When the field assembled at EPT Prague today to play down from 21 to a final table of eight, predicting the day-end chip-leader could be no more scientific a process than sticking a pin in a list of names. No one had a dominating lead, no one had been playing especially recklessly and they had been shipping chips this way and that for days.
It seemed likely that it would take a enormous cooler to put one player significantly ahead of the pack — and we were made to wait until the very final hand of the day until we saw it.
With nine players crammed around a table designed for eight, Ramzi Jelassi and Mariusz Klosinski got involved in a battle of the blinds, raising and re-raising until all of their two-million-plus stacks were in the middle.
Jelassi, the Swedish player who had led at the end of day three, had both the biggest stack and the biggest hand. He tabled kings to Klosinski’s pocket queens, and all of a sudden the day was done. Jelassi will take 5,675,000 to the final tomorrow, the first time in the tournament that anyone has had even close to a million chip advantage on the rest of the field.
As bagging commenced, Jelassi threw his hands in the air and proclaimed: “I love you!”
The full line-up for tomorrow’s action is as follows, missing a few of the big names that started the day, but still stacked with talent:
Seat 1 – David Boyaciyan, Netherlands, 4,635,000
Seat 2 – Sergey Kuzminskiy, Russia, 1,850,000
Seat 3 – Ramzi Jelassi, Sweden, 5,675,000
Seat 5 – Ben Warrington, UK, 2,200,000
Seat 6 – Sotirios Koutoupas, Greece, 3,775,000
Seat 7 – Mark Herm, USA, 1,700,000
Seat 8 – Aleh Plauski, Belarus, 4,705,000
Seat 9 – Diego Gomez, Spain, 1,380,000
There is a story behind each of those names, including both Plauski and Boyaciyan, who are Jelassi’s closest challengers.
Towards the end of play yesterday, Plauski suffered the kind of bad beat that can send lesser players spiraling out of a tournament in frustration. Flopping top two pair with ace-ten, he got it all in with Gomez, who was holding the same hand. But when turn and river were both spades, Gomez had made a flush, doubling up through Plauski’s stack and stunning the victim into silence.
But Plauski, from Minsk, Belarus, did not panic. The man known online as cooltwister, where he has earned a cool and twisted $2 million in tournament winnings, regrouped, applied himself and returned for Day 5. And if ever there was an advert for a calm and measured approach at the tables, it is this: going into the final table, Plauski is breathing down the neck of the chip leader in the hunt for €8.3m.
When is an amateur no longer an amateur? What about after a victory in the Master Classics of Poker in Amsterdam, or a runner-up spot in an EPT main event? What about if the very next year you come back to the same EPT stop and carry four million chips to the final table? Pretty professional, huh?
David Boyaciyan, who last years was still a trader when he completed the first two legs of that trifecta, is now certainly moving into the territory that most people would define as professional. He has today pulled off the third leg. He only needs to improve one spot on last year’s performance and he is champion.
No one will deny the claims of the other five challengers either, but back for a moment to the missing talent. Roberto Romanello began the day on the feature table, “just in case” (according to the TV crew) he could pull off the improbable and overcome a short stack to press on to an historic second EPT Prague title.
But his Day 5 challenge lasted no more than three hands. He found pocket tens, his winning hand from two years ago, but this time ran them into jacks and was sent to the rail.
That meant Johnny Lodden moved to the television table, allowing everyone at home a brief window into his particular thrill ride of a life. But he could not get anything started either and busted in 13th. For Lodden the €34,000 is scant consolation. He wants an EPT victory too.
Jeff Sarwer fell as well, an old story of a pair of aces being no good. The “Prize Payouts” tab at the top of the panel on the main EPT Prague page details the names of all the departed, listed as if on a memorial plinth.
There’s still plenty of action for you to follow tonight in Prague as the High Roller plays down to its final. You can also relive the glories of our day of coverage, which includes something of a style report entitled “Eliminated players don’t wear plaid“; and a history lesson entitled “The first battle of Prague“. We also gazed at the attention-grabbing Diego Gomez, a man prepared to complement a bow-tie with Greg Raymer specs.
Don’t forget to join us tomorrow for the final. There are eight players and eight nationalities. Find out who is the best. Goodnight.