EPT9 Berlin High Roller: All pretend not to care, all clearly do, as bubble bursts on Berlin
As the main event sought its two final table bubble boys -- ie, the players finishing ninth and tenth for €56,000, but without an invitation to the last day's play -- the €10,000 High Roller was flirting with a bubble of an even colder nature.
Sixteen players were scheduled to be paid from that event, but 17 were left. The next one out got nothing.
As tournament organisers conducted the precision symphony that is hand-for-hand play, split over three tables, everyone was at pains to appear as though it didn't really matter to them. But there were clearly some fraught nerves around.
Artem Litvinov had previously announced that he didn't care about the money, but it's difficult to explain away some of his antics if that's really the case. (More of that later.) Meanwhile Scott Seiver and Martin Kabrhel were making the most noise on their table, in particular when the dealer attempted to kill one of Seiver's hands because he was not at his seat when it was dealt.
"Is there literally no floor discretion on this?" he asked, as the tournament supervisor came over to adjudicate. Seiver said that the deck had been pre-shuffled before the announcement to deal one more hand had come from the floor. He added that he was only one yard away.
"Can't we disqualify him from this tournament?" suggested AP Phahurat, keen for the book to be thrown at Seiver for his mild indiscretion.
Seiver got his hand, but the dealer was reassured as well. "Technically the dealer is right," said the tournament supervisor. "I'll allow it this one time, but I won't allow it again."
"I have a terrible hand anyway," said Seiver, after looking. "So it doesn't even matter."
On table one, away from these scenes, Chris Brammer was the short stack and Maxim Lykov the large. The former was forced to fold the first five hands of hand-for-hand play, while the latter was happy to play deep stack, bubble poker against anyone prepared to take him on. Aaron Lim was one such, Igor Kurganov was another. They traded small pots between the three of them.
Over on the third of the three tables, Litvinov was the man under threat. He opened from his short stack, then Griffin Benger three bet, which put Litvinov in the tank. He turned his chair 180 degrees from the table, closed his eyes, reached for his coin and flipped it.
Then he turned around and folded immediately.
The main event, taking place on adjacent tables, went on a break. Dashgyn Aliev, near to the chip lead, came over to chat to Litvinov. Calvin Anderson, the short stack, conferred with Benger, Seiver and Phahurat.
Meanwhile Kabrhel and Ronny Voth played a small pot, which ended when Voth bet the turn, Kabrhel folded and showed pocket fours. Voth showed his pocket queens.
On they went, as Josh Cahlik, providing hand-by-hand reports from the event, added another line to his five-bar-gate tally on the back page of his notebook, in which he was recording the number of hands in hand-for-hand play.
"It's gonna look like a prison wall when we're done," Cahlik said.
All of a sudden, that looked like being a hasty assessment, however, as we got word that Brammer was all in and had been called by Kurganov. Everyone scurried over, including Litvinov, the man who had claimed it didn't really matter to him.
That same man, the man who had claimed it didn't really matter, found himself two empty chairs on which to stand to watch the action, hands clasped excitedly over face. Actually, stand isn't quite right. He watched it while doing the splits, one foot on each chair.
He then scurried around behind Kurganov to cheer him on. (Brammer was the player at risk.) But Kurganov's pocket fours couldn't outdraw Brammer's pocket fives and Brammer doubled to stay alive.
Cahlik added another to the tally. There were two five-bar gates now, representing ten hands -- or ten years inside.
But the parole officer was still loitering around Brammer's table, and pretty soon after -- two hands, actually -- he was all in and called again. This time it was A♥K♥ for Brammer and A♣Q♠ for Aaron Lim, another strong chance for Brammer to double up.
Litvinov appeared once more and began rubbing Lim's shoulders. He was making it quite obvious that he'd really rather like Brammer to bust -- even though the money didn't mean anything to him.
The flop came 2♠J♥4♣. Same for Brammer, bad for Lim/Litvinov. The turn was K♦, on the face of it good for Brammer, but actually increasing Lim/Litvinov's outs. And then boom, the [10s] came on the river, filling a straight for Lim and eliminating Brammer, much to the delight of Litvinov.
As Lim looked over to his fallen adversary, and offered a consolatory shrug, Litvinov tore off into the corner of the room to go through his shadow martial arts routine. By the time he had completed a couple of roundhouses and laid cold some invisible foes, Brammer was gone without so much as a whisper. He had bubbled.
The remaining 16 will now continue their quest to fill their own final table and ultimately a first prize of €429,000. Everyone is now guaranteed €22,000 at least.
(Voth, incidentally, has now cashed in both the main event and the high roller, which are the first two major tournaments of his career.)
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