EPT9 Grand Final: All hail the Hairy Beast! Steve O'Dwyer is EPT champion at last
Just about all season on the European Poker Tour, all anyone has been able to talk about has been open-face Chinese poker. It's been "royalties" this and "scoop" that for sessions lasting hundreds of hours.
But this week at the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino European Poker Tour Grand Final, no limit Texas hold'em has fought back. The €10,000 buy-in main event gave us inarguably the best final table ever assembled from an open event on any tour ever. There were four Team PokerStars Pros, two former EPT winners and the cream of the crop from three continents.
This was fantasyland. The OFC acolytes don't know the meaning of the word.
Whoever won at the Grand Final would already be a superstar. It was just a matter of finding out who would be inking that line on his glittering resume. The poker would be sensational, we knew that for sure. But who would be raising the trophy?
When day was done at around 8.45pm local time, Steve O'Dwyer, who had flopped three eights, got Andrew Pantling to put all his chips in the pot. Pantling had turned a flush and was only too happy to oblige. But when the river card was a fourth eight, O'Dwyer couldn't seem to believe it. He sat back in his chair, stunned, and then slowly walked over to shake the hand of the defeated Pantling.
The 31-year-old "hairy beast" finally had an EPT title, €1,224,000 and an exclusive Slyde watch. "I just...I don't know any words," O'Dwyer said. "I'm in shock."
This was also the first ever EPT championship for an Irish player (O'Dwyer, born in Pennsylvania, has dual nationality) but it was more a personal triumph for the man who had carved out a previously unfortunate niche as the perennial bridesmaid.
O'Dwyer finished second to Benny Spindler at EPT London in season seven and then finished fifth in the British capital a year later, having carried a chip lead to the final. But he played a perfect, patient game at a high octane final table today finally to get his reward.
"From 30 people down, it's been a nightmare," said O'Dwyer, spent both physically and emotionally. "I ran like God...I'm really proud of my Irish heritage and I'm really glad you let me put the tricolour up there on the graphic."
Pantling, the 30-year-old Canadian, better known as "ClockWyze" online, took second. Pantling had spent much of the week on the feature table, dazzling pretty much anyone who knows anything about poker with some of the best stuff they had ever seen. But O'Dwyer just had more obduracy when it came to the crunch. Pantling emerges with enormous credit - and €842,000, even if O'Dwyer takes the title.
When they lined up at noon today, it looked like this around the final table:
Seat 1 - Jake Cody, Team PokerStars Pro, United Kingdom, 1,633,000
Seat 2 - Jason Mercier, Team PokerStars Pro, United States, 824,000
Seat 3 - Andrew Pantling, Canada, 4,180,000
Seat 4 - Grant Levy, Australia, 786,000
Seat 5 - Steve O'Dwyer, Ireland, 4,452,000
Seat 6 - Daniel Negreanu, Team PokerStars Pro, Canada, 1,581,000
Seat 7 - Noah Schwartz, United States, 1,068,000
Seat 8 - Johnny Lodden, Team PokerStars Pro, Norway, 1,402,000
They started falling from the most vulnerable up. Grant Levy, a schoolteacher by trade but with more than $1.8m in tournament poker winnings to bolster his salary, couldn't get A♥K♠ to hold up against Pantling's J♣[10c] when a jack flopped. One down.
Jason Mercier was the next to hit the road, ending his chance of becoming the first two-time EPT champion. Mercier is one of the all-time live tournament beasts and on his day is pretty much unbeatable. But on this occasion even he couldn't spin up a short stack into something more playable, and he went out with a dominated queen, again to Pantling.
Despite Mercier's elimination, this whole two-time EPT champion sweat was still going on. Jake Cody won EPT Deauville as the first part of his Triple Crown, and he was also now into the final six in Monaco. It takes something spectacular to shift Cody, and the same could be said of the obdurate Noah Schwartz, whose T-shirt bore the legend "May The Schwartz Be With You".
But if there's any player in the world game who resembles a Jedi knight, it is Daniel Negreanu. He found his light sabre blinking into action at the precise moment he needed it most, waking up with aces after both Cody and Schwartz had move their short stacks into the middle.
Swish, swish and the Negreanu left them both mere crumpled robes on the floor of the Death Star-like set. Negreanu picked up the biggest pot of the tournament to that point, giving him what appeared to be sufficient ammunition to chase down his own Triple Crown.
But Negreanu had not accounted for Johnny Lodden. Despite Negreanu's exceptional run of results since the turn of the year, including a fifth World Series bracelet, Lodden has the game to upset anyone. Having led at the end of days three and four, the Norwegian had been in a zone of his own all week as well, and he took two huge bites out of Negreanu. First, Lodden beat Kid Poker's queens with nines, then Lodden finished off his Team PokerStars Pro colleague by winning a race with A♦Q♦ against Negreanu's pocket fours.
Negreanu is still searching for an EPT title and, by extension, the Triple Crown. But almost nobody would have begrudged Lodden the chips at that point. He too is an enormously popular player on this tour, and far further afield as well. Was this to be Johnny's day?
As has been the answer on so many previous occasions, the answer to that question would be no. Lodden was briefly into the chip lead three handed, but when he made a big call to try to race O'Dwyer out of the door, this time with Q♣[10s] to O'Dwyer's pocket sixes, he would come up short.
That hand doubled O'Dwyer and put Lodden on the short stack, from where he was ripe to be picked off. O'Dwyer flopped a ten with his A♦[10h] and was only too happy to call when Lodden shoved with his A♥J♦. Lodden took €467,000 but he too is still looking for his maiden EPT title.
And so they went heads up, with talk of a deal quashed at its first mention. O'Dwyer seemed amenable to at least looking at the numbers, no doubt terrified of history repeating itself. He had been here before when Spindler beat him to the crown. But when Pantling demured, O'Dwyer was happy to refocus, adjust his play and settle in for the night. Both players took their time over every action heads up; they were both well stacked and there was every chance they could play for hours more.
The other way to end a heads up duel is with a cooler, and trips against a flush tends to do it. "I knew I needed to get lucky to win because these guys are so good," O'Dwyer said at the end, but we all know that the other seven would have been saying the same about him.
EPT9 Monaco Main Event
Date: 12 May, 2013
Prize pool: €5,130,000
1. Steve O'Dwyer, Ireland, €1,224,000
2. Andrew Pantling, Canada, €842,000
3. Johnny Lodden, Team PokerStars Pro, Norway, €467,000
4. Daniel Negreau, Team PokerStars Pro, Canada, €321,000
5. Jake Cody, Team PokerStars Pro, United Kingdom, €251,000
6. Noah Schwartz, United States, €189,000
7. Jason Mercier, Team PokerStars Pro, United States, €137,000
8. Grant Levy, Australia, €103,000
Congratulations to them all, and Steven Silverman also, who won the €25,000 High Roller event earlier in the day.
You can review all the hand-by-hand action on the main EPT Monaco page. The full list of payouts from nine down to 81 is also there. Our coverage from Monaco continues tomorrow with the €100,000 Super High Roller. It'll have to go some to beat this event. I fear it actually can't be done.
For now, all hail Hairy O'Beast, Ireland's finest, and king of fantasyland.