EPT11 Grand Final: Don't hate, your final eight

Dmitry Ivanov was eliminated in ninth place from the €10,000 Main Event of the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo®Casino EPT Grand Final. That's left us with a final table of eight that looks like this:

Seat 1 - Adrian Mateos, Spain, 3,517,000
Seat 2 - Jose Carlos Garcia, Poland, 2,597,000
Seat 3 - Markus Ross, Germany, 1,615,000
Seat 4 - Muhyedine Fares, Senegal, 1,575,000
Seat 5 - Hady El Asmar, Lebanon, 3,517,000
Seat 6 - Ole Schemion, Germany, 1,102,000
Seat 7 - Koichi Nozaki, Japan, 634,000
Seat 8 - Johnny Lodden, Norway, 2,516,000


Final table players (l-r): Hady El Asmar, Jose Carlos Garcia, Adrian Mateos (seated), Markus Ross, Koichi Nozaki (seated), Ole Schemion, Johnny Lodden, Muhyedine Fares.

Hady El Asmar told PokerStars Blog this morning that he is a recreational player, who qualified for the EPT Grand Final via a satellite on PokerStars. El Asmar is 47 and comes from Beirut, Lebanon, where he is a civil engineer by day and a keen amateur poker player in his spare time. "I play for fun," he said. At the end of Day 2 here in Monaco, El Asmar was 110th of the remaining 114 players and lucky to squeeze through the bubble. But he took the lead nine handed after eliminating Lyndon Basha after flopping a set of threes.


Hady El Esmar: Zero to hero

Adrian Mateos officially "burst" on to the poker scene in October 2013 when, at 19 years old, he became the second-youngest player to win a World Series bracelet. He did it in some style too, picking up €1 million for winning the WSOP-E title in Paris. The thing is, he was already pretty well travelled even then, with recorded tournament successes dating from at least a year previously and won a title on the Estrellas Poker Tour in January 2013, the youngest player to do so.


Adrian Mateos: On for a very rare double

The WSOP title was a huge boost to the bankroll, however, and since then, Mateos has been a regular on the European Poker Tour, playing in High Roller and Super High Roller events. Now 20, He usually travels with his friend and house-mate Sergio Aido, who ran deep in Malta last month, and now becomes the second player from their house in West London to make an EPT final table at consecutive stops. Javier Gomez Zapatero, also among the Spanish exiles in their Hammersmith house, finished fifth in Malta.

Markus Ross is originally from Germany but now lives in Klagenfurt, Austria. The 35 year old actually had the kind of introduction to the game most associated with the North American grinders: he learned poker when he was a student at the University of Massachusetts (Umass), where he studied business for a year between 2004-05.


Markus Ross: From $5 to a million?

Ross's room-mates at the time needed an extra player for their drunken low-stakes weekly game and turned to their their German visitor. Flash forward a decade and here he is in the final eight of the Main Event of the €10,000 PokerStars and Monte-Carlo®Casino EPT Grand Final. After a tempestuous Day 1 -- "I had no luck, and then bad luck arrived," he said -- he steadied the ship on Day 2 and Day 3 before flourishing on the television table yesterday.
Ross played on the centre stage at the PCA, where he grew accustomed to the nicer chairs, bigger table, etc. But he still remembers the boozy games back at Umass. "That was the most fun I ever had," he said.

Safe to say the world of poker has not yet seen a Senegalese poker boom, but according to Muhyedine Fares, who was sixth in chips at the start of play today, there's plenty of action in the casinos of Dakar. Fares, 52, who has previously played under the French flag at poker events, plays both hold 'em and Omaha in the Senegalese capital and is on a poker-playing vacation with two friends to Monaco. He too is a businessman, who plays poker recreationally.


Muhyedine Fares: Igniting a Senegalese poker boom

One of them, Imad Derwiche, remains in the €25,000 High Roller event here, but spent some of his spare time this morning giving Fares moral support from the feature table rail. Derwiche heads the Senegalese money list, with recorded career tournament earnings of $330,000. If this roll continues for Fares, he could smash that in one fell swoop.

Ole Schemion is the reigning EPT Player of the Year and all-round poker sensation. Born in Berlin, but now living in Vienna, Schemion is 22 years old yet has become a fixture in the biggest games in Europe, amassing live tournament winning of close to $8 million since 2011. Before that, he was an online sensation and, as wizowizo on PokerStars, has been destroying the toughest MTT fields since pretty much the moment he picked up a mouse.


Ole Schemion: Will have won it all by 25

He has 11 outright tournament victories, including on the Partouche Poker Tour, an Aria Super High Roller, the Master Classics in Amsterdam, an EPT High Roller and three side events here in 2013. But he has not yet won an EPT Main Event despite a ninth and a fifth place finish in Barcelona and Prague, respectively.

Before Schemion, there was Johnny Lodden. And despite the emergence of the German monster, there is Johnny Lodden still. Known for years as one of the most exceptional high stakes online cash game players, Lodden, who was born in Jorpeland, Norway and is now 29, effortlessly transferred his game to the live environment and made his first EPT Main Event final table in Budapest in Season 5.


Johnny Lodden: A house to pay for

He joined Team PokerStars Pro soon after and has continued to be one of the most captivating players on the tour. He reached the final table here in Monaco in Season 9 - still considered the best final table ever to be assembled in an open event - where he finished third, for his biggest tournament score. Lodden is now a family man, with two children, and has recently bought a house in Oslo.

Jose Carlos Garcia has overcome the supposed curse of the chip leader: the Day 1 big stack has made it all the way to the final table. He's the latest Polish player to put up a big performance on the EPT, although it should come as no surprise: he is Dzmitry Urbanovich's roommate while travelling the circuit.


Jose Carlos Garcia: Dzmitry who?

Aged 22, he has already transitioned from online poker to live poker. "I enjoy it way more than online poker, I look forward to it more," Garcia told PokerStars Blog on Day 2 of this tournament. It's proven to be a wise career move. He is the second highest ranked Pole on official rankings (behind Urbanovich) and by reaching the final table here in Monte Carlo has recorded his biggest ever live score. He's guaranteed to eclipse the $119,820 he earned when finishing fourth in the LAPT Bahamas Main Event at the PCA.

The final wildcard at the final table is Koichi Nozaki, a 39-year-old project manager from Tokyo, Japan, on a poker-playing holiday to Monaco.
Nozaki has a modest list of tournament results, exclusively from small buy in events in Asia, but is now certain to fly up the all time Japan money list. He has belied his lowly ranking, at 112th.


Koichi Nozaki: Heading up the Japan money list

Follow all the action from the €10,000 Main Event on the Main Event page. Also watch on EPT Live. The €25,000 High Roller is into its second day, over on the High Roller page. It's also about time you downloaded the EPT app. There you will get all the latest news, chip counts and payouts. You can download it on Android or IOS.