EPT8 Campione: Soulier heads last eight into tricky finale table
End of day reports on the European Poker Tour are normally written late at night, in darkness, with the food gone, the bar closing and the debris of the day; beer bottles, plastic cups, sandwich crusts and ex-boyfriends, strewn across the floor, cast aside by players who also had to jettison their title ambitions. Today though, that formula is different.
It's sunny outside for a start, side events rage on and for young revellers (content with downtown Campione) are just getting the evening warmed up. And up on the hill, on the ninth floor of Casino di Campione, the main event is down to a final table.
It took no more than four hours, or two-and-a-half levels, to turn 24 into eight, aided no doubt by the extra level played last night. More significantly, the players who reached the last day are the ones more orthodox poker fans would have handpicked, leaving a final table that could prove a page turner, or whatever the online equivalent of that is.
They're led by chip leader Fabrice Soulier, who bags up 3,480,000. He was delighted.
"My plan was to get to the final table so, yes, I'm very happy," said the journeyman Frenchman, laughing. "It was amazing we have a nice restaurant to go to tonight, so it's beautiful."
It marks the first EPT final for Soulier, who has been a permanent fixture on the European and world poker stage for several years. "I have a triple crown in final tables," he said, referring to finals at the WSOP, WPT, Partouche and EPIC tours. It could well result in a Shamballa bracelet to add to his World Series one.
Behind him is Olivier Busquet, who has played solidly all week and can look back at the period from nine to eight for the boost he needed going into tomorrow. He took chips from Balazs Botond in that spell and ultimately eliminated ninth place finisher Simeon Naydenov.
"To be honest I got some hands," admitted Busquet. "I started off with an ill-advised four-bet that didn't work. Then I three-bet Fabrice (kings against Soulier's ace-queen)."
Then came a hand against the aggressive Balazs Botond: "I cold four-bet his three-bet; then he made an odd looking min five-bet." Busquet shoved to pick up 350,000 chips without having to show when Botund passed. Then the hand that brought the day to a close in record time.
"The very aggressive Danish player (Jannick Wrang) opened," said Busquet. "I three-bet with ace-king off-suit; he min four-bet with jacks and I shoved. He didn't think long before calling. Once he four-bet he has to call; then it's just winning a flip. Now I have three million, which is great."
That three million leaves the American second in chips at a final table that will not prove easy to beat, with a look through the line-up revealing no obvious weak spots.
Seat 1. Olivier Busquet, USA, 3,011,000
Seat 2. Koen De Visscher, Belgium, 1,856,000
Seat 3. Mario Nagel, Germany, 1,210,000
Seat 4. Stefano Puccilli, Italy, 1,450,000
Seat 5. Jannick Wrang, Denmark, 2,882,000
Seat 6. Fabrice Soulier, France, 3,480,000
Seat 7. Balazs Botond, Hungary, 2,080,000
Seat 8. Robin Ylitalo, Sweden, 1,153,000
Belgian Koen De Visscher reaches his second final table, following Snowfest in Season 7; Stefano Puccilli, the last Italian in the competition, is a former Italian Poker Tour winner; while Wrang, Soulier, Botund and Robin Ylitalo have each reached the last two tables of an EPT.
Koen de Visscher
That leaves the rookie, Mario Nagel, but then his lack of live results is deceiving. From Germany, Nagel won a SCOOP event last year and then cashed in a Campione event a month later. If there's such a thing as a preferred place to play, this might be his.
It was a quick day, with stories tucked in among the defeated as well as the victors.
If the matter of a first double EPT winner fascinates/irritates the travelling pack, it didn't show as anything of interest on the faces of David Vamplew (tenth) and Ronnie Kaiser (22nd) today. Both former champions departed this afternoon, seemingly indifferent to what are essentially meaningless records.
No looking back from David Vamplew
We also lost Andrea Benelli (picked out on Day 1 as an in-form player to watch) as well as Pasquale Vinnci, who deserves a hat tip for laddering beautifully, his meagre stack, the stack the government would pay you when unemployed, was accidentally good for 11th place.
It was fast today because it was slow yesterday. It should mean a marathon tomorrow and for anyone looking for any further confirmation that this should be a thriller worth watching on EPT Live Lite at 2pm, as Busquet summed up.
"One of the most remarkable things about this final table is we got rid of 16 people in four hours," he said, looking ahead. "It's really going to be deep and interesting poker which I think is the most interesting form. It's good because that's where all the money is, you don't want it all coming down to flips or luck. I'm excited; it should be a great day."
For live coverage of everything that happened today go to the live coverage page. Meanwhile catch up on the feature articles from Day 4 below:
The Campione way of life
Day 4 seat draw
Busquet shrugging off the swings on way to first final
De Visscher's dreams coming to life
Finesse works for some, beating hell out of it works for others
James Hartigan of EPT Live looks on
Play resumes at 2pm with coverage of all the action on EPT Live Lite.
Here in Campione the sun has yet to set over the mountain tops, making for a beautiful evening here, surrounded by Switzerland.
Campione in the daylight
Join us tomorrow for the final table of a great event. Until then, it's good evening from Campione.
All photography © Neil Stoddart