EPT13 Malta: Boika finds Karlsson's number, prevails from whistlestop final table

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All eyes on Aliaksei Boika: EPT Malta champion

The third and final EPT Malta championship is in the possession of a 28-year-old Belorussian named Aliaksei Boika after he rose from short stack among six remaining players to do what had once seemed impossible: knock out the irrepressible Mats Karlsson.

Karlsson, a 59-year-old recreational player from Sweden, had played personal nemesis to such luminaries as Ole Schemion and Boika's friend Dmitry Yurasov, among others, this week, building a chip lead that he barely relinquished for three days. But Boika did to Karlsson what Karlsson had done to all the others. He barely lost a pot when the two clashed at a whistle-stop final table, and sealed a victory worth €355,700 after one-way traffic heads up.

"I'm super excited," Boika said when play was done. "I didn't expect much when I was sixth stack at a six-max table."


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Karlsson took €261,730 for second and seemed equal parts exhausted and jubilant at the death. Boika, however, schooled at the online tables of PokerStars, was a step too far. He had fewer than 20 big blinds at the start of play, but ended with every single one of the chips in his stack. He is some player.

"I don't have many words," he said. "It just feels amazing and crazy."

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"Amazing and crazy" -- Aliaksei Boika

When play began on the final day of this €5,300 Main Event, Karlsson was sitting pretty with the big stack and all of the momentum. But there was still plenty of play, with blinds having not yet reached the precipitous levels of other EPT tournaments, and everyone might have fancied their chances.

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Final table players: Standing (l-r): Mats Karlsson, Aliaksei Boika, Elie Saad, Peter Ockenden. Seated (l-r): Tomas Macnamara, Dmitry Yurasov

Tomas Macnamara, who had been among the big stacks for the best part of four days, said before the start of play today that he had belatedly tried to get some friends and family members over to Malta to rail him at the final, but was thwarted by the vagaries of the flight schedules.

As it turned out for Macnamara, it was better off that they weren't here to see his last day at this EPT event. It was brief and painful. Macnamara lost one flip with A♠K♠ against Boika's J♠J♦. And then he lost another with A♠8♣ to Peter Ockenden's 6♠6♥. And that was the end of that. He went home in sixth--provided he can find a flight--taking €76,790 for his troubles.

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Tomas Macnamara: Heads home in sixth

This Main Event in Malta this week has progressed at a rate far speedier than the published schedule, and we grazed a level off at least two of the earlier days as players flew out of the door. However, it has also gone into long periods of slowdown--notably before and during the bubble period--and we saw another one of those after Macnamara was knocked out.

Two hours passed before anyone else hit the rail, and they were two hours much like many others we have seen: Karlsson just continued to accumulate chips and everybody else, most notably Dmitry Yurasov, lost towers.

However, Ockenden and Elie Saad were the players most under threat and when the thumb was pulled from the dam after the pressure built too much, they were both washed away in quick succession.

Ockenden was in this event for a total investment of €27, having won a satellite on PokerStars, and knew he was guaranteed a hefty profit regardless of results today. However when he did hit the rail, he seemed utterly deflated: his A♥9♦ was beaten by Karlsson's J♦T♥ when the latter hit one of his 16 outs after a flop of 9♥8♦3♠. Karlsson couldn't miss at that stage of the day and Ockenden was only the latest of numerous victims.

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Peter Ockenden: €27 well spent

Ockenden's departure left a table that featured two pros and two amateurs, but there was a big discrepancy among the less experienced players. While Karlsson was stacked and full of confidence, Saad was very short and couldn't get any traction. Having laddered skilfully, and against the odds, to fourh, it was time for back-to-back all-in moves.

He got the first through, despite holding only K♠5♠. But then when he had K♥J♦ in the hole and tried it again, Boika found T♠T♥ and called the jam.

This was a straight race, all the money having gone in pre-flop, but the manner of Boika's victory seemed pretty filthy. Saad hit a king on the flop to put him ahead, but then the T♦ on the river was the equivalent of afterburners for Boika, who dipped over the line in front. Saad's day ended with a fourth-place prize of €141,780.

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Elie Saad successfully ladders to fourth

Yurasov was the short-stack three-handed and was likely spending his breaks fashioning a voodoo doll of Karlsson, such was the Swedish player's hold over the Russian pro. It was only fitting that Karlsson would deliver the final blow to Yurasov's hopes, and apt too that it was with an inferior hand.

Yurasov moved in for 14 big blinds with A♦K♠. That was fair enough. There's also nothing wrong with Karlsson's call with K♦Q♦. Looking good for a double up, Yurasov was left looking good for the gallows when the Q♦ appeared on the turn.

Yurasov was the most familiar face at the final table, and impressed the most with his play throughout six long days. But Karlsson simply had his number.

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Dmitry Yurasov stands for the final time

Boika had briefly assumed the chip-lead during three-handed play, but Karlsson wrestled it back by knocking out Yurasov. They went heads up super deep, with Karlsson's 8 million chips worth about 100 big blinds and Boika's 6 million about 75.

But it quickly became apparent that Boika was toying with Karlsson, and seemed never to put a foot wrong in their heads-up battle. After only about 45 minutes of play, Karlsson went for one last hail Mary bluff--shoving nearly 30 big blinds with Ace high--and Boika figured it out.

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Mats Karlsson: Huge bluff picked off

Boika took his time to make the call, going into the tank for close to five minutes, but then tossed in a chip and knew he was right. "Nice call, you win," Karlsson said as he came over to shake Boika's hand, and the game was up.

"The heads up I played bad," Karlsson said. "But I'm not used to it. Until the heads up, I'm pleased."

Boika and Yurasov are good friends, and both live in Minsk, Belarus, where they play poker and talk poker together. Yurasov did get the chance to stand under the ticker-tape explosion, but it was his friend Boika holding the trophy.

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Friends together under the ticker-tape: Gleb Tremzin, Mikita Badziakouski, Roman Koronev and Dmitry Yurasov join Boika

Take a look back on our blow-by-blow action to see how it all went down.

Thanks for following all the action from the penultimate EPT event. Join us in Prague in early December as the sun will set on the EPT--and rise on the PokerStars Championships.

EPT Malta Main Event

Dates: October 23-29, 2016
Buy-in: €5,000 + €300
Players: 468
Prize pool (after deductions): €2,269,800

POSNAMECOUNTRYSTATUSPRIZE
1Aliaksei BoikaBelarusPokerStars player€355,700
2Mats KarlssonSweden €261,730
3Dmitry YurasovRussiaPokerStars qualifier€192,650
4Elie SaadLebanon €141,780
5Peter OckendenUnited KingdomPokerStars qualifier€104,340
6Tomas MacnamaraUnited Kingdom €76,790

Full payouts from EPT Malta Main Event

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour