Razvan Belea has become Romania’s first-ever European Poker Tour (EPT) champion, winning the €5,300 EPT Paris title and €1.17 million, with no deals.
Here are the six crucial hands from today’s final table play that led the long-time pro–who qualified for the event on PokerStars for $530–to the EPT Paris title.
BLUFFING INTO THE NUTS
5 players remain
Level 31: Blinds 100,000-150,000, 150,000 ante
The first hand we’ll look at highlighted the skill and understanding of all three players involved.
(It’s worth noting that Henri Kasper–who entered the final table as the shortest stack–had just 10 big blinds at this point. While the next shortest stack was Peter Jörgne with roughly 60 big blinds.)
Brian Delaney opened to 325,000 from the cutoff with A♣ 5♠ and Razvan Belea called from the small blind holding 8♠ 8♥ . Fabrice Bigot defended the big blind with a pretty-looking K♣ 9♣ and the three went to an 8♦ 4♥ 4♠ flop, giving Belea a full house and the second nuts (only quad fours would beat him). It checked to Delaney and the Brit continued for 225,000, which Belea called.
The hand really got spicy on the turn as Bigot decided to make a squeeze play (i.e. a big raise when there’s been a bet and at least one call) to 1.2 million. As the player with the widest range, Bigot understood that he was the most likely player to have a four in this situation. And that a squeeze could potentially shake off both opponents and win him the pot there and then.
The vast majority of the time, that play would have got Delaney to fold his ace-high with a backdoor straight draw. But not this time. Delaney decided to raise it to 2.57 million, a gutsy play considering the ICM* implications.
Now the decision was with Belea. He had the best hand–of that he could be almost certain. So what was the best way to proceed? After some consideration, Belea decided to shove all in, putting both Bigot and Delaney at risk should they call. Bigot got out of the way quickly, and Delaney was also forced to fold.
Would it have been better for Belea to simply call and give Delaney enough rope to shove on the turn? With the ability to see the hands, absolutely. But in Belea’s shoes, he knew that a large percentage of Delaney’s range would consist of overpairs to the eight–such as nines, tens and jacks. By just calling and potentially allowing an ace, king or queen to fall, Belea risked having his action killed, as Delaney might have been able to get away. But when Delaney shows such strength on the flop, it seems unlikely he could get away when the money goes in the flop.
An enormous amount of credit must go to Delaney for even attempting such a bold move. He read the situation and its dynamics well, understanding that it would be difficult for his opponents to perceive he would raise with complete air when Kasper–who wasn’t involved in the hand–was so short-stacked on the sidelines.
But on this occasion, Belea simply had it, and now had the Main Event in a stranglehold.
*ICM stands for Independent Chip Model (ICM), a mathematical model used to approximately calculate a player’s overall equity in a tournament.
DELANEY’S DEPARTURE BENEFITS BELEA
4 players remain
Level 32: Blinds 100,000-200,000, 200,000 ante
Brian Delaney–a successful pro of 10 years and a self-proclaimed “blaster”–always posed a threat to his four final table opponents. But he suffered some terrible luck today, and in just two hands his stack crumbled and his tournament came to an unfortunate end, with Razvan Belea reaping the benefits.
First, Delaney doubled up Bigot. He opened to 425,000 under the gun with A♦ 10♠ and Bigot defended the big blind with the suited Q♣ 3♣ . The 7♥ 3♦ 6♣ flop didn’t indicate carnage was to come, and Bigot probably thought he could take it down with a “donk lead” (i.e. when the out-of-position player leads into the last raiser) of 350,000. But Delaney called.
The 10♣ turn was the action card, as it gave Delaney top pair and Bigot a flush draw that he could continue betting with. He opted for a check, though, and Delaney fired for 1.45 million. Bigot decided to check-shove for his entire 5.65 million stack and after giving it some thought Delaney made the call.
He just had to avoid a club, but couldn’t dodge as the 7♣ river completed Bigot’s flush.
With that, Delaney became the table shorty but found an excellent spot to double up when he got his 3.9 million all in against Razvan Belea with ace-king versus king-queen. But a queen hit the flop and no help arrived for Delaney. It was a brutal way to end it for the Brit, who fell in fourth.
But with that pot, Belea was able to extend his chip lead even further. He had 29 million to Bigot’s 11.75 million and Jörgne’s 8 million and could apply maximum pressure throughout three-handed play, knowing each of his opponents would love a ladder up to second-place money.
BIGOT BUSTS, BELEA COLLECTS
3 players remain
Level 33: Blinds 125,000-250,000, 250,000 ante
A trend was beginning to emerge: One player would double up through another, and then Razvan Belea would swoop in to clean up the rest of the defeated’s chips.
It happened again, this time at Bigot’s expense.
First, Bigot opened to 500,000 on the button with 6♠ 5♠ and was three-bet to 1.5 million by Jörgne, who had K♠ J♥ in the small blind. With the suited connectors, Bigot made the call and flopped middle pair on the 4♥ 9♠ 6♥ . Jörgne continued for 1.05 million with his overcards and Bigot correctly stuck around.
Alas, the J♦ hit the turn giving Jörgne the better pair. With no messing around, he jammed for 4.95 million. Bigot asked for a count as he began to vocalise his thought process. “I think it’s the same thing as last time when you jam the ace-jack on the turn, like king-queen, ace-queen, ace-king,” Bigot said, referencing an earlier bluff Jörgne had pulled on Bigot.
Eventually, he convinced himself the six was good and made the call. But Jörgne maintained the lead after the A♥ river and moved firmly into second place.
Bigot was down to just six big blinds and put almost all of it in (he left behind 75K of his 1.5 million stack) holding a monster hand three-handed: A♣ Q♣ . Belea was in the big blind with 7♠ 5♠ and raised that tiny bit more to ensure the all in. After all, six big blinds a tiny fraction of his ~130 big blind stack.
The K♥ K♦ 6♥ flop kept Bigot firmly in front, but the 8♦ turn was a scary one. Belea picked up an up-and-down straight draw and could win with either a four, five, seven or nine on the river.
The 9♣ landed and Belea’s straight was complete. Bigot departed and Belea took a more than 2:1 chip lead into heads-up play.
THE FINAL HAND
2 players remain
Level: 35 Blinds: 200,000/400,000 Ante: 400,000
Those chip counts remained the same after they played out the first level of heads-up. Then, on the second hand following a break, it all came to an end.
Razvan Belea raised to 800,000 with 7♣ 6♠ on the button and Jörgne defended with his 10♥ 6♥ . The 5♠ 3♣ 10♠ flop got pulses racing, with Jörgne landing top pair and Belea a gutshot straight draw.
Belea made a continuation bet of 600,000 when it checked to him, only for Jörgne to check-raise to 1.5 million, with zero fear of his weak kicker. Belea wasn’t going anywhere.
Then the 4♥ hit the turn, completing Belea’s straight draw and giving Jörgne one of his own. The Swede led for 2.6 million and Belea found himself being bet into with the nuts once again.
He knew he had to build the pot so that it was large enough that an all-in on the river was inevitable, due to Jörgne’s stack-to-pot ratio. So once again, instead of calling and allowing his opponent to continue betting with a worse hand, Belea opted to raise to 5 million. Jörgne called.
The 4♣ completed the board and Jörgne shoved all in for his remaining 9.32 million. Belea no longer had the nuts, but held an incredibly strong hand and after a short think, he knew what to do. “I don’t think I can fold,” he told Jörgne, and he didn’t.
It was all over.
Razvan Belea–who led this tournament for its final two days–put on an absolute clinic to win the EPT Paris title, mixing patience and aggression with well-timed good fortune.
Congratulations to him.