The tournament room at EPT Deauville was today filled to capacity almost from start to finish. Every seat in the house seemed to be occupied for all of the eight hours we played. Was this a never-ending tournament from which no one ever bust?
The short answer to that is: No. Far from it, in fact. The reason all the chairs stayed filled was the number of side events starting today, plus the quantity of players eliminated from the big dance who found themselves free to play them.
We started with 154 in the €5,000 main event and we finished it with 51. Even by our own frantic standards on the EPT, that was a swift one, especially considering we played an hour-long bubble.
However after Said Basri was knocked out on something like the sixth or seventh all in during the bubble period, the remaining players celebrated by flinging their chips away with gay abandon. We were swiftly brought down to the last half century still in with a shot at the €770,000 first prize.
Top of the pile tonight is Shahaf Hadaya, about whom almost nothing is known. He has had a few small results, mainly in America, but this is his first appearance on the EPT and, I’m guessing, the first time he has had more than a million chips–1,237,000 to be precise.
Hadaya emerged in the penultimate level of the day, by which point the likes of Zimnan Ziyard, Matthias De Meulder, Timothy Reilly, Sandra Naujoks, Marion Nedellec, Fabrice Soullier and Sergii Baranov had collected their min-cash and got out of Dodge.
Vanessa Rousso, Antonio Matias, Ana Marquez, Dermot Blain and Todd Terry didn’t even make it that far. They bust before the money kicked in.
Hadaya will be wise not too spend too much time looking over his shoulder, however, as there is some terrifying talent lurking not far behind. His closest challenger is the Frenchman Matthieu Herve (1,050,000), who won a huge chunk in a three-way pot that made it to 300,000 without reaching showdown. But one of the beaten players in that hand, Sam Grafton, remains in third place, slightly ahead of his countryman, James Mitchell.
Grafton has long been expected to make a serious charge on the EPT and Deauville may just host that breakthrough. Grafton is currently ranked as the No 1 online tournament player in London after a string of enormous cashes. He has played the rush throughout three days of this tournament and bags up 985,000 tonight.
“In your face, Mitchell,” Grafton, from the UK, said at the end, just after counting his chips and learning that his friend Mitchell had two thousand fewer.
Mitchell has officially had his major live tournament breakthrough. He won the Irish Open in 2010 for €600,000. But one suspects his 11th place in London in 2011 won’t be enough to sate his desire to run deep at an EPT event, which is why he has been so focused here in Deauville this week.
Mitchell was moved to the EPT Live featured table early in the day today, and he played a huge factor in keeping the cameras fixed there through all five levels. His battles with Thomas Butzhammer and Jason Koon in particular were awesome to watch and Mitchell finished the day with 983,000.
Those are your top four players.
Team PokerStars Pro is finished (De Meulder was the best of them). But there are still two former EPT champions in the mix–the divisive Lucien Cohen and the unanimously adored Salvatore Bonavena. They are short-stacked but have been here before.
Full counts of all the remaining players are in the panel at the top of the main EPT Deauville page, so savour those names at your leisure. Additionally, you can look back on some of our coverage from the day with the following links. Every single one is a gem, or your money back.
Play begins tomorrow at noon CET and the idea is to play down to 24. That should take, what, 35 minutes?
FREE! FREE! FREE! WIN! WIN! WIN!
PokerStars Blog’s awesome competition to name an EPT champion and win yourself a tournament ticket is back. Just head over to the competition page, do some stuff on Twitter, and you could be ante-ing up online. Enjoy.