EPT11 Barcelona: The $1,750,000 bubble

What is it with Barcelona and the bubble? Last year there was no bubble boy, but rather a bubble chair. And this year five players went out on the same hand meaning they all bubbled the tournament.

Usually, that would've been the end of it but because there was a consolation prize of a $5,300 seat to the $10m guaranteed Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open (which starts on Wednesday), tournament staff had to work out who was the pure bubble so they could dish out the spoils. That was not as easy as it sounds.

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The bonkers Barcelona bubble plays out

That's because the situation was further complicated because Francois-Charles Scapula and Daniel Studer went out on the same table, while the three others - Randal Flowers, Farid Chati and Richard Dubini - went out on separate tables. The usual rule is that if two players go out on the same table the player with more chips gets the money, but if players from different tables bust on the same hand then any prize money is chopped. But both had happened, so what to do?

Over to Neil Johnson, PokerStars Live Event specialist to explain. "This is a rare occurrence that you see perhaps once every two-years and there's no specific rule in place for it," Johnson said. "So what myself, Edgar Stuchly and Toby Stone did was go back to rule one, that being to act in the best interest of the game. We decided that the best option was to split the first four payouts between the five players and play a sit and go for the bubble prize. I've already sent an email to our four fantastic TDs so in the future if this happens, hopefully we'll have a rule in place."

So Toby Stone sat down to explain to the players that they all had locked up a €6,440 cash and that there was a $5,300 seat (and a guitar) to play for. Dennis Phillips, who is acting as a intermediary between PokerStars and the tournament organisers, then piped up.

"A player has to go down to Miami and play," Phillips said. "If you win it you can transfer it, it doesn't have to be you who plays, you can transfer it."

At this point it was then pointed out that they didn't even need to play a sit and go for the seat if they could come to some other arrangement. "I'm already registered to play it," Flowers said. "It's a re-entry so I'm already playing Day 1B, but if I bust that and win this I'll use it to play Day 1C."

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The sit and go gets under way

The tournament, which awarded just shy of $1,750,000 to Blair Hinkle, who won last year, starts in three days and it's all well and good for Flowers, who is American, to be expected to go and play it. But what of the others? They're variously from France, Switzerland, Turkey and Argentina. Studer at least seemed keen to go should he win. "Oh definitely, for sure I'm going to play should I win," Studer said.

With everyone on board for some more poker Stone gave instructions to another member of his tournament team. "We'll make it a reasonable turbo, bring me 5k in chips for each player, a timer and a dealer. I'll make a structure."

He then hastily scribbled down some numbers on a piece of paper that was rapidly filling up. It revealed a structure that some Main Events would be envious of. He then showed it to the players and said: "With 15 minute levels this should take an hour to an hour and a half."

When the poker got under way, Chati was first to go, finally able to collect his Main Event cash, and Richard Dubini soon followed. Three-handed play between Flowers, Studer and Scapula took a while, but throughout, the sit and go was played in a jovial atmosphere with Flowers saying: "Technically whoever wins this seat is going to make more money than the next first 30 eliminations."

Most pots were played - and won - with a smile, but Studer was eventually dispatched when his A♥4♠ lost out to Scapula's A♠J♥.

Yet the Frenchman faced a 15,000 to 10,000 chip deficit against Flowers when heads-up play began during the 150/300 25 ante level. The match swung back and forth with much ribbing. "You should've done it, you should've pulled the trigger," Flowers said when Scapula declined to bet the river with nine high in a pot that was chopped.

By the time the blinds had ticked up to 300/600 ante 75, Scapula had taken the lead. When Flowers shoved for 11,200 with K♥7♥ and Scapula woke up with A♠K♦ one of the most protracted bubbles in EPT history was set to end.

Five cards later it had and Scapula immediately got out his phone and sent a text. A few moments later he punched some numbers in and put the phone to his ear, perhaps he was booking a flight to Miami?

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Scapula played all the right notes to win

He was certainly smiling, at least until the cameras started to flash, "I hate the photos," he said. "I don't know yet if I will go to play it. I have a job I only came to play the Main Event," he told the PokerStarsBlog. The 36-year-old from Paris runs his own trading house.

This is only his third ever EPT and it's his first cash. One thing's for sure, this one will have struck a chord with him. As for Flowers not only was he the double-bubble boy but he was collared by Sarah Grant shortly afterwards for an interview.



Follow all the action from the tournament floor on the main EPT Barcelona page. There's hand-by-hand coverage in the panel at the top, including chip counts, and feature pieces below. There's also EPT Live, which is streaming action from Day 3 of the Main Event.

Nick Wright
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour