EPT9 London Day 6: Ruben Visser wins race to London title and £595,000
It was rightly billed as one of the most talent-filled main event final tables in the EPT's history. Four of the eight finalists were well known for their superlative talents both live and online, while the other four had demonstrated their capacity to impress at the poker table. But only one of them could walk away with the title, trophy and first prize, and tonight that man is Ruben Visser.
EPT London winner Ruben Visser
As predicted it was not an easy win, as much for the heads-up scrap against Lithuanian Mantas Visockis as it was against the final line-up, which had rivalled the nearby high roller final for headline talent.
Visser found himself with a 15.5 million to 3.7 million chip advantage as the heads-up finale began. At one point it had looked like Visser would have it wrapped up in minutes. But the Lithaunian dug in and steadfastly refused to capitulate. He clawed his stack back up to 4 million, then 8 million as the final level of play began.
Visser and Visockis go heads-up
Visser, however, was able to draw of vast experience of such scenarios, having appeared in 11 final tables around the world in a live poker career that began in 2008. He pegged back Visockis, who had waited for a moment to shove. He found pocket tens and moved in, in keeping with the running theme of flips deciding who would stay and who would go. Visser turned over ace-queen and we were off to the races...
The main event trophy
The flips had started some seven hours earlier when Chris Moorman shoved with pocket sevens against Theo Jorgensen holding ace-king. Jorgensen, returning to the EPT after a high profile incident during which he was robbed and shot at his home in Denmark, flopped an ace and a king to send Moorman out, simultaneously bringing his own stack up to fighting weight.
Chris Moorman (centre) shakes hands with Theo Jorgensen
Moments later came another flip, this one involving chip leader Steve O'Dwyer whose ace-king succumbed to the pocket queens of Olof Haglund. O'Dwyer was within an ace or king of assembling a massive lead, but neither came.
That left O'Dwyer on the ropes, down to around a million. Meanwhile the other hope for a local win, Tamar Kamel, whose commute to the Vic from his home in Willesden takes about 15 minutes, was all in with ace-ten off. Haglund called with king-queen suited and found a queen on the flop. Kamel's tournament was over in seventh place.
Throughout the week German player Christopher Frank had impressed both his peers and those watching from the rail. Aged 18, Frank has proved himself not only as a fast learner, but as a formidable opponent. His run ended in sixth place. Visser's nines beat Frank's ace-king. So far there had been not a single double up for the short stacks.
Christopher Frank departs
O'Dwyer, who finished second in this event a season ago, lasted another 25 minutes, shoving with ace-deuce only for Jorgensen to turn over pocket aces. The results were inevitable. O'Dwyer was beaten and looked even more so on the rail.
"I knew this is an extremely tough final table and even though I had a decent amount of chips in play there was no guarantee that I would be able to do better than that," he said. "Or even equal it. It's very, very tough line up and I was well aware that this could be the result. So unfortunately it was."
Steve O'Dwyer couldn't go one better than Season 8
The big hands continued after O'Dwyer's departure. Visockis doubled through Visser, catching a king on the river against Visser's ace-queen, which put him in the lead, cutting Visser down to size. But not for long.
Jorgensen's demise followed after two hours of four-handed play. Jorgensen, making his third final table in pursuing a Triple Crown, shoved with pocket fours. He would be up against the ace-eight of Visser, another race sending a player to the rail: Jorgensen out in third.
The three remaining players immediately paused to make a deal.
Haglund had gone almost unnoticed until he reached the final. A paperboy by trade, before concentrating on his more lucrative poker career, Haglund was making his first big score in a major event but was remarkably calm and throughout the final, despite the spotlight, even doing "bunny ears" behind Visser in a photo of the three agreeing on a deal.
Olof Hagland doing "bunny ears"
The deal left £140,000 on the table to play for, along with the title, trophy, and the Slyde watch, the official watch sponsor of EPT9 main events.
Deal done, Visser attacked immediately, sending Haglund out when his ace-eight shattered Haglund's king-jack when an ace hit the flop. It set up a two-hour heads-up finish, hard fought by both, before Visser finally overwhelmed his opponent in the last hand.
The victory sinks in
And so, with the cards on the table, Visser needed an ace or queen to topple Visockis's tens. It came not on the flop, or turn, but on the last card dealt at EPT London, an ace of hearts river card that crowned Ruben Visser the newest champion on the European Poker Tour.
EPT9 London - Main Event
Date: 10-16 March 2013
Prize pool: £3,137,950
1st. Ruben Visser, Netherlands, £595,000
2nd. Mantas Visockis, Lithuania, £377,436
3rd. Olof Haglund, Sweden, £427,564
4th. Theo Jorgensen, Denmark, Team PokerStars Pro, £183,000
5th. Steve O'Dwyer, United States, £146,000
6th. Christopher Frank, Germany, £112,000
7th. Tamer Kamel, United Kingdom, £79,950
8th. Chris Moorman, United Kingdom, £57,000
EPT Live's Joe Stapleton hailed the new champion in front of a busy poker room that had witnessed the climax. Earlier in the week Stapleton had asked Visser to do a spot of commentary. "I hope I won't be able to," Visser said. Maybe next time. Visser continued: "I'm incredibly happy. I feel like I've been playing really well for the last few years."
Ruben Visser talks to Joe Stapleton
It puts to bed any lingering memories the Dutchman had over his former best result, an eighth place finish at the PCA.
"That was probably one of the worst days of my poker career, if not *the* worst. But this is the best. It's the complete opposite... I'm extremely happy. I have no idea what to do next."
Visser in action
That may well be EPT Berlin, the next and penultimate leg of this the ninth season of the European Poker Tour, which will begin in a little more than a month's time. As for London, switched to a new spring date from its usual autumn slot, it was making what proved to be a welcome return to the Grosvenor Victoria Casino. It became the perfect venue for one of the most eagerly awaited finals in EPT history.
You can read all about that on the PokerStars Blog by clicking on our EPT London widget, where you'll also find all the pay outs from the main event, as well as details of side events, including the High Roller, which was won by Talal Sherkerchi a short while ago. To recap on the major events of today check out the links below:
Time to celebrate
Talal Shakerchi trades high finance for high rolling, wins
The tour now packs up and heads east to Berlin in a months' time. The PokerStars Blog will be there as will the EPT Live team with live coverage on PokerStars.tv from Day 1, more details of which can be found on the EPT website.
For now, good night from London.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter