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British player Ian Hamilton upset the form book to secure a maiden major poker title at the European Poker Tour (EPT) event in London and score a famous £664,400 triumph.

The man from Birmingham became the first British player to win an EPT Main Event title on home soil in more than a decade.

Hamilton was giving up tons of experience to many of his five opponents on the final day of a tournament that had 749 entries costing £5,300 apiece — most particularly to his countryman Jack Sinclair, a former World Series of Poker Europe champion, and one of the best tournament players in the country.

But Hamilton managed to come back from numerous near terminal situations during the final day’s play — even, at one point, standing up and putting his coat on, preparing for departure. But a miracle five on the river saved him at that point, and he was subsequently able to survive numerous more swings before facing Sinclair heads up.

Even then, Sinclair had the chip advantage, but Hamilton, supported by a number of raucous fans on the rail, managed to cling on, double up, make the right moves at the right time, and become the latest champion on this famous tour. Sinclair took £414,650 for second.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” he understated.

The final hand was something of a cooler heads up: ace-king staying good against ace-queen. But nothing was certain until the final card had been dealt. This had been a final table of huge fluctuations in fortunes, where it had seemed certain at one point to be heading to anyone but Hamilton.

But he never gave up — “Back in the game!” became a regular refrain from the rail — and Hamilton now lifts the trophy, by far the biggest win of the 31-year-old’s fledgling career.

A COOL START TO THE FINAL TABLE

The final table was only a matter of minutes old when the first cooler occurred, resulting in the first horrific outdraw and the first elimination. Overnight short stack Nils Pudel found pocket aces in the cutoff, on the second hand of the day — a lovely sight at any stage, but particularly so when needing a double-up to get back into contention.

Pudel made a standard open raise and then looked on in delight when Sinclair, with AK, three-bet the button. Pudel then got his last 1.1 million in the middle and received the call.

It was looking very good for a double-up — until the dealer had other ideas. The flop seemed safe: 265, but then the 3 gave Sinclair eight cards to hit. And the K was one of them, meaning Pudel was four-flushed out, taking £134,800. Ouch.

STUBBORN CHISU DEFEATED AT LAST

The quick elimination was in contrast to the speed of play during the penultimate day, but the contrast was only just beginning. All day yesterday, Romania’s Danut Chisu had been an obdurate presence at the last couple of tables, sitting snugly while the young guns bluffed all their chips into his stack.

Chisu, at 67 the oldest by far at the final, will have hoped to continue the pattern on the last day, but the cards stopped working for him. Chisu lost an enormous pot when he flopped a straight draw with J9 on a board of K810, with both Sinclair and Hrabec in too.

Sinclair wasn’t a problem this time, but Hrabec certainly was, sitting with 88. Chisu was a non-believer and paid off the set, only folding to a shove on the river when his straight draw had missed.

Chisu, now nursing a short stack, tried to double back into it, but timed a shove of his last 1.6 million poorly. He had KJ and Alexandre Vuilleumier picked him off with pocket queens. Chisu, a film-maker by trade, couldn’t secure the Hollywood ending, but has £175,250 for fifth.

HAMILTON SURVIVES THEN PROSPERS

Hamilton knows that he should have been the next man out. He even put his jacket on in preparation for the inevitable when he ran his A5 into Vuilleumier’s AQ and the first four cards on the board were blanks. However, that coat came off again when the 5 appeared on the river, keeping Hamilton afloat and cutting into Vuilleumier.

When they went on their first break of the day, there was already a clear dividing line through the centre of the field.

Jack Sinclair – 8,990,000
Roman Hrabec – 8,720,000
Alexandre Vuilleumier – 2,525,000
Ian Hamilton – 2,235,000

HRABEC AND SINCLAIR DO BATTLE

The best hope for one of the two lower stacks to get their noses in front was a confrontation between Hrabec and Sinclair. And it duly arrived. Sinclair was dealt KK under the gun and Hrabec had A9 in the big blind. They got to a flop for a single raise/call, and then things kicked off.

The flop came QJ10 a Hrabec checked with the double belly-buster. Sinclair bet with the conventional open-ended, with overpair, and Hrabec called.

They both checked the Q turn, and the 6 river completed the board but neither of their straight draws.

Hrabec checked, Sinclair bet 850,000 and Hrabec check-raised to 2.15 million. Sinclair seemed angry with himself for betting, but somehow figured out that he was still ahead. He put out the calling chips and won a huge pot, vaulting into a comfortable lead.

Both short stacks soon seized their chance to get their hands on some of Sinclair’s chips, however. Vuilleumier flopped trips in a three-bet pot with AQ and Sinclair lost a few there. Not long after, Hamilton scored another double up. This time his J8 flopped well to beat Sinclair’s A10. There was an eight on the board and Hamilton was back in business.

Thankfully for Sinclair, his well had not dried up and he returned to Hrabec’s stack for another dip. This one was huge again, and left Hrabec as the shortest stack. Hrabec raised the small blind with AK and Sinclair defended with 73.

Hrabec flopped top pair on the 2A4 flop, but those two clubs meant Sinclair had plenty of options. The 10 turn hit Sinclair and some well-judged sizing persuaded Hrabec to call all the way. It was a 4 million chip pot, all heading to Sinclair.

But Hamilton then came roaring back, flopping two pair with 34 and beating Sinclair’s top-pair aces. Hamilton suddenly became the chip leader.

HRABEC TAKES THE FALL

All this turbulence had to stop sometime, and the game did go through a long period of relative stasis four-handed. Sinclair retook the chip lead and began to wield the big stack with ruthless efficiency.

Hrabec, however, wasn’t able to get himself back into it and became the next to perish. All things considered, this was a standard spot. After Sinclair made an opening raise, Hrabec got his last seven big blinds in the middle with A10. Sinclair called with AJ and there was nothing unusual on the board.

Hrabec went out in fourth, for €227,800, telling the PokerStars Live TV crew, ” “Obviously I’m a little bit disappointed getting fourth after having the chip lead, but it’s OK.” When you’re playing tons of tournaments online, and doing very well, you can be philosophical.

VUILLEUMIER DEFEATED BY FELLOW SHORT STACK

There was now a major imbalance in the stacks, with Sinclair a dominant leader and Vuilleumier essentially playing a private battle with Hamilton for who could cling on for second. The expectation was that Sinclair would knock one of them out, but it turned out that the two short stacks clashed, and the dealer had one more outdraw to produce.

Hamilton open-pushed from the button for 3.8 million with QJ and Sinclair got out of the way. But Vuilleumier found AQ in the big blind and made the call, with about two big blinds fewer.

There was not much for Hamilton to cheer on the 9K5 flop, but then the 10 came on the turn, filling a straight, and Vuilleumier was in big trouble. He couldn’t find a jack on the river and he was out. Vuilleumier took £296,150 for third, leaving the two Brits to do battle for the London bragging rights.

A THRILLING HEADS-UP BATTLE

Sinclair had 76 big blinds to Hamilton’s 35, and the former also had bag more experience, having been to considerably more final tables than Hamilton. But Hamilton had been hitting cards when he needed to, and his monkish silence from beneath a black hoody stood in contrast to his supporters’ raucous presence on the rail. There was still plenty of play left in this one.

Hamilton won a series of pots at the start of heads-up play, demonstrating that he was only too happy to get involved. He wasn’t overawed by the gravity of the situation. He actually managed to draw the stacks all but level, before the pair played the first really major pot of this phase.

Hamilton opened with 63 and Sinclair defended with 108. There was an all action flop of 976. It was a straight for Sinclair and a pair/flush draw for Hamilton, and that meant a lot of chips were about to go in. Hamilton bet, Sinclair raised and the 8 came on the turn.

Hamilton decided to represent something he didn’t have, betting 3.5 million. Sinclair did have it, of course, and called for the 9 river. Sinclair now bombed all-in and Hamilton couldn’t call. It put Sinclair’s stack up to 17.4 million again, while Hamilton was back down to 5.1 million.

Fortunes can change so quickly, however, and within two major pots, Hamilton was back in the lead. Hamilton limp-called with 107, while Sinclair had only 62. The flop was 532 and after two checks, the turn was the 7. Sinclair jammed and Hamilton, having now hit top pair to go with his flush draw, called all in and survived, doubling to 9.4 million.

On the next hand of note, Hamilton ended with trip tens — he had 107 and the board was 10J5102. Sinclair did most of the betting with a bluff, with 97. Hamilton moved all-in on the river and won to take the lead into a dinner break.

The decision to pause had not been taken lightly. It had definitely seemed likely that the tournament would end soon. And so it proved only a few minutes after they returned. Hamilton edged further ahead, making ace-queen a certain shove and ace-king an even more certain call.

All that now needed to happen was for the best hand to stay so. And, for once, it did.

That brought enormous cheers from Hamilton’s supporters, and finally brought the man out from under the hoody and the sunglasses, bearing the enormous smile of an EPT champion.

£5,300 EPT London Main Event
Dates: October 22-28, 2022
Entries: 749 (inc. 217 re-entries)
Prize pool: £3,632,650

1 – Ian Hamilton, UK – £664,400
2 – Jack Sinclair, UK – £414,650
3 – Alexandre Vuilleumier, Switzerland – £296,150
4 – Roman Hrabec, Czech Republic – £227,800
5 – Danut Chisu, Romania – £175,250
6 – Nils Pudel, Germany – £134,800

FULL EPT MAIN EVENT RESULTS

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