It was the £20,000 appetiser to a banquet scheduled to last ten days. On Wednesday just gone, 75 high rollers sat down to kick off the EPT London Festival and for once it probably really was the trophy that was most important.
If you’ve got the odd twenty-large to spare for a game of cards, you’re not exactly famished in the wonga department. And so although there was £542,000 on offer for the winner, this one was a game of pride, a game of skill and a game of wits.
Our winner was wholly appropriate. Matt Glantz is from Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, but is better known as a resident of all the most prestigious card rooms across the globe. He’s the highest of high stakes cash games players, and now he’s the EPT High Roller champion. The cap fits.
“I’ve put on a lot of weight here,” Glantz said in his winner’s interview after he’d been told he was gaining half a million pounds. “It feels great. It’s just been my day.”
Here’s who Glantz beat to the title. You might notice a few other top names among this mob:
1 – Matt Glantz, USA, £542,000
2 – Erik Cajelais, Canada, £326,000
3 – Eugene Katchalov, USA, £193,000
4 – Adolfo Vaeza, Uruguay, £141,000
5 – Leo Fernandez, Argentina, Team PokerStars Pro, £104,000
6 – Ilari Sahamies, Finland, £74,000
7 – Dennis Phillips, USA, Team PokerStars Pro, £60,000
8 – Shane Reihill, Ireland, £45,000
For long periods, it really was anyone’s game. Erik Cajelais, fresh from a bracelet win at a WSOP-E event last week, came to the final table as a dominant chip leader. But his chips were liberally spread around his challengers in the opening salvos, during which even Shane Reihill, the short stack overnight, moved into a position to start challenging.
But Reihill eventually ran a suited big slick into Adolfo Vaeza’s pocket queens, ending his participation and starting a gradual trickle of eliminations. The Team PokerStars Pro Dennis Phillips, who bubbled this event last year, managed to go a couple of spaces further this time. He was disappointed with seventh, however, which in itself offers further proof of how much game this guy’s gotten in the past year or so.
The next to depart was the online tyro Ilari “Ziigmund” Sahamies. Forced to play an unfamiliar short stack, and without the opportunity to reload from his stupefying bankroll, Sahamies wore a frown for much of the day. He seemed content enough with his sixth place as he clearly didn’t have much to play with — although he did suggest that he would probably spend the £74,000 prize “tonight”.
Leo Fernandez was next to go; another terrific showing from the Team PokerStars Pro from Argentina. Described by Veronica Dabul as the best player in the South American country, Fernandez went some way to enhancing an international reputation today. He made a series of moves that impressed even the wily Barry Greenstein in the commentary box. No small achievement that.
Fernandez was followed out the door by his fellow Latin American, Adolfo Vaeza, who took £141,000 back to Uruguay. He’s played only three tournaments in Europe this year and made the final table on two of them. He’s a fine player and a fine, fine gentlemen who has won a great number of friends in London this week.
The three-handed battle apparently belonged to Eugene Katchalov, who had been going through the text book of top poker moves for hour after hour. The only paragraph he didn’t seem to have learned by rote, however, was arguably the most important: the one entitled “Getting Hands To Hold Up”. He went from massive chip leader to busto in double quick time. Again, a reputation enhanced if not necessarily a bankroll massively swelled.
Cajelais, then, and Glantz were left for it. And although it went this way and that, double up, double down, with the worst hand often coming out on top, it was Glantz who won the decisive one. His A♦2♣ beat Cajelais’ Q♠J♠ and we had our winner.
Stick with us all week for the action from the Main Event. It’s going to be fun. Long, but fun.