Seat 1: Petar Kalev, Bulgaria
At just 30 years of age, Bulgaria’s Peter Kalev already has 12 years as a poker professional on his resume. He’s racked up $320K in live cashes throughout that time, his biggest win coming from a fifth-place finish at the 2019 EPT Cup in Barcelona, good for €54,200.
He’s already smashed that by qualifying for the EPT Prague Main Event in €530 satellite and reaching the final nine, so whatever happens, he’ll return to his hometown of Dobrič with a new career best. “I feel great and I’m really excited about this opportunity,” he told us. “I’ve been dreaming of a deep run like this.”
Kalev’s chip count progression
Entering Day 2: 108,000 (127th out of 434 remaining)
Day 3: 870,000 (17/117)
Day 4: 1.46M (10/30)
Day 5: 5.84M (3/9
Seat 2: Jordan Saccucci, Canada
The last time 33-year-old Jordan Saccucci came to Prague he “got his ass kicked”, so when he returned to the Czechia capital this week, he had two objectives: have some fun and hopefully win some money back. Everything seems to be going to plan as he enters the penultimate day boasting a big chip lead.
Hailing from Mississauga, Toronto, Saccucci plays a lot of poker but doesn’t consider it his job. “I don’t rely on it, it can be rough!” he told us. You could say it’s been smooth sailing in this Main Event though, especially considering Saccucci busted another big stack with pocket aces versus pocket kings late last night.
“It was a good feeling,” he says. “It got a bit shaky on the turn when the club came but it was a big pot!”
Saccucci’s chip count progression
Entering Day 2: 96,000 (158th out of 434 remaining)
Day 3: 437,000 (30/117)
Day 4: 925,000 (17/30)
Day 5: 9.56M (1/9)
Seat 3: Javier Gomez, Spain
Javier Gomez was one of the early contingent of Spanish players who relocated to London to play online, sharing what came to be known as the “Glory House” with Adrian Mateos and Sergio Aido.
Mateos is an EPT Main Event and Super High Roller champion, while Aido too has won a €100K title on the EPT and this week chopped the €50K. Gomez, meanwhile, is hardly a slouch. He won a WPT title in Prague in 2015 and has been to EPT final tables in both a €5K Main Event and a €25K High Roller.
With $2.1 million in winnings, he’s doing incredibly well. Gomez still lives in London, in Hammersmith, where one of his former housemates, Mateos, is now a neighbour. They are all still crushing poker though — and Gomez has that rare chance to add EPT to WPT glory, something neither of the others has achieved.
Gomez’s chip count progression
Entering Day 2: 341,000 (1st out of 434 remaining)
Day 3: 891,000 (3/117)
Day 4: 3.41M (2/30)
Day 5: 2.58M (7/9)
Seat 4: Luigi D’Alterio, Italy
A poker player pretty much since he left school, Luigi D’Alterio, who is now 26, moved to Malta from his native Naples six years ago to continue playing online — and qualified for his trip to EPT Prague in a €250 online qualifier on PokerStars.it.
He is a tournament player by trade, and has enjoyed a comfortable run in Prague. “I’ve always been deep,” he said. “Just in the last level I got a bit short.” He said he is very relaxed playing on the TV table, despite this now having the chance to better his best ever tournament cash.
That came back here in Prague in 2019, where he was beaten heads up in the EPT National High Roller, but still picked up more than €200K. It’s been 14 years since an Italian last won EPT Prague, but old hands still remember Salvatore Bonavena’s triumph, in front of a raucous Italian rail.
Four friends flew in from Italy today to support D’Alterio, hoping to create a similar atmosphere and cheer their man to victory.
D’Alterio’s chip count progression
Entering Day 2: 110,500 (120th out of 434 remaining)
Day 3: 870,000 (4/117)
Day 4: 3.56M (1/30)
Day 5: 4.73M (4/9)
Seat 5: Paul-Adrian Covaciu, Romania
For several years, the small Czech town of Rozvadov has been the de facto home of poker in central Europe. There’s not much else there except King’s Casino, which is one of the biggest poker rooms in the world. That was enough to attract Paul-Adrian Covaciu to move there from his native Cluj-Napolca, Romania, and he is now one of Rozvadov’s relatively few permanent residents. “It’s a harsh environment to live in, but it creates very strong people if you live there,” he said. “And it’s great for poker.”
Covaciu, who is 39, is now a full-time tournament pro, having previously spent around 12 or 13 years grinding online at PokerStars. He had his breakthrough score just last month, in Rozvadov, of course, where he finished fifth in the WSOPE Main Event, for €322K. He now has the chance to improve on that — and is enjoying the challenge of playing long days among the best in the world.
“I’ve found it very difficult,” he said of the demands of playing an EPT Main Event, “but at the same time I have a strict schedule. I go to the gym, I eat different types of food that don’t take your energy. It helps to go through the long days.
“But I feel good. I was running this morning, through the snow.”
Covaciu’s chip count progression
Entering Day 2: 159,000 (50th out of 434 remaining)
Day 3: 448,000 (28/117)
Day 4: 695,000 (22/30)
Day 5: 2.77M (5/9)
Seat 6: Parker Talbot, Canada
Popular poker streamer and PokerStars Team Pro Parker “Tonkaaaa” Talbot is on the verge of his second official EPT Prague Main Event final table, having finished sixth in 2018 for what remains the biggest live cash of his illustrious career: €179,360.
He’ll have to finish at least sixth in this tournament to beat that, and with the second shortest stack, he’s got work to do. But as arguably the most accomplished player remaining, if anyone can do it, it’s Talbot. The 31-year-old from Toronto has more than $7.8 million in online earnings, countless online trophies, and a big fanbase who will be cheering him on today in the Twitch chat.
Can he win his first live trophy ever? “It’s really happening, I think,” he said. My man.
Talbot’s chip count progression
Entering Day 2: 131,500 (85th out of 434 remaining)
Day 3: 960,000 (2/117)
Day 4: 2.14M (6/30)
Day 5: 1.81M (8/9)
Seat 7: Antoine Saout, France
One of the best-known players on the European tour, Antoine Saout is also familiar to poker supporters in the United States having made two World Series of Poker Main Event final tables.
He finished third in 2009, for $3.9 million, and fifth in 2017, for another $2 million. Those results, eight years apart, speak to Saout’s longevity and immense talents — even though his deepest previous run at an EPT Main Event ended in a seventh-place finish in Monte Carlo in 2016.
Like many French players, Saout, 38, now lives in London, in the Canary Wharf district, where he continues to play online. It’s also a base for his global travels to play poker.
Saout’s chip count progression
Entering Day 2: 77,500 (212th out of 434 remaining)
Day 3: 481,000 (27/117)
Day 4: 1.57M (8/30)
Day 5: 2.74M (6/9)
Seat 8: Istvan Pilhofer, Hungary
He might be entering Day 5 as the short stack, but don’t rule out 39-year-old Istvan Pilhofer just yet. The Hungarian is on a hot streak at the moment, having recently taken down one of the biggest tournaments in Budapest, and while he’s had modest results on the EPT before, this is already his biggest career cash.
Pilhofer played poker professionally for a couple of years but since 2017 he has owned and operated a hotel and restaurant in Siófok, a town on the southern bank of Lake Balaton. “Obviously, there was a big downswing in the hospitality industry over the past few years,” he said. “It’s been hard but we’re in a good place now.”
He’s done well to reach the final nine here in Prague, notably folding queens late on Day 4 when his opponents held pocket aces and pocket kings. Alas, a queen hit the flop, but he’s proud of the laydown. “It was the right decision at the wrong time,” he told us. “But as we always say, if I had called something else would have come!” Whatever happens today, he has his wife and young baby cheering him on.
Pilhofer’s chip count progression
Entering Day 2: 68,000 (245th out of 434 remaining)
Day 3: 587,000 (12/117)
Day 4: 1.05M (14/30)
Day 5: 1.53M (9/9)
Seat 9: Jun Obara, Japan
The TV cameras and media attention of the European Poker Tour are nothing new for Jun Obara — although he’s more accustomed to being the other side of them.
As well as owning a coaching business, the 34-year-old from Tokyo is a commentator on Japanese poker coverage — essentially Asia’s answer to James Hartigan.
Having taken up poker six years ago, he is already a regular player on the world scene and is making his seventh trip to the EPT. He has results from Barcelona, Las Vegas an
d here in Prague, where he picked up his previous biggest score — €102,040 for fifth-place in a €25K event in 2019. He has a wife and two daughters, aged 2 and 3, who are watching his progress from home. He also has a small group of friends and supporters here in Prague, who are filming what they hope is a run to a maiden EPT title for a player from Japan.
Obara’s chip count progression
Entering Day 2: 214,000 (16th out of 434 remaining)
Day 3: 435,000 (31/117)
Day 4: 2.78M (3/30)
Day 5: 6.24M (2/9)