There was a time, not long ago, when Spanish players couldn’t seem to win tournaments on the European Poker Tour. But these days, they’re crushing Super High Rollers like it ain’t no thing.
A couple of months ago, Sergio Aido beat Jesus Cortes heads up to win the €100K in Monte Carlo. And tonight in Barcelona, 29-year-old Sergi Reixach, from Girona, burnished his growing reputation when he defeated the UK’s Sam Grafton heads up to win a first prize of €1,816,210 in the biggest ever €100K in this venue.
Both Reixach and Grafton were playing their first €100K event in Europe, having taken similar paths through the ranks — online first, then tournaments of increasing buy-ins — to the highest table. And either could have won it too, with Grafton likely feeling hard done by after a series of rough beats heads up.
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Reixach, however, will be rightly energised by his performance. He did it the hard way. After making all of the running during the opening stages of this final table, he was facing a near six-to-one chip deficit heads up as Grafton eyed his own first major title. But Reixach hit double-up after double-up, including getting 8♠ 4♠ to beat A♠ K♥ (“Live cards!”) and eventually managed to close it out.
“It’s part of the game,” Reixach said. “You have to have a little bit of luck to win a tournament. Actually, a lot of luck.”
But he added that he has spent a long time working on his game to get to the stage that he can play, and win, events of this nature.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve been working a lot of years for this kind of moment. It’s been a long way for me. Some people have a lot of luck in the beginning, but for me it’s been a tough way. But I’m very happy now.”
Grafton, who is one of the best-known and most popular players in European poker, was uncharacteristically silent during the closing stages as the momentum shifted back to Reixach. But both these guys have a taste now and will surely be back.
The bubble burst late last night, when ten became nine owing to the elimination of Daniel Dvoress. That left players from nine countries still involved at the start of the final day, with Japanese hot-shot Tsugunari Toma on the top of the pile, and Portugal’s Rui Ferreira propping them all up.
Neither became the champion by the end of the day, but it wasn’t Ferreira who was knocked out first. That €180,070 “ignominy” fell to Mikalai Vaskaboinikau, from Belarus, who found a perfect spot to shove his 18 big blinds, but ran into a better hand. Vaskaboinikau’s 9♠ 9♥ lost to Reixach’s 10♥ 10♦ .
Ferreira resultantly laddered up, and he then quadrupled up his three big blinds when his kings held against three opponents. It was, however, only a temporary stay of execution because his A♥ 8♣ lost to Reixach’s A♣ K♥ soon after. Ferreira won €235,950, as Reixach’s double knockout put him into the chip lead.
Among all the relative newcomers, there was at least one seat for a veteran at this final table, and Steve O’Dwyer is more experienced than perhaps anybody in the world at PokerStars Super High Roller events. O’Dwyer has 24 outright tournament wins on his resume, but before today had finished seventh on only seven times. But this time, that’s as far as O’Dwyer went, losing with pocket fives to Toma’s A♥ 4♥ . Toma turned an ace to eliminated O’Dwyer. O’Dwyer won €304,250.
That pot put Toma back on Reixach’s shoulder, but Reixach almost immediately hit back. With Luc Greenwood slumping to the small stack, he got his chips in with 6♠ 6♥ and Reixach snapped him off with A♦ Q♣ and hit a queen on the flop. Greenwood took €384,980, leaving five.
Grafton’s career has been one of a steady rise through the ranks, from the small buy-in tournaments of London’s card rooms, eventually to the biggest games on the planet. And here, scenting his first victory at these stakes, he managed to do what all players need to do: win a couple of flips. His pocket fours bested Reixach’s ace-king to keep him alive, and then Grafton’s A♦ K♥ beat Toma’s 9♠ 9♦ . Suddenly Grafton was in the ascendant and Toma was on the ropes.
Toma has a huge cult following in poker, and a maiden triumph would have raised the roof from Portsmouth to Tokyo. But he then lost another flip to Grafton and bust in fifth, picking up €496,740. Toma had A♣ J♦ to Grafton’s eights. Toma rode his luck a little yesterday, so will not be too disappointed with this one.
Grafton’s roll was seemingly unstoppable at this point, and Kahle Burns was the latest man to get in the way. Burns had way the best of it with K♥ Q♣ to Grafton’s K♠ 9♠ when they got it in, but the 9♥ on the flop won it for Grafton. Burns won €639,560 for fourth.
Burns’s recent form is pretty hot. He won heaps in SCOOP on PokerStars, and has three six-figure scores from the past two months. But it’s actually nothing compared with the man who went out next.
Danny Tang won $1.8 million on the Triton Series in May, and then $1.6 million along with his first WSOP bracelet in July. And so it was no surprise to see him at another high buy-in final table, even if his EPT record is fairly modest. He couldn’t get his A♣ 8♦ to beat Reixach’s A♦ Q♦ here, however, and so he picked up €847,570 for third instead.
The heads-up match is probably best reviewed via our play-by-play coverage. It went this way and that, and there were a succession of grim spots and coolers. Neither player knew when they were beaten, though, and there were no easy pots. On this occasion, it just turned out that it ran better for Reixach.
“It’s my first EPT 100K and, lucky me, I win it,” he said.
EPT Barcelona Super High Roller
Dates: August 24-26, 2019
Entries: 64 (inc. 15 re-entries)
Prize pool: €6,209,280
1 – Sergi Reixach, Spain, €1,816,210
2 – Sam Grafton, UK, €1,303,950
3 – Danny Tang, Hong Kong, €847,570
4 – Kahle Burns, Australia, €639,560
5 – Tsugunari Toma, Japan, €496,740
6 – Luc Greenwood, Canada, €384,980
7 – Steve O’Dwyer, Ireland, €304,250
8 – Rui Ferreira, Portugal, €235,950
9 – Mikalai Vaskaboinikau, Belarus, €180,070