EPT12 Malta: Niall Farrell unstoppable on way to Main Event title

It was said this week that of all players Niall Farrell is the hardest to read. Charlie Carrel said it while playing him on Day 3 (which we wrote about here), and Mickey Petersen pointed it out on Twitter yesterday. The fact that Farrell can find comfort from defeat in the bonhomie of a glass of beer with friends has become something of a legend.

There was of course exaggeration to this. It's more about Farrell being a gifted player who was able to show the extent of his talents today, winning €534,300 to become the latest EPT Main Event champion.

champion_malta12.jpgEPT Malta champion Niall Farrell

He did it all in the space of four and a half hours today, making short work of the six-handed final.

He hadn't returned as the leader. That was Alen Bilic, whose elimination of Alexander Ivarsson last night thrust him into the spotlight. But Farrell bided his time, struck early (sending Sam Greenwood and Rainer Kempe to the rail) and kept at it, watched by a British rail featuring Ludovic Geilich and Charlie Carrel, who were confident their man could go all the way.


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So when it finally came to playing heads up against Bilic, Farrell already seemed unstoppable. The cynic might say that he hit good cards, and to a certain extent that was true (notably finding aces when fifth-placed Kempe found queens). But on other occasions he made the right lay downs, and equally sound decisions - and not just at the final. Put simply, he showed every attribute required of an EPT champion.

"It feels incredible," said Farrell, who put his success down to running good for the past few days. "Bilic is a really good player. I've played a lot online with him. He played really tough."


niall_farrell_standing_malta12.jpg


The relief of winning was obvious as friend on the rail passed him a beer.

"I promised I wouldn't have any till it was done," he said, before joking: "I'm never playing poker again!"

To say things got off to a quick start would be an understatement. Here's how they lined up at the beginning of the day:

1. Niall Farrell (United Kingdom) 5,115,000 (85 big blinds)
2. Rainer Kempe (Germany) 1,515,000 (25)
3. Sam Greenwood (Canada) 1,605,000 (26)
4. Giulio Spampinato (Italy) 1,180,000 (19)
5. Alen Bilic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) 7,635,000 (127)
6. Jaroslaw Sikora (Poland) 2,455,000 (40)

First Greenwood hit the rail, falling short on another deep run. His king-jack was called by Farrell's ace-seven to see him off. Soon after Kempe followed; that was the queens-against-aces hand. It was an honourable departure for the German, who reached the same position at EPT Barcelona in the first event of the season.


sam_greenwood_ft_wrap_malta12.jpgSam Greenwood was out first


rainer_kempe_ft_wrap_malta12.jpgFollowed by Rainer Kempe

Giulio Spaminato began the final six as the short stack. His stack of 19 big blinds looked locked on to be whittled away first. And yet by watching the other two leave before him, he inflated his own payday to €203,000. His fourth place was ample reason to raise his arms as he did on his way to the payout desk.


arms_up_spampinato_malta12.jpgGiulio Spampinato leaves the stage in fourth place

A word about Jaraslaw Sikora.

The Pole was among the leaders at almost every stage this week, playing an almost faultless game for six whole days. His third place capped off a career-best performance, and one he can be proud of once the disappointment wears off.

sikora_ft_wrap_malta12.jpgJaroslaw Sikora

With such a quick passage to heads up play the finale was expected to be lengthy. Even with a deal Bilic and Farrell sparred for several hours before it was brought to a close by Farrell as the sun set over Malta.

Bilic, making his first appearance at a live final table, gambled on a busted flush draw with eight-deuce of hearts. Farrell's five-six had made two pair and was enough.


heads-Up_malta12.jpg

Farrell, known to friends as "Firaldo", is a well known and well liked player on the tour, and celebrated with friends as Bilic stepped from the stage. He now has an EPT trophy to get his hands on, although first that victory beer.
EPT12 Malta Main Event
Players: 651
Prize pool: €3,157,350
Places paid: 95

1. Niall Farrell (United Kingdom) €534,330*
2. Alen Bilic (Bosnia & Herzegovina) €440,000*
3. Jaroslaw Sikora (Poland) €265,840
4. Giulio Spaminato (Italy) €203,640
5. Rainer Kempe (Germany) €161,340
6. Sam Greenwood (Canada) €125,660
* denotes heads-up deal


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Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in European Poker Tour