High Roller tournaments at major poker festivals will always attract fewer players than the main event. It’s something to do with the buy in being at least twice the size (and often significantly more).
But High Rollers are also utterly compelling, a concentrated distillation of all that we love. Almost every pot means phenom-versus-phenom in a battle of wills, and when the champion is crowned you know you’re either going to see an established superstar clutching the trophy, or the face of a person who has outwitted the best in the world.
Today’s winner was very nearly from the former category. The Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu was heads up for the €25,000 High Roller event at the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino EPT Grand Final. But instead take a look at the man below. That is Igor Kurganov and he is €1,080,000 richer after showing that he too has an awful lot of game.
But don’t go thinking that Kurganov is a rookie either. He is no stranger to the top competition. He has finished runner up in two €10,000 buy in events on the European Poker Tour in the past couple of years, and this time was adamant not to be bridesmaid again. He had been a short stack four-handed, but battled back, and when they got heads up, Negreanu himself tweeted: “The kid is tough.”
They traded the chip lead back and forth in the final stages, each doubling up and then being knocked back down. Negreanu was eventually forced to settle for €598,600 for second place, missing out on what would have been the biggest single payday in a career in which he has earned more than $15m in tournament prizes.
Even to get heads up, those two had had to out-battle some mighty contenders. Justin Bonomo, who had recently won the Super High Roller event, carried a massive chip lead to the final table, but the blazing Bonomo would melt this time in fourth.
That was one place before Philipp Gruissem, the man rapidly becoming Mr High Roller. Gruissem was at his fifth High Roller final table of the season, and he had already won two of them. But Gruissem would this time bust in third, with a €366,000 payday to cushion his fall. (Plus a piece of Kurganov.)
All of that followed the departure of Max Lykov, Nathan Schoo, Noah Schwartz and Artem Litvinov in eighth through fifth. Each one of those is some player too, and Negreanu had to crack Lykov’s kings to get rid of the obdurate Russian Team PokerStars Pro.
After that, though, the final table flew by, bringing us to that heads up.
Negreanu would have been a hugely popular champion. Kurganov too. This time is fell to the latter, but the Germans have a lock on the High Rollers this season. Negreanu will have to try again next time.
And that is all but the end of season eight on the European Poker Tour. You can take a look back on everything that happened in our enormous PokerStars Blog EPT archive. Or if it’s just this week in Monaco you’re after, we can do that too.
Today’s High Roller witterings are available to anyone with the balls to click any of the links below.
It’s EPT Awards and party time now, and we will have a full round-up from there later on tonight. That’s if you can keep your eyes open long enough, of course.