On Sunday, October 22, 2023, Gilles Simon – known on PokerStars as ‘TaxationIsTheft’ – took down the European Poker Tour (EPT) Cyprus Main Event for $1,042,000.
Here are five crucial hands from the final table that led Simon to the title.
A SWINGY START
Level 32 : Blinds 100,000/200,000, 200,000 ante
For six of the seven finalists, but especially for Jose Gonzalez, the final table couldn’t have got off to a better start. Gonzalez eliminated Bjorn Kozenkai in the opening few hands, securing the remaining six a pay jump from $162,196 up to $211,850.
But aside from an extra ~$50k, Gilles Simon’s final table didn’t get off to the best start. After opening with A♥ K♥ under the gun, he faced a 3.4 million shove from Nikita Kuznetsov – the high-stakes online crusher known as “Ebaaa11” – who held 10♦ 10♣ . It was an easy call for 17 bigs – half of Simon’s stack – but he went on to lose the flip and had to begin the rebuilding process.
It’s an excruciating sting when you enter a final as chip leader, like Simon did, then see half your stack slide away. But the 24-year-old from Valkenburg, Netherlands (now living in Vienna) took the beat in his stride. He remained calm and composed and was rewarded just a few hands later.
Simon picked up K♣ Q♠ in the small blind with no action in front of him and moved his 2.97 million chips into the middle. The bet was snap-called by Gonzalez who picked up 9♥ 9♦ in the big blind, but the Q♦ Q♣ J♦ flop gave Simon an enormous lead. The 8♦ turn probably turned his stomach – just about the worst card he could have seen other than a nine. But the 3♠ river secured him the win.
Win or lose, Simon had a smile on his face. That’s the sign of a player who has put in the work, is confident in his decisions, and is ready to go all the way.
All of those things were true in Simon’s case. When we spoke to him earlier this week, he told us why he gave up his Twitch stream despite winning the Dare to Stream competition (and a $25,000 Platinum Pass to the PSPC) in December 2019.
“I was like, OK, I’m young and with this Platinum Pass, I have an opportunity to keep on growing and building myself as a poker player,” he said. “To keep getting better and better and move up in stakes.”
It took Simon — who plays as ‘TaxationIsTheft’ on PokerStars — two and a half years of grinding before the breakout results came, proving his grit, patience and determination, all three of which he’d need on this final table.
KICKING OUT KUZNETSOV
Level 33 : Blinds 125,000/250,000, 250,000 ante
Both TaxationIsTheft and Ebaaa11 are online crushers with WCOOP titles on the resumes, and they were about to clash multiple times. But having doubled him up in the early stages, it was now Simon’s turn to get the better of Kuznetsov.
The Russian limped on the button with A♣ J♠ when it folded to him, then Simon raised to 2.2 million from the small blind with 7♦ 7♣ , leaving himself 2.3 million behind. Kuznetsov used up his 30-second shot clock and a time bank card before setting Simon all in, which he called.
Simon left his opponent needing running cards when the flop came 7♥ 5♣ 3♠ , giving him a set, and the 2♣ turn and A♠ river changed nothing.
With that, Kuznetsov dropped down below 20 big blinds and Simon was on hand to sweep them up just a few hands later.
He opened to 500,000 under the gun with K♠ K♦ and it folded around to Kuznetsov in the big blind. He looked down at 4♦ 4♣ and jammed for 4 million, which Simon naturally snapped. The cowboys held, eliminating Kuznetsov in fifth for $211,850.
The hand was important because not only did it lock up another payjump, but it also meant Simon tied Gonzalez at the top of the chip counts as they entered four-handed play.
And the two big stacks could have easily collided in an enormous pot during the next level.
LAYING ‘EM DOWN AT THE RIGHT TIME
Level 34 : Blinds 150,000/300,000, 300,000 ante
There’s a famous saying in poker – you might have heard of it. We don’t remember it exactly, but it’s something about knowing when to hold them and knowing when to fold them.
Gilles Simon knows when to fold them, and one fold in particular could have potentially saved his tournament life.
Simon picked up 9♠ 9♣ under the gun and opened to 600,000 before Gonzalez bumped it up to 1.8 million on the button.
These two were the big stacks, remember, and a huge collision could have devastating ICM consequences with two short stacks at the table.
Having said that, pocket nines is a strong hand and one you’d almost always call six-big-blind three-bet with.
But in this instance, Simon laid it down.
His timing was perfect. Gonzalez had Q♠ Q♥ .
Had he called and seen a low flop, who knows what would have happened?
But he folded and…you know what happened.
TAXATIONISTHEFT DRAWS FIRST BLOOD
Level 35 : Blinds 200,000/400,000, 400,000 ante
At this stage, Gonzalez had been eliminated in third place by Italy’s Andrea Dato, leaving both Dato and Simon heads-up for the title with similar stacks.
It didn’t take long before we saw our first cooler. Dato completed from the small blind with K♦ 2♠ and the chip lead, before Simon made it 1.4 million with K♥ 10♦ . Dato called to see a flop.
“So far, not so good for Dato in this heads-up,” said Griffin Benger on the live stream commentary, at the exact moment the dealer spread a 9♠ K♣ 3♥ flop, giving both top pair.
“Dato limp-called the 3.5x with probably one of the worst hands he’d be prepared to do it with,” Benger continued. “Queen-deuce wouldn’t be doing this. But he’s clearly prepared to limp-call any king at this stack depth (~50 big blinds to Simon’s ~40). Now he’s going to have to hope for a messier runout that maybe has Simon less inclined to go for big value.”
Simon continued for 800,000 and Dato raised it to 2.4 million. Benger suggested Simon might be interested in keeping Dato’s bluff in here by calling, and that’s exactly what Simon did.
The turn was 9♣ , pairing the board and giving Dato some chop opportunities. Simon checked it and Dato checked it back.
The 7♣ river meant Simon’s ten kicker played. He announced a full-pot bet of 8 million, a move that impressed Benger immensely.
“This is a pretty remarkable value bet from Simon here,” he said. “Just so confident, thinking that Andrea’s most likely hand here was absolutely nothing, or a worse king.”
Dato used a time bank before making the call and seeing the bad news. With that, Simon took an almost three to one chip lead.
THE FINAL HAND
Level 36 : Blinds 250,000/500,000, 500,000 ante
The players returned from a dinner break and it didn’t take long for Simon to close it out.
Dato opened to 1 million on the button with A♥ J♣ and Simon defended his big blind with K♥ 8♠ and a big chip lead. The 8♥ 7♣ 2♦ flop gave Simon top pair, and Dato led out with a c-bet of 500,000.
Simon then raised to 1.5 million and Dato almost instantly moved all in for 3.85 million total with just ace-high. Simon snap-called and joined his rail, praying for a clean runout.
The 3♣ turn was safe. And so was the 6♣ river.
Simon’s crowd – which included fellow Dutch crusher Joris “BillLewinsky” Ruijs, Casimir “ceis25” Seire, and Benny “RunGodlike” Glaser – went wild.
Gilles Simon, aka Ghilley, aka TaxationIsTheft, the guy who Dared to Stream four years ago, just took down the EPT Cyprus Main Event for more than $1 million.