It was a week spent in crowded tournaments rooms as one event after another set new records to beat old records set at previous incarnations of EPT Barcelona. After the announcement that the EPT would become the PokerStars Championship, it meant this would be the last Barcelona festival under the EPT livery. But it would arguably become one of its most memorable.
Sometimes, faced with an ever growing D1A field, a long day ahead and no prospect of getting any closer to the story for the tournament, you pick out whatever you can. Luckily Charlie Carrel was taking his seat.
Usually it’s Carrel’s clothing that attracts attention. Perhaps sensing he needed a decoy, he brought along a friend to take some of that attention away.
Is he any good, we asked?
“He’s pretty good, but I have position on him,” replied Carrel. “It’s be a really tough day for him.”
If there were problems keeping tabs on the opening field, the following day was enough to make a reporter tear up their notebook, with the field spread out from one end of Casino Barcelona to the other.
Such a big field however meant it was not a good day for everyone, and the reality of keeping a stack at fighting weight would prove too difficult for some. This image captured one particular forlorn look at a dwindling stack.
More than 1,200 players were squeezed into the tournament room, including some faces from yester year like Erik Friberg, Peter Eichhardt, Jeff Sarwer, Thierry Van Den Berg, Vladimir Geshkenbein, and Viktor Blom, as well as a 23 year old newb called Sebastian Malec. It seemed there wasn’t a poker player within a thousand miles who wanted to miss out on one of the biggest events of the year.
It was time for the cameras to start rolling on the Main Event for the first time, which meant they were on hand to capture the first Day 2 bubble for a long time on the EPT.
While it would be Yann Pineau who would leave empty handed, we got a good picture of what’s at stake for most players trying to first to reach the money before considering what could potentially follow. Among them Leo Margets, shown in the image (within the image) above. She was playing on home turf and would prosper on Day 2, bagging up 123,500 that day, and ultimately going on to finish in 150th place.
We’d get used to seeing a yellow hoodie in play before the week was out, but there happened to be more than one to cause a little confusion when it came to reporting. The “other” hoodie belonged to Anthony Chimkovitch, who like another contender also happened to be something of a baby-faced assassin.
Chimkovitch was among the leaders on Day 3, setting himself up nicely for a deep run. Which is exactly another player in a yellow hoodie was doing on the other side of the tournament area. Chimkovitch would stick around, eventually reaching 20th place.
Some days are quieter than others on the Tour; Day 4 was not one of them. This was in part thanks to Sam Grafton, the British pro who had spent the previous three days in a state of permanent conversation.
Grafton is a good natured player, never knowingly impolite to his opponents, including those he beats and those who send him to the rail. He’d spent most of his day on the feature table, entertaining those watching on EPT Live, but his final departure would take place in the shadows of the outer tables, sent to the rail in 30th place by Chimkovitch.
Harcharan Dogra Dogra might not have been the most exciting player to watch, but there was something compelling about his last stand rear-guard in the latter stages of Day 5.
With the field set to play down to a final six Dogra Dogra was in no mood to miss out on an appearance on the final day, even if he was the short stack. Urged on by family and friends watching from a few feet away, he picked his moments. When he did play a hand it seemed riddled with tension – was this the hand he would move all in with?
And yet somehow, against superior and better stacked opponents, he clung on, running down the clock until time was called on the day with seven players remaining.
Final day yes, but not quite the final table. Dogra Dogra returned the next day to bust in seventh place.
In all honesty Sebastian Malec had become the story of EPT Barcelona long before he was hoisted aloft by friends as he celebrated winning his first EPT title. In the days before he had impressed people with his play, but also endeared people with his manner and approach to the game.
Rather than letting the occasion get to him, the 23-year-old Pole, who had qualified for the event for €27, seemed to enjoy himself more and more as play went deeper and deeper, ending each day wither with a dance, a photo of his stack or simply a “woop”.
The last hand he played against Uri Reichenstein will live on in EPT memory long after the Tour transforms itself into the PokerStars Championship. A feel good winner if there ever was one to bring the festival to a close.
All images by official EPT photographer Neil Stoddart.
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