EPT12 Malta: The happiest players in the room

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Atkinson literally had a chip and chair when the bubble burst

When the bubble bursts everyone left in the tournament is happy, but the collective happiness isn't distributed equally. The majority of the happiness quotient goes to those shortest on chips, those who've been 'hugging' the bubble so to speak.

They're delighted to now have locked up a cash because with their short stack securing a min-cash means they've essentially achieved their goal. The mid-stacks are happy because now they can actually start playing some poker without the stress of the bubble to affect them and the big stacks are happy because well, they're a big stack and they'll now get more hands in per hour with which to wield that stack to good effect.

Poker tournament bubbles come in all shapes and sizes, as noted here, the hand for hand period of this one in Malta lasted for 90 minutes - an entire level of play - and it meant that those who started the bubble short and survived were really short by the time they'd locked up that precious min-cash.

The PokerStars Blog decided to track a number of the short stacks both pre and post bubble to see how they fared. Hand for hand play started with approximately 45 minutes left in level 16, during which blinds were 2,000/4,000 ante 500. These players were most in trouble when the clock was paused with 97 players left and 95 spots paying:

NameCountryStatusChips
Christopher AndlerSweden 13,000
Andrew AtkinsonUKPokerStars Qualifier21,000
Antoine SaoutFrance 29,000
Giacomo FundaroItaly 36,500
Jeffrey RossiterAustraliaPokerStars qualifier38,000
Adrian TivadarRomaniaPokerStars Qualifer39,000
Andrey KotelnikovRussiaPokerStars player39,500
Mamouni SmainCanada 41,000
Mati De MeulderBelgiumTeam PokerStars Pro45,500
Ludovic GeilichUK 47,500
Antonio D'AlessandroItaly 48,000
Kevin SharpCanadaPokerStars qualifier55,500

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Kevin Sharp - one of the shorstacks who survived the bubble

You can read a detailed report of what transpired up to an including the bubble here. The knock on effect of the protracted bubble, and the fact that Andler and Atkinson were so short during the bubble phase, meant that most of those who started short were running on fumes by the time they'd safely made it into the money.

None more so than Andrew Atkinson. The Englishman had qualified on PokerStars for just €32.40 and he had just a single 500 chip left when the bubble burst. To see his relief at making the money made you realise just how much it meant to him. His biggest cash prior to this event was £425, earned when he won a £25 tournament so you can see why.

His one ante went in before a card was dealt but despite having no chips left he wore the widest smile in the room. But then so would you be if you'd just locked up a minimum of €9,320 and scored your biggest poker result to date.

Now all that remained to be seen was if the Poker Gods had been kind to him or not. Everyone folded meaning he was just up against Andreas Chalkiadakis, who was in the big blind. First to show was Atkinson, his 5♥2♥ bad but not in terrible shape against Chalkiadakis's 6♠4♥. The 7♣7♥9♦ flop was decent for Atkinson. "Everyone loves a chopped pot," said Chalkiadakis. However, the dealer had different ideas for this one as the 6♦ turn gave Chalkiadakis the lead and Atkinson didn't hit his gutshot on the river.

This was though the happiest bustout ever, Atkinson went over to the rail and embraced a female companion who'd been railing him throughout his bubble torment. He'd have floated to the payout desk if he could've, it's unlikely he'll forget this 90 minutes of his life.

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Andrew Atkinson during his bubble torment

As it happened Atkinson wasn't first out in the money, that honour went to Younas Yousaf but there was, predictably a rush to the exits. Anyone finishing between 95th and 72nd would pick up the same amount and Brian Yoon was another who exited in the minutes after the bubble burst.

Some talented players were now very short on chips and you suspected they weren't going to be playing Teaxs Fold'em now they'd locked up a cash. Blinds were up to 2,500/5,000 ante 500 and Mati De Meulder (24,500), Antoine Saout (14,500) and Jeff Rossiter (17,500) were all well and truly in the danger zone.

For De Meulder's part he'd have been even further in the mire had he not taken a big risk on the bubble. "I shoved 4.5 big blinds from under-the-gun with kings and everyone folded," he told the PokerStars Blog during hand for hand play. "I should be shoving aces only there but I had kings," he grinned before adding. "I definitely fold queens there."

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This crazy LAG shoved with kings! Kings!

First to chance his arm of the trio post-bubble was Rossiter. The Australian shoved with J♦5♣ and needed some help against Joni Jouhkimainen's A♥T♥. Help duly arrived as the 5♦2♦3♠J♣J♥ board saw him boat up to survive.

This left Jouhkimainen short on chips and he would send one of our featured short stacks to the rail shortly afterwards. Down to just 18,000 Mamouni Smain moved all-in with K♥9♥ and received calls from Christoph Vogelsang and Jouhkimainen. On the Q♥Q♣2♠ flop Jouhkimainen moved in for his last 26,500 with A♣8♥ and Vogelsang released his hand. The T♥ turn and A♦ river meant Jouhkimainen held.

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Rossiter survived

Meanwhile Saout's stack was still dwindling downwards. Eventually he had no choice but to make a move. He committed his last 12,000 from under-the-gun+1 and picked up two callers. On the 4♣4♥K♠ flop Ludovic Riehl bet 15,500 which was enough to make the pot heads-up.

Saout: 2♠2♦
Riehl: A♠5♠

Saout was in good shape but he'd have to dodge a number of counterfeit outs as well as the pure outs that Riehl had. The 6♣ turn was a brick but the 2♥ river meant Saout survived.

He was soon involved again though, shoving for 38,500 over the top of a 10,000 chip open from Michael Gathy. The Belgian got a count of Saout's shove and after a bit of tank time decided calling was the best option. He opened 9♦8♦ and was in bad shape against Saout's A♦T♦. The A♠Q♥4♦J♠A♣ board meant Saout had turned a stack of just over two big blinds into one of over 15 big blinds in just three hands.

He wasn't the only short stack success story though. Andrey Kotelnikov had spun his shrapnel up to 70,000 and Kevin Sharp had prospered during the bubble period as he had over 60,000.

By this point 15 players had been eliminated in the money and De Meulder found himself at the same table as Niall Farrell and Sharp. He'd yet to play a hand since the bubble burst and was down to just 21,000. Eventually though he did find a hand in mid-position and moved his chips over the line.

The player to his immediate left - Patrick Jann - asked for a count and De Meulder cheekily said, "It's 201,000," before laughing. Once Jann had the correct count he called, only for Sharp to shove behind for 68,000. Again Jann requested a count and once more he called and we had a three-way all-in.

De Meulder: A♦J♠
Jann: J♦J♣
Sharp: Q♠Q♥

De Meulder and Farrell were laughing and joking as the dealer spread a K♣6♣5♥9♦4♦ board on the felt. After the river card hit De Meulder said to Farrell: "That means it's over. Now I've got to find something else to do!"

Still that's two Main Event cashes from two in Season 12 for De Meulder who finished 28th in Barcelona. So that's what happened in the 30 minutes after the bubble burst, during that time the field was reduced from 95 to 77 and whilst most of the short stacks who survived the bubble perished during this period others, such as Saout, are still in their fighting and could well produce a remarkable comeback story by the end of the tournament.

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Could this be Saout's comeback story of a lifetime?

Everything about EPT Malta is on the main EPT Malta page. More specifically, all the side event coverage can be found here.

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Nick Wright
@PokerStars in Main Event