EPT11 Prague: Fabio Sperling leads, but Vanessa Selbst leads star-studded chasing pack
We are down to the final 22 in the EPT Prague main event and if you had asked most poker commentators at the beginning of the week to pick the person they would most expect to see among the last exclusive group, there would now be a lot of very smug folk saying, "I told you so."
Vanessa Selbst, who crushes more poker tournaments per year than residents of Bordeaux crush grapes, is again making her presence felt here in Prague. The Team PokerStars Pro, now flying the Red Spade alone in this tournament, was at her dastardly best in the Czech capital today. She started on the EPT Live feature table, had a spell on the main tournament floor among the minions, then returned to the stage for the last level of the day.
Before that last move, it had been nothing but plain sailing. Selbst was chip leader and in beast mode. But then Stephen Graner won a big pot from her right at the death, rivering a set of threes, and Bjorn Wiesler also flopped a set of fives against her to win a chunk. But Selbst is still in the top five and has more than enough to feel confident on Day 5.
Selbst tonight bags 2,040,000, which is comfortably in the top ten, and she is irresistible when she is in this kind of form -- the only miracle is that she's never done it in an EPT main event before. We took a close look at a hand Selbst played in our coverage today, and click through there to see if you could have made that play.
Graner, who was second in chips overnight, again occupies that position going into the penultimate day. The only player with more chips than him is Fabio Sperling, 24-year-old German player who now lives in Ramsgate, in the United Kingdom ("It's a lovely city by the sea," he said.) Sperling won the Valencia leg of the Estrellas Poker Tour in April this year, and has put his bankroll to good use at various EPT stops since then. He bagged 4,357,000 tonight and will have serious designs on the biggest cash of his fledgling career.
"I made three or four sets today, won a big pot with aces and made a big bluff," he said, describing his run to the top of the counts. "It was dream day of poker. I've never ran this well live before."
Here are the full chip counts for the remaining players:
Fabio Sperling - 4,357,000
Stephen Graner - 3,228,000
Sam Grafton - 2,610,000
Davidi Kitai - 2,307,000
Vanessa Selbst - 2,040,000
Miltiadis Kyriakides - 1,900,000
Andras Nemeth - 1,813,000
Bjorn Wiesler - 1,504,000
Remi Castaignon - 1,385,000
Tamer Kamel - 1,304,000
Jakub Slemr - 1,278,000
Balasz Botond - 1,248,000
Jonathan Wong - 1,216,000
Francesco Greico - 1,215,000
Simon Mattsson - 1,172,000
Anton Bentilsson - 1,131,000
Artem Metalidi - 1,065,000
Sergey Lebedev - 678,000
Pascal Pflock - 671,000
Roman Pavliuk - 608,000
Thomas Butzhammer - 320,000
Nandor Solyom - 182,000
The three other players with serious EPT pedigree still involved are Davidi Kitai, Remi Castaignon and Tamer Kamel. The former, who was also featured in depth earlier in the day, won an EPT title in Berlin a couple of seasons ago and has also won at the World Series and WPT, earning him the Triple Crown. Kitai has so far avoided Selbst, but that will likely change tomorrow, and fireworks could fly.
Castaignon, who won in Deauville on Season 9, does not play half as many tournaments as most former champions and is always content to fly under the radar when he does. But he has a seat at the last three tables and has gone all the way before.
As for Kamel, he talked of incredibly highly in British poker circles and told PokerStars Blog earlier today about his new-found focus. He made the final table in his home city a few seasons ago, and is eyeing a return visit in another city he loves.
A couple of further sub-plots: Brian Altman, who was chip leader at the end of Day 2, struggled with a short stack for most of today. But he pulled off some of the most outstanding out-draws by a player facing elimination of all time. He simply could not be eliminated for almost all of the day, including cracking aces with king-two. Eventually, he became the last man out today, on the very last hand.
Hats off too to Balazs Botond, the man who eliminated Altman. Botond won the Eureka main event earlier in this festival and is now showing beyond doubt that he is no flash in the pan and is still involved at this late stage in the EPT main event too. Dimitri Holdeew did something very similar last year, but couldn't quite go all the way. Botond has the firepower to do even better.
It's probably also worth mentioning Sam Grafton, the popular British pro. Grafton recently moved to Prague with his girlfriend and has cashed at the first festival he has played in his new home town. Must be nice.
Tomorrow's schedule is to play to a final table of eight, but the reality may be somewhat different. Owing to the ridiculous length of most final tables during this season of the European Poker Tour, we will play five levels tomorrow regardless of how many players remain. There's a good chance we'll get down to seven or even six in that time, and then play a short-handed final day on Wednesday.
There's only one way to find out how it all progresses: come back to PokerStars Blog from noon tomorrow and see it through.