My usual journeys to EPT destinations are spent with enthusiasm and preparation for my impending week’s work. Having had my 30th birthday party the night before I left for Deauville, turned a few normalities around. I’d had no sleep and was still in a jovial, partying mode, so to get myself to the airport and to Deauville seemed quite the chore. However I was pleasantly surprised by my journey, which saw me take similar to a private jet (not quite, but it seemed that way) with Kara Scott and maybe nine others for a 50-minute journey across the English Channel. I reminded myself when we landed I wasn’t that special and I must keep my feet on the ground. I got to the hotel and fell fast asleep for about 13 hours.


Waterside in Deauville

A new, fresh day and a new, fresh head; I was in much chirpier spirits to check out the sights of Deauville. It was cold, but I was wrapped up snug as a bug in a rug to take in the beautiful scenery that was vaguely reminiscent of a town close to the woods Hansel and Gretel were lost in.

I had no idea what a huge field Deauville would be, even though last year had a total of 891. As always, Day 1b was a much busier field in terms of players and Team Pros, so I really had my pick with interview choices. I decided upon Luca Pagano. Why? Well, clearly I had good ESP and could just tell he was going to do well. Or maybe it was just because he’s a great Team Pro and always has something interesting to say.

As the days went by and the numbers reduced, it was clear to see Luca wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, by Day 3 he became the only Team PokerStars Pro left in the running. After four interviews with him, the PokerStars video blog (www.pokerstars.tv) became pretty much “The Luca Pagano Show,” which was great because in each interview he was wonderful and had something different to say about the differing stage of the tournament and his progress so far.

Midway through the week, we also had the PokerStars players party and since my hangover from my own birthday party had just about left me, I was almost ready for a new one. Take a look which players joined us at the party and who were getting their dancing shoes on! (apart from me, which is always obvious!)

By Day 5, with just 24 players remaining (yes Luca was still there) we woke up to a beautiful covering of snow across all of the fairy-tale houses and designer clothes shops in Deauville. Our hotel was not next to, or inside the casino, so the walk was even more challenging because of our not-so practical shoes. We survived though to make it to another day at the felt as 24 played down to a final table. Luca had gained the chip lead from being the short stack on Day 4.

Day 5 proved to be his toughest day as he fell from 3.5 million chips to 2 million with a few battles at the felt against Vadzim Kursevich, who had made third place at EPT Berlin in Season 7. However, with a little patience and even more final table experience (this was Luca’s seventh EPT final table and 20th EPT Main Event cash) Luca braved it through to the final table.

The final table was predominantly French, with one player, Brunno Jais telling the media crew he hadn’t even meant to enter a satellite tournament for EPT Deauville and had mis-clicked his way through to the final table. He therefore qualified for €500 and had made the final table. He and one other French player had no tournament winnings and were thrilled at having made their run so deep. I had high hopes for Luca to win his first EPT, but it wasn’t to be as his ace-jack was to run-bad in a classic coinflip with Vuong Than Trong’s nines. Luca exited in seventh and he took back over €100,000 to Italy though and I hope his lovely lady got herself a sexy new pair of Italian heels. 😉

As we played six-handed for quite some time, I began to think we were in for a long evening. Play had really slowed down and every time a short stack went all-in, they seemed to double up. Eventually Olivier Rogez managed to blind down to just over one big blind and none of us in the media had spotted it until then.

He had been sitting quietly, folding every single hand until he had run out of chips. Something not many of us had seen at a final table before. A dinner break was called and the video crew headed to eat at our favorite restaurant in Deauville (Il Parasol – for those who want to enjoy some delicious Italian cuisine). We seemed to come back to a quickened pace of poker. As the table became three-handed, Vadzim Kursevich took a huge chip lead with over 18 million next to 4 million. I was more than happy to see Vadzim accelerate through the final stages of play and eventually become the Champion.

He played aggressively, didn’t lose his calm, was focused and confident, with solid background experience behind him. He was also a very likable chap, who was being railed by Andrey Pateychuk, who had recently won “Rookie of the Year” at The European Poker Awards, no doubt for his successful 2011, winning EPT San Remo and WPT Prague. My most serious question in the winner interview I conducted with Kursevich, “Did he teach Pateychuk or did Pateychuk teach him?” I thought the Germans were taking over as 2011 came to a close, but 2012 may just be the year of the Russians.


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