EPT11 Malta: Javier Gomez Zapatero raises Spanish hopes after glory day in Malta
There has never been a Spanish winner on the European Poker Tour, and we are still three days away from learning if the drought will be ended here this week. But whatever the outcome, today in the €5,300 Main Event of the EPT Malta festival belonged to the sangria-quaffing, castanet-clacking, paella-chomping matadors from the Iberian peninsula.
Javier Gomez Zapatero finished with 1,698,000 chips, the most of the 56 players remaining from the 895 who entered. A member of the Spanish contingent now living in London, Zapatero qualified for this event for €250. And if he looks not too far over his shoulder, he'll see Sergio Aido, another transplant to the United Kingdom from Spain. Aido led for a long period, before handing to baton to Zapatero and ending with 833,000. The way Aido plays, that could be double or nothing by the end of the first level tomorrow.
Zapatero's closest challengers tonight are Valetin Messina (1,362,000) from France and Sweden's Alexander Ivarsson (1,199,000). Ivarsson wore a T-shirt today bearing the slogan "At Night I Fly". In terms of appropriate branding for a poker tournament big stack -- especially one accumulated just as the sun drained into the Mediterranean -- this is right up there.
Jorma Nuutinen, who is the only player remaining from the extraordinary feature table at the start of Day 2, has 1,121,000. Manuel Zapf, with 1,086,000 is the only other player with more than million.
Nobody will be taking anything for granted, not least the Spanish poker fans, who have seen their hopes crushed many times before. But it seems especially prudent to keep a lid on the expectations given the quality of the players still involved.
Although the World Champion departed -- Martin Jacobson was eliminated shortly before the end of play -- we have an online poker World Champion still involved. Fedor Holz is sitting with 422,000. Meanwhile having seen Dzmitry Urbanovich threaten his position as the most reliable talent from Poland, Dominik Panka has responded in the only way he possibly could, by sticking around until the deep stages here. The former PCA champion, who has 176,000 chips, is one of three EPT title-winners still in the field. Jannick Wrang and Robin Ylitalo have 433,000 and 487,000, respectively.
To get us to this stage, where everybody is guaranteed at least €12,800, more than 800 people have been eliminated, including 130 today. The unluckiest of them all was Atanas Kavrakov, who left empty handed on the bubble. It was a short but intense period just before the money kicked in, with at least one come-from-behind-victory from players on the brink of elimination.
But Kavrakov's A♥K♥ couldn't out-race Bruno Volkmann's J♣J♦ and that sent the Bulgarian home with zilch.
There was no shame in busting. Connor Drinan and Dan Smith were the first two players to be eliminated with min-cashes, taking €9,120 apiece. Jonathan Duhamel didn't earn all that much more. He went out in 85th for €10,850.
Martins Adeniya, Vladimir Troyanovskiy, Sorel Mizzi, Sam Trickett and Griffin Benger were also another those to perish not long after the bubble, even though the latter entertained us all during the hand-for-hand period.
(Mitch Johnson, meanwhile, is hoping to shed his "min-cash" moniker and is still involved.)
All the details of how the action played out today is on the main EPT Malta page. There's full chip counts and details of payouts in the panel at the top of the page, and all our coverage below.
Goodnight all, and see you tomorrow.