EPT10 Grand Final: Tough spots across the board as High Roller creeps towards bubble

Dan Smith was in the eight seat of table six in the Salle des Etoiles, where his neighbour to the left was a dealer. The identity changed every half hour or so, but they are always professional, courteous and fair.

The problem was that the dealer isn't part of the game, per se, and can offer only token protection from the person to Smith's left in a poker sense. That individual was Benny Spindler, the German menace, who already has one High Roller title, one Main Event trophy and was the overnight chip leader here.

Smith, without the chip stack to play the kind game everyone most enjoys, was in a tricky spot. "He's active," Smith said, when asked what it's like sitting next to Spindler. "Tighten up," he offered when quizzed as to a potential defence plan. (At least that's all he was prepared to share.)

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Benny Spindler: You'd think butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. You'd be wrong

By the time Smith revealed even that much, he was on the rail, having run pocket nines into Chenxiang Miao's pocket queens. Miao was sitting with more than 500,000, the biggest stack in the room, and one seat to Spindler's left. It really was a super-tough spot for Smith to be in, with Spindler and then a Macau-based businessman next door. The worst part was that as soon as Smith was eliminated, the table broke. A little salt in the wounds.

The full prize-pool and payout structure was announced earlier in the day: there were 159 players, 55 re-entries and a first prize of €1,105,000. This was a big one, and worth all the trouble.

Andrew Chen also always seems to find himself on a table of doom, whether or not it's because of his opponents' poker-playing abilities. Chen would have backed his game against his table-mates at the EPT5 Prague final table, but suffered then at the hands of an all-out Italian onslaught. He has probably one of the highest skill levels of his table in the €25,000 High Roller today as well, but he is surrounded by eastern Europeans, who don't give much away.

Chen has Anatoly Gurtavoy (Bulgaria) to his left and Alex Bilokur (Russia) to his right as well as Igor Yaroshevskyy (Ukraine) and Aleksei Platonov (Russia) at the table. Jonas Kronwitter, a German player who speaks English, but was hidden beneath headphones, was also there, and so Chen was forced to turn to Gurtavoy for conversation.

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Andrew Chen, left, and Anatoly Gurtavoy

"Eights?" Chen said, anguished, and looking at a board of [10h]6♦Q♦4♣8♥. Gurtavoy had taken a passive line throughout until Chen bet 32,000 on the river and Gurtavoy raised to 100,000.

Gurtavoy is a friendly sort, and smiled at Chen. Chen smiled back but was in some torment. Eventually the Canadian player called and Gurtavoy added a nod to his smile. "Eights," he said, tabling his cards. "Ah shit," Chen said.

It was even worst for Kronwitter soon after, who got almost all of his stack in with A♥J♥ against Platonov's A♦J♦. This will be a chopped pot 85 per cent of the time, but when the stakes were highest -- ie, €25,000 -- Kronwitter found himself in the 15 percent. Two diamonds on the flop and another on the river and the pot was sent in Platonov's direction.

The dealer counted out the stacks and discovered that Kronwitter had the largest but by the smallest possible margin: 500 chips. That was represented by a single chip or a single ante, whichever way you wanted to look at it, and it was going in the next hand whether he liked it or not.

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Jonas Kronwitter waits with his solitary ante

Anatoly Filatov raised, which at least gave Kronwitter's ante a degree of protection. But he'd done that because he had J♥J♣ and Kronwitter was likely in a spot of bother.

"Hope I have an overcard," he said when he peeked. "Not even an overcard," he continued after he flipped over 8♠9♠. The flop brought no miracles and Kronwitter was off.

The field continues to shrink as a dramatic rate in the High Roller, with only 33 players heading off for their dinner. The idea, remember, is to play down to eight players or to the end of ten levels, whichever comes soonest. The wise money is on the latter.

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Anatoly Filatov, adds one more ante to his stack

Watch how it all plays out via the panel at the top of the High Roller page.