The corridor between the tournament area and the press room at the Las Vegas Casino, Budapest, is going to need recarpeting at the end of this week. On a day of startling activity at EPT Budapest, the returning day three field of 42 players was trimmed to the final nine in less than five hours. Even though it took another 120-odd minutes to shed one more, keeping up with the action for the most part forced reporters to buzz between the tables and their laptops with hazardous haste and frequency, and no sooner was a player doubling up than he was out; the seeming shoo-ins for the final kicked into touch.
The eight players surviving the cull will return tomorrow to play to a winner, who will be €595,839 richer. It will be one of these:
Zoltan Toth, Hungary (1,059,000)
Ciprian Hrisca, Romania (1,038,000)
Albert Iversen, Denmark (1,017,000)
William Fry, UK, PokerStars player (572,000)
Johnny Lodden, Norway, PokerStars sponsored player (500,000)
Gino Alacqua, Italy (466,000)
Marino Serenelli, Italy (357,000)
Martin Jacobson, Sweden, PokerStars qualifier (306,000)
Regular poker observers will see one name leaping out from the page: that of Johnny Lodden, the Norwegian professional, for whom reaching a first EPT final table is a sizeable step nearer completing a personal journey of catharsis. Known across the world as one of the most talented and fearless of the online poker generation, the internet was abuzz earlier this year with rumours that Lodden had lost his sizeable bankroll forcing him out of the tournament arena and away from the high-stakes cash games that had been his hunting ground for several years.
But the 23-year-old’s ability was always too great to remain in exile for long, and he was brought back in from the cold and given a two-tournament sponsorship deal with PokerStars for the EPTs in Budapest and Prague. And what a way to repay the faith and underline his proven talent: Lodden, who has six previous cashes in EPT main events without ever making a final table, will tomorrow break that duck, hauling half a million in chips to take his place in the last eight.
The company he’ll keep tomorrow fits a classic EPT final table archetype. There’s the home-town hero carrying the hopes of most of the railbirds: Zoltan Toth is representing our hosts here in Hungary and is also the narrow chip leader.
In the Scandinavian corner there’s Albert Iversen, the 21-year-old Dane and chip leader at the start of day three, and Martin Jacobson, a chef-turned-PokerStars qualifier, who is hoping to join the likes of Mats Iremark, Magnus Petersson and Alexander Stejvic as Swedish EPT champions.
The Italian poker boom continues apace, with the reappearance on an EPT final table of Gino Alacqua, runner up in Prague last year. And there’s also another new face from arguably the most promising poker nation in Europe, Marino Serenelli.
William Fry, a British PokerStars player, has capped a memorable debut in major tournament poker by cruising all the way to tomorrow’s final test.
The PokerStars player William Fry
And then there’s also the Romanian player Ciprian Hrisca, whose move upwards today has been as silent as it has been relentless. He’s comfortably in the top three with more than a million.
Of course, to reach those eight, we lost all others: the final remaining Team PokerStars Pro Alex Kravchenko perished in 23rd. He was joined on the rail – or in today’s €2,000 side event – by the PokerStars qualifiers Janek Schleicher, Nicholas Maieritsch, Ofir Abramovivi, Dave Hardy, Robert Firestone, Tommi Etelapera, Dwayne Stacey, Lukas Bencovic, Oleg Korotkov and Sebastian Saffari.
It’s been fast, furious and fun. More of the same will follow tomorrow.
Take a look back at today’s action with any of the following:
Closing in on the final
How the (not so) mighty have fallen
The pots keep getting bigger
A Greek tragedy
The last of the Team Pros
El diablo thriving on halloween
The ever shrinking field
All ins and double ups
Here one minute, gone the next
Edging towards the eight
And after all that, be sure to join us tomorrow for the final shakedown. Goodnight from Budapest.