There was a moment today, actual several moments spanning about nine hours, in which most here at EPT Prague believed that the final table would be a two-day affair, squeezed into the hours of one. Players wondered if they would be denied playing time, media nervously glanced at flight times tomorrow morning, and the TV people anxiously wondered whether their digital servers would hold out long enough.
But despite the massive average stack, the thrilling final table played out in an almost standard fashion, and by standard we mean in good time, and with a result that showcased the best of poker.
The result was perhaps not the one that many had expected, but Julian Track’s victory tonight was a story of triumph over adversity. He is poker’s “sickest” winner in a literal sense, and well worth his first prize of €725,700, plus an exclusive Slyde watch.
EPT Prague winner Julian Track
Track, 30, had been a mystery this week, declining interviews and keeping himself to himself. But the German press had some information, the most notable point being his dissatisfaction at what was his first live event. Track is an online cash player, and he had realised this week that the seat he had won for Prague meant he would spend his days, as far as he could see it, watching people take far too long to make decision.
Track suffered with a fever throughout the final table
But he dug in, and today combated a fever–wearing two hoodies and a woollen hat as his skin grew paler and his face withdrawn–to overcome Greek player Georgios Sotiropoulos heads-up to claim the title.
But that would only come at the end of a day that, while not as long as most feared, still took nearly 14 hours to complete. It began this afternoon with Track in front and he would stay there for the day. Indeed, he never lost the chip lead throughout.
The final table players assemble
Jorma Nuutinen was out first. Having watched Track cold four-bet he shoved with ace-king. Chidwick folded the same hand while Track, who held pocket tens, agonised over whether to call. Finally he did, with some angst, catching a ten on the flop to reduce the field to seven.
Jorma Nuutinen: eighth for €84,600
There remained plenty of play for the others and it was some time before Zdravko Dunkjak went in seventh, shoving with 10♥8♥ against Schemion’s ace-king.
Zdravko Duvnjak: seventh, winning €118,200
Silver, one of the favourites coming into the final, followed Duvnjak less than an hour later. He got his chips in with ace-ten which sent Chidwick into the tank. When he called with pocket sevens he watched his ten hit the flop. Silver looked home and dry but for the seven on the river, which put him on the rail in sixth.
Max Silver: sixth for €160,200
Ole Schemion had already locked up the GPI Player of the Year contest yesterday, when a minimum of 17th place knocked Daniel Negreanu off the top. But the German, who many tipped for an EPT title some time ago, came to play for the title. However despite his best efforts he would fall short, crashing out when he tangled with Sotiropoulos and Track to get his chips in with pocket tens. Track was playing pocket sevens, which became a set on the turn. Schemion will have to wait until the New Year for another tilt at an EPT title, taking €218,300 for fifth.
Ole Schemion in a moment of triumph
Ke Kwan Lau was another who impressed this week and he had the biggest rail eager to see a first Spanish winner on the EPT. But while he had the support he couldn’t find the chips. He called off his stack with top pair kings, running it into the turned two pair of Sotiropoulos.
Ke Kwan Lau: fourth for €283,800
When Chidwick departed in third it brought an end to an astonishing two weeks of poker for the Englishman.
As the EPT Main Event began, Chidwick was still busy with his previous job: reaching the final table of the Eureka Poker Tour Main Event, the biggest ever staged on the Tour, in which he finished third for €92,500. Now, seven days later, he’s recorded another third place, perhaps short of his stated destination but still the work of one of the game’s premier players.
Stephen Chidwick: third followed third
Chidwick got his chips in with ace-ten today, getting called by Sotiropoulos who showed king-queen and caught a second queen on the flop. Chidwick had to settle for €378,000 and took the contest to the heads-up phase.
Play goes heads-up
Track wanted things to be over with quickly. Being ill–literally “sick” in poker parlance–he seemed keen to end things immediately, so when the deal was announced as a straight 50-50 chop, most people assumed Track was being a little too generous, given he held the advantage.
But they did agree on €700,000 each and while there remained only €25,700 in the middle it made no difference to the pace. It wasn’t that the players were slow, but neither looked keen to settle for the runner-up spot, and so the attrition continued.
Track plays on
But Track, however ill wearing multiple layers and a hat, never threw in the towel. He may have been looking to celebrate with paracetamol rather than champagne, but he remained focused and aggressive throughout, keeping Sotiropoulos under pressure, and focusing only on the chips in front of him. They grew in number until after a series of double ups for his opponent, Track finally got him, with a pair of tens, the same tens that had helped him win various key pots throughout the closing stages. Sotiropoulos had queen-jack but found nothing to help him on the board. Track had finally done it.
Track can claim his prize
After securing victory, Track leapt from the stage and into the arms of his supporters on the rail — and into a flurry of media activity.
“Did you think you were going to get through it?” asked one reporter, and Track let out a huge sigh.
“Let me just have rest,” he said.
When he returned and composed himself, and received the trophy that brought colour to his face for the first time in about five hours, Track said, “I’m very tired. I just want to take a 16-hour sleep. I guess in the next four days I’ll be very, very happy.”
He was also modest about his abilities. “I was chip-leader, but the underdog because of so many very good players. I changed my strategy for the final and just played very aggressive pre-flop.”
He added: “For sure I’m satisfied. I came for a min-cash. I’m an online qualifier and I came from a min-cash. I was never the best player at the table.”
Credit was due also to runner-up Sotiropoulos, the second Greek player to finish second in Prague in consecutive years. When the line-up was finalised yesterday few suspected the relatively unknown Greek would feature anywhere near the final hand. But he played some great poker to steer clear of the big name favourites. His €700,000 prize was very well earned.
Georgios Sotiropoulos: second, but with winner’s money
It brings an end to the EPT Prague festival, in which there were a whole bundle of highlights.
Today we played down from eight to a winner, and talked about the potential to go back to the future as we watched. In anticipation of a long day we stocked up on caffeine and prepared for the EPT’s first Breakfast Break, while we reflected on the lack of fanfare for the dearly departed.
Prague earlier. All of these people are now asleep
That’s all from Prague. Our next stop is the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, from the chill of Prague to the sunshine and beaches of the Bahamas. In between all that we wish you the good tidings for the season, and a Happy New Year.
EPT10 Prague Main Event
Date: December 12-18, 2013
Prize pool: €4,883,950
1 – Julian Track, Germany, PokerStars Qualifier, €725,700*
2 – Georgios Sotiropoulos, Greece, €700,000*
3 – Stephen Chidwick, United Kingdom, PokerStars Qualifier, €378,000
4 – Ka Kwan Lau, Spain, €283,800
5 – Ole Schemion, Germany, PokerStars Qualifier, €218,300
6 – Max Silver, United Kingdom, €160,200
7 – Zdravko Duvnjak, Croatia, €118,200
8 – Jorma Nuutinen, Finland, €84,600
* denotes two-way deal.
Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.