Followers of the Eureka Poker Tour have known for quite a while just how much fun this tour can be. And when 1,893 players showed up for the €1,000 tournament in Prague this week, it seemed clear that word had spread far and wide.
But if a €311,000 first prize wasn’t enough to convince naysayers of the Eureka’s exceptional appeal, it also served up one of the most entertaining, and quickest, final tables in any tour’s history, won before the clock struck 5pm by Spain’s Javier Rojas.
Right from its outset five days ago, this had been a tournament of fearless action and huge pots, but the final somehow managed to up the stakes even further. For long periods, the extraordinary talent of Vladas Burneikis burned the brightest, and after he went out in fourth, the sense of relief translated into a period of play that was even more hasty than what had gone before.
Rojas was a short stack five handed, but soon built enough chips to knock out the dangerous Burneikis. And then, within the space of about five hands, he accounted for Simon Persson in third and Martin Staszko in second, almost entirely negating the need for short-handed play. Heads up lasted precisely one hand.
Rojas took that €311,000; the home-town hero Staszko took €172,600; Persson €120,090 and Burneikis €86,850. Each deserved every penny for their part in a classic.
Our new champion is a 25-year-old professional, from Tenerife, Spain, and a former winner of the Sunday warm-up. He’s outdone himself here, however, and will celebrate by hopping in the EPT Main Event tomorrow.
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We got started today at 12.30pm, with eight players involved. The shortest stack sat in front of Cosimo Sabatini, from Italy, and he wasn’t going to give it up immediately. Although a couple of other players, most notably Meir Ben Shimon and Mihaita Croitoru were also short, those two were crucially willing to get their chips in and both doubled up.
Sabatini blinded away, hoping to ladder a couple of spaces up the payouts table, but couldn’t do it. He eventually got his last two bid blinds in with K♠8♥ but was flushed away by Staszko’s Q♦J♣ when four diamonds came on the board. Sabatini took €30,460.
By this point, Burneikis had already started what amounted to a masterclass in confusing the opposition. He seemed to be playing only small cards and hitting every flop. He took over the chip lead from Persson, who had to play into the Lithuanian all day, after rivering a straight with low connectors, and he then showed a huge bluff to Gianluca Speranza, making the second Italian the short stack.
When Speranza got the last of his chips in with jacks, he picked up two callers, including Croitoru, who had sevens. A seven flopped and Speranza was out in seventh, for €43,210.
Ben Shimon started the day as another of the short stacks and will likely have considered sixth to be a victory. That’s exactly where his tournament ended, when he couldn’t win a race with 7♠7♣ against Staszko’s K♣10♣. Ben Shimon took €56,520 but missed out on the chance to become the Eureka’s third Israeli champion.
Staszko suddenly started a roll and he knocked out Croitoru immediately after Ben Shimon. This time Staszko had Croitoru beaten all the way, with queens against sixes. Croitoru took €70,490 for fifth.
All that happened before the first break of the day, and things hardly changed when they came back from the interval. Burneikis at this point had an enormous lead — 23 million to Staszko’s 12 million, with Persson in third (8.6 million) and Rojas a distant fourth (4 million). But it was Persson who started chipping away at Burneikis’s lead.
Persson got the absolute maximum from Burneikis with pocket kings, which he bet all the way, and reestablished the chip lead that he had at the start. But then Rojas began his own roll. He doubled through Staszko, which gave him enough chips to knock out Burneikis next.
Burneikis was clearly tilting, but there was not much he could do when he found queens against Rojas’s kings. It all went in pre-flop and Rojas’s hand held up. Burneikis completed the journey from hero to zero in a matter of minutes.
But any thoughts things might slow down after the Lithuanian was eliminated were quickly banished. Rojas made a hero call with 6♥5♦ looking at a board of 7♠5♠7♠A♠J♥ and was right, taking a chunk out of Persson, who bluffed all the way.
Then Persson was suddenly out, losing a race with pocket fours against Rojas’s A♦K♣.
On media row, we were still coming to terms with the fact that the player in fourth had been knocked out when we learned that we now had a winner. On the very first hand of heads up play, the short-stacked Staszko got it in with A♠7♣ and Rojas called with 2♣2♠. The board bricked and Rojas was the champion, leaving Staszko, as he was at the World Series, second again.
If details seem a little scant from the final stages of this tournament that’s because it happened in a flash. I’m not sure there was more than about eight hands between Burneikis going out in fourth and Rojas being named champion.
But that’s fine with us. The Spanish supporters didn’t even notice that their man had won: Rojas had to wander off the stage to tell them. That, of course, precipitated wild celebration as the former Sunday Warm-Up winner added a major live title to his collection.
Congratulations to Javier Rojas Medero for a clinic here in Prague. On to the EPT main event…
Eureka Poker Tour Main Event
Total prize pool: €1,836,210
1 Javier Rojas Mederos Spain € 311,000
2 Martin Staszko Czech Republic PokerStars qualifier € 172,600
3 Simon Persson Sweden PokerStars player € 120,090
4 Vladas Burneikis Lithuania € 86,850
5 Mihaita Croitoru Romania € 70,490
6 Meir Ben Shimon Israel € 56,520
7 Gianluca Speranza Italy € 43,210
8 Cosimo Sabatini Italy € 30,460