EPT9 Sanremo: On this day in history...the best bubble ever

We mentioned earlier how bubble time is among the most exciting periods of any poker tournament. And if most of us on the European Poker Tour were asked to name the best of the best, there would be a lot of votes proffered for EPT Sanremo Season Six, where excitement bubbled over into all out pandemonium.

It is worth revisiting that moment in full, with the help of the huge PokerStars Blog EPT archive. (Dip in at your leisure; it's a captivating read.)

That particular tournament remains the biggest we have ever had in Sanremo: 1,240 players created a prize pool of €6,014,000, and eventually Liv Boeree would emerge victorious, earning €1,250,000.

But a couple of days before that, emotions were running high as the field had thinned to its last 185 players. One more elimination and we would all be in the money, including at least 30 Italian players for whom even a min-cash is typically celebrated as if it were success in the World Cup final.

After a predictable testy period of hand-for-hand play, all of a sudden we found ourselves with three called all in bets on three neighbouring tables.

If Lord Leveson thinks the UK press pack are an unruly bunch, he should see the swarm of reporters that descend around a poker table during bubble time. They moved in, elbows jabbing and cameras flashing, often eager to be part of the story themselves, impartiality be damned.

We'll pick it up from here with the help of our live reporting at the time, plus some outstanding photography from Neil Stoddart, the EPT's snapper supreme.

1.20pm: Bubble bursts....nearly
A rail three deep gathered to see the showdown between Vittorio Fiume and Miltiadis Kyriakidea. One Italian cameraman was so keen to capture the moment he found a wheelchair to stand on so he could film over the crowd. Fiume was the player at risk as his 90,500 stack was covered by Kyriakidea. Showdown:

Kyriakidea: A♦K♣
Fiume: K♥K♠

The Cypriot (Kyriakidea) needed to hit a three-outer to burst the bubble. The flop came 2♠A♠8♦ to cheers from some and groans from the Italian press. Fiume only had one out now to stay alive and it didn't come on the Q♠ turn.

Fiume seemed resigned to his fate but got the shock of his life when the river came K♠! The one-outer fell and there was near pandemonium at the events that just unfolded. The bubble continues. --MC

(Such was the excitement, it appears a typo slipped into the coverage too. I'm guessing it was the king of diamonds on the river, not a second king of spades.)

Stoddart captured these moments perfectly. The first picture below originally ran with the caption: "Vittorio Fiume, seated centre, sees the bad news on the flop (which one blogger enjoyed)".


Put your hands in the air!

The second picture told the next stage in the story, and ran with the caption "Now Fiume is all smiles after hitting his one outer (and the blogger is not impressed)."


My head hurts

It is worth counting the number of players you can actually see in these pictures. Despite being an eight-handed table, most appear hidden behind those reporters. (Things are a good deal more refined these days, by the way.)

Of course, the bubble hadn't actually broken with this hand, so we needed to move over to the second all in. This was occurring there:

1.30pm: Bubble elimination 1 gives Karlsson chip lead
An all-in and a call on the bubble. Rainer Meyer was all-in on the button with A♦7♠ against Jakob Karlsson with Q♠Q♣. After the required wait for all other hands to finish, and for a thousand people to arrive from out of nowhere to watch, the flop was dealt K♦T♦2♥.

Domenico Iannone, not in the hand, was on the phone at this point passing on news that the bubble was about to burst. The turn came J♠ giving Meyer outs. But the river was the 2♣. Karlsson sends Meyer to the rail.

Karlsson ended the hand with about 960,000, which is the tournament chip lead. -- SB

Karlsson would go on to finish in second place to Boeree, earning €750,000 as well as the love of all the others left in the field. But it wasn't actually as disastrous for Meyer as it first appeared. That's because, on another table, this was happening:

1.37pm: Bubble burst Mk II
The third all in was between Cole Robinson, of the USA, and Michael Piper of the UK. This hand was at the flop before all the chips went in, and the two players were deep in conversation about the hand after the long, long delay for it to be played to conclusion.

Pre-flop, Robinson had raised from mid-position and Piper called from the small blind. It was just the two of them to the flop of T♣8♥A♣. Piper bet small and Robinson moved all in. Piper snap-called, but they weren't allowed to show their hands until the tournament staff arrived. At least not officially.

Piper had told Robinson that he had pocket aces and had flopped top set. Robinson had: "Ten eight, but with the eight of clubs."

When Thomas Kremser was finally able to make his way over, they revealed their hands "officially". Neither had been lying. Piper showed: A♥A♠, Robinson: T♥8♣. Piper had Robinson covered in both chips and cards and the Q♦ turn ended it. The river T♦ actually filled Robinson's boat, but also made a bigger full house for Piper.

That, then, was the end of a tortuous bubble period. We're down to 184 and they will now fly out the door.

Because Meyer had more chips at the start of the hand than Robinson, it was Robinson who was deemed to be the bubble boy. Meyer picked up €7,500 for his official 184th place, while the rest of us breathed deeply and ploughed on.

In Sanremo this year, the rail is much less boisterous and the reporters significantly better behaved. But with only nine players left to bust before the bubble is burst, we may yet be partying like it's 2010.

Other Sanremo bubbles:

Season four:
Evert Jan Dongergoor was eliminated in 73rd place by Eric Koskas.
Koskas cashed in fourth place for €223,600

Season five:
Joakim Hall eliminated (with pocket kings) in 113th place by unknown Italian
Unknown Italian cashed in an unknown place. But didn't win.

Season six:
Cole Robinson eliminated in 185th place by Michael Piper.
Piper cashed in fourth place for €345,000

Season seven:
Nicolas Chouity eliminated in 145th place by Alessandro Fasolis
Fasolis cashed in 73rd place for €13,000

Season eight:
Christian Troger eliminated in xxth place by Christopher McClung
McClung cashed in 14th place for €27,000

Keep an eye on the live tournament reporting from EPT Sanremo for all the news from the tournament floor.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in Day 3