EPT11 Deauville: Josip Simunic survives slug fest to win High Roller

If you walked through the tournament room tonight you might have missed the High Roller event. As sometimes happens it's the Main event, complete with feature table and more cameras than players, which is the first to get people's attention, and that's how it should be.

Next along you would have found the Grassel sweets tournament, a €220 buy-in event in which the winner earns a big check and a lifetime's supply of chocolate. Well not really. It was only when you got past them that you reached the high rollers, two tables in the middle of many, but with a lot at stake.

What you would have found was a final day that didn't quite stick to any previously proven script. There was nothing predictable about an event in which the eventual winner started the day with just three big blinds. But Josip Simunic refused to give way, and was rewarded tonight with an EPT High Roller crown, a first prize of €309,170, and a SLYDE watch.

Josip_Simunic_ept11deauville_winner_hr_wrap.jpgEPT11 Deauville High Roller Champion Josip Simunic

"That was the most incredible run of my life," said Simunic. "I don't know how it happened. I cannot realise it. I don't know."

He compared it with winning the Sunday 500 two weeks ago on PokerStars, but was clear which was the more significant. "This is much bigger for me," he said. "It's an EPT title."

Josip_Simunic_ept11deauville_hr_Wrap_2.jpgShaking on it: Josip Simunic and Jean-Noel Thorel

There were times when this event seemed to defy the structure, other times when it was a slug fest, with player after player trying to land as many blows on their opponent before their energy dwindled, along with their stacks. But Simunic did it best, defeating Jean-Noel Thorel in what was something of an epic heads-up duel.

The heads-up was a good old fashioned (and good-natured) free for all. With stacks all square Thorel surprised everyone when he shoved immediately, leaving Simunic in the tank for ten minutes before calling time on himself and folding (Thorel later said he had pocket nines while Simunic had ace-jack). There was nothing dull about this last phase. Every hand seemed to be a clincher, But it was Simunic, a former handball player from Austria, who undid the Frenchman.


For his part Thorel proved not only a worthy opponent, but a generous one. His every instinct was to applaud good play, regardless of the effect it had on his own prospects. It marks the second time he has finished second in an EPT Deauville high roller. But he seemed in no way disappointed.

Jean_Noel_Thorel_ept11deauville_hr_ft_wrap.jpgJean-Noel Thorel

Some 12 players returned but the final table of eight didn't take long to arrive. But in the course of that period Tobias Peters deserves at least a small hat tip.

Last night he was part of a gruesome hand that left him with a single chip. That's the type of stack you find down the back of the couch. But somehow he managed to make the next pay jump when Davidi Kitai went out in 12th, earning €22,110. It allowed Peters to bust happily in 11th. Well perhaps not happily, but with €25,190 to lessen the pain.

All this happened in what felt like no time at all. By the time Garret Greuner joined those on the rail, Komcharakov had doubled-up Thomas Butzhammer with queen-jack against the German's ace-ten. Butzhammer wasn't done. In the next hand he found queens, Komcharakov, who let's not forget led the field coming into today, found eights and went for broke. He got broke. Out in ninth.

Nikolay_Komcharokov_ept11deauville_hr_wrap.jpgNikolay Komcharakov

Now step into Butzhammer's shoes for a minute. He'd just taken the bulk of Komcharakov's chips, two pots which credited him with nearly a million chips. These were good times. And yet, like Komcharakov, his advantage would prove temporary.

First Simunic doubled through him. Then came a hand against Thorel that would leave him slamming down cards and kicking chairs. It would not be the hand that put an end to Butzhammer's dream, but it would start his nightmare. It wasn't long before Butzhammer tried to crack this nut with ace-ten. It was impossible. After he ran into Simunic with kings, Butzhammer was stood fuming as he queued at the pay-out desk.

Then from seven players, to five players in a single hand. Joao Ribiero moved all-in for 357,000 (just short of ten big blinds) and watched Eric Sfez move over the top for 650,000. Robin Ylitalo asked for a count and announced that he was also all-in. An enormous pot was about to change everything for someone. Specifically Robin Ylitalo.

Robin_Ylitalo_Jean-Noel_Thorel_ept11deauville_hr_wrap.jpgYlitalo and Thorel tangled throughout the day

The Swede, a former EPT Main Event winner, showed jacks against Riberio's king-queen and Sfez's ace-king of hearts. But the board ran out ten-high, leaving Ribiero and Sfez on their way to the rail, and Ylitalo with a stack of 2.3 million.

But if anyone had learned anything about this final, it was that the chip lead was cursed. Ylitalo took his turn as the target, and his stack was soon reduced by a million. None of that went to Ivan Luca though, who as the short stack looked for the right opportunity to push. He did, turning over sevens against Simunic's ace-queen. The Austrian turned an ace and Luca was out in fifth.

Josip Simunic (Austria) 2,135,0003
Fady Kamar (Lebanon) 1,685,0006
Robin Ylitalo (Sweden) 1,415,0007
Jean-Noel Thorel (France) 1,165,000

There was never a time when any player was deep stacked. The blinds were always creeping up and two breaks would pass during four-handed play. It meant things got scrappy. Thorel shoved multiple times, doubling up on the third try and leaving Ylitalo the short stack. Two hands would conspire to send the Swede out in fourth, both played against Simunic.

josip_simunic_ept11deauville_hr_wrap.jpgSimunic in action

It would be Fady Kamar who would go out next. The Lebanese has a history of deep runs in EPT High Roller events, falling short of a win on several occasions.

fady_kamar_ept11deauville_hr_wrap.jpgAnother deep high roller run for Fady Kamar

Today it would be a similar story. With his chips in against Thorel the river card swung it to the Frenchman. Both players let out a similar noise, and it was hard, without double checking, to work out which noise was good and which was bad. But it was Thorel who would advance.

The rest is now for the record books.

Congratulations to both Simunic and Thorel on a memorable finale to a great festival.

Event #33, €10,000 EPT High Roller
Entrants: 128
Prize pool: €1,228,800
Places paid: 17

1. Josip Simunic (Austria) €309,170
2. Jean-Noel Thorel (France) €208,900
3. Fady Kamar (Lebanon) €135,780
4. Robin Ylitalo (Sweden) €112,440
5. Ivan Luca (Argentina) €90,690
6. Eric Sfez (France) €71,520
7. Joao Ribeiro (Portugal) €54,680
8. Thomas Butzhammer (Germany) €41,160

Coverage from the Main Event of EPT Deauville is on the Main Event page. Check out all the action from around the festival on the main festival page. Also follow the action on EPT Live and stay up to date with the sensational EPT app for iPhone, iPad or Android.

Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.
Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in High Roller