EPT11 Malta: Dzmitry Urbanovich tears through High Rollers to wrap up first major title
At around about 5pm today, with only two players left at a rapid-fire final table of the €25,000 Special High Roller at EPT Malta, Dominik Panka stood on the rail to watch Dzmitry Urbanovich go heads up with Connor Drinan for more than €500,000. Quite a lot of people knew quite a lot about Drinan - he had played the $1 million entry One Drop tournament after all - but quite a lot of people knew almost nothing about Urbanovich.
If anybody did know, however, it would be Panka, the poster-boy of the Polish poker boom, with PCA and an EPT High Roller titles to his name. Panka had been railing his countryman for much of this tournament, perhaps hoping someone else could help him carry the hopes of a quickly-improving poker nation.
"He is well known in the Polish poker community," Panka said of Urbanovich. "He has won a SCOOP tournament, in the mixed games."
Panka then paused for a moment, before adding, "He is very aggressive." And there was something in the way Panka said it that we weren't just talking common or garden extreme aggression here. He seemed to suggest that even in a school of piranhas, Urbanovich would be nipping at the others' fins.
An hour or so later, we could all see what he was getting at. And we also all knew a bit more about Urbanovich, who plays on PokerStars as "colisea". Despite being out-chipped by the fearsome Drinan when they went heads up, Urbanovich heaped on the pressure and swung it fully round in his favour. Panka's burden is now shared. Urbanovich is our first major champion at this EPT Malta festival, and €572,300 richer.
"This was my first EPT High Roller, maybe I was preparing myself for bigger tournaments, and this was the moment," Urbanovich said. "I was pretty lucky, got some good spots, made some bad beats for guys. Played good in certain spots and a solid game."
He added: "It wasn't easy heads-up, it lasted for three hours or something. It took me about 1.5 hours to get the lead and then I found some good spots...I can't say for sure I am more aggressive than my opponents. Sometimes, I think at the right times I am. I guess I play the same and adjust to opponents."
After two full days of action, the final eight reconvened with a pretty good idea of how each of their adversaries played, but with stack sizes that afforded only a few of them the chance to play anything but by-the-book poker.
So it proved within the first orbit, when Martin Finger was the first player to be knocked out. Finger is one of very few players with both EPT Main Event and Super High Roller titles to his name, so has proven over the years that he can play pretty much every stack and every buy in. But even a rank amateur would have looked at a stack of about 22 big blinds, seen A♦K♣ in his hand and four-bet shoved over a chip-leader's pre-flop re-raise.
Urbanovich, leading the way at this stage, called with T♦T♣ and the pocket pair stayed good. Finger added an eighth place finish to his resume and €79,800 to his bankroll.
The same amateur who could have played Finger's hand for him would probably have known what to do with Sam Greenwood's Q♣Q♦ too. By that point, Greenwood, who had led for long periods of Day 2, was down to his last 300,000 (about 15 big blinds). Greenwood open shoved, and was in pretty good shape when Urbanovich again looked him up with A♠9♠.
But there was a nine on the flop and another on the turn, which completed a come-from-behind victory in this hand for the chip leader. Urbanovich's roll continued as Greenwood's came to an end. His was the first six-figure payday of the festival: €102,400, to be precise.
Drinan, the leader at the start of play today, had mostly stayed out of the big confrontations in the early stages, but popped up to do what he had to do when he found the chance. He found K♠K♥ and made a standard raise. Then he made a very standard call when Piotr Franczak shoved for a little more than 300,000 with pocket threes.
There were no dramas, which sent Franczak out in sixth, earning €129,400. He will have been content having needed a double up two off the money yesterday to even cash in this event. Poland had lost one player, but another representative was still more than alive.
At the start of play today, Daniel Dvoress had expressed his pride at being one of five North Americans around the final table. And even though Greenwood's exit had trimmed their number to four, only Urbanovich was flying a flag from anywhere outside the huge landmass over the Atlantic.
It meant, however, that the North Americans were going to have to resort to cannibalism to get their chips, and Dvoress started with Dani Stern. First up, Dvoress's A♥K♥ stayed good when his shove of 250,000 was called by Stern and his A♠Q♠. Then Dvoress polished Stern off with A♣J♣ against 9♥9♦.
It was an emphatic end too. The flop came 5♣T♣Q♣ and that was the end of Stern, who took €166,000 for fifth.
No player will have been happier at this rash of eliminations than Nick Petrangelo, who had the shortest stack returning to the final table. But he had managed to avoid all the carnage and laddered up to fourth when his run came to an end.
Petrangelo eventually got his chips in with Q♦T♦ against Drinan's J♠T♠. He was ahead, and even saw a queen on the turn to make things better. But by the time the river was out, the full board read K♠8♥6♦Q♠9♣ and that was a straight for Drinan. Petrangelo won €205,900 for fourth.
Drinan and Urbanovich were actually pretty level when play went three-handed, but Dvoress knew he was the man under pressure. He lost a couple of pots to Drinan that didn't go to showdown, but eventually got a short stack in with J♠9♠ and ran into Urbanovich's A♠3♦. He was live but whiffed through flop, turn and river. His trip to Malta has already earned him €263,000, however.
Drinan had the lead when the two of them went heads up. He had 2.7 million to Urbanovich's 1.7 million. After some early probing, Urbanovich tried a mighty bluff with eight high that didn't get through. But this advertising worked wonders soon after when he rivered a straight with T♥7♥ and got paid with his river bet.
That pot put Urbanovich into the lead, and he never looked back. He hammered relentlessly at Drinan and reduced the American to his last 12 big blinds before he next won a sizeable pot. That doubled up Drinan - K♥Q♦ to Urbanovich's Q♣6♠ - but it proved to be only temporary respite.
They got it all in with Urbanovich holding T♣T♥ versus Drinan's 9♦9♠ and the title was heading back to central Europe. "We work hard, there's a great community of players, especially in live poker," Urbanovich said of his countrymen, still swarming around preparing to celebrate.
Drinan took €397,800 for second. (There was never any discussion of a deal.)
That concludes the action from this special added €25,000 event. The Main Event begins on Sunday and the €10,000 High Roller later in the week. We will be back for all of it.
€25,000 Special High Roller
Entries: 88 (68 uniques; 20 re-entries)
Prize pool: €2,156,000
Places paid: 13
1 Dzmitry Urbanovich, Poland, €572,300
2 Connor Drinan, United States, €397,800
3 Daniel Dvoress, Canada, €263,000
4 Nick Petrangelo, United States, €205,900
5 Dani Stern, United States, €166,000
6 Piotr Franczak, Poland, €129,400
7 Sam Greenwood, Canada, €102,400
8 Martin Finger, Germany, €79,800
9 Ramin Hajiyev, Azerbaijan, €60,400
10 Jeff Rossiter, Australia, €46,400
11 Agshin Rasulov, Azerbaijan, €46,400
12 Andreas Eiler, Germany, €43,100
13 Philipp Gruissem, Germany, €43,100
Follow all the action from the EPT Malta festival at PokerStars Blog. We have a hand-by-hand recap from the €25,000 High Roller in the panel at the top of the €25,000 High Roller page. Feature pieces are below. We also have a man on the IPT Malta stop. You must also download the EPT App, available on both Android or IOS, because endangered species die if you don't.