EPT Monte Carlo: Heads-up across a room

Gavin Griffin was sick. Literally. His nose sniffled, his eyes were red, and his every breath seemed to be full of real effort. Even the frivolousness of his pink hair couldn't offset the clarity of Griffin's head cold. Yet, there was a determination in his eye that no one could deny.

A couple of seats down the table, Canadian pro Marc Karam sat with steel in his eyes. It had been just a year since Karam had made the final table of the PokerStars EPT Grand Final. That year, he'd watched American college student Jeff Williams go on to win the title. Now, Karam was heads up with Griffin, a man most famous then for once being the youngest person to ever win a World Series bracelet.

It was a heads-up match that promised and delivered a battle suited for the history books.

The final hand, as reported here at the PokerStars Blog, played out like this:

Gavin made it 150,000 to go pre-flop and Marc re-raised to 400,000. Gavin called. The flop came 3-2-4. Marc pushed out a bet of 500,000. Gavin thought for just a few seconds before raising to 2 million. The room suddenly felt like it does just before a huge electrical storm in the American Midwest. The skies opened when Marc announced, "All-in."

Gavin, still with the sniffles, looked like he was in pain. He had Marc covered by only about 500,000. After about two minutes of thought, he said, "You have the best hand."

"You're calling," Marc asked. We couldn't tell if he was incredulous or happy.

"Yeah, I call," Gavin said.

Marc forcefully put his 4-7 on the table. Top pair, seven kicker. Gavin showed K-5. He may not have thought he was in such good shape. With fourteen outs twice, he was in good shape. The turn, though, suddenly didn't look as good for the pink-haired pro. It was a three. The river seemed to come down slow. But just by looking at the boy's faces, it was clear what had happened. The river was a king, and just like that, Gavin Griffin had won the EPT Grand Final. Marc Karam, who everyone agrees played a stellar game here, finished in second place for €1,061,820.

The bridesmaid position is not one at which to sneeze, but it does not suit Karam well. He is among that group of poker players who not only love to win, but also hate to lose. Two Grand Final final tables in two years and no title to call his own. In the months that followed, Griffin's star only rose. He won a World Poker Tour event, became the first and only player to claim poker's unofficial Triple Crown, and was subsequently signed to the elite Team PokerStars Pro.

That, though, is the stuff of history, right?

Yes and no.

Here on Day 1B, Griffin and Karam share the room. Griffin is back to defend his title and Karam is here looking for his first EPT crown. They are several tables apart at the moment, but if yesterday's clever poker fates return today (the kind that put father and son at the same table) there is the chance we could see Griffin and Karam face off again.

One look at their faces makes clear their intentions for the day.


Gavin Griffin


Marc Karam

We'll keep an eye on both as the day progresses. In a field this large (we're hearing reports the field has eclipsed the 800-player mark), there is rarely hope of history repeating itself. However, we've seen stranger things happen and that's why we keep watching.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in EPT Monte Carlo