EPT10 Grand Final: A round with Blom, Litvinov and co

There is an all star cast in the €25,000 High Roller, which is all the more exciting for the size of its field. At time of writing there have already been 148 entries and registration remains open, meaning we're potentially looking at another million euro first prize (or thereabouts).

It stands to reason that this is a super tough field -- it's quality and quantity -- and there are some ridiculous tables out there. Daniel Negreanu enjoys all challenges thrown his way, so a line-up of Dimitar Danchev, Max Altergott, Victoria Coren Mitchell, Andrew Chen and Noah Schwartz should be just to his liking.

That said, the most combustible table in the room seemed to be two along from there, where Artem Litvinov sat beside Viktor Blom. Litvinov had more than doubled his starting stack of 30,000 and was clearly in the mood to play some pots. With ElkY, Max Silver, Sylvain Loosli and Ariel Celestino also hanging around, he was likely to have his wish granted.


Artem Litvinov and Viktor Blom: Brothers in arms

It seemed like a perfect time for a first visit of the week to our A Round With... department, the warts-and-all look at a full round of poker. We don't have any control over what happens, and must always be prepared for an anti-climax, but there was good enough personnel to think it wouldn't be the case.

This was the first orbit of Level 5, where blinds were 200/400 (50 ante). The full table line up was as follows (stack sizes are approximate):

1 - Artem Litvinov, 75,000
2 - Viktor Blom, 51,500
3 - Sylvain Loosli, 40,600
4 - Jonas Kronwitter, 55,000
5 - Max Silver, 48,000
6 - Aleksandr Denisov, 15,100
7 - Ariel Celestino, 56,000
8 - Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, 65,000

Hand 1 - Button with Jonas Kronwitter
Players were scurrying back to their seats from a tournament break and neither Denisov nor Celestino had made it in time for the first hand of the level. ElkY had been the first back, and had picked up his phone to keep himself amused. Silver came back next, wearing a grey business suit and tie.


ElkY in customary "fiddling with phone" mode

Like a snooker player beginning the evening session, he ripped off the tie and decided to go open-necked. It was more comfortable like that. Kronwitter had previously employed a massage therapist to beat him black and blue, and she resumed as soon as he sat down.

The dealer pitched the cards and Litvinov got things started, opening to 1,000 from mid-position. Loosli three-bet the cut off, making it what looked like 2,500 and Litvinov called.

It was only two of them, then, to a flop of [10s]6♦8♥, which they both checked. And they also checked the 2♥ turn. After the 2♣ came on the river, Litvinov fired 3,200 at it, but Loosli quickly called. The Frenchman, who made the November Nine last year, showed his A♦K♣, which was better than Litvinov's queen high.

Had anyone in the room been looking in the right/wrong direction, they would then have seen Max Altergott and his girlfriend share what can only be described as a passionate embrace in the middle of the tournament floor. Get. A. Room.

Hand 2 - Button with Max Silver
Artem Litvinov again opened the pot, this time stating 950 to the dealer. It was folded to Ariel Celestino in the big blind, and he called. The Brazilian player is rated exceptionally highly by those in the know, and has been displaying some keen talents recently on the EPT, most recently putting on a deep run in Sanremo.

The two of them saw a flop of Q♥7♥7♦, which Celestino checked. Litvinov bet 1,500. Celestino dipped into his stack for a check-raise, making it 3,725, and Litvinov was agreeable. He called.

They saw a 6♣ turn and Celestino led this time, asking for 4,725. Litvinov called and the J♠ came on the river. Celestino flung out two blue chips, worth 5,000 apiece, but told the dealer the bet was 8,700.

Litvinov popped out his headphone buds and trailed them over his left ear. No sound was forthcoming until Litvinov said he called, was shown K♠7♠ by Celestino and frustratedly flipped his Q♦ for all to see. Celestino raked the pot.

Hand 3 - Button with Aleksandr Denisov
Litvinov couldn't resist, even though he had lost the previous two pots, and opened again to 1,900 from under the gun. The chips flew into the pot under the propulsion of a Russian's frustration.

Jonas Kronwitter's friend arrived and touched him on the shoulder to announce his presence. There were now three hands on the German's back, as the massage therapist continued to beat her refrain. On the neighbouring table, there were actually four massage therapists working simultaneously, with the one on Alexander Timokhin essentially just performing press-ups on his back. There's nothing so supple as the back of a high roller.

Viktor Blom called Litvinov's raise from one seat along the table and it was only those two fiery characters to the flop of 9♣A♦3♥. Litvinov bet 3,000 and Blom called.

The 4♠ came on the turn and Litvinov pummelled his fist into the table, apparently representing a check. Blom began to count out a bet but Litvinov instantly folded. Blom had the good grace to show the A♣.


Viktor Blom: Like a child on Christmas morning

Hand 4 - Button with Ariel Celestino
Viktor Blom seized the initiative early in this hand and raised to 800 from under the gun. Ariel Celestino called on the button and Litvinov called from the big blind, entering his fourth consecutive hand.

The three of them saw a flop of Q♠4♣7♥ and Litvinov checked. Blom bet 1,600 and got two quick folds.

Hand 5 - Button with ElkY
Jonas Kronwitter opened to 800 from early position and Celestino made it 2,000 from the cut off. Litvinov, of course, called from the big blind and Kronwitter called too.

Max Silver flicked through Twitter and landed on a picture of a bottle of champagne. He expanded it, took a long, plaintive look and then reduced it again, continuing to examine whatever other babble the tweeting masses had dribbled into his timeline.

The flop was J♦7♥9♣ and Litvinov checked. Kronwitter fired 3,800 and Celestino's call persuaded Litvinov out of it. He was 0 for 5 so far on the orbit. Both remaining players checked the K♠ turn and then Kronwitter bet 7,600 on the 3♦ river. Celestino folded.

Blom's PA arrived at the table and handed him an adapter for his cellphone. Blom greeted it as though it was a new spinning top from his mother on Christmas Day. He clipped it in with a big grin.

Hand 6 - Button with Artem Litvinov
Max Silver opened to 900 from early position and Aleksandr Denisov called from his left. If you thought Artem Litvinov was going to fold his button, you need to go stand in the corner wearing a big pointy dunce's cap. He called.

The flop came 5♠5♥J♦ and Silver bet 1,600. Denisov folded, but Litvinov called and the saw a 2♥ turn. Silver now checked and Litvinov bet 3,000. Silver didn't wait too long before folding, and rolled his eyes on cue when Litvinov proudly showed down the 7♠6♣ as he raked the pot.

Over the other side of the room, Daniel Negreanu let out one of his characteristic boyish laughs, right at the moment that Pierre Neuville was ambling slowly and deliberately past the table. Negreanu had not noticed Neuville -- it wasn't a laugh directed at the Friend of PokerStars -- but Neuville nearly jumped out of his skin, let alone his vibrant pink V-neck sweater.

A member of the tournament staff came over and told Jonas Kronwitter that he had to move tables. He, his friend and his massage therapist all packed up their things and hit the road.


The wide shot of table Blom and Litvinov (after Jonas Kronwitter's departure)

Hand 7 - Button with Viktor Blom
Aleksandr Denisov opened to 900 in the hijack and ElkY called in the cut off. Artem Litvinov called, Max Silver called and they were four handed to a flop. Just as the dealer began to fan it out, a friend arrived to talk to Denisov. He kicked over an espresso cup on the floor, which jangled loudly in its saucer. Thank goodness Neuville was now out of earshot. A second shock like that could have killed him.

Silver checked the 6♦3♥3♦ board, as did Denisov. ElkY bet 1,400, Litvinov called and Silver folded. Then Denisov check-raised. Litvinov and ElkY quickly let their hands go.

Hand 8 - Button with Sylvain Loosli
ElkY raised to 800 from early position and even Artem Litvinov folded this one. Sylvain Loosli raised to 2,200 from the button, and everyone passed, including ElkY.

That was the last hand of the orbit, during which Litvinov was the most prominent player, entering seven of eight hands but winning only one. There wasn't otherwise a huge shift in the chip stacks, but the game is well and truly afoot.

Hand-by-hand coverage of the €25,000 High Roller event is in the panel at the top of the main High Roller page. Chip counts are also in the panel; feature pieces are below. Follow the action from the Main Event on the Main Event page, and also follow along on EPTLive.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour