EPT11 Grand Final: Adrian 'The Closer' Mateos ends 11-year Spanish hoodoo
It has been an awful long time coming -- 11 years in real terms, but "forever" to vocal supporters at the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo®Casino EPT Grand Final tonight -- but Spain finally has its first champion on the European Poker Tour. And, to the surprise of practically nobody in the Iberian peninsula, the player who has finally broken the EPT's most durable hoodoo is a young man by the name of Adrian Mateos -- Spain's own poker whizz-kid to match those proliferating in Germany, Poland and beyond.
Ever since it became something of a monkey on the back of Spain's poker players, there was a nagging sense that the country badly needed Mateos on an EPT final table if they ever wanted to break the jinx. Mateos won a title on the Estrellas Poker Tour when he was 18 and the World Series of Poker Europe at 19. He is a closer. He has been there before.
Mateos is now 20 and had one last chance before his July birthday to pick up another major title and continue his one-per-year ratio. His chances received an enormous fillip yesterday when he was involved in the most dramatic hand of the tournament to that point: winning with queens against aces and kings.
But since then, Mateos has not put a foot wrong, seeing off the similarly incorrigible talents of Ole Schemion and Johnny Lodden, among others, tormenting the latter in particular with a couple of ballsy bluffs during the last day today. He also extinguished the hopes of the two recreational players at the final, seizing the lead in a coup against one of them, Muhyedine Fares, and then pummelling the other, Hady El Asmar, until he went out in third.
Mateos was forced to beat Fares again heads up, but overcame a couple of bumpy moment to win €1,082,000 along with his title and SLYDE watch. His total live earnings are now at about $3.4 million -- and it's important to make the conversion into US Dollars too. Mateos turns 21 four days before the World Series Main Event. One suspects we know where $10,000 of today's win will be re-invested.
"I'm so proud," Mateos said, before paying tribute to the legion of Spanish poker fans who will celebrate as if it is they who have won. "I want to thank all the people who supported me. A lot of people contacted me on Twitter and Facebook and I want to thank them. I'm really lucky to win the Grand Final."
Sergio Aido and Vicente Delgado, who had watched anxiously from the rail throughout, had only one word they wanted jotted in reporters' notebooks: "Vamooooooooos!"
Six players returned for the final day, of whom three we already knew heaps (Mateos, Lodden and Schemion), one we had heard a little about (Jose Carlos Garcia, aka TryToExploit), and two all but unknown (Fares and El Asmay). But the latter two had by far the biggest stacks and so chroniclers had prepared to draft new chapters in their history books.
Whenever the modern history of poker is finally committed to print, it is already certain to include pages and pages concerning Schemion. At only 22 years old, he is many commentators' immediate pick as the best tournament player in the world today. However, Schemion's quest for a first EPT Main Event title did not end today. He was the first to fall.
Although Mateos drove the final stake through Schemion's heart, with A♦K♣ to Schemion's A♠3♠, the main damage had been done earlier by Fares. In a pot that is still being discussed, Schemion paid off Fares's rivered nut flush and polarising bet with what many believe was an obviously-inferior two pair. At that point, Fares couldn't seem to miss, and drawing a mis-step from wizowizo demonstrated how dominant he was.
After Mateos finished off Schemion, the out-going EPT Player of the Year headed to the cash desk in search of his €233,500 cheque for sixth. As a measure of this kid's skills, this payday only just squeaks into his top ten biggest scores. To repeat: Ole Schemion is 22 years old.
Without question, the latter portion of this EPT season has been dominated by players from Poland. The emergence of Dzmitry Urbanovich, coupled with Dominik Panka's continued heater, has kept Polish players in the spotlight all year, and in Monaco it was their friend Jose Carlos Garcia's chance to shine.
Garcia led the field at the end of Day 1 and was one of three day-end leaders to make the final six. But just as Schemion's surge fizzled on the last day, so did Garcia's. Returning to the overnight short stack this time, Garcia couldn't re-build. He got his last 800,000-ish in with A♠9♠ but Fares was lurking with K♠K♥ and there was no outdraw.
Garcia's fifth-place prize of €297,250 at least means he'll be able to pick up his portion of the mini-bar bill in the room he shared here with Urbanovich.
With four left, it was an equal split between the knowns and the unknowns -- and it was a tough spot for the poker purist. While the ideal scenario for scholars of the game would have been Lodden versus Mateos heads up, it was still compelling to watch them go at one another at this stage.
One hand in particular will live long in the memory: Lodden opened to 160,000 from under the gun (also the cut off, four-handed) and Mateos called on the button. Both Fares and El Asmar came along for the ride from the blinds.
However, after the flop fell A♠3♦9♣ and everybody ahead of him checked, Mateos fired 275,000. Fares called (he had 9♥6♥ for second pair), El Asmar folded, and that brought the action to Lodden. The Team PokerStars Pro had 5♣5♦ in front of him and smelt a rat. He check-raised to 715,000, but Mateos opted to float. He called. Fares left them to it.
The 4♣ came on the turn and Lodden checked. Mateos now had a stab and bet 650,000. Lodden, with 2.7 million remaining, called. This pot had suddenly grown very big indeed.
The A♦ came on the river and after Lodden checked again, Mateos saw it through. He shoved, covering Lodden. Lodden is never shy to get his chips in. He clearly knew something was amiss. He took about five minutes to come to a decision, and it seemed for all the world as though he was about to make a sensational call.
But he didn't. He folded, and Mateos showed him the bluff. "Just did the worst fold I've ever done," Lodden tweeted later, unnecessarily harshly on himself.
There was still time for Lodden to attempt to rebuild, and he showed characteristic shrewdness with his small stack. But then when he got it in - ahead, of course, with A♣Q♦ against Fares's A♦9♠ - the nine flopped and Lodden was out. He was third here in 2013, for €467,000, and fourth this time, for €379,000. Lodden is doing everything right in Monaco - except win.
It left Mateos with the two older but less experienced players. They also had fewer chips. But a cooler is a cooler whoever is in control of the cards, and Fares started a resurgence when he managed to hit an ace to match his A♠9♦ and beat Mateos's K♠K♥.
Fares, therefore, had a heap of chips, and certainly more than enough to take on El Asmar's short stack. He also found A♦A♣ in the small blind and found El Asmar willing to go the distance with 8♥6♣ on an eight high flop. Not even the presence on the rail of Joe "Not Joseph" Mouawad, hoping to celebrate a second Lebanese Grand Final champion, could give El Asmar the help he needed. El Asmar went out in third, winning €486,000.
When the tournament went heads up, all the momentum and most of the chips, were with Fares. But Mateos is rarely beaten heads up -- he won two turbo tournaments on the last day in Deauville -- and he redoubled his focus here to make sure this final day also ended with his hands around a trophy.
After being down to his last five million, he found a crucial double up, flopping two pair with 7♠4♠ against Fares' top pair of aces, to put him in a commanding lead, and then shoved all in with A♥8♠ after Fares opened his button. Fares called with A♠6♠ and Mateos flopped an eight. After the Q♠ on the turn was a blank, leaving Fares drawing dead, Mateos graciously shook his opponent's hand and then leapt off the stage into the arms of his supporters.
Fares deserved the moment of respect shown him by Mateos, and everybody else in the room. The businessman from Dakar, who is actually a tri-national, with passports from Senegal, Lebanon and Canada, played a huge part in this event. He takes €679,000 for second and, as his countryman Imad Derwiche finished second in the €25,000 High Roller (for €750,000) at almost the exact same time, perhaps its time to create an all time Senegalese money list. There isn't one yet.
There is, of course, one from Spain. And Mateos sits proudly second, behind Carlos Mortensen. But with that 21st birthday on July 1 comes a terrifying omen for the rest of the poker world. Adrian Mateos is coming...Vamos!
EPT11 Grand Final - Main Event
Prize pool: €5,640,000
1 - Adrian Mateos, Spain, €1,082,000
2 - Muhyedine Fares, Senegal, €679,000
3 - Hady El Asmar, Lebanon, PokerStars qualifier, €486,000
4 - Johnny Lodden, Norway, PokerStars Team Pro, €379,000
5 - Jose Carlos Garcia, Poland, €297,250
6 - Ole Schemion, Germany, PokerStars qualifier, €233,500
7 - Markus Ross, Germany, €174,300
8 - Koichi Nozaki, Japan, €120,700