EPT12 Prague: Ivan Luca's great European Adventure continues

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Ivan Luca (centre, black jacket) has had an incredible year

Who watches the most live poker asked nobody to the PokerStars Blog. If you discount those who get paid to do so - tournament staff, bloggers, dealers etc - then we reckon the answer might be Ivan Luca's girlfriend.

When not playing poker herself, she can be found railing the Argentinian at festival stops around Europe and that's meant she's be working overtime during the last year. Rewind twelve months and unless you were an online poker tournament aficionado or a dedicated follower of South American poker then it was a case of Ivan who? The reason for that was simple, before December 2014 Luca had never played a live tournament outside of South America. Since then barely a festival has gone by without Luca making a deep run in something.

His European Adventure started here in Prague twelve months ago and it's fair to say it's been a resounding success. Three top three finishes here amounted to over €55,000 in cashes and he followed that up with a decent cash in the €25,000 High Roller at the PCA in January. It was in Deauville that he really announced himself on the EPT though as a fourth place finish in the FPS Main Event was followed up with 49th place in the EPT Main Event and a fifth place finish in the €10,000 High Roller. The adjective 'crushing' was used, probably.

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Since then he's won a WSOP bracelet, finished runner-up in another €10,000 High Roller on the EPT, won a £3,000 High Roller, final tabled two Super High Rollers and basically proved that his results here last season were no fluke. His progress over the last 12 months can be neatly illustrated by looking at the table he finds himself at today:

Seat One: Sylvain Loosli
Seat Two: Tobias Reinkemeier
Seat Three: Juha Helppi
Seat Four: Ivan Luca
Seat Five: Sam Greenwood
Seat Six: John Juanda
Seat Seven: Vladimir Troyanovskiy
Seat Eight: Thomas Muehloecker

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Tough crowd...

At a table containing six WSOP bracelets, one EPT Main Event champion, an EPT Super High Roller winner and three players who own EPT High Roller trophies, not only does Luca not look out of place, he actually bests them all in one key stat, namely the 2015 GPI Player of the Year race. He's currently ranked 20th for the calendar year with Greenwood (25th) the next best at this fearsome table.

The Argentinian has a reputation for being someone who's really difficult to play against, the sort of annoying guy who puts you in loads of tough spots. One of them meaning, the sort of player we wish we could be. But don't take our word for it, David Peters, who defeated Luca heads-up to win the €10,000 High Roller at EPT11 Malta, had this to say of him after their battle. "He's very tough, very tricky. It's hard to put him on a hand."

The PokerStars Blog got a window of insight into Luca's game and why he's got such a reputation, in back to back hands a short time ago. In the first he defended his big blind to a button raise from Reinkemeier and then checked on the Q♠2♥2♦ flop. The German fired out a bet of 3,500 but the Argentinian wasn't going to just give up on this dry board, nor did he elect to 'just call'. Instead he check-raised to 20,200 total and after a bit of tank time Reinkemeier released his hand.

On the very next hand Muehloecker raised to 4,000 (the minimum) from under-the-gun+1, Luca smooth called from the small blind and Juanda did likewise from the big blind. A continuation bet of 6,700 from Muehloecker on the 3♠A♦7♥ flop didn't shake off either opponent and all three players then checked the 4♠ turn to see the 9♥ complete the board.

Casually, almost nonchalantly Luca looped a single 5k chip over the line. This was a small bet into a pot of over 33,000. Was this thin value, an attempt to get to showdown cheaply with a marginal hand or something else? It was possible that we'd never know of course, especially when Juanda raised to 40,000, leaving himself just 6,700 back.

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Muehloecker - lit the kindling but ducked out before the fire started

That raise from Juanda forced Muehloecker out but Luca asked for a look at Juanda's stack before moving all-in, Juanda snap called and rolled over 6♥5♣ for the straight, whilst Luca had also connected squarely with the turn, just not as well as Juanda as he held 4♥4♦.

That dent drops Luca back down to around starting stack.

Coverage of the Eureka Main Event is all handily organized on the Eureka Prague page.

You'll find updates on the Super High Roller on this page throughout the day and all the schedule information is on the EPT App, which is available on both Android or IOS.

Nick Wright
@PokerStars in European Poker Tour