There are a couple of ways to end a poker tournament, over and above the traditional approach of one player winning all the chips. Late this evening at the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo®Casino EPT Grand Final, the €10,000 single re-entry high roller found one of those alternative ways.
With three players left–Chance Kornuth, Philipp Gruissem and Sergey Lebedev–they decided to look at the numbers and broker a deal. We don’t know specifically how the conversation went, but when they emerged from the conclave, they had a great idea: Let’s just end it now, split the prize money according to Independent Chip Model (ICM) calculations and hand the trophy to Kornuth, who had about twice the number of chips as either of the other two.
It wasn’t all that dramatic, lacking the cuff-chewing anticipation of a slowly peeled flop, turn and river. But it was certainly quick. Kornuth is the official champion, taking €351,108 and the first big trophy of this EPT Grand Final festival.
“This is great,” Kornuth, who beat a field of 164 players to the title, said. “I got my first one of those beautiful trophies, so I’m pretty excited. It’s just a dream year.”
Kornuth has been on a remarkable run of late, winning a high roller event in Australia, finishing runner up in Dublin, and before that reaching the final table of the high roller at the PCA a year after finishing third in the main event. This pay-check nestles in amongst those and makes him one of the standout performers in world poker in 2016. There were also 50 re-entries, swelling the prize pool some more.
Kornuth added: “Almost every single stop has been somewhat like this and poker doesn’t get any better when times are like how they are now. It’s pretty spectacular.”
To get to the title, Kornuth had to beat a stacked field, including some other players in red-hot form. Gruissem, the official runner up taking €292,750, is a beast in events with this kind of buy-in; Anthony Zinno also made the final table, translating his sensational U.S.-based form to Monaco; and Fedor Holz, who finished fourth, can’t seem to put a foot wrong.
Actually, on the subject of Holz, he did end up having to serve a one-round penalty in this one after Gruissem flopped a flush to better his pocket pair of kings. But it didn’t actually hurt Holz very much at all. He ended up doubling up in that hand–the true touch of a poker Midas. Look at the 5:20pm update in the live coverage post to see how that one went down.
But back to the beginning of this day: They resumed this afternoon with 23 players still involved, which represented a long way to go by anyone’s standards. But with close to half a million euros up for grabs, it made sense to settle in for the long haul.
The pace of eliminations fluctuated wildly in the early passage of play: Ozgur Arda, Diego Ventura, Dan Shak, Ognyan Dimov, Alexandru Papazian and Alexandre Rivero were out before anybody could even blink. But there then came a long slowdown before Adrian Mateos and Imad Derwiche went out simultaneously to cut the field to its final two tables.
The quality of the remaining field was still exceptionally high, but Jean-Noel Thorel, Isaac Haxton and Sam Panzica, who won a €10,000 high roller in Dublin earlier this year, were sacrificed in a bid to get to the last nine.
Then Tom Hall couldn’t beat Kornuth and saw his tournament go up in smoke, which took them to the last table. But only after Christian Christner perished at Kornuth’s hands did we reach a final table at which only eight chairs are ever positioned.
Got that? Well, here’s what happened in the actual final.
Dmitry Yurasov was last night’s leader, but he found the going tough with Mateos sitting on his left for much of the early stages. However after the reigning Grand Final champion was sent packing by Pavel Plesuv, Yurasev got most of his chips back…only to lose them to Holz shortly after final-table play began.
Yurasov flopped top pair with his K♠Q♠, and watched it improve to trips with the Q♥ turn and a flush with the 5♠ river. But when the last of the chips went in, Yurasov was in trouble. Holz had A♠J♠ for the bigger flush. Yurasov took €54,180 for eighth.
Felipe Ramos was the next to depart. He had been grinding a below average stack for most of the past two days, but always seemed to get it in at the right time to secure a double up when things got desperate.
Eventually, however, he lost a 60-40 to Gruissem, followed by losing a flip for the remainder of his stack to the same player and had to settle for seventh. “I have no complaints,” he said. “2016 has been great for me.” He took €74,100.
The final six headed to dinner, with Holz and Kornuth ahead. At that point, two of the tournament’s biggest names–Gruissem and Zinno–were the shortest stacks, but they experienced divergent fortunes in the postprandial action.
Gruissem went on an upward charge, taking significant pots from Murad Akhundov (himself a former chip-leader) and then Holz. But Zinno didn’t get anything going and was next to perish when his A♣10♥ couldn’t beat Sergey Lebedev’s pocket sixes.
Zinno has been on an exceptional run, pretty much ever since he burst on to the scene with a flurry of huge scores on the WPT. He’s been a regular in Europe for the past year and this €101,500 represents his biggest cash on this side of the Atlantic.
Akhundov was likely happy to see Zinno bust, mainly because he had a micro-stack himself. He got it in on the very next hand, with Q♥4♥, but was knocked out by Kornuth’s 10♣8♣ when Kornuth rivered a straight.
That left them with four, and the small matter of Holz. The man known as CrownUpGuy is rapidly becoming the player almost everyone names when they talk about the best of the new crop in world poker. When you consider some of the competition, you realise what an accolade that is.
The former WCOOP Main Event champion has already racked up more than $7.6 million in live cashes to match his online talent and was again irresistible in this tournament. It’s why the incident with Gruissem, which cost him a round of action, seemed so out of character.
But he got himself together again and built up a stack to challenge, before he ran into Kornuth. On a particularly fascinating hand — look at the 10pm update — Holz called all-in on a double paired board with a queen. But Kornuth, in the big blind, had made a full house and Holz was sent home in fourth.
This tournament might have gone on quite a bit longer. Kornuth had 5,625,000, Gruissem had 2,830,000 and Lebedev 2,605,000, with blinds at 30,000-60,000, when they looked at the numbers. And even though Lebedev is perhaps not as well known as the other two, it’s a measure of how highly they regard him that Gruissem nor Kornuth wanted to play on.
Lebedev officially took €291,162 for his third place after that remarkably swift way to finish things three handed. “Everyone that I was up against at the end was just incredibly good,” Kornuth said. “Just fantastic people in general and fantastic card players. It was really fun.”
That was a fine way to kick off this festival. And with Day 2 of the super high roller getting under way tomorrow, perhaps with all of Kornuth, Gruissem, Holz and Zinno involved, things are only just warming up.
EPT Grand Final single re-entry high roller
Dates: April 26-28, 2016
Buy in: €10,300
Players: 214 (164 unique players plus 50 re-entries)
Prize pool: €2,075,800
1 – Chance Kornuth (United States) €351,108
2 – Philip Gruissem (Germany) €299,162
3 – Sergey Lebedev (Russia) €292,750
4 – Fedor Holz (Germany) €169,000
5 – Murad Akhundov (Azerbaijan) €133,680
6 – Anthony Zinno (United States) €101,500
7 – Filipe Ramos (Brazil) €74,100
8 – Dmitry Yurasov (Russia) €54,180