EPT9 Sanremo: Ludovic Lacay ends barren spell in emphatic fashion, wins main event

ept-thumb-promo.jpgA couple of weeks ago, Ludovic Lacay's Facebook friends were subject to a polite request. "Until new notice poker is going terrible," Lacay wrote on his status update. "Please stop asking :)" The smiley face could not disguise the fact that here was a poker player running bad.

But those friends should now expect "new notice" from Lacay, and might decide that today is the right time to post a message on his wall along the lines of: "How's the poker going, Ludo?"

The 27-year-old from Tolouse, France, is EPT9 Sanremo champion and the best part of €750,000 richer. See how he likes the question now.

"It feels pretty good," Lacay said. "It's the accomplishment, getting there and beating all the players. When you start a tournament you aim for the first place but you never expect it. Here I am, it's amazing."


Ludovic Lacay, EPT Sanremo champion

Lacay has been a fixture on the European Poker Tour since season four, building a reputation as one of the most feared and respected competitors, playing the tough, aggressive game of which champions are made. But until today a major title had eluded him. Now he is in the vaunted company of EPT champions, and probably among the favourites to be the first to win two.

"The first year I played on the EPT circuit I thought Ludovic Lacay was the best player I played against," tweeted Kevin MacPhee moments after the end of play. "Very happy to see him join the club."

Lex Veldhuis added his congratulations too: "Omg I can't believe Ludovic Lacay won EPT Sanremo. So happy for him, but seriously how did people let that happen :D. Nice win ~"


Lacay accepts the adulation of the masses

Lacay beat Jason Lavallee in a relatively brief heads up battle. Lavallee, from Quebec, Canada, was the narrow chip leader coming into today's final, which took place in the elegant theatre of Casino Sanremo, on the Italian Riviera.

Lavallee identified the Frenchman as the main threat at the final, predicting with exceptional accuracy that he expected either himself or Lacay to be crowned champion. The two of them were the last under the studio lights until Lacay's Q♣[10h] beat Lavallee's 8♣6♣ to bring the house down and this festival to a close.


A Lacay's eye view of Jason Lavallee

They got it all in after Lavallee had flopped a flush draw and Lacay top two pair. By the end of the hand, Lacay had a full house and his maiden title.

"In the heads up I hit every board," Lacay said. "He really had no chance. But I'm really happy."


Final table players convene (l-r): Micah Raskin, Angelo Recchia, Jason Lavallee, Artem Litvinov, Ismael Bojang, Jason Tompkins, Adrian Piasecki, Ludovic Lacay

The excellence of the EPT structure had seemed at one point set to keep us here until sunrise. It took more than three and a half hours until the first player bust from the final table: Ismael Bojang losing a race to Lavallee.


Ismael Bojang: first to depart

But as the day wore on and the blinds increased, the chips gradually started to fly. Poland's hopes were shattered when Adrian Piasecki pushed A♣9♣ into Lacay's A♦K♣ and got no help. It was then the end of the road for Micah Raskin, who managed to flop trip eights when Angelo Recchia had top pair of jacks, but then looked in horror when another jack rivered to give Recchia a bigger full house.

Jason Tompkins had been on the receiving end of a couple of tough beats as well, flopping top set against Artem Litvinov but losing to a flush, then moving all in with pocket fives and running into the same opponent's queens. Litvinov eventually finished off Tompkins when the Russian's kings held against Tompkins' rag ace. Ireland remains in search of its first EPT champion.


Jason Tompkins: Ireland's hopes faded in fifth

By this point, the Italian poker community had probably dared to dream. Their man Recchia, the least known of the final table players, had come to the final table with a relatively short stack. But now he was in the last four, and with a pretty healthy pile of chips in front of him.

However Lacay seemed to have singled him out for particular unwanted attention, winning three big pots to snuff out Italian dreams. The last of those was a set up: Lavallee opened (as he had been doing a lot) Recchia shoved for three million with A♣7♣. But then Lacay was sitting behind him with pocket jacks, shoved all in himself, and the pair held up.

Italy is still seeking the successor to Salvatore Bonavena as EPT champion.

Litvinov was next to depart, but not before he had entertained the crowd a bit more with his unique playing style and, in particular, his celebration. After doubling up through Tompkins earlier on, Litvinov had strode to the front of the stage, gave his girlfriend a high five, and then performed a full roundhouse kick on an invisible opponent, followed by some shadow boxing.


Artem Litvinov, clad in lucky shirt

He has been wearing his "lucky shirt" since day one, a torn and frayed number that could probably stand up and walk by itself after never having been peeled off his body for a week. But now it is at rest, sent there after Litvinov couldn't hit a monster draw on a low, connected board. Lacay's pair of sixes held up.

That brought us to the heads up battle, under the dramatic lighting of the theatre. And after the two players agreed a deal - €644,910 to Lacay, €538,089 to Lavallee, with €100,000 and a Slyde watch still to play for - it seemed unlikely to last long.


The heads up players negotiate a deal

Sure enough, it was only about 40 minutes until Lacay was fulfilling what many, including Lavallee, had considered his destiny.

The full results from today's EPT9 Sanremo final table are as follows.

1 - Ludovic Lacay, France, €744,910*
2 - Jason Lavallee, Canada, €538,089*
3 - Artem Litvinov, Russia, €283,000
4 - Angelo Recchia, Italy, €225,000
5 - Jason Tompkins, Ireland, €171,000
6 - Micah Raskin, USA, €132,000
7 - Adrian Piasecki, Poland, €96,000
8 - Ismael Bojang, Germany, €65,450

*denotes two-way deal

Click through to the High Roller page for news of Benny Spindler's victory there. And relive our coverage from the main event with any of the links below. We went Back to the Future, Sanremo style; we looked at Ludovic Lacay's place in the prospering Gallic poker scene. We allowed Liv Boeree and Jason Mercier reminisce about their wins here, then looked back fondly on the fastest EPT final table of all time. And we went to the bathroom with Joe Stapleton and James Hartigan.

There were also a whole host of side events.

That's the end of that for Sanremo for another year. Last word from Ludovic Lacay: "It was an amazing tournament. I tried to stay focused, I did my best."

Can't ask for more than that. Goodnight.


The EPT champion's trophy. It's Ludovic Lacay's now

Howard Swains
@howardswains in Day 6