EPT11 Barcelona has broken a lot of records this week. It has turned us all into broken records, actually, as we banged on about it all. But among all the other landmarks set in Catalonia over the past ten days, one of the least heralded could turn out to be the most significant.
Event #3 of this festival, held all the way back in the dark ages of last Saturday, was a €200 seniors’ event, the first tournament ever held on the European Poker Tour open only to players 50 and over. It was won by a little-known German named Hossein Ensan, who picked up €4,535, the biggest live cash of his life.
Flash forward nine days and Ensan, who is exactly 50, is still playing the rush. He is the chip leader going into the final table of the €5,000 buy in Main Event — the last eight from a field of 1,496 chasing a first prize of €1,261,000.
If Ensan went on to win that tomorrow, and then live to 100, he could buy into every seniors’ event the world over for the rest of his life.
Ensan has become the main story now, if only because this has become one of those EPT Main Events in which all of the established stars have gradually fallen by the wayside. There were hundreds of superstars in the field at the start, which had been trimmed to seven former champions and a couple of Red Spades by yesterday morning, and by the time we reconvened today, it was all about Dominik Panka.
If you’re going to have only one horse, you can do a lot worse than the reigning PCA champion. But even though he hit a few pretty sizeable out-draws this afternoon, even Panka couldn’t survive the onslaught of the unknowns and went out in 11th for €77,600.
When the dust cleared on another long day in Casino Barcelona, we were left with the following final table line-up:
Seat 1 – Ji Zhang, Germany, 6,480,000
Seat 2 – Kiryl Radzivonau, Belarus, 3,420,000
Seat 3 – Slaven Popov, Bulgaria, 3,720,000
Seat 4 – Andre Lettau, Germany, 5,405,000
Seat 5 – Hossein Ensan, Germany, 10,295,000
Seat 6 – Andrea Dato, Italy, 2,825,000
Seat 7 – Andrey Shatilov, Russia, 3,675,000
Seat 8 – Sam Phillips, USA, 9,035,000
If we scratch the surface even slightly, we discover that some others of those eight are not without reputation either. Shatilov was at a PCA final table the year before Panka, and is a Supernova Elite on PokerStars who buys into these live events with FPPs. It cost him 425,000 of the suckers to get into this event, and he’s now guaranteed 121,000 real-world tokens at least.
Sam Phillips, who is originally from the United States but now lives in Mexico, is also a player of some renown. Phillips, who plays online as buckguy2200, is good enough at this game that he charges for training, and people pay him, and he has made more than $3m in online tournaments since tracking began.
A huge payday tomorrow in the live arena will cement his reputation.
Our overnight leader, Bram Haenraets, didn’t quite make it. Having qualified online on PokerStars for a $82 investment, he described yesterday’s antics as “surreal”. Today’s six levels were not quite as smooth as he would have liked, and he went out on the final table bubble, when he ran ace-ten into Ensan’s pocket aces.
It was still something like a dream come true for the Dutchman, but the alarm clock woke him up one day too soon.
The final table will all be screened on EPT Live tomorrow, broadcast to the world at 2pm CET. We’ll follow all the action too, including the stuff that sometimes goes unseen.
And don’t forget, before we close for the night, to thank all our wonderful sponsors on the European Poker Tour…