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Home / Poker / EPT Barcelona: Kayhan Mokri makes one stick, lands maiden Super High Roller title

Kayhan Mokri’s rapid rise through the poker ranks hit a new high point late on Sunday night when the 29 year old from Oslo, Norway, claimed the title in the €100,000 Super High Roller event at EPT Barcelona. Mokri banked €750,960 after converting a huge start-of-day chip lead into the win.

It was not quite plain sailing, however. Mokri maintained that lead for long periods, but yielded it to the volatile Frenchman Jean-Noel Thorel when play was three-handed. Mokri had to dig deep to overhaul Thorel heads up and claim a first career title, ending a string of near misses.

Here at EPT Barcelona, Mokri has already finished fourth and second in two €25K buy-in events, and his short career resume is already smattered with final table appearances. This is the first time he has gone all the way to the top, though, and it now confirms Mokri as one of the game’s new stars.

Kayhan Mokri: Champion

A TOUGH HEADS-UP BATTLE

As for Thorel, he picked up a €471,500 prize for second place and now nears €14 million in live tournament earnings. When you remember that he only took up the game towards the end of a hugely successful career as the founder of a beauty company, that’s some good going. Thorel regularly mixes it up in these elite contests with players a third his age, and none of them has quite yet figured him out.

Mokri, though, seemed to fare better than most against Thorel, battling back from a six-to-one chip deficit at one point during heads-up play. The final, including the heads-up stages, played incredibly deep as the tournament had been shortened by one day. It meant blind levels never quite caught up with the stacks.

The ever smiling Jean-Noel Thorel

That allowed Mokri to chip away at Thorel, keeping the pots small and picking off bluffs, before eventually retaking the lead himself. In what turned out to be the final hand, Thorel had J3 and flopped a flush draw on the AK5 board. Thorel checked, Mokri bet and Thorel called.

The 4 on the turn added a straight draw for Thorel, and after another check and bet, Thorel moved all in. Mokri had top pair with AQ but agonised over the decision. He eventually called and watched the dealer put the 3 on the river, which was a whiff. The day was done.

Read Poker News’ full blow-by-blow account of the final table.

TOURNAMENT RECAP

Ordinarily the richest tournament at most EPT stops, the Super High Roller here in Barcelona this week was pushed down the list of attractions. Partly that was owing to its relatively low turnout, but mostly because the room was still throbbing with players in the monstrous Estrellas events, namely the record-breaking €1,000 Main Event and €2,000 High Roller.

Poker’s elite still had their trolley of free food and drink and a roped off area, but it was tucked away to play to a winner in a corner of the bustling tournament room.

As is typical, the field was densely concentrated with many of the game’s stars, including the sun-running David Yan, the Finnish beast Patrik Antonius and the Team Pro Alejandro Lococo, playing at this level for the first time.

None of the above made the money, set at the last four from an 18-entry field, but there was one Red Spade with reason to cheer. Sam Grafton, a Super High Roller reg these days, was the first in-the-money finisher, earning €209,600 for fourth.

PokerStars Ambassador Sam Grafton

BUBBLE ACTION

Surviving the bubble was tough. They played six-handed for a long period, with Tim Adams, Mikalai Vaskaboinikau, Grafton and Steve O’Dwyer looking up enviously at the big stacks of Mokri and Thorel.

But then three of the above — Adams, Vaskaboinikau and Grafton — got involved in a massive encounter, which left one of them out, one of them in dire trouble, and the other sitting relatively pretty.

Adams had pocket nines, Vaskaboinikau had AQ and Grafton had AK. Vaskaboinikau had the biggest stack, but the ace on the flop gave the hand to Grafton. Adams departed, Vaskaboinikau lost heaps and Grafton had enough to survive into the money. It must have felt like sweet relief for Grafton, who lost an enormous pot at the death on Day 1. That was the hand that put Mokri in such a commanding position overnight.

Mikalai Vaskaboinikau bubbled

After the three-way skirmish, Vaskaboinikau was on the ropes for the second time in the day. He had previously recovered from a short stack, but it proved too much for him to do it again. He lost another race with a middling pocket pair — this time eights to Mokri’s AK — and his elimination burst the bubble. The final four could all look forward to the cash.

Grafton was the first to the payouts desk. In an unraised pot, he managed to turn 106 into a straight after the K9879 run out. Chips went in on every street, with Grafton all-in by the end. However, Thorel had slow-played pocket kings, flopping a set and rivering a crucial full house.

Grafton was toast.

Grafton ran into Thorel’s monster

THREE-HANDED DUEL

Thorel still trailed Mokri at this stage, with 1.62 million to 2.155 million, with Steve O’Dwyer also involved with a stack of 725,000. They took a dinner break but after the resumption, it became the Thorel show. He assumed the chip lead when Mokri tried to bluff him off two pair (Thorel had A8 on a board of K83A5), and extended it as O’Dwyer dipped further.

Even after Mokri knocked O’Dwyer out — AQ staying best against Q8 — Thorel still had a three-to-one chip lead with two players left. O’Dwyer, meanwhile, picked up €314,300 for third.

Another major score for Steve O’Dwyer

Mokri hauled himself back into contention, only for Thorel to then bludgeon his way back into an enormous lead. But Mokri again stayed patient and managed to steadily climb back. There were still 150 big blinds in play when the pair decided to shorten the levels, and it precipitated a fairly speedy conclusion.

Thorel again showed his incredible stamina to navigate through another tough field. But Mokri proved to be one opponent too far.

Mokri began his career as a cash game player, quickly finding himself sitting among the very best of the world in the nosebleed games in Las Vegas. But he is now finding life very pleasant in the tournament world, particularly in Barcelona. He made the final table of the EPT Main Event this time last year and is now a Super High Roller champion.

FINAL RESULTS

EPT Barcelona $100K Super High Roller
Dates: August 26-27, 2023
Entries: 18 (inc. 8 re-entries)
Prize pool: €1,746,360

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