Neil Stoddart took one of the defining photographs from day four of EPT Berlin before the first level of the day was even done. It showed Boris Becker and Sandra Naujoks loitering by the exit door, dispatched from the tournament with only a min-cash to each of their names.
And thus the trend for the day was established early: big names and/or big stacks weren’t welcome. Liv Boeree, Thang Duc Nguyen, Bryn Kenney, Pratyush Buddiga and Natalie Hof were all eliminated before the big money kicked in, likewise the day one chip leader Ronny Voth and then the kid who had been out front for the next two days, Aku Joentausta. The young Finn crashed in a pot worth something like 2m chips, all of which ended up in front of Roman Herold.
Herold would handle his big stack with kid gloves all the way to the final level of play, at which point the wrapping came off again and he won a huge, last-gasp coup to put him into the dominant overnight lead. Herold will come back tomorrow with 4,485,000, leading the last 17 by about half a million. Dashgyn Aliev is second, with 3,931,000.
A delighted Dashgyn Aliev (in red), on the way to a monster stack
They will line up for the penultimate day like this:
Roman Herold, Germany, 4,485,000
Dashgyn Aliev, Russia, 3,931,000
Khiem Nguyen, Germany, 2,788,000
Alexander Helbig, Germany, 2,040,000
Robert Haigh, Germany, 1,659,000
Yasar Guden, Germany, 1,619,000
Julian Thomas, Germany, 1,400,000
Robert Auer, Germany, 1,380,000
Daniel-Gai Pidun, Germany, 1,191,000
Roman Korenev, Russia, 1,186,000
Pascal Vos, Netherlands, 1,130,000
Matias Kesanen, Finland, 1,082,000
Kevin Stani, Norway, 862,000
Olivier Busquet, USA, 736,000
Lasse Christiansen, Denmark, 678,000
Calvin Anderson, USA, 561,000
Philippe Barouk, France, 531,000
Even the slowest geography student could look at that line up and make a pretty accurate guess as to which country Berlin is the capital. Eight players–eight!–of the top nine left in this field are from Germany, our gracious hosts for the week.
They began with 30 per cent of the total field and increased their concentration day-on-day. When we return tomorrow, nearly 50 per cent of the field will be from these shores. We have almost certainly never seen a performance so dominant from any one country.
Lurking among the list of unknowns are three players whose names will surely leap out, even though each lies beneath the tournament average stack. Kevin Stani, Olivier Busquet and Calvin Anderson all have a personal goal to fulfil here in Berlin, beyond the €880,000 on offer to the winner.
Stani could become the first two-time EPT champion. He won in Tallinn and is our last hope here to overcome that particular hoodoo. Meanwhile Busquet, who came so close at EPT Campione last season, can finally secure the elusive title on this continent that his talents surely deserve.
Olivier Busquet: from second to first?
Anderson, meanwhile, is currently ranked No1 in online poker after a sensational 2013. He would become the first player ever to pick up an EPT title while simultaneously topping the online leader board. I’m not sure you could ever get better than that.
Tomorrow we will play to a final table of eight. It means we need to slice the remaining field in two, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Will there be eight Germans at the final? I doubt it, but it’s not impossible. There will be sub-plots aplenty, so join us from noon as we watch how they play out.
If it slows down over there, you can look back through our feature coverage for the day, including a close examination of the face and smell of a potential winner, then a forensic dissection of the early levels of day four. We had a quick chat with Pratyush Buddiga, then asked “Who’s that guy?” about the rest of the field, because the big names had all caught the day four virus.