EPT8 Berlin: Kitai topples Chen on way to title and poker's Triple Crown
This was almost the story of a Canadian pro finally winning an EPT title. Instead, it's the story of the first Triple Crown winner crowned on EPT soil (only the fifth ever), as Davidi Kitai displayed considerable focus and panache to win the EPT Berlin title and a first prize of €712,000. It's also marks the first win for a Belgian after eight seasons on the tour.
As the heads-up contest started few doubted that that Kitai, 32, and Chen, 24, would be concerned with the €80,000 left on the table after a two-way deal (merely food and lodging for next week's furlough to Monaco). It was the title they wanted; Chen, the type of player it's hard to believe hasn't already won an EPT title; while for Kitai it's the next landmark on a low-profile yet highly successful career trajectory.
Chen led first, then Kitai, but they matched each other punch for punch until Kitai pulled off a showreel call. Perhaps the clues were there earlier in the day.
Railing Kitai from the rail was Ilan Boujenah, himself a finalist in Madrid, who said that Kitai doesn't come second or third, for him it's first or nothing. "I told you," he grinned later, as Kitai extended his lead, ultimately taking the crown. He was right.
Kitai on the way to the title
"I feel really great," said Kitai, not known as a man of many words. "It's amazing. I didn't expect to beat that field. It's great. I feel really good."
When Andrew Chen wakes up tomorrow he may not blink the sleep away and ask himself how it all went wrong. He's too unruffled for that. He may not wake up after a night of consolatory debauchery; the debris of 51 rum and cokes stacked inexplicably at the end of the bed. He's too composed for that. He may not even look back at all on what was a near-perfect week. He's too self-assured for that.
Regardless of what Chen thinks, the poker community will drink to another impeccable performances from the Canadian, who remains an EPT champion elect. Surely he will not be waiting much longer.
Chen in action
The day started with the departure of Pratyush Buddiga, another name worth noting, who was sent to the rail by momentary chip leader Bahadir Kilickeser. Kilickeser himself would run out of momentum in fifth place, forced out by Chen who would use his chips for an assault on Kitai, but not before Marc Wright went out in seventh and Cesar Garcia from Spain departed in sixth.
Pratyush Buddiga, out in eight, also won the Skrill "last longer" promotion
For Wright it was an impressive debut, a result that would have been even more significant had the experience of a few more EPTs under his belt. For Garcia's part, Spain will have to wait at least another week for their first champion.
Out in seventh, Marc Wright
Mario Puccini would be eliminated in fourth place, removed by Kitai who had surged to the lead early, never allowing his advantage to wane all the way to his heads-up contest with Chen. Andre Morath assumed the role of the overachiever on the day. Limited to premium hands, he folded, literally, having laddered into third, setting up a great heads-up exhibition.
Third place finisher Andre Morath
Chen started with the advantage, having seized Morath's chips. But a key hand would swing the advantage irrevocably back to the Belgian.
Kitai opened for 350,000 with king-five of clubs, and called when Chen three-bet to 900,000 with king-jack off-suit. Both missed the deauce-queen-eight flop at which Chen bet a further 615,000; called by Kitai. Chen then bet the four on the turn - 1,480,000 this time - for a five on the river.
Now Chen shoved, sending Kitai into the tank; an 11 million chip bet that would cost Kitai everything to call. When he made his decision it was to do just that, a miracle call.
On the way...
Kitai smiled, not quite believing he'd pulled off such a magnificent play. Chen couldn't help but smile either. That moment alone spoke of the spirit these two played with, both old-timers of the tour, both reaching their third final, both understanding exactly what all this fuss meant to them.
"I guess he owned me," said Chen, collecting €613,000 as runner-up. "He said that he was going to call a lot of rivers which seems insane. It's really hard to say much about a hand like that.
"I was certainly going to shove a lot of rivers and it's just a shame he hit a five. In a way he three-outed me. I hope that it's presented on TV that way rather than him just catching me bluffing."
But it's Kitai who lifted the trophy, collecting the seat at the EPT Grand Final and the Shamballa bracelet from official sponsor Shamballa Jewels, to the applause of the ever present French-speaking rail, as Chen, still smiling, shrugged off any suggestion of defeat, leaving the limelight for Triple Crown winning Kitai.
For details of every step along the way check out the coverage on our live coverage page. Features from all aspects of the day, including side events, can be found at the links below.
There remains only one more event to play on this eight season of the European Poker Tour and you won't have long to wait for it. The Berlin leg ends tonight, but the first event in The PokerStars and Monte-Carlo®Casino EPT Grand Final (a name sure to catch on) begins on Monday, the €100,000 Super High Roller getting things started before the main event begins on Tuesday, all of which you'll find coverage of on the PokerStars Blog.
All roads now lead to Monaco
Until then, thanks for following the coverage from Berlin. Take tomorrow off and we'll see you on Monday. Here's Davidi Kitai...
Until then it's goodnight from Berlin.
All photography © Neil Stoddart