Eureka Croatia 2: Final Table - Level 24 Updates & Recap
Four days of hard-fought poker, seeing bad beats, bustouts, big pots, epic clashes and thousands of hands have finally been brought to a close with just one standing at the end.
Here is the man who came to the Golden Sun Casino and conquered all his competitors along with our recap of how the final played out.
9.45pm: Alija Filipovic is crowned Eureka Croatia Champion!
178 players in total appeared at the doors of the Golden Sun Casino at Hotel Antunovic to have their shot at the title, but by the time we'd played through three attritional, highly competitive days of poker, just 8 remained standing.
Those 8 returned today to play to a winner and it was a fiercely contested final.
Dragan Galic was the man tipped for glory by many pundits, the Croatian player having amassed $1.2 million in live tournament winnings as well as a huge databank of big tournament experience. Galic came into the final as a dominant chip leader, with almost double the next player and the early levels only served to reinforce the notion that he was a nailed-on, odds-on favourite for the title.
Galic was gaining chips, but the shorter stacks were finding life tougher, Slovenian Karolj Kis succumbing first in 8th place for €5,910 before a mis-timed bluff saw Dutchman Ruud Van de Goor also hit the rail - his 7th spot worth €7,300.
Alija Filipovic was the man who sealed Van de Goor's fate and the Croatian was a quiet but effective force throughout the final, steadily accumulating chips.
Another homegrown hero, Verdan Premuzic is a dentist by trade and much of the final was like pulling teeth for him - never able to get traction and ultimately extracted from proceedings in 6th, collecting €9,050.
Ivan Brkicic had worked his shortstack like a champion but eventually one of his multitudinous shoves was called by Filipovic, who outdrew him with an inferior ace to send him to the growing throngs on the rail in 5th spot, €11,200 his chunky consolation prize.
It was at this point that Mate Mecs started to grow in stature, having endured a frustrating final thusfar, he secured a big double up from Dragan Galic after flopping trip queens, the Croatian's aggression working against him for once.
Galic was in trouble but it was Nikolay Bibov who would suffer the next elimination, the sun-glassed Bulgarian losing a flip to Galic to end up in 4th place with €13,450 in his back pocket to take home.
Galic was never going to go quietly into the night, and three-handed he pushed for a double through, but was picked off by the efficient Filipovic who busted Galic in 3rd for €16,400 much to the chagrin of the crowd of Galic supporters on the rail.
With Galic out of it, it was between Mecs and Filipovic to contend the title - the two players cutting a deal that would ultimately flatten the prize structure. Mecs had almost a 3-1 chip disadvantage when play started but early aggression saw him even out the stacks and it looked like the momentum was swinging toward him.
However Filipovic was just warming up and a series of big pots stormed him back into the lead before he applied the finishing touch to Mecs, busting the Hungarian A-K to K-J in 2nd place for €32,000.
That left Alija Filipovic free to lift the trophy, crowned champion of Eureka Croatia, he collected €42,700 as well as plaudits and respect from all those who saw him conquer this tough, competitive field.
"It feels amazing," he told us.
Our heartfelt congratulations to Filipovic, who may have been the oldest man at the final, but used every ounce of experience he has gleaned in those years to turn in what proved to be a winning performance.
Thanks for following the updates, we hope you've had as much fun as us and you will join us for the next leg of the Eureka Poker Tour, to be staged in Bulgaria.
Here is a shot of our winner Alija Filipovic, enjoying the moment he became a champion.
8.55pm: It's all over - Filipovic wins the heads-up!
As expected it didn't take long to play down to a champion.
The final hand of the tournament saw Alija Filipovic raise from the button and Mate Mecs push all-in with K♥J♦ in a bid to double through.
Unfortunately for him, Filipovic held A♠K♦ and was going nowhere, making the call and finding himself in a dominant position to take down the tournament.
The tournament director announced the hands and the rail squeezed in tight, all eager to scan every detail of this dramatic confrontation.
A board of K♣8♣5♦ gave both players top pair, but Filipovic's kicker still made him the strong favourite.
A 5♣ on the turn brought in a few more split outs for Mecs, but when the river bricked in the form of the Q♣, it was Filipovic who was the last man standing as the audience broke out in rapturous applause for the local favourite!
So, Mate Mecs collects €28,900 for his second place finish and it is Alija Filipovic who takes down the first prize of €45,800. (In fact we think there was a deal done that saw the cash prizes flattened out somewhat.)
Filipovic also wins the Eureka trophy, a bundle of leaderboard points that will put him at the top of the standings for now and the respect and plaudits from all who saw him best this competitive field.
Well played to both players, as well as everyone who made the final table and contributed to what has been an exciting, action-packed tournament..
We'll be posting up a recap of the final shortly along with winner photos but for now thanks for following our coverage. It's been a blast!
8.40pm: LEVEL 24 IN EFFECT - BLINDS 15k/30k/3k
We're back for level 24, with Mecs needing to stage another comeback if he is to wrest the title from the grasp of Alija Filipovic, who withstood Mecs earlier assault before counter-attacking himself.
The players are not so deep now that they can avoid going broke with a good hand so if both of them get dealt something pretty pre-flop, we may see our first all-in and call of the day.
Let's find out how this dramatic finale plays out...