IPT8 Malta: Main Event final table live updates

• IPT8 Malta Main Event is over - Ismael Bojang wins €101,940
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5:14pm: It's over! Ismael Bojang wins IPT8 Main Event (€101,940); Francesco Leotta 2nd (€75,690)
Level 32 - Blinds 100,000/200,000 (25,000 ante)

EPT13Malta_Ismael_Bojang_IPT_Main-Event_Manuel_Kovsca 52x.jpg

Bojang's the champ

Well, we could sense we were getting close to the end and we were right. Compared to the rest of this final table the final hand seemed rather tame, and yet it was this one that ended it all and gave the IPT8 Main Event title to Ismael Bojang.

The button was with Francesco Leotta and he decided to shove for 3.025 million. Bojang took a peek at the A♣9♣ and with his huge chip lead made the call, and he was way ahead of Leotta's 9♦T♦.

The board ran out 4♣Q♣7♥K♥2♠ and like that it was over. Congratulations to Francesco Leotta on netting €75,690 for his runner-up finish, but an even bigger congratulations to the last ever IPT Main Event champion before this tour becomes part of the PokerStars Festival banner: Ismael Bojang, who wins €101,940. We'll have a new post with a full recap of the day soon.

In the meantime, make sure you follow all the EPT13 Malta live updates here, or you can also read along with the €25K High Roller coverage here.

Have a good evening everyone! --JS


LEVELSMALL BLINDBIG BLINDANTE
32100,000200,00025,000


4:37pm: Break time

The two heads-up players have left for another 20-minute break. --MH


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4:36pm: Bojang pushes, Leotta steps aside
Level 31 - Blinds 80,000/160,000 (20,000 ante)

In the last hand of the level, Ismael Bojang had the button, and as usual raised to 380,000. Francesco Leotta called, then checked after the flop fell Q♦9♣K♣. Bojang bet 450,000, and Leotta hesitated before check-raising to 1.25 million.

Bojang confirmed the amount of the raise, then announced he was all-in and Leotta instantly mucked.

Ismael Bojang - 13,810,000
Francesco Leotta - 5,515,000

Bojang carries a big lead into the break. --MH

4:34pm: Leotta calls, collects
Level 31 - Blinds 80,000/160,000 (20,000 ante)

Francesco Leotta raised to 380,000 from the button, Ismael Bojang called, and the flop came J♠J♥6♥. Bojang checked, Leotta bet 400,000, and Bojang called, then the pair checked the T♠ turn.

The river was the T♥, prompting a bet of 650,000 from Bojang, and after some thought Leotta called. "You win," said Bojang as he tabled his 6♦5♦, and indeed Leotta did as he had Q♥T♦ for tens full of jacks.

Leotta has 7.7 million now, still behind Bojang's 11.625 million. --MH

4:31pm: Bojang shows his brilliance
Level 31 - Blinds 80,000/160,000 (20,000 ante)

There's only one hand you need to know about from the past half an hour and it involves a fantastic call from Ismael Bojang - one that has given him a 3:1 chip advantage.

Francesco Leotta opened to 380,000 (all the cool kids are doing it) and Bojang three-bet to 1.15 million. A little earlier, Leotta insta-shoved over a similar bet with king-eight off suit, but he played this one a bit calmer, just calling.

On the 3♠8♣T♥ flop Bojang opted not to put in a c-bet, instead opting to check as did Leotta. The J♦ hit the turn and that brought no further action either. Finally the Q♣ river landed and Bojang checked once more. Leotta thought for a while and eventually counted a big bet of 1.65 million. After around a minute Bojang made the call, and Leotta flipped over the 4♦3♦ for complete air. Bojang had 7♣7♠ and so it was a great call with four overcards on the board.

Bojang now has 15.4 million, while Leotta falls to 3.9 million. --JS

4:05pm: Bojang gets some back
Level 31 - Blinds 80,000/160,000 (20,000 ante)

Ismael Bojang button-raised to 380,000, Francesco Leotta made it 1.075 million to go, and Bojang called.

The flop came 3♦4♠J♥, and Leotta checked. Bojang fired a bet of 775,000 into the opening, and Leotta called. Then after the 2♥ turn Leotta checked again, saw Bojang bet 1.6 million, then let go of his hand.

Bojang grabs some back, and now sits with 12.775 million to Leotta's 6.55 million  --MH

3:59pm: Leotta bluffs big, gets it through
Level 31 - Blinds 80,000/160,000 (20,000 ante)

Francesco Leotta raised his button, Ismael Bojang called, and the flop came a very wet 9♠J♠T♣. Bojang check-called a bet of 350,000 from Leotta, then check-called again after the 6♠ turn, the bet being worth 725,000 this time.

The river brought the 3♦ and a third postflop check from Bojang. Leotta barreled again -- this time for 1.825 million -- and Bojang let his hand go. 

Leotta showed his cards before collecting the pot -- A♣2♣ -- and collected the pot.

Leotta gets back to about 8.5 million on that one, while Bojang is still leading with 10.8 million. --MH

3:53pm: One card away, but instead it's a chop
Level 30 - Blinds 60,000/120,000 (20,000 ante)

We've seen some craziness on this final table and it's not over yet. Ismael Bojang had his opponent all-in and dominated, yet somehow they chopped it!

It started with a 375,000 open from Francesco Leotta which Bojang three-bet to 1.1 million. Leotta moved all-in for 6 million without hesitating and Bojang took one last peek before making the call.

Bojang - A♥K♣
Leotta - K♥8♦

Things didn't look good for the Italian and his rail knew it. The Q♦5♦Q♣ flop kept Bojang in front but did present some chopportunities, but none hit on the K♠ turn. The ace kicker of Bojang had him well in front, right up until the Q♥ river gave both kings full of queens. Leotta took back his 6 million, Bojang took back his 13.3 million, and we were off to the next hand. --JS


EPT13Malta_Francesco Leotta_IPT_Main-Event_Manuel_Kovsca 46.jpg

Leotta's turn for a fortunate river

3:44pm: Bojang with 2-to-1 chip lead
Level 31 - Blinds 80,000/160,000 (20,000 ante)

Soon after the start of the new level, Ismael Bojang opened for 380,000 from the button, Francesco Leotta three-bet to 925,000, and Bojang called.

Both players checked the coordinated 7♦6♥8♣ flop, then after the Q♥ turn fell Leotta led for 850,000 and Bojang made the call. The 6♠ river paired the board, and both checked once more.

"King-high" intoned Leotta, showing his K♠T♥. Bojang tabled J♦7♣ for sevens and sixes, and the chips were pushed to his side of the table.

Bojang is up to 12.9 million, just about a 2-to-1 advantage of Leotta's 6.4 million. --MH


EPT13Malta_Ismael_Bojang_IPT_Main-Event_Manuel_Kovsca 58.jpg

Bojang out in front


LEVELSMALL BLINDBIG BLINDANTE
3180,000160,00020,000


3:33pm: Bojang back in front
Level 30 - Blinds 60,000/120,000 (20,000 ante)

After a few hands of grinding Ismael Bojang has retaken the chip lead, having fully overcome the 3:1 chip deficit he had when returning from the break.

The biggest of the pots he's won recently went like this. Francesco Leotta opened to 275,000 and Bojang called to see the 6♦K♣4♦ flop. It checked to the raiser and the Italian continued for 300,000 which Bojang called, taking us to the 5♣ turn. As so many turn cards do, it temporarily killed the action and both checked.

The K♠ landed on the river and now it was Bojang who the aggressive path. He put out a bet of 650,000 and it didn't take Leotta long to call. He'd muck though when he saw that Bojang had trip kings with the K♥Q♠. Bojang has 10.3 million, Leotta has 9 million. --JS

3:22pm: Neck-and-neck
Level 30 - Blinds 60,000/120,000 (20,000 ante)

A lot of small ball over the last 10 minutes or so, with our heads-up competitors swapping pots at a rapid clip, usually without going to showdown.

An exception just now as Ismael Bojang opened for 275,000 from the button, Francesco Leotta called, and a flop came 2♠Q♠A♥. Leotta checked, Bojang bet 325,000, and Leotta called. Both checked the board-pairing A♦ turn, then when the 7♥ fell on fifth street, Leotta led for 575,000. 

Bojang looked over the situation for a moment, then sent calling chips forward. Leotta briefly exposed his hand -- it looked like five-four, perhaps -- and when Bojang turned over his 3♣2♣ for aces and deuces, he was awarded the pot.

Bojang is back up to just over 9.5 million now, which is not far from the just over 9.8 million in Leotta's stack. --MH

3:10pm: Getting slowly back to even
Level 30 - Blinds 60,000/120,000 (20,000 ante)

There was a bit of confusion in the hand prior to this one, as after the blinds had been posted and cards had been dealt Ismael Bojang realised that he had had the button two hands in a row. Francesco Leotta confirmed this, as did this reporter, but the floor ruled that a mistake had been made but we'd continue with the hand as it stood.

So, with the button back on Leotta in the next hand, he then opened to 275,000 and Bojang called to see the 7♥Q♠2♥ flop. After it was checked to him, Leotta continued for 275,000 only to be raised to 850,000. Leotta called.

The turn came the 9♠, and both players checked. Finally the 5♣ completed the board and Bojang led out again for 1.25 million. It was a large portion of Bojang's remaining chips, and there were a few deep breaths taken when Leotta pulled out a stack of 2 million chips and started playing with them. In the end though he'd just count out calling chips and slid them across the line.

Bojang turned over the Q♣T♠ for top pair. "Queen?" asked Leotta, who couldn't quite see the cards. "Nice hand," he said, when it was confirmed. Bojang now has 8.3 million, Leotta has 11.025 million. --JS

2:55pm: Bojang doubles thanks to lucky lady
Level 30 - Blinds 60,000/120,000 (20,000 ante)

Ismael Bojang is right back in this thing after doubling up, albeit thanks to a fortunate river card.

Francesco Leotta opened to 275,000 and three-bet to 800,000 by Bojang. After only a few seconds the Italian announced he was all-in, and Bojang took one last glimpse at his cards before making the call.

Bojang - A♦Q♦
Leotta - 3♣3♥

The threes were ahead on the 5♥K♣8♦ flop, and remained there on the T♠ turn. But the Q♠ river paired Bojang, much to quiet disappointment of many of the Italians watching on the rail.

Bojang is up to 7.26 million, Leotta has 12.065 million. --JS


EPT13Malta_Ismael_Bojang_IPT_Main-Event_Manuel_Kovsca 52.jpg

Bojang still alive for the silver spade

2:47pm: Status quo
Level 30 - Blinds 60,000/120,000 (20,000 ante)

Francesco Leotta won four of the first five hands of Level 30, all small pots.

On the sixth, Ismael Bojang opened for 260,000, Leotta called, then both checked down the 8♠3♣J♦8♥7♠ board. Bojang showed A♦Q♦ and that was good.

The next hand saw Leotta limp from the button, Bojang make it 360,000 to play, and Leotta call. The 8♠2♦Q♦ flop then brought a bet of 425,000 from Leotta, and Bojang released his cards.

They're right about where they were when the level started, with Leotta at about 14.8 million and Bojang with about 4.5 million. --MH

2:38pm: Back to work
Level 30 - Blinds 60,000/120,000 (20,000 ante)

Both chip leader Francesco Leotta and Ismael Bojang have returned from break, and heads up play has resumed. --JS


LEVELSMALL BLINDBIG BLINDANTE
3060,000120,00020,000


2:20pm: Break time

It didn't appear initially they'd even make it to the first break of the day, but with the end of Level 29 they have. The heads-up combatants are taking 20 minutes to relax before continuing. --MH


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2:18pm: Updated chip counts; 2 remain
Level 29 - Blinds 50,000/100,000 (10,000 ante)

Francesco Leotta - 14,655,000
Ismael Bojang - 4,670,000

2:17pm: Bojang trips up over Leotta's trip ducks
Level 29 - Blinds 50,000/100,000 (10,000 ante)

In one of the last hands before the break, Ismael Bojang made the 250,000 open and Francesco Leotta called. The flop came 2♣Q♥2♥ and Leotta check-called a bet of 275,000, before both players checked the 7♥ turn. When the T♦ river hit Leotta checked once more, and Bojang made a final bet worth 475,000. Leotta made a pretty quick call and Bojang showed his K♣5♦ for king-high; no good as Leotta had K♠2♠ for trips. That was the hand which brought Bojang down to 4.67 million. --JS


EPT13Malta_Francesco Leotta_IPT_Main-Event_Manuel_Kovsca 53.jpg

Leotta leaps up

2:14pm: River check-raise nets Leotta another pot
Level 29 - Blinds 50,000/100,000 (10,000 ante)

Following another series of small hands, Ismael Bojang raised again from the button to 250,000, Francesco Leotta called, and the pair saw a flop come 7♣2♥5♣. Leotta checked, Bojang bet 350,000, and Leotta called. The turn then brought the 4♥, and this time Leotta led for 650,000. Bojang paused a couple of beats, then called.

The river was the 2♠. Leotta checked quickly, and again acting with deliberation, Bojang bet 1.1 million. Leotta didn't move right away, then eventually gathered chips and pushed forward a tall column representing a check-raise to 2.65 million.

That caused Bojang to raise his eyebrows, and after about 15 seconds he pushed his cards away.

Leotta has around 13.7 million now, while Bojang is down to about 5.6 million. --MH

2:05pm: A few more for Leotta
Level 29 - Blinds 50,000/100,000 (10,000 ante)

After a series of small-pot hands -- folds to button-raises, or continuation bets taking down pots on the flop -- one arose that saw Ismael Bojang raise to 250,000 from the button, Francesco Leotta reraise to 625,000, and Bojang call.

The pair checked down the J♥8♠A♠ flop and 2♠ turn, then the 6♠ river completed the board with a fourth spade. Leotta hesitated a moment, then slid out a bet of 705,000.

Bojang spoke up, asking Leotta if he liked his hand. "Big play," said grinning Leotta, who earlier mentioned he didn't speak a lot of English.

Bojang considered a short while longer, then called the bet. Leotta tabled Q♠J♠ for a flush, and Bojang mucked.

Leotta is up to about 12 million now, with Bojang at 7.3 million. --MH

2pm: Leotta moves ahead
Level 29 - Blinds 50,000/100,000 (10,000 ante)

Ismael Bojang kicked things off with the now standard 250,000 open and Francesco Leotta came along.

The 5♠T♥4♣ flop got Leotta to check-call a 325,000 c-bet, before the 4♥ turn hit the felt. Both checked that one and when the Q♥ river hit Leotta checked again. Bojang took a final stab of 550,000 but Leotta quickly called showing the K♦Q♣ for two pair. Bojang had rivered a pair with the Q♠7♠, but it wasn't enough.

He drops to 8.65 million while Leotta has 10.65 million. --JS

1:55pm: Not much in this one
Level 29 - Blinds 50,000/100,000 (10,000 ante)

Both players are so deep that you can see this heads-up match going on for a while. Things balanced out even more after this last hand, in which Ismael Bojang opened to 250,000 and Francesco Leotta called, before the flop fell 9♣3♥Q♣. Leotta checked it and Bojang continued for 275,000 which was called, taking us to the 3♠ turn. Both checked.

The river was the 9♦ and Leotta checked, only to fold to Bojang's bet worth 625,000. He's up to roughly 10.15 million, while Leotta has 9.15 million. --JS

1:45pm: Bojang put to the test
Level 29 - Blinds 50,000/100,000 (10,000 ante)

It went limp-check and our heads up players saw the 5♦Q♣3♠ flop. Bojang, in the big blind, checked and Leotta made it 125,000 to go. That was then three-bet to 375,000 and Leotta made the call. The turn was the 9♦ and Bojang checked again. Leotta barreled again for 650,000, but Bojang didn't budge, and finally we saw the 5♥ on the river which paired the board. After a final check, Leotta counted out a lot of chips and eventually slid out a bet of 1.45 million. Bojang was a little taken aback.

"I have think you have six seven..." he said, thinking out loud. After a short while he decided to fold. "You have ace-high?" asked Leotta. Bojang shook his head and slipped to 9.1 million, while Leotta has the lead now for about 10.2 million. --JS

1:39pm: First hands to Leotta
Level 29 - Blinds 50,000/100,000 (10,000 ante)

Okay... we can all breathe now. Heads-up is going to last more than a couple of hands.

The first heads-up hand saw Francesco Leotta raise his button, Ismael Bojang call, then Leotta take it down with a continuation bet on the flop. The second saw Bojang do the button-raising, but fold to a leading postflop bet from Leotta.

We'll see if this new, slower pace continues despite the players' relatively deep stacks. --MH

1:35pm: Heads-up chip counts
Level 29 - Blinds 50,000/100,000 (10,000 ante)

After his knockout of Vladimir Shabilin in third, Francesco Leotta came around the table to congratulate his heads-up opponent, Ismael Bojang, taking the opportunity as well to take a selfie with him. As you might imagine, both players' grins were wide. They then posed again for another smiling photo:


EPT13Malta_HU_Ismael_Bojang_Francesco Leotta_IPT_Main-Event_Manuel_Kovsca 47.jpg

Happy to make heads-up

Their heads-up duel is now about to commence. Here are the stacks they each are sitting behind to start:

Ismael Bojang - 11,490,000
Francesco Leotta -- 7,835,000

1:21pm: Vladimir Shabilin eliminated in third place (€56,200)
Level 29 - Blinds 50,000/100,000 (10,000 ante)

"This might be the fastest final table I've ever played!"

So said Ismael Bojang just now, not long after yet another knockout -- in the hand immediately following that double-KO just a couple of minutes ago -- has brought the IPT Main Event down to heads-up.

After Bojang folded on the button, Francesco Leotta got a look at how much Vladimir Shabilin had left after posting his big blind -- a little over 2 million. At that Leotta announced he was all-in. Shabilin checked his cards and exhaled... he had a decision to make.

"Can I talk?" asked Shabilin, who then sounded like he said he had pocket fives before the dealer was able to answer. The Italian Leotta grinned and said "No English." Shabilin then thrust his hands forward.

"I call," he said, and indeed turned over 5♠5♥. Leotta showed 3♦3♥, then the dealer spread the flop -- T♥3♣7♣! A set for Leotta! The turn was the 9♥ and river the J♣, and just 45 minutes into the day, they are already down to two.

There will be a pause before heads-up play to color up some chips and get exact counts. Don't go anywhere -- you might miss something! --MH


EPT13Malta_Vladimir Shabalin_IPT_Main-Event_Manuel_Kovsca 32.jpg

Vladimir Shalabin - 3rd place

1:15pm: Double-knockout! Dominik Panka eliminated in fifth place (€30,970); Johan Guilbert eliminated in fourth place (€41,720)
Level 29 - Blinds 50,000/100,000 (10,000 ante)

Wow, what a fast and exciting final table this is proving to be. Mirroring the way we finished last night to get to the final six, we've just another double-knockout!

It folded to Dominik Panka and he jammed for 1.41 million, which Ismael Bojang then casually called on the button. Johan Guilbert was in the small blind and he asked for a count from big blind Francesco Leotta. "Five million," came the answer. After one more glance at Bojang, he too announced he was all-in for 1.6 million, Leotta gave his hand up, and Bojang called the difference to create a three-way situation.

Panka - A♣5♣
Bojang - A♥K♣
Guilbert - A♠Q♣

Everyone on the rail and even many from the IPT High Roller were on their feet to watch this one, and the Q♦9♠4♠ flop was certainly good for the Frenchman. Guilbert had taken the lead with a pair of queens and only a king or running cards could eliminate him now.

Well, the turn was one of those running cards that was very good for Panka's chances. It came the 3♣ which gave the Pole some signs of hope. Any deuce now would give him the win.

Then finally the river hit...the K♦. Bojang had re-taken the lead right at the end and busted both players. Guilbert had more chips at the start so he'll be our fourth-place finisher...


EPT13Malta_Johan Guilbert_IPT_Main-Event_Manuel_Kovsca 23.jpg

Johan Guilbert - 4th place

...while Panka is officially out in fifth.


EPT13Malta_Dominik Panka_IPT_Main-Event_Manuel_Kovsca 12.jpg

Dominik Panka - 5th place

And then there were three! --JS

1pm: Alexander Lakhov eliminated in sixth place (€23,000)
Level 29 - Blinds 50,000/100,000 (10,000 ante)

We lost our first player in the last hand of Level 28. Alexander Lakhov opened to 200,000 and Ismael Bojang called on the button to see a J♥3♥2♣ flop. Lakhov chose not to continue with a bet, and both players checked to see the 4♠ turn.

This woke up the Russian. He put in a delayed c-bet of 200,000 and Bojang made a sharpish call, resulting in the 7♣. This proved to be one heck of a river card.

Lakhov made it 475,000 and Bojang shoved. Lakhov made a quick call but was absolutely disgusted when Bojang turned over the 7♠7♦ for a rivered set. "Pocket fours!" he said before he flipped over the 4♣4♥. "F***ing set over set," he muttered, understandably frustrated with the way things panned out. After that hand Bojang moved up to around 7 million, and takes over the chip lead. --JS


EPT13Malta_Alexander Lakhov_IPT_Main-Event_Manuel_Kovsca 43.jpg

Alexander Lakhov - 6th place

LEVELSMALL BLINDBIG BLINDANTE
2950,000100,00010,000


12:59pm: Double-up for Shabalin
Level 28 - Blinds 40,000/80,000 (10,000 ante)

Alexander Lakhov opened to 200,000 from the cutoff and Vladimir Shabalin jammed for 1.11 million. When it got back to Lakhov he acted instantly - as he has every hand so far - and called with the 3♥3♦, up against the K♦T♥.

The 8♣J♦Q♦ flop gave Shabalin an up and down straight draw, but the 6♦ turn bricked. The K♠ river gave Shabalin a bigger pair and he doubled to 2.33 million, while Lakhov dropped to 2.15 million. --JS

12:54pm: Big call benefits Bojang
Level 28 - Blinds 40,000/80,000 (10,000 ante)

Ismael Bojang opened for 175,000 from the hijack seat and it folded around to Dominik Panka who defended his big blind with a call. The flop came 5♦2♣K♦. Panka checked Bojang continued for 180,000, and Panka called. Both players then checked the 3♣ turn.

The A♣ fell on the river, and after Panka checked a third time Bojang fired 325,000. Panka sat quietly for about a minute, then check-raised to 1.1 million, putting Bojang to a tricky decision.

Bojang took two minutes -- and two sips of his smoothie -- before leaning forward to get a look at the not quite 2 million Panka had behind. He continued to think, appearing at one point to voice the word "four" quietly, alluding to the straight-making card he worried his opponent might have.

Finally Bojang came up with the call, and Panka tabled his A♠8♦ for a pair of aces. Bojang showed his A♦K♣ for two pair, and he claimed the pot.

Bojang bumps up to 5.3 million and is close to Francesco Leotta for the chip lead now, while Panka slips to 1.95 million. --MH

12:45pm: Lakhov's lack of fear
Level 28 - Blinds 40,000/80,000 (10,000 ante)

After the first five or so hands, it's been the Alexander Lakhov show. First he opened to 200,000 from the cutoff, and Vladimir Shabalin three-bet to 500,000 from the small. That got Ismael Bojang to give up his big blind, but when it was back on Lakhov he couldn't have moved all-in fast enough. Shabalin looked deflated as soon as the bet was announced, took one more glance back at his holding and let it go.

In the very next hand Lakhov opened to 200,000 again, which got everyone to fold. Fast forward a couple of 'raise and take it' hands and Lakhov was now in the big blind. Play folded to chip leader Francesco Leotta and he limped from the small blind, letting Lakhov check to see a flop. It came A♦T♦7♥ and Leotta led for 80,000 which got a quick call, followed by the same pattern on the Q♣ turn; Leotta bet 155,000 and the call was instant. Leotta would check though when the 6♠ hit the river, and Lakhov immediately chucked two black 100,000 chips over the line. Leotta folded.

All the while, Lakhov is playing Open Face Chinese Poker on his smartphone. --JS

12:35pm: The final day begins!
Level 28 - 40,000/80,000 (10,000 ante)

The six remaining players are in their seats and play is underway on this last day of the IPT Malta Main Event. There is just under a half-hour to go in Level 28. --MH


LEVELSMALL BLINDBIG BLINDANTE
2840,00080,00010,000


11:00am: Meet the final six

We're an hour-and-a-half away from play resuming here at the Portomaso Casino, at which time we'll begin to find out who among the six survivors from the 775-player field will emerge as this year's Italian Poker Tour Malta Main Event champion.

While we wait for the start of play today, take the time to get to know the final six players a little better. It's an eclectic -- and stacked -- final group!

Seat 1: Francesco Leotta, 33 (Catania, Italy) - 5,310,000


EPT13Malta_Francesco Leotta_IPT_Main-Event_Manuel_Kovsca 5.jpg

Francesco Leotta

Start-of-day chip leader 
Francesco Leotta has been playing poker professionally for three years now, though this marks his first appearance on Italian Poker Tour. The 33-year-old from Catania has only one reported live cash to his name, as his biggest results have come in the online realm where he's racked up more than €300K in winnings. His accolades include winning the Sunday Special, the largest regular event on PokerStars.it.

Leotta is engaged and will be getting married next year, and plans to spend his IPT Malta winnings for the wedding.

Seat 2: Alexander Lakhov, 44 (Irkutsk, Russia) - 2,180,000


EPT13Malta_Alexander Lakhov_IPT_Main-Event_Manuel_Kovsca 16.jpg

Alexander Lakhov


Alexander Lakhov brings an excellent poker résumé to today's final. The 44-year-old from Irkutsk has won more than $2.8 million in live tournaments and currently sits in 12th place on the Russian all-time money list. He has both WPT and WPT National titles under his belt, plus further two runner-up finishes.

His biggest payday came in the 2015 WPT Borgata Spring Poker Open Main Event where he collected $573,779 for a second place. Meanwhile his online accolades are also remarkable, where he's won a Sunday Million (in 2012) and also has collected both Super Tuesday and SCOOP titles.

Seat 3: Dominik Panka, 25 (Brzesc Kujawski, Poland) - 3,200,000


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Dominik Panka


2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure champion Dominik Panka has already tasted success here at Portomaso Casino, having made the EPT11 Malta Main Event final table where he finished third for €347,300. The 25-year-old Pole also has a EPT11 Barcelona deep run to his name (11th for €77,600), and he also won the coveted EPT High Roller trophy after beating a 115-entry field at EPT11 Deauville for a €272,000 payday.

Hailing from the tiny town of Brześć Kujawski, Panka has already accrued more than $2.4 million in live tournaments, placing him second behind to Dzmitry Urbanovich on Poland's all-time money list.

Seat 4: Vladimir Shabalin, 29 (Berezniki, Russia) - 1,850,000


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Vladimir Shabalin

Vladimir Shabalin has only one reported live cash in his Hendon Mob profile -- a sixth place at IPT7 Grand Final in Saint Vincent worth €13,000. But making this IPT final table isn't his first moment in the spotlight. Shabalin is mainly known for his online grind -- indeed, if any player deserves to be labeled as a grinder, it's Shabalin.

Playing as "shabalinvlad" on PokerStars, the 29-year-old from Berezniki became only the third player in history to break the 10 million VPP mark. In 2013 alone, Shabalin earned 4.5 million VPPs, mainly playing high-stakes SNGs. That would be enough to buy seven Porsche Cayman S sports cars (!).

During an interview at EPT10 Grand Final, Shabalin told the PokerStars Blog: "My dream is to become a space tourist so I'm dreaming about sitting down in a shuttle and watching our Earth from there."

Seat 5: Ismael Bojang, 27 (Hamburg, Germany) - 4,285,000


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Ismael Bojang

Renowned for his mixed-game skills, Ismael Bojang has five WSOP final tables to his name. The 27-year-old of Gambian descent hails from Hamburg, and is currently ranked 21st on the German all-time money list with more than $2.1 million in earnings. Bojang's biggest payday was $187,571 for sixth place in the 2015 WSOP $25k PLO High Roller.

He nearly matched that prize at this year's World Series, taking $179K for a sixth-place finish in the $5K NLH Event. Bojang also made the final table at EPT9 Sanremo, banking €65,450 for eighth place. His main discipline is Omaha and he proved it back at EPT9 Deauville where he won the €10k PLO Championship Event for €83,000.

Seat 6: Johan Guilbert, 27 (Sarreguemines, France) - 2,485,000


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Johan Guilbert

Johan Guilbert comes from Sarreguemines, a small town on the French-German border. Guilbert was a theatre actor for seven years, and worked another three years as an animator in the Fun Radio in Paris before becoming a full-time poker pro in January 2011.

The 27-year-old has racked up more than $100K in live poker tournaments. His biggest cash dates back to the 2012 WSOP Main Event where he finished 337th for $32,871. Guilbert kicked off his IPT Main Event run on Day 1b, bagging up the chip lead on his way to this, his first major final table.

A talented group, wouldn't you agree? Here's a reminder of what these six are playing for:

1st: €101,940
2nd: €75,690
3rd: €56,200
4th: €41,720
5th: €30,970
6th: €23,000

Join us starting at 12:30pm for start-to-finish coverage of today's final, as we'll bring you live updates, chip counts, photos, and more until the final hand is dealt. --MH


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The scene from near the end of Day 3


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PokerStars Blog reporting team on the IPT Main Event: Jack Stanton and Martin Harris. Photography by Manuel Kovsca and Jules Pochy. Follow the PokerStars Blog on Twitter: @PokerStarsBlog

Live reporting team
@PokerStars in Malta