EPT8 Berlin: Davidi Kitai leads final eight
Twenty-four players came back today, just eight will come back tomorrow. The penultimate day passed with all the typical drama you'd expect, crushing the hopes of some while elevating others to the rank of potential champion or at least the guy who finishes fifth.
Right now Davidi Kitai is at the top of the list, making his second EPT final table following his third place in Barcelona in Season 5. Kitai may have the appearance of a man who hasn't slept for several days, but has more than $1.7 million in live winnings. Oddly, despite a glittering career that includes a bracelet and various finals, this is only his fifth EPT cash.
Chip leader Davidi Kitai
Behind Kitai is Bahadir Kilickeser, who spent much of the day as chip leader, mainly owing to a big hand against Marc Wright, his set of eights snatching the lead from the Englishman.
For Kilickeser this is not only his first EPT cash, but is his biggest. Usually a local tournament player in Bremen, his local card room is erecting a big screen to watch his progress tomorrow back at the club, as its broadcast on EPT Live.
Behind them is a Andrew Chen, who seems to be the only player from the Toronto/Waterloo area in Ontario, Canada, not to have an EPT title, unlike Mike McDonald, Ben Wilinofsky, Glenn Chorny and Steve Ambrose (including all PCAs).
Chen, a player above the petty histrionics and extravagance (just a t-shirt and baseball cap), took the lead later in the day with two tables remaining, securing his third EPT final table appearance. But unlike others, who at times found themselves flung into the lead by virtue of a single fortuitous hand, Chen worked hard at it, and a stack built on a footing like this will likely prove harder to dislodge. Won't it?
Chen may be one of those players overdue a major title, but there will be others counting themselves in the same group.
Seat 1. Cesar Garcia Domínguez, 1,485,000 chips
Seat 2. Pratyush Buddiga, 1,280,000
Seat 3, Mario Puccini, 2,065,000
Seat 4. André Morath, 1,940,000
Seat 5. Andrew Chen, 3,600,000
Seat 6. Davidi Kitai, 5,695,000
Seat 7. Bahadir Kilickeser, 4,640,000
Seat 8. Marc Wright, 1,540,000
Marc Wright led coming into today, then lost that huge pot to the excitable Kilickeser. It risked sending Wright into self-destruct mode but, in a sign perhaps that he had moved on from the fate that took him from chip leader to the rail in one circuit during the Irish Poker Open two weeks ago, Wright recovered, reaching his first EPT final in his first EPT.
Pratyush Buddiga rarely put a foot out of place, the same form that made him a National Spelling Bee Champion in 2002. Now he has the potential to add an EPT title and €825,000, to put alongside the $12,000 in book tokens he won back then*, coached as he is along the way by EPT champion Mike McDonald, who is so good at poker he doesn't need to spell anything.
Mario "Pokerccini" Puccini makes his second final table appearance after EPT Loutraki earlier this season, adding to his $3.5 million earned in PokerStars tournaments online, while André Morath, a novice in comparison, scores his second EPT cash, the last coming here 12 months ago.
Mario Puccini (foreground)
Cesar Garcia Domínguez may not have the live results to his name, but his online form is unquestionably good, having come second in the Sunday Million in 2009 and winning a WCOOP title in the same year.
Those looking for a fairy tale story ending, albeit a fairy tale where the prince gets a shed load of money at the end rather than a princess, found the prospect of a first double EPT winner extinguished when Vladimir Geshkenbein departed in tenth place. The Russian, playing some of the best poker he's played since his win in Snowfest last season, kept to typical Geshkenbein form; up, then down, down a bit more, up and then out.
Before him Kevin MacPhee had gone in 19th, ending his hopes of not only a second EPT win, but an almost certain application for German citizenship, following his win here two years ago. Anton Wigg followed him, exiting gracefully with handshakes all round as he fell short of a second final table.
Tomas Cibak started well, before the wheels began to fall off, departing in 12th place, while Jeff Hakim, busted in 22nd place, his best EPT result since he cashed in 16th place right here 12 months ago.
You're invited to read back through the live coverage of the day on our live coverage page, while feature articles can be found at the links below.
A place in the final at stake for final 24
Watching from the sidelines as Hagrid saunters forth
Chen truckin' towards final table number three
Delight for Kitai while Wright stumbles. MacPhee out.
Evil Tweeter Geshkenbein the last hope for EPT double
From one Poker Champ to another
Pratyush Buddiga wins the Skrill last longer bet and a massive pot
Play continues tomorrow with coverage available on EPT Live, the full fat version, with commentary from James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton with hole cards on view for the viewers at home. It starts at 12 noon although the live feed will be on an hour delay, starting at 1pm, which is when our live cover will begin.
The trophy awaits
Now though, we rest, technically, for it is EPT Player Party time in Berlin, held around the corner at the Homebase Lounge, with a free bar until 12am. "A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one," as the late Levon Helm would have sung.
That's them; we're off back to the hotel for another round of Poker Champ.
Until tomorrow, it's goodnight from Berlin.
* This was actually cash, not book-tokens.
All photography © Neil Stoddart