This week was always going to be one of firsts: it was the opening event of the PokerStars European Poker Tour Season 7, and the first time the whole jamboree had stepped foot in Tallinn, Estonia (not that a jamboree can step anywhere, but you know what I mean). What we did not anticipate, however, was that this would so nearly be the week in which a record was set, when a player would become the first to win two EPT titles.
That became a real possibility late on Day 3 when Team PokerStars Pro Arnaud Mattern, who won EPT Prague back in Season 4, raced towards the top of the leaderboard. Then he held the chip lead after Day 4 to ensure he began the final table as firm favorite for the title. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, he fell short right at the death, busting in third. And it’s unfortunate for us, because it means we’ll be writing about the lack of a two-time EPT champion for months, maybe years more to come.
But while Mattern is devastated tonight (although the pain is eased by €160,000), Kevin Stani is as happy as a hippo in a mud bath. €400,000 wealthier after beating Konstantin Bilyauer heads-up, Stani also now joins Mattern and the 56 other EPT champions in having a monkey climb on his back and cling on for dear life. That monkey – a member of the stubborn long-nosed, curly-tailed doublusschampus family – is proving annoyingly difficult to budge.
So how did it all get to this? Well, although Mattern was on top at play’s start, no-one had really taken much notice of Kevin Stani, the young PokerStars qualifier from Norway. And that was a mistake. Stani proved a lethal opponent, building his stack quietly all afternoon, content with letting Mattern and Bilyauer trade the chip lead.
While those two knocked each other about, Stani struck like a cobra. First he leapt up and spat venom into the eyes of Dutchman Steven van Zadelhoff to bust him in sixth place, and a little later the same ugly fate befell Dimitry Vitkind in fourth place; two big scalps that sent Stani into the lead for the first time. He never gave it up.
Mattern, who began three-handed play third in chips, threatened to make a comeback and was looking like a potential monkey-killer once more. He was even eating bananas at one point as if trying to coax the chimp close enough before springing the fatal trap. But Stani had other ideas. And, like Zadelhoff and Vitkind before him, it was Mattern who became the victim.
First Stani weakened the Frenchman with an audacious bluff holding nothing more than 7♥8♥, the second time he had used those cards to represent something much, much bigger. Then came the killer hand. And it was horrible. Mattern was all-in pre-flop with pocket queens, Stani had pocket threes. A three slapped on the turn, Mattern was out, Stani was even bigger in chips… and the monkey was alive and well.
So it was down to heads-up, which Stani started as a two-to-one chip daddy against Bilyauer. They prodded at each other a few times, taking small nibbles of the stacks, but it was Stani who was to build up momentum, edging to a 10-1 cheap lead. Bilyauer managed one double up before being finished off by the cobra.
Stani raised to 250,000 and was called to go to a 3♣9♥2♠ flop. Both checked. The turn came 4♠ and Bilyauer led for 375,000 only to face a raise to 875,000 from the Norwegian. Call. The river came 8♦ and Bilyauer led again, this time for 1.2 million, committing half his remaining stack. Stani tanked for two minutes then quietly announced “All-in”. Bilyauer stood out of his seat and looked resigned. He took off his sunglasses and made the call but mucked upon seeing Stani’s 6♠5♣ for the turned nut straight.
While these were the main stories of the day, we should not forget the other players in this intricate plot. First out was Bassam Elnajjar from Lebanon, walking his A-Q into the pocket aces of Mattern. He was followed swiftly by Nicolo Calia, who was finished off by Bilyauer just moments after being crippled by Miko Jaatinen. Jaatinen himself went in fifth, sandwiched between the exits of Stani’s victims, Zadelhoff and Vitkind.
That left us with the three, followed by the survival of the monkey, and finally victory for Stani. A humble winner, and we’ll be sure to see more of him in the future.
Congratulations to Kevin Stani – KevBoyStar on PokerStars – for winning his title and €400,000, a nice addition to his bankroll that is already swollen with a 127th-place finish at this year’s WSOP Main Event worth $57,102.
After lifting his trophy, he said: “I’ve had lots of tough times outside of poker but I said to myself that I’m going to stick with poker and things will get better and they have. It feels great to have won an EPT.”
So we bid farewell to Tallinn. With 420 players at the Swissotel it’s been a terrific addition to the EPT circuit, and the event’s success bodes well for the remainder of Season 7. We’ll be back for EPT Vilamoura in just a couple of weeks.
Before you head-off, make sure you catch up with all of today’s events in detail by clicking on the links below:
You’ll find all of Tallinn’s prizewinners on the prizes and payouts page, and then make sure you have the best possible knowledge of the earlier days’ play by reading our end-of-day wraps:
Day 1A: Tallinn, a city for sporting comebacks – just ask Ville Wahlbeck
Day 1B: House! Who is leading the field at EPT Tallinn?
Day 2: Jonathan Weekes proves Day 2 is EPT moving day
Day 3: Bad day for monkeys as Arnaud Mattern shines at EPT Tallinn
Day 4: The battle for Tallinn: Team PokerStars Pro Arnaud Mattern fronts final table charge
My thanks go to EPT photographer Neil Stoddart for his fine work throughout the week, and to my fellow scribes Marc Convey, Rick Dacey and Nick Wright for
losing so much money to me at Suffolk Poker™ writing beyond the call of duty.
Until Vilamoura, it’s goodnight from Tallinn.
All pictures (c) Neil Stoddart