Remarkably, there are still those who believe poker is a game of luck. Sure, there is an element of good fortune required, but the skills necessary to win big tournaments can not be in doubt. Just look at the names who are winning big, time and again. Luck? I don’t think so.
This €25,000 high roller event in Madrid, the new home for the EPT Grand Final celebrations, is a case in point. Chip leader going in to the final table is Galen Hall. Remember that name? That’s right, the same Galen Hall who won the PCA in January for a cool $2.3 million. And who else is here for the final? Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Rousso, who won this very event two years ago; ElkY who, like Hall, has won the PCA; and seasoned pros including Juha Helppi, Benny Spindler and Peter Jetten.
Try telling me they all lucked their way to this final.
Of course, my reasoned argument would have fallen flat on its face were it not for the elimination of poor Alexander Luber on the bubble. He really had been lucky to get as far as he did. You see, he was down to just 3,000 chips late in the evening, and 1,000 of those had to go in for the ante in the next hand. Yet Luber managed to win the hand, and the next, and the next. Not long after he doubled up again, and before he knew what time of day it was he was up to 160,000.
It counted for nothing, though, as with nine players left, and after a torturous bubble period, he pushed with pocket queens and walked straight into the aces of Benny Spindler. And that was the end of that.
It was a nice pot that gave Spindler 710,000 chips to bag up, just ahead of Juha Helppi’s 707,000 but well behind Hall’s dominant 798,000. Hall, chisel-jawed and well spoken, had impressed everyone at the PCA, and here he was doing it all over again.
While it was Hall’s lead to gain, it was others’ to lose. Rewind to last night, when Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom closed out as chip leader. He returned today determined to press home his advantage. But he doubled up Vanessa Rousso mid way through the day and was never really able to recover.
Meanwhile, his online poker nemesis Tom ‘Durrr’ Dwan was threatening to steal the show. He returned in the morning bottom in chips with just 16,000 but worked that into 140,000 in the early levels. But two bluffs that went badly wrong saw him leave much earlier than the online railers would have wished, but not before some fascinating tussles with Luke ‘FullFlush’ Schwartz.
While all that was going on, a Russian gentleman called Alex Repik was shooting up the leader board and taking the chip lead. A rich businessman, he seemed unbreakable. But as the player numbers dwindled, and the stakes grew, he got picked off. Juha Helppi, the Finnish pro, prospered best, taking a succession of pots off Repik that saw his own stack finish so well. Repik was left with 141,000.
Team Pros to fall today, which began with 36 players, included Johnny Lodden, Humberto Brenes, Ville Wahlbeck and Eugene Katchalov. The Team Pro stable will be cheering ElkY and Rousso tomorrow. Here is how our final table shapes up:
Vanessa Rousso, USA, Team PokerStars Pro, 146,000
Alex Repik, Russia, 141,000
Peter Jetten, Canada, 63,000
David Sands, USA, 207,000
Galen Hall, USA, 798,000
ElkY, France, Team PokerStars Pro 165,000
Juha Helppi, Finland, 707,000
Benny Spindler, Germany, 710,000
That all kicks-off at 1pm local time hear at the Casino Gran Madrid. Each of our finalists is guaranteed €45,000, but it’s the €525,000 for first they’re all after.
That’s it for now, join us again at 1pm tomorrow, which also sees the start of the Main Event at noon. Thanks as ever go to resident snapper Neil Stoddart. Don’t be nicking his stuff. Cheerio.