As Stefan Schillhabel’s friends sat and watched the topsy-turvy heads up battle at the conclusion of the €10,000 single re-entry no limit hold’em event here at EPT Prague, they whiled away the time trying to think of a nickname.
After running through a few options, they alighted on “Stefan SKILL-habel” and laughed uproariously at their word-play. I remember my first beer too.
It wasn’t necessarily high comedy, but it was a uniquely appropriate moniker. Within about 30 minutes, the man they now call Skillhabel was the first major champion of the last EPT festival, taking €248,046 and a shiny silver trophy.
Schillhabel beat Sergio Aido heads up in a battle that swung this way and that and threatened to match last night’s never-ending bubble period. Both heads-up duellists had the dominant stack at one point or another, seemingly on the brink of triumph. But getting over the finishing line proved to be exceptionally tough–even though they had already divided the majority of the prize pool when they were four-handed, leaving only €25,000 to play for.
But they battled hard and eventually, as the clock ticked beyond 1am, there came the inevitable cooler. Schillhabel found pocket kings pre-flop and got into a raising battle with Aido, who had 9♥10♥. There were two nines on the flop, which gave Aido all the reason he needed to call bets on all streets. But by the time the river was out, there was also a king out there. That full house gave Schillhabel the triumph, the trophy and the satisfaction of beating a field of 108 of the best players in the world.
The day began with with one thing on everybody’s mind: the obdurate bubble, which simply would not burst late last night. It didn’t seem like bursting today either and they went through close to a level and a half with 19 players still grinding it out, their stacks growing every more shallow.
The pressure finally got to Luca Pagano and he couldn’t get an optimistic shove through Brian Senie. Pagano’s 10♠6♣ couldn’t beat Senie’s A♦Q♣ and the last Team PokerStars Pro hit the rail in 19th.
Prebban Stokkan, a recent big winner at the Norwegian championship, had seemed on course to rise from a short stack in this event to squeeze into the money. But despite at least one early double up, he had dwindled to the smallest stack in the room again as the stone bubble period dragged on. He was eventually all-in in the big blind and lost to the overnight leader, Francois Billard.
With the bubble finally burst, they raced to the final table. All of Viacheslav Buldygin, Dimitar Danchev, Mikita Badziakouski and Pierre Neuville will have considered making the money a success given the state of their stacks in the pre-bubble period. Conversely Mustapha Kanit, Sylvain Loosli and Anton Bertilsson had big stacks at one point today, but also fell short of the business end.
They paused for a quick photo when only eight were left, but it barely halted the frenetic action. Billard’s lead was a thing of the past when he lost with A♣K♠ to Schillhabel’s J♠J♦ to go out in eighth. Then Konstantin Uspenskiy was upended in seventh, unable to beat Charlie Carrel’s Q♦Q♥ with his K♣Q♣.
Carrel also accounted for Francis-Nicolas Bouchard, who correctly surmised that he was drawing dead with K♠J♣ against Carrel’s A♦J♥ when they got it in pre-flop. Carrel is on a tear at the moment, with five cashes at the recent Master Classics of Poker in Amsterdam, including visits to three flagship final tables. No one is ever going to win a 25 per cent shot in that spot, and Bouchard didn’t.
With only five players left, the stacks temporarily looked big in relation to the blinds. However, that’s also when Schillhabel starting looking unbeatable and he soared to the top of the charts and left everybody else trying to double up through him.
A couple of people managed it, and Aido suddenly found himself with a stack despite spending long periods in the danger zone. Aliaksei Boika also managed to build his towers big enough to potentially claim a second huge payday in as many tournaments, having triumphed in the EPT Main Event in Malta.
Senie ended up giving Boika even more. Senie had never previously cashed on the EPT, and was maybe seizing the last chance to play under this branding for the first time. He too had been chip leader at one point today, but was under the cosh when he got all-in with J♣8♣ against Boika’s A♥J♦. They were down to four.
The last quartet wanted to look at the numbers and discussed doing a deal according to the Independent Chip Model (ICM). They went back and forth and bent the traditional ICM rules a little, taking out €25,000 to play for with each giving up a portion of the €25K proportionate to their chip stacks.
They decided they would get the following:
Stefan Schillhabel: €223,046
Aliaksei Boika: €218,944
Sergio Aido: €177,965
Charlie Carrel: €159,548
As so often after a deal, everyone began wondering what might have been. Aido took over the lead after doubling through Schillhabel. Then Carrel moved to the top of the pile. They jousted this way and that as stacks shallowed, and it was Boika who became the next to bust.
Boika won the penultimate EPT Main Event, triumphing a couple of months ago in Malta, and with bankroll and confidence swelled, he joined the ranks of the €10K players here.
But he could go no further than fourth: flopping top pair eights and losing heaps to Carrel’s pocket jacks, then being polished off by Aido with an inferior ace. But as per the deal, Boika still got the second most in the room. He took €218,944.
Carrel plays a volatile game and, in his opinion, he wasn’t playing especially well today. He said so on more than one occasion. It didn’t look that way from where anyone else was standing, but Carrel couldn’t quite go all the way to the title. He perished in third.
He described a “bad read” on what became his penultimate hand, moving all-in with Q♠10♥ and losing to Schillhabel’s K♦Q♣. After that, he lost his last shrapnel with Q♠8♥ to Schillhabel’s pocket kings.
Carrel was the short stack when they made the deal and although it’s going to go down as a third place, his prize of €159,548 was the fourth biggest.
That left Schillhabel and Aido heads up, and the swings began. Either of them could have won it, but there was only room for one champion.
That man is Stefan Schillhabel/Skillhabel. Call him what you want. He kicks off this last EPT festival with a superlative performance and is about a quarter of a million euro richer.
It’s the €50,000 Super High Roller event tomorrow. Spin up?
EPT13 Prague €10,000 NL Hold’em Single Re-Entry
Dates: December 8-10, 2016
Buy in: €10,000 + €300
Total prize pool: €1,290,100
|3||Charlie Carrel||United Kingdom||€159,548*|
|5||Brian Senie||United States||€95,200|
*Denotes four-handed deal.