EPT11 Prague: Leonid Markin comes in from the cold to deny Paul Newey
At the beginning of Day 2 of the €50,000 Super High Roller event at the EPT Prague Poker Festival, Leonid Markin came to his table and proffered his hand to an opponent. "It's the champion! How are you?" Markin said.
It was notable because Markin was not talking to Martin Jacobson, even though the newly-crowned WSOP Main Event winner was sitting to his left. Markin was instead extending his greeting to Andrew Chen, the man who beat him into fourth place when the 33-year-old from Moscow made the first live final table of his poker career, in London in October. Markin had come to the final that day as the chip leader, but Chen had beaten him to the top prize.
That "failure" may have hurt Markin. He won £145,800, but maybe felt he came up short. However, only a day since he was forced to bow deference to a previous opponent, the word "champion" is again attaching itself to narrative written about Markin. Moments ago, in the Congress Room at the Hilton Prague, Sorel Mizzi came over from a side event to greet Markin sitting behind a big trophy. "The champ is here!" Mizzi said.
Markin was in the process of gathering his emotions after becoming the latest Super High Roller champion on the European Poker Tour. The victory is worth €771,360, but seemed to mean a whole lot more than just the money. "This is for my three beautiful daughters," he said, grappling with the trophy that will be winging its way back to Russia.
Markin, who was born in a small village in Siberia, was playing only his third major poker tournament. It didn't take him long to come in from the cold.
Markin again came to today's final with the most chips, and again he would surrender that lead. But in contrast to the event in London, when he could never wrestle back control, Markin was able to reassert his authority in Prague and pip Paul Newey to first place.
"I can't imagine, guys," he said, struggling for words. He didn't need to. It was real.
Newey seemed exhausted and disappointed at the final hand, when his A♦7♦ couldn't beat Markin's A♠[10h]. But the British player will be greatly heartened from another deep run in another very, very tough tournament, and may soon no longer have to face people asking him slightly patronising questions about "proving himself" in poker.
"I've made the final table in three of the last four Super High Rollers that I've played: here, the Big One for One Drop and one at the Aria," Newey said. "They say the only person who's happy is the person who wins the tournament but I'm happy with second." He gets €557,090.
When they were bagging up having hit the money late last night, Brian Roberts told the chip counters that he considered each and every one of his chips to be very precious. He only had about six of them, you see, representing the shortest stack in the room. But Roberts wasn't keen to give up those chips without a fight today, and managed to pull off at least two double ups in the opening level, potentially setting up one of the all time comebacks.
However, Roberts soon ran into that man named Newey. Roberts defended his big blind with Q♥3♥ after Newey had opened from early position, and was then happy enough to see a queen high flop. But Newey had pocket kings, which he revealed when all the money went in the middle, and Roberts headed home in seventh. He took €128,565.
Newey had mentioned earlier in the day that all he had really hoped from this tournament was a finish higher than seventh. The dizzy heights of sixth was somewhere he had never reached before, so he would have been delighted to have burst through the glass ceiling.
It got even better soon after when Markin accounted for Vladimir Troyanovskiy in the space of two enormous hands. Markin put out a chunky bet on a board of [10c]6♣4♠8♠, which forced Troyanovskiy to fold and surrender more than 800,000 chips he had invested in that one. And then with Markin still stacking those chips, he found A♠J♦ when Troyanovskiy shoved for his last 500,000-ish with A♥[10d]. Troyanovskiy flopped a ten but Markin rivered a jack and that sent Troyanovskiy to the rail, with €159,170 for sixth place.
Although one Russian had now departed, two were still left. That is, until Newey intervened again. Ivan Soshnikov, last year's EPT Prague €10,000 High Roller champion, had provided one of the major stories of the week when he took the Day 1 chip lead in this tournament despite playing the Eureka Main Event simultaneously. But the multi-tabling demon, who also won the SCOOP-H Main Event this year, could not get his pocket tens to out-draw Newey's kings and Soshnikov went out in fifth. It was worth €208,150.
With four players left, the pressure shifted slightly on to Juha Helppi, the unflappable Finn who has amassed career earnings in live tournaments of more than $5 million. Helppi doesn't tend to "do" anguish, but when Markin made a massive over-bet on a board of J♣2♣6♠ and Helppi had J♥8♥, he was put through the wringer like he had never been before.
Helppi tanked for what came close to about eight minutes, made even more pertinent by the fact that it was eating into a tournament break. After asking question after question of Markin, and getting only minimal response, Helppi eventually decided to call. The long tanking session hadn't helped him come to the right decision. Martin had Q♠Q♣ and the over-pair held. Helppi was out in fourth, for €269,360.
The chip lead three-handed swung this way, that way and the other. Each of Newey, Markin and Stephen Chidwick took control, and then each of them yielded it back. Chidwick would have fancied his chances here. He was by far the most experienced player of the three left in the event, and had bounced back from a crippling blow at the end of yesterday to reassert his control. What's more, Chidwick had finished third in two major events in this room last year: the Eureka Main Event and the EPT Main Event, and surely he wasn't going to complete a hat-trick of third places before he actually took down a maiden title?
Actually, he was.
Newey took a big chunk with a rivered flush and K♣3♣ in the hole. Then Newey found aces when Chidwick had nines and they got it all in. Newey suddenly had more than 4 million, while Chidwick had barely a quarter of that. Soon enough, he open shoved from the button with K♠9♠ but had found a wretched time to do so. Markin had A♠A♥ in the big blind, and that was the end of stevie444.
Chidwick's €355,070 payday takes his live tournament winnings way past $3m, plus plenty more online, but he is still searching for his first major title. Surely this hoodoo can't last much longer.
And so it was Markin versus Newey for the title: the man in his third major tournament versus the man at his third major final table of the year. Markin won most of the early pots, to put him in control, but Newey didn't seem keen to let the Russian run away with it, and battled back.
As can often be the case during long heads-up battles, it can often come down to one big hand. In this case, Markin raised to 480,000 from the button, Newey moved all in for approximately 4 million and Markin immediately snapped him off.
Markin's big ace stayed good against Newey's smaller version. And it was enough to crown our latest champion.
EPT11 Prague, £50,000 NL Hold'em Super High Roller
Entries: 51 (42 players; nine re-entries)
Places paid: 7
Prize pool: €2,448,765
1 - Leonid Markin, Russia, €771,360
2 - Paul Newey, United Kingdom, €557,090
3 - Stephen Chidwick, United Kingdom, €355,070
4 - Juha Helppi, Finland, €269,360
5 - Ivan Soshnikov, Russia, €208,150
6 - Vladimir Troyanovskiy, Russia €159,170
7 - Brian Roberts, United States, €128,565
Laura Cornelius talks to Leonid Markin about his win.