The eight players looking for the €311,000 first prize in Prague are as follows. (See who has already cashed on the prize-winners page.)
Seat 1: Gianluca Speranza, 28, Italy, PokerStars qualifier – 4,750,000
Speranza comes from a family of poker players–his brother Alessandro and father Giampiero also play and Gianluca has been a regular on the European Poker Tour since Season 5. Since his first cash in 2007, Speranza has amassed close to $600,000 in live tournament winnings, a haul that includes three IPT final tables: fourth at IPT6 Saint Vincent for €25,000, fifth at IPT2 Malta for €23,000 and seventh in Sanremo in Season 5 for €16,700. He is currently ranked #36 in the Italy all-time money list. He lives in Vienna, Austria.
Seat 2: Martin Staszko, 36, Czech Republic, PokerStars qualifier – 6,430,000
No Czech player has ever won a Main Event on the Eureka Poker Tour but Martin Staszko is in a good position to change that. The 36-year-old pro from Trinec, an industrial town near the Czech/Polish border, doesn’t need much introduction. He’s by far the most successful live tournament player from the Czech Republic and leads his country’s all-time money list with $5.9 million in winnings. Staszko’s biggest achievement came in the 2011 WSOP Main Event when he was runner-up to Pius Heinz. Two months ago, Staszko won his first trophy on the EPT in the €500 Quintuple Draw event in Malta. He is the only player left with home-soil advantage.
Seat 3: Meir Ben Shimon, 30, Israel – 1,670,000
While Staszko aims to become the first Czech Eureka champion, Meir Ben Shimon is aiming to become the third Israeli to win on this tour, more than any other nation. Reaching the final in this event is already the biggest achievement of the 30-year-old from Tel Aviv’s career so far, but is the shortest stack going into the last day. Ben Shimon mainly plays live, both tournaments and cash games, and has a clear passion for the pastime. When asked what his hobbies were outside of poker, he answered “Poker!”
Seat 4: Mihaita Croitoru, 22, Romania – 3,120,000
Croitoru was born in Romania, but moved with his family to Spain when he was ten and has lived there ever since. He considers himself mainly a tournament player and says he started taking poker seriously at the beginning of this year. Croitoru plays online on PokerStars.es and banked nearly €6,000 in an ESCOOP event back in July. The 22-year-old is playing the biggest tournament of his career and is the youngest player on the final table. He’s already got some ambitions beyond tomorrow’s final and says if he finishes fifth or better, he’ll play the EPT Main Event as well. He’s enjoying Prague a lot and is already thinking of coming back next year.
Seat 5: Cosimo Sabatini, 48, Italy – 1,875,000
Sabatini is the oldest player at this year’s Eureka Prague final table, aged 48. He’s an accountant from the small Italian town of Cassino and his poker CV includes cashes from Italy, Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic. None of them have been particularly big until the Eureka 5 Prague Main Event, which has already brought him by far best result. Sabatini is enjoying back-to-back cashes in this event but this time he’ll bank way more than he did for last year’s 196th place.
Seat 6: Javier Rojas Mederos, 25, Spain – 6,145,000
Mederos also represents Spain, and has lived there for his whole life. He plays pretty much everything – tournaments, cash games and sit & gos. His greatest poker achievement to date came when he won the PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up for $83,000. The 25-year-old will need to get at least fourth place to beat that result here.
Seat 7: Simon Persson, 33, Sweden, PokerStars player – 12,565,000
Simon Persson came out on the right side of a massive clash against Igor Untilov that ended Day 3. The Swede knocked out his opponent in ninth place in the biggest pot of the tournament so far and give himself the chip lead going in to the final table. Persson is no newcomer to the live poker scene; he’s been competing for years. Two years ago, he was runner-up in the Master Classics of Poker in Amsterdam for €182,913. Online on PokerStars, Persson’s best result came five years ago when he banked $144,000 for first place in the Sunday Warm-Up.
Seat 8: Vladas Burneikis, 40, Lithuania – 10,800,000
When questioned if he’s a pro or an amateur, Burneikis said: “I’m a fish.” The Lithuanian has been playing poker for a few years, mainly live because – as he says – “Live, it’s real”. Making the Eureka Prague final table is the best result of his career to date. Burneikis is combining business with pleasure on this trip to the Czech Republic – as well as playing poker, he is also here to meet potential business partners.