EPT11 Malta: Can you hear me knocking?
Three former champions among the final 48 is about par for the course at a European Poker Tour main event. Dominik Panka, Robin Ylitalo and Jannick Wrang have both the reputation and the abilities to wrap up a second title here in Malta, but I think we all know the chances are heavily stacked against them.
Although the two-time hoodoo has been put to bed, the fact remains it is still exceptionally difficult to win an EPT title. The standard of tournament poker being played across the board has improved dramatically over the lifespan of the EPT and at any given time one can look at a table of players and reason that each and every one is good enough to earn a title.
The remaining six tables here are no exception to that rule, and it's notable how many players among them have been knocking on the door of a major score for some time.
Andrej Shatilov is a prime example. He has twice made final table on the EPT, including a sixth-place finish at the PCA two years ago, followed by fifth place in Barcelona this season. If you continue to walk into the barbers, eventually you're going to get a haircut.
Antonin Duda is growing similarly familiar to reporters on the EPT. His best result to date remains a seventh-place finish in Barcelona in Season 9, but he has picked up side event trophies on the EPT and has had at least two other deep runs in Main Events.
If you had to profile a new, potential EPT champion, their resume would invariably look a lot like Duda and Shatilov's: near misses, side event victories, growing confidence and ability.
Yann Dion has already wrapped up a big enough cash here in Malta to take his live tournament earnings past the $1 million mark. His career also features a visit to a PCA final table, as well as a tenth place finish down in Nassau. He finished seventh in the Aussie Millions in 2012, and has three other in-the-money finishes at EPT Main Events. Again, he fits the profile of an eventual winner.
On the subject of knocking at the door, it's really about time someone let Jorma Nuutinen in. The Finnish player has quietly amassed more than half a million dollar in live tournament winnings as his countrymen Ilari Sahamies, Patrik Antonius, Joni Jouhkimainen and Juha Helppi (among others) grab the headlines in the country.
But over the past two seasons of the EPT, Nuutinen has finished eighth, ninth and tenth in Prague, Sanremo and Prague again, respectively.
It is time, once again, to mention Sergio Aido, another man with precisely the right resume to fit an EPT champion. He won at UKIPT London two years ago this month, shortly after winning a WPT National Series event in Barcelona. He has finished 17th, 21st, 32nd and 70th in EPT Main Events, which represents the skill to make the right decisions at the right time. If he runs well too, he is a champion elect.
With slightly different timing, Marius Pospiech would already be an EPT champion. The German player picked up one of the biggest victories of his career in Hinterglemm, Austria, in a tournament that was still known as Snowfest. For two years, Snowfest was an EPT stop -- won by Allan Baekke and Vladimir Geshkenbein -- but by the time Pospiech rose to the top, it had dropped off the schedule.
However Pospiech has subsequently had two deep runs in the World Series Main Event, finishing 153rd and 84th, and secured an early double up today in Malta. He is worth watching too.
Mateusz Moolhuizen, whose highest finish on the EPT came in Monaco a couple of seasons ago, has been to 15 final tables in the past four years, two of them in this very room. He won one of those, in March 2011, for what remains, at €117,000, the biggest win of his career.
No one had ever heard of Hossein Ensan when he had a breakout festival appearance in Barcelona earlier this season. But after winning the first senior's event on the tour, he followed up with third place in the Main Event and is now putting together another deep run.
There are a lot of men knocking on the door this week. Who will the gatekeeper let in?
Follow coverage of the EPT Malta Main Event on the EPT Malta Main Event page. There are plenty of side events going on, and the €10,000 High Roller starts at 1pm. Keep abreast of everything via the EPT App, available on Android or IOS. Snigger, snigger. He said "a-breast".