EPT9 Deauville Day 6: The main event finalists
The field of 782 is now down to a final eight, competing for a first prize of €770,000 today. It will bring to an end a week-long main event that started last Sunday at Casino Deauville and which will soon crown a new champion.
The home crowds will be looking at their two participants, including the big chip leader Remi Castaignon who plays a stack worth more than 40 per cent of the chips in play. The most experienced player is Jeffrey Hakim, from Lebanon, but he is the short stack today.
Here's how they'll line up.
Seat 1: Joseph El Khoury, 41, Beirut, Lebanon - 1,710,000
Travel agent Joseph El Khoury is one of 15 Lebanese players who competed at EPT Deauville and one of three left. Like his fellow countrymen, Jeffrey Hakim and Walid Bou-Habbib, El Khoury is an EPT regular who has played approximately 20 EPTs in the past five years.
He has cashed twice, both times in Prague, but his best live result prior to Deauville was fifth place at WPT Cyprus last summer. That gave him a $65,770 payday but he's guaranteed at least €60,000 here in Deauville.
Seat 2: Jeffrey "jeff710" Hakim, 26, Beirut, Lebanon - 895,000
Since playing his first EPT in 2008, serial qualifier Jeff Hakim has played around 30 EPTs. "I almost always win my seat online," he said, "but now I come regardless, even if I don't qualify. I'm not going to miss any EPTs."
Hakim's first EPT Main Event cash was at EPT Snowfest in Austria in Season 6, and his best result so far - from six EPT cashes - was 16th at EPT Berlin in Season 7. "I've definitely won more money online (he won the PokerStars 500 in 2008 for $91,500) but winning a live event means everything," said Hakim. "I don't think I will ever move on from poker, I won't feel complete as a player, until I've won a major title."
Hakim is the short stack going in to the final but he started Day 5 in the same position before turning 24 big blinds into more than 1.7 million in the space of 90 minutes.
Seat 3: Enrico Rudelitz, 25, Freisein/Saarland, Germany - 2,690,000
Chemistry student Rudelitz has been playing poker for four years. He plays mainly tournaments but doesn't consider himself a professional and Deauville is his first EPT cash. His normal hunting grounds are the smaller buy-in events like FPS Amneville in May 2012, where he finished seventh for €11,800, which is his biggest live cash so far.
Rudelitz came to Deauville with a group of German friends including PokerStars.de Snowfest champion Marius Pospiech and Jonas Lauck who won the FPS High Roller Event here in Deauville. They will be cheering him on from the rail as play starts today.
Seat 4: Franck Kalfon, 46, Saint-Brice en Forêt, France - 1,195,000
Franck Kalfon, who runs a textile firm, has been a regular fixture in Paris cardrooms - the Aviation Club in particular - for the past ten years. At first a cash game player, his eighth place finish in the 2008 Grand Prix de Paris (for €39,330) convinced him to dedicate more time to tournaments.
In addition to multiple wins in Paris Kalfon has made the money twice before at EPTs, both times in Deauville (39th in Season 6 for €14,700, and 40th in Season 7 for €17,000). Reaching this year's final table represents the best result of his career. "I'm living a dream", Kalfon commented. "I'll play to win," he added, explaining that he was not worried about being short-stacked.
Seat 5: Robert Romeo, 41, Sambreville, Belgium - PokerStars qualifier - 1,440,000
Romeo started playing poker in 2007, first with friends and then online. Initially, he played just for fun but, as time went by, he started taking it more seriously. This is his first EPT but he didn't have to spend much to enter, having qualified on PokerStars in a €4 re-buy satellite.
"I didn't take any rebuys, just the add-on", he added. Married with four children, Robert plans to buy a house and then shower his family with presents if he wins. He would also consider taking up poker as a second job.
Seat 6: Walid Bou-Habib, 42, Beirut, Lebanon - 3,835,000
When Walid Bou-Habib first appeared on the scene back in 2008 when he came close to making a final table, but he fell just short in 19th place at the EPT Grand Final, a feat worth €46,300. It may have seemed easy then but he's had to wait five years to reach a first final, with various cashes and a 16th place finish at the PCA in between. Understandably he's thrilled.
"It's a great pleasure, really, just to prove to myself that I can do it. It was always like a big wall that I could not cross. Now, I'm crossing it," said Bou-Habib, an engineer in food science and technology by day. The Lebanese 'hobby' player is a serial online qualifier through PokerStars and has gone on to rack up $386,492 in live tournament cashes. Seventh place will guarantee him a career largest score but given the number of short stacks left in, he's in rude health to go significantly deeper than that. He currently sits in second place with 3,835,000. Bou-Habib is married with two children (12 and 10).
Seat 7: Noël Gaens, 57, Heers, Belgium - 1,720,000
This is Noël Gaens's second EPT, following a first appearance in EPT Dortmund. Gaens plays a lot of poker, but is by no means a professional, running his own building firm with a staff of 40. He consider poker a hobby but it's lucrative and he's enjoyed a lot of cashes in his "career".
Gaens has been playing poker since 1995, travelling frequently to Germany as poker wasn't on offer in Belgian casinos. Poker has since become extremely popular in Belgium, and Gaens is a regular cash player at the PokerStars-affiliated Casino de Namur. On Day 2, Gaens tripled up (with trips over trips) and hasn't looked back since, although he admits he got lucky several times. Gaens says he isn't easily intimidated and isn't afraid of anyone at the final table. "I'm just going to play my own game," he said.
Seat 8: Remi Castaignon, 29, Saint Aunix Lengros, France - 9,900,000
It's not very often that a player arrives at the final table holding more than 40% of the chips in play, but insurance broker Rémi Castaignon has accomplished this impressive feat with gusto. The chip leader today kept his cool during a crucial Day 5 yesterday in which he caught a few lucky breaks (including a massive KK vs AA suck-out early during the day), eliminating several players in a row, including fellow countrymen Cyril André and Jean-Pierre Petroli.
Hailing from a tiny village in the Pyrenées, Castaignon has been playing poker since 2007, mostly online tournaments and satellites for big live events. Reaching the final table in Deauville is his best result to date.
Those are the players and here's Sarah Grant's video take on the final day in Deauville.
Find all the live coverage from today on our live coverage page as well as on EPT Live, where James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton will be calling the play-by-play when things get started at 12 noon.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter