exceptions. Could this become the quickest EPT in the tour's nine season history? Only time will tell.
That story, and all the others from a long day in Deauville, can be found below.
The action from Deauville is not entirely finished. The high rollers, having already reached their final table, will be playing on a little longer before bagging up and resuming tomorrow. You can follow that action on our live coverage page, where you'll also find the hand for hand details of today's main event.
EPT Live was on air for the duration today and both James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton will return tomorrow at noon to bring you all the action from the final day's play in Deauville.
A last word for Walid Bou-Habib, whose job tomorrow is out live the short stacks while working on his own. How did he feel about the challenge? Rick Dacey put it to him that it would be difficult with the chips leader two seats to his left.
"They'll be a redraw tomorrow or we keep the same?" asked Bou-Habib. No, there would be no redraw, something Bou-Habib felt compelled to confirm this with tournament director Thomas Lamasch. When he confirmed that indeed there would be no redraw Habib's demeanour changed: "This is going to be a big problem."
True, but it should be a great problem to watch unfold.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter