An enormous chip lead coming into an EPT final table can be both a blessing and a burden. It brings with it great responsibility. Of course it is expected that you will mop up the short stacks to ensure a brief day for players and spectators alike, but it is also vital not to take your eye off the ball as you set about your specific list of tasks.
Principally, you need to make sure you win the darn tournament, else the shadow of regret will be dark for the rest of your life.
We write this at 5.20pm local time, less than six hours since the beginning the final table of EPT Deauville, and having watched Remi Castaignon, 29, fulfil just about every expectation demanded of him. He takes the title, the glittering Slyde watch, the cheque for €770,000 and secures a second French victory on EPT Season 9.
But, phew, it wasn’t without a couple of stumbles along the way. He nearly blew it in spectacular fashion.
Castaignon began the day with 9,900,000 chips, which was more than double his closest challenger and close to five times what most others had. But after Enrico Rudelitz knocked out the short-stacked Jeffrey Hakim within the first orbit, transforming his stack into something with the real potential to dent any other, Castaignon made what was almost a dreadful blunder.
Still less than half an hour after play began, Castaignon faced stern resistance from Rudelitz in a pot that rapidly grew to to a vast size. When Rudelitz shoved on the river, staring at a board of Q♣6♦3♠10♣4♦, there was more than six million chips in the middle, which not even Castaignon could afford to take lightly.
He tanked for more than five minutes, the clock was called, and then eventually Castaignon said he would match the bet. Rudelitz rolled over top set of queens, and Castaignon was forced to show his meagre pair of pocket fives. If this was a hero call, it was only Superman flying headlong into a closed skyscraper window and sliding miserably down the outside.
It is testament, though, to this young Frenchman that he not only regrouped and regained focus but that he kept his wits about him even as others began to take command.
“I played my game and always believed in myself,” Castaignon said. “Even after the hand with pocket fives I carried on believing and played my game.”
Walid Bou-Habib knocked out Noel Gaens with aces against tens. Standard. Rudelitz busted Joseph El Khoury with queens against a suited ace. Yeah, pretty standard too.
And then when Castaignon found some aces of his own, he was on hand to send Franck Kalfon to the rail, leaving four of them to do battle for the title.
Rudelitz would be next to go, proving that holding onto a chip lead is not as easy as you might think. Castaignon took his revenge on the German player, this time finding jacks to beat Rudelitz’s suited ace. And then Castaignon found aces again to bust Robert Romeo, who had been dealt big slick at arguably the worst time possible.
Finally when they got heads up, the chips stacks dwarfed the blinds. It had been short-stack poker for most for long periods of this journey, but now Castaignon and Bou-Habib, the two leaders at the start, were both very well armed for a long heads-up battle.
At least in theory. In practice, Habib got it all in with K♥8♥ and Castaignon called with pocket threes, which faded flop, turn and river.
“Really, I tried my best heads-up; I didn’t catch any hands,” said Bou-Habib, who is now third on the Lebanon all-time money list. “I’ve played a lot of EPTs and this is the first time I have gone so far and played a final table. I’m quite happy. It’s quite an achievement.”
But not quite the achievement of Castaignon, whose final day was bookended by two huge calls with two small pocket pairs. Only one of them turned out to be right, and only one of them turned out to matter.
It was almost the worst of times, but turned out to be the best of times. Bon chance, Remi. Vous êtes EPT Deauville champion.
PokerStars Blog’s coverage of final table day in Deauville:
This was the first time an EPT Main Event was screened from Day 1 on EPT Live on PokerStars.tv, an experiment that will be repeated in London next month.
EPT9 Deauville – Main Event
Date: 4-9 February 2013
Prize pool: €3,753,600
1 – Remi Castaignon, France, €770,000
2 – Walid Bou Habib, Lebanon, PokerStars qualifier €475,000
3 – Robert Romeo, Belgium, €275,000
4 – Enrico Rudelitz, Germany, €215,000
5 – Franck Kalfon, France, €165,000
6 – Joseph El Khoury, Lebanon, €125,000
7 – Noel Gaens, Belgium, €87,800
8 – Jeffrey Hakim, Lebanon, PokerStars player, €60,000