EPT12 Malta: Mike McDonald back at the top of the podium

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Mike McDonald, €25K High Roller Champion

Towards the beginning of this festival, when the €25,000 High Roller event was just getting started, a reporter in the press room at EPT Malta was writing about Mike McDonald. The reporter noticed that for all the myths, legends and glories of Timex, McDonald had won "only" three live tournaments in his career.

The reporter will remain nameless, and his observation never made it as far as McDonald himself. With more than $11 million in live tournament cashes, one suspects the Canadian pro wouldn't have been too concerned by the slight even if it had.

But that fickle beast "fate" had clearly been tempted. This was obviously now going to be McDonald's event. He was a big stack at the end of Day 1, was still going strong at the end of Day 2 and, at around 7.30pm local time in Malta tonight, he beat Juha Helppi heads up to pick up the fourth title of his career.

McDonald adds a €25,000 High Roller crown to an EPT Main Event title and deposits another €498,575 to the bank of Timex.


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How it played out

Players resumed just after noon today with three of the final eight--Sylvain Loosli, Benjamin Pollak and Jason Wheeler--returning for only their second day of competition. That trio had skipped the first day of this event entirely, opting instead to register at the beginning of the second day. The two French players paid the full buy-in, but Wheeler was in on the cheap, via a last-minute satellite.

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Final table players: Back row (l-r): Juha Helppi, Nick Petrangelo, Mike McDonald, Benjamin Pollak, Byron Kaverman. Front row (l-r): Sam Greenwood, Jason Wheeler, Sylvain Loosli.

Either way, their hourly rate was good and that remained true even after Loosli and Pollak became the first two out of the door.

Loosli, a former November Niner, who earned his biggest payday on European soil in the Super High Roller in Barcelona, lost a big pot in the opening stages of the day, when his A♠K♦ lost the most classic of flips against Byron Kaverman's Q♥Q♦.

That left Loosli in the kind of mood to shove with Q♦8♣ and his stack short enough that McDonald made a mandatory call with K♣2♠. Loosli didn't catch up and off he went, with €67,990 for eighth.

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Sylvain Loosli

Pollak assumed the unfortunate mantle of short stack and McDonald was in no mood to be merciful. When action folded to the last remaining Frenchman on the button, Pollak found an ace and moved all in. It was another standard move, even though his precise hand was the meagre A♥2♣.

It was especially pitiful when faced with McDonald's A♣J♥ and a jack appeared on the flop to all but end it. Two more blanks and it was done. Pollak took €87,025 for seventh.

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Ben Pollak

Sam Greenwood had come to the final table with the chip lead, sitting with more than a million more than McDonald at the start. But while McDonald's progress was as smooth as one might possibly hope, Greenwood's was the complete opposite. He had become the go-to man for opponents seeking a double up.

Greenwood's stack inevitably dwindled in the face of such ill fortune and eventually he got it all in with 4♦6♣ looking at a flop of Q♥7♥6♦. It was a pair, but it was by far the second best hand against Juha Helppi's Q♠7♠.

Greenwood didn't find a miracle and he was out, earning €110,590 for sixth. Any six-figure payday is not to be sniffed at, but having had such a lead at the start of the day, Greenwood was understandably somewhat miffed.

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Sam Greenwood

Helppi was now the undisputed table captain. He had at least three times the chips of any of his opponents, and duly thinned the field further when he got his jacks to hold up against Kaverman's A♦J♦.

Kaverman hit the rail in fifth, winning €141,415, while Helppi had the first eight-figure stack of the tournament.

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Byron Kaverman

The final four comprised Helppi, with more than 11 million chips, McDonald (3 million approx), Nick Petrangelo (2.5 million) and Wheeler (1.6 million). Helppi knew he could afford to let the smaller stacks cannibalise one another, or do the damage himself only when strictly required.

As it happened, the two smallest of them went at it: Petrangelo knocked out Wheeler with A♦K♦ versus A♠Q♥. That was all fairly standard given the circumstances, and it left Wheeler with €178,580 for fourth. He was the last of the late registrants to go.

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Jason Wheeler

The three remaining players talked about doing a deal, but then abandoned it when Helppi and McDonald had a difference of opinion with Petrangelo about whether to leave anything to play for if they carved it three ways, according to the Independent Chip Model (ICM).

They soon sorted that: McDonald knocked out Petrangelo with A♣K♦ to Petrangelo's A♦J♠. Petrangelo would have earned slightly more than the €232,065 he ended up with had he persuaded his two opponents to deal, but another near quarter-million euro payday represents yet another fine result in the young America's extraordinary 2015. It's his eighth cash of more than $100,000 since the turn of the year.

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Nick Petrangelo

McDonald and Helppi were left heads up, with stacks that were now almost even. Helppi had 9,650,000 but McDonald's elimination of Petrangelo put him with 8,850,000. And it was time for McDonald to show precisely what he is capable of.

He got things started by making a huge hero call with third pair jacks, raking the pot after Helppi showed air. McDonald then started applying pressure on a succession of scary boards, forcing Helppi into the tank and then to fold. The full details of how this all played out is in the panel at the top of the High Roller page. You can scroll through for blow-by-blow details.

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Juha Helppi

The one-way traffic eventually ended when Helppi moved all in--only about 3 million at that point--with K♣8♣ and quickly learned that he was dominated when McDonald called and showed K♥J♠. The board bricked and McDonald was champion, leaving Helppi with €354,440 for second.

Greeting the news of McDonald's triumph on Twitter, Kevin Mathers said, "Another day at the office..." It certainly had that feeling, watching McDonald pocket half a million euros and posing for a winner's photo.

But it was actually "only" the fourth time he had done so and the first since September 2011. Must do better.

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Mike McDonald, trophy in hand

€25,000 High Roller
Players: 52
Re-entries: 11
Prize pool: €1,813,000

1 - Mike McDonald, Canada, €498,575
2 - Juha Helppi, Finland, €354,440
3 - Nick Petrangelo, United States, €232,065
4 - Jason Wheeler, United States, €178,580
5 - Byron Kaverman, United States, €141,415
6 - Sam Greenwood, Canada, €110,590
7 - Benjamin Pollak, France, €87,025
8 - Sylvain Loosli, France, €67,990
9 - Christopher Frank, Germany, €51,670
10 - Dietrich Fast, Germany, €45,325
11 - Andrew Chen, Canada, €45,325

Everything about EPT Malta is on the main EPT Malta page. More specifically, all the hand-by-hand coverage of the €25,000 High Roller is on the €25,000 High Roller page and everything from the IPT Main Event is on the IPT Main Event page.

No really, begin plotting your own bid for EPT glory by downloading the PokerStars client and having a crack. Follow this EPT event via the EPT app. There you will get all the latest news, chip counts and payouts. You can download it on Android or IOS

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour