EPT11 Deauville: The final eight

The final eight of EPT Deauville convened around the same table for the first time this afternoon. The last day of the tournament will only feature six players, but "official" final tables are eight-handed on the EPT, and here's what we know about our finalists.

First up, here's how they stacked up when they sat down at about 5pm local time, the line-up determined with the elimination of Carlo Savinelli.

Seat 1 - Benjamin Pollak, France, 705,000
Seat 2 - Massou Cohen, France, 1,385,000
Seat 3 - Andrius Bielskis, Lithuania, 1,525,000
Seat 4 - Matas Cimbolas, Lithuania, 1,295,000
Seat 5 - Dany Parlafes, Romania, 4,695,000
Seat 6 - Ognyan Dimov, Bulgaria, 2,720,000
Seat 7 - Benjamin Buhr, France, 4,010,000
Seat 8 - Joseph Carlino, France, 1,430,000

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Final table players (l-r): Andrius Bielskis, Massou Cohen, Matas Cimbolas, Dany Parfales, Benjamin Buhr, Benjamin Pollak, Ognyan Dimov, Joseph Carlino

Dany Parlafes, our eight-handed chip leader, turned 30 on Saturday and celebrated in a most appropriate fashion. "I had a huge party for two days in a row," he said. "On Friday I had a party for my closest friends, and on Saturday I had a party for 50 guests in the biggest club in Bucharest."

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Dany Parlafes, 30, Bucharest, Romania

Explaining that they "raged all night," Parlafes said he was in no fit state to make his way to Deauville on Sunday -- it had been the original plan to come to France and rest. Instead he had to jet into Paris on Monday, get a shuttle to Deauville in the morning and play through 12 intense hours.

"It was the most difficult day of my poker life," he said. "It was terrible. Very difficult. And I also ran bad on Day 1."

You wouldn't know it to look a Parlafes now: he has been grinning from ear to ear for about three days as he sets out to become Romania's first ever EPT champion. "I have done this for six or seven years," he said. "They [EPT tournaments] are getting tougher and tougher, so it's about time I won it."

Describing himself as an online PLO grinder, playing at the high stakes tables on PokerStars, Parlafes is viewing the EPT as his big chance to make major changes. "This is my chance to finish the cash game grind," he said. "I am done with it. It I win this, I'll take a break, otherwise I'll go back to the grind."

Parlafes says he has never had a "proper" job, turning to poker about ten years ago after originally trying to make a living from sports betting. But he's taking nothing for granted despite a big stack at the final. "Let me just take it one step at a time," he said. "That's what I say every single day. Today make the final table, then make the final six and then make plans for future events."

Benjamin Buhr describes himself as a semi-professional player, who is playing his first main event on the European Poker Tour. He entered two €500 satellites on PokerStars.fr to this event on January 1st, seeing in the new year first with disappointment and then elation. In other words, he bubbled the first but qualified at the second attempt.

Buhr, 25, is from a small village named Pludno in Brittany, and mainly plays MTTs online. He has, however, played frequently in live events, having lived for a year in Marrakech, Morocco. This event in Deauville has been a typically up and down affair: he was among the chip leaders at the end of Day 1, but took a nosedive on Day 2 and needed a lucky break against Ronan Montfort to stay alive.

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Benjamin Buhr, 25, Brittany, France

However, it has been better since then as he climbed beyond 330,000 on Day 3 and multiplied is seven times to bag more than 2 million at the start of today.

EPT Live viewers have already seen a lot of Ognyan Dimov, the 25-year-old Bulgarian who spent a lot of Day 3 and all of Day 5 on the feature table. He's actually had a bit of a breakout season on the EPT in the past year, securing the biggest result of his career in London last October, where he finished 11th for £33,500, and now having gone at least two places better than that.

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Ognyan Dimov, 25, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

He has played poker for four years, almost exclusively online from his home in Veliko Tarnovo in central Bulgaria, and has specialised in MTTs for the past two of those. He already has cashes on the Eureka and Estrellas tours, picked up a couple of cashes in the Bahamas last month, and also on the FPS earlier this week. This is the biggest final table of his fledgling, but rapidly maturing, career.

"I can't complain," he said.

Joseph Carlino has been the most gregarious of all competitors during the late stages in this tournament, much to the delight of the EPT Live producers -- and, of course, his table-mates, who like nothing more than being sung to between pots.

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Joseph Carlino, 49, Lyon, France

Carlino, 49, has a resume that few can match: he is a former baker, a Tae Kwon Do black belt and a restauranteur and one of his best friends is an Olympic gold medal martial artist. He also has about $20,000 in career earnings in poker, but this is by far his biggest result to date.

Perhaps they'll let him into the Maison du Bluff if he wins it -- a dream he's held for quite some time, and prompted this remarkable showreel of his skills.

Andrius Bielskis is one of two Lithuanians in the final nine, and has the chance to soar up the all time money list in the country. His $46,000 career earnings before this week have already been eclipsed, and he could wind up in third place overall with victory here.

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Andrius Bielskis, 34, Vilnius, Lithuania

Bielskis is 34 years old and comes from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. He is married with a 4-year-old son and turned pro about a year ago, after a career working as a manager.

Matas Cimbolas is the baby of the final table at only 21, yet his achievements in poker belie his youth. In November last year, he took down a WPT event in Dusk Till Dawn in Nottingham, adding a major title to a resume that had already included cash finishes on the UKIPT, IPT and EPT.

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Matas Cimbolas, 21, Vilnius, Lithuania

Cimbolas was born in Lithuania and went to college in Vilnius, but his success at poker while studying for a degree in economics and business put his academic career on hold. He moved to London, where there is a small community of Lithuanian online poker players, and has been in the British capital for the past couple of years.

His successful week in Deauville has put him on the path to achieving one aim for the year: to play more EPT events. He also wants to start an import/export business for cars, and the capital raised in Normandy can't hurt with that either.

Massou Cohen has been a regular on the European Poker Tour since Season 1 -- and there aren't many players across the world who can say that. The 61-year-old from Paris is a recreational player, but regularly used to cross the street from his plastic surgery clinic on the Champs Elysees to the Aviation Club.

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Massou Cohen, 61, Paris, France

He has been playing poker since 1996, only one year after poker became legal in the country, and has an enormous string of live results dating from back in the day. This is, however, his biggest individual tournament score.

Benjamin Pollak is rapidly becoming one of France's biggest poker stars, putting together a brilliant run of form of late. The 31-year-old, who currently lives in London, in the United Kingdom, did well in side events at the PCA, Prague and Barcelona this season, and has now taken his total live tournament earnings past $2 million.

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Benjamin Pollak, 31, Paris, France

His fifth place in the €10,000 High Roller in Barcelona is his biggest live cash to date - perhaps until tomorrow afternoon. Pollak plays both live and online, tournaments and cash (preferring the latter). He used to play big games at the Aviation Club in Paris - all the weird Omaha games they used to run.

Coverage from the Main Event of EPT Deauville is on the Main Event page. The High Roller coverage is on the High Roller page. Check out all the action from around the festival on the main festival page. Also follow the action on EPT Live and stay up to date with the sensational EPT app for iPhone, iPad or Android.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour