EPT9 Grand Final Day 5: Steve O'Dwyer leads Negreanu, Mercier, Cody, Lodden and "the rest" to all-star final

We've seen great final tables, and not so great ones, epic ones and those that a day later you can't recall at all. We've watched boring ones and exhilarating ones, quick ones and slow ones. Actually we've seen quite a few slow ones. But never before have we seen one that would rival tomorrow's - arguably the best final ever, or at least since those old guys played those legendary games in Vegas.

Usually at this point you're grateful if there's one, or if you're lucky two, players of note. Here, in this most fitting of venues, we have eight, without a single weak spot. As one finalist put it when he bagged up this afternoon:

Cody is just one of a table full of world class players returning tomorrow, led by Steve O'Dwyer with 4,452,000.

Chip leader going into a final table again - Steve O'Dwyer

The American, whose preference was to convert to Irish overnight, reaches his fourth career EPT final table and the second of this season having boosted his stack eliminating John Juanda in 11th place. (O'Dwyer also took the chip lead to the final table in London.)

Juanda, along with Andrew Lichtenberger (14th), Victor Ramdin (13th) and Freddy Deeb (9th), were the other top drawer names to bust on the penultimate table, evidence of how talent laden this field was at the start of play.

Andrew Pantling is behind O'Dwyer. Pantling was chip leader coming into today, and despite a record of results from around the world, including a heads-up side event here in 2010, is the lowest live tournament earner of all the finalists, with $900,000 to his name. Pah.

Andrew Pantling

Both he and O'Dwyer have some distance between themselves and the others, both with more than 4 million - Pantling bagging up 4,180,000, more than 2.5 million ahead of Jake Cody.

Potential double winner Jake Cody

Here's how they'll line up tomorrow:

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

When the leather-bound EPT record books are opened, you come across pages of excitable blog posts proclaiming potential double winners, all of them scrawled out bitterly with red pen. It's akin to the "Curse of the Bambino", or that thing with the goat in Chicago, some jinx that will never be smashed.

But then everything we've wished for in the main event has come true so far. We secretly called for the cards necessary to eliminate the "blokes", such as Goran Mandic (15th), Clyde Tjauw Foe (12th) and Vasili Firsau (10th). It was nothing personal, just historical. We've craved a final table like this for nine seasons and now we've got it, our day of jubilee.

So if Jake Cody or Jason Mercier oblige us with a second win it would not be a surprise. But then, whoever wins tomorrow will not be doing so from out of the blue. Perhaps most obviously that applies to Kid Poker Daniel Negreanu.

Another potential double winner Jason Mercier

Negreanu has breezed through this week with his usual reserves of spirit and humour. At the tables it looks like it means nothing to him, but he plays like it means everything. Coming off a WSOP win in Australia, Negreanu is a natural heir to an EPT title, and the Triple Crown that would come with it. It's one of the few things left for him to win.

A Triple Crown for Daniel Negreanu?

Johnny Lodden spent a lot of the week as the chip leader, losing it in a notorious pot late yesterday before being struck down by O'Dwyer at the midway point today. He rallied, reaching the final table with arms aloft, the second EPT final of his career.

Johnny Lodden

Grant Levy and Noah Schwartz "make up the numbers" as EPT newcomers, neither having ever cashed here before, although Schwartz has a PCA side event to his name as well as a World Poker Tour title.

Noah Schwartz

Levy also has a PCA side event win, and stands to win a major title containing a vowel other than an "A", with an APPT and ANZPT win to his record.

The irony of all of this is the potential for it to be overtaken in awe by events still on-going. As well as the high roller event, which plays down to a final eight tonight, there's the small matter of a cash game going on next door. Details of both of them, can be found on the relevant links on the widget at the top right of this page.

For now it's time to take a breather ahead of events tomorrow. I personally would like to apologise for all hyperbole used in any of the 75 EPT final tables I've reported on before this one. I now realise I should have saved it all for this.

To catch up on all the gritty details of this remarkable day's play go to our live coverage page where you'll find the hand-for-hand updates as well as chip counts and the pay-outs from today and yesterday. You can also read our stories from the day below.

We started with a list of players that we thought was already pretty good at 16, then watched as Jake Cody fought off a short stack, and suspected communism, on the feature table.

Meanwhile we looked into the reluctant TV star Mateusz Moolhuizen, while the more recognisable talents of Johnny Lodden ensured the PokerStars Lodden-o-Meter was pressed into service.

The feature table

After he sent him to the rail Daniel Negreanu talked about the hand that busted Andrew Lichtenberger, while we couldn't help noticing a cash game taking place in the next room.

Meanwhile in the side events Max Lykov was scoring big, as was the unstoppable Ole Schemion. The Monaco Cup also opened for business as the high rollers started their day two, action which you can follow through the night at this link.

That should be enough to tide you over until tomorrow, which frankly can't come soon enough.

Until then, goodnight from Monaco.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.

Click through to live coverage of the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino EPT Grand Final. Follow the @PokerStarsBlog Twitter account to keep up-to-date with all the EPT action.