The final table of the EPT Barcelona, the first event of fifth season of the tour, is just a few hours away, starting at 4pm local time. Among the last eight are familiar and not so familiar names. Full details of each of them is below.
Seat 1: Martin Nielsen, 34, Jutland, Denmark — 1,229,000 chips
They don’t come much more relaxed than Martin Nielsen, the former merchant banker now competing at his second major final table this summer. After earning $120k at the Bellagio in July, Martin resigned from his job of five years, figuring that there was more to life than battling the rat race in London. “I bought a ticket to Indonesia for the autumn,” he said. “That’s my only plan for this year. But that plan might have to change now.” He admits that he’s much less experienced at poker than most of the other finalists but has been using some instinctive mathematical knowledge to make solid decisions based purely on odds. It has served him well. He’s never appeared flustered and has eased to the final table with a chip-leader’s stack of more than a million. “I may have found another job now,” he said.
Seat 2: Davidi Kitai, 28, Brussels, Belgium – 600,000 chips
Poker pro Davidi made his first impression at EPTs when he made the TV stages of EPT Barcelona last year, eventually finishing 11th for his biggest ever live win: €46,000. His reputation then shifted from ‘solid’ to ‘spectacular’ when he went on to win the $2,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event at the World Series, the first Belgian ever to win a coveted WSOP bracelet. He reached his 2nd WSOP final table only a week later. Davidi perfected his poker skills during a trip to Los Angeles in 2003. He had gone to the States to learn English, but it was Texas Hold’em that he mastered. In 2006 he also took down the Euro Finals of Poker in Paris.
Seat 3: Dren Ukella, 36, Cologne, Germany – 734,000
Dren Ukella has been playing poker “forever” and first kicked off with five card draw. A brick builder by trade, Dren was born in Germany but grew up in Kosovo until his family returned to Germany when he was 14. Married with three children, Dren’s biggest cash to date was winning €37,000 in a NLHE tournament in Belgium. Although he has studied the game and read various poker books, he says “I know the other guys are better than me”. If he wins, he plans to take some time off and go on a two-three month vacation with his family.
Seat 4: Jason Mercier, 21, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, PokerStars qualifier – 526,000 chips
Jason first came to attention at the PokerStars.com EPT Season 4 event in San Remo in April. It was his only second live event and he’d qualified online with PokerStars but – facing one of the toughest final tables in EPT history – he secured a stunning victory worth €869,000. His opposition included Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri, William Thorson and Eric Koskas. He followed up the San Remo triumph with three WSOP cashes in the summer, adding another $50,000 or so to his bank roll – and now seems set to be a dominant force at poker tournaments across the globe. Outside of poker, Jason – who had studied to be a maths teacher before discovering online poker – is a huge basketball fan and coaches the team from his former high school.
Seat 5: Sam Chartier, 22, Montreal, Canada – PokerStars qualifier – 879,000 chips
French-Canadian Sam has been playing poker for five years and turned pro three years ago. He is great friends with Jason Mercier after meeting him on the first day of EPT San Remo. All Sam’s friends had gone on a trip to Italy so Sam and Jason ended up sharing a room. He said: “I played a side event in San Remo which I won, with Jason railing me all the way. Then I railed him in the main event.” While in San Remo, Sam qualified online for the Season 4 Monte Carlo Grand Final but busted on Day 2. His biggest cash before today was 80th place at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January for $16,000.
Seat 6: Daniele Mazzia, 33, Imperia, Italy – 359,000 chips
Daniele Mazzia has been playing poker professionally for the last two years and, as a regular competitor in tournaments all over Europe, has a string of notable results to his name. In July 2007, he took down the Velden Masters event for over €70k and since then has cashed in a further seven events, including first place in the Italian Championship’s $500 NLHE event in October. Daniele is great friends with Italian-speaking pros Claudio Rinaldi and Alessio Isaia – the three travel to events together – but his biggest supporter is girlfriend Carla Solinas, also a highly successful poker player.
Seat 7: Fintan Gavin,40 , Galway, Ireland – PokerStars qualifier – 701,000 chips
Although one of the less well-known faces at today’s final table, Finton Gavin is no poker novice and works in the industry – as the card room manager at the Eglinto Casino in Galway. Thanks to his casino duties, Fintan says he doesn’t get to play as much as he’d like but, having played poker for 30 years and NLHE for six years, he has a wealth of experience to draw on. This is his first EPT but he’s so impressed with the way PokerStars run things that he’s planning to try and qualify for many more. This is his best result to date although he cashed in the Aussie Millions main event last year for AS$ 20,000.
Seat 8: Sebastian Ruthenberg, 24, Hamburg, Germany – PokerStars sponsored player – 1,204,000 chips
Sebastian took up poker while studying IT at college. Six months later, after he graduated, he turned pro and swiftly climbed the levels from 50/$1 to $3/6 Limit, later changing to SNGs and No Limit cash games. In 2006, he won the German Open in 2006 and was runner-up last year at a WCOOP event as well as coming 3rd in EPT3 Dortmund. This summer he crowned his achievement by winning a WSOP bracelet – in the Seven Card Stud Hi-low event. He is one of seven pros who make up the PokerStars.de ShootingStars team – alongside top players such as Benjamin Kang, Jan Heitmann, Johannes Strassman and George Danzer. He starts today as chip leader.