A little more about the eight men at the final table of the Stars Championship presented by Monte-Carlo Casino® Main Event. (With thanks to Jan Kores, PokerStars Media Co-ordinator).
Seat 1: Andrey Bondar, 44, Orenburg/Russia
Andrey Bondar’s road to the final table was quiet, but now there are only seven opponents between him and the prestigious PokerStars Championship Monte Carlo Main Event title. The 44-year-old from Russia won his seat in a satellite here in Monaco, and he continued his good form through each of the tournament’s five days. He was in the second half of the rankings after Day 1 only to finish Day 2 in mid-table. Day 3 was critical for Bondar, who survived the day with fewer than 20 big blinds to sit in 38th place out of 45 remaining runners. But he made it through yet again, and then dodged a deadly bullet on Day 5 when he doubled with ace-king against ace-queen of Dmytro Shuvanov, who spiked a queen on the flop. The river brought a king to bring a huge relief for Bondar, who could remain sitting firmly in his chair. So far, Bondar has 11 reported live cashes to his name, worth just over $200,000 combined. Bondar’s best result was €66,780 for 19th place in the EPT12 Grand Final €25k High Roller. Bondar’s second-largest payday came also here in Monaco. Two years ago, he finished third in the EPT11 Grand Final €2k Event, earning €62,489.
Seat 2: Andreas Klatt, 30, Germany
Andreas Klatt certainly knows what to do after winning a big poker tournament: try to win another one. The 30-year-old German pro outlasted the 1,252-entry PokerStars National Championship here in Monaco, pocketing €151,445. And his momentum has carried on during the Main Event too. Klatt navigated his way to the final table, making a giant leap towards winning the MonteDam Swing leader board. Klatt lives near Stuttgart, and plays poker for living. He discovered the game several years ago but then abandoned poker in order to focus on his studies. However, Klatt returned to poker after graduating in economics and now aims for a remarkable back-to-back win here at PokerStars Championship Monte Carlo. Mainly an online player, Klatt may transition to the live tournaments in the near future. The first-place prize from the PokerStars National Championship will help him increase his bankroll, and Klatt plans to invest in travelling. He says he will spend summer grinding at the World Series of Poker. So far he has racked up $240,000 in live tournaments, including cashes from Australia, the Bahamas, Panama, Malta, Barcelona and Rozvadov.
Seat 3: Davidi Kitai, 37, Brussels/Belgium
The leader of the Belgian all-time money list, Davidi Kitai has been regularly travelling around the poker globe for more than a decade. The 37-year-old from Brussels will soon break $8 million in live earnings, and it might happen here at PokerStars Championship Monte Carlo, should he ladder to at least seventh. Kitai would pick up his 20th six-figure prize with a top six finish. Kitai is one of only five members of the Triple Crown Club, restricted to winners of each of the European Poker Tour, World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker titles. His victory at EPT8 Berlin was worth €712,000 and remains his biggest payday to date. Kitai now has three WSOP bracelets under his belt (from 2008, 2011 and 2014). He’s already had a giant score here in Monaco too. Three years ago, he notched up a third place finish in the EPT10 Grand Final €25k High Roller, banking €526,400. Kitai has always been a prolific player: he finished fourth in the HK$206k Single-Day tournament at the previous PokerStars Championship stop in Macau, earning over US$165,000. As ever, Kitai has been supported by his fiancé Caroline, who is railing him here at PokerStars Championship Monte Carlo. The couple will get married this summer.
Seat 4: Diego Zeiter, 29, from Argentina, lives in Bern/Switzerland
Diego Zeiter was born in Argentina, but grew up in Switzerland where he graduated in economics last year. Zeiter lives in Bern but says his heart belongs to Argentina. He has just one word for his Main Event deep run: “Vamos!” Done with school duties, the 29-year-old can now fully focus on poker again. Zeiter is a long-time poker pro, who picked up the game in 2007. He has accumulated nearly $600,000 in live tournaments so far. Zeiter’s biggest payday was $113,819 for sixth place in a $1,500 NLH Event at 2013 World Series of Poker. Zeiter has already captured a trophy at PokerStars sponsored events. He won the EPT13 Prague €2k Turbo Knockout for €25,700. However, Zeiter’s bread and butter are online tournaments. His stellar CV includes several six-figure cashes on PokerStars. When he’s not present at live or online poker tables, Zeiter can be often found on a football pitch, slopes or a tennis court.
Seat 5: Raffaele “1mDonuts” Sorrentino, 37, Catanzaro/Italy
Originally from Calabria, Italian poker pro Raffaele Sorrentino relocated to Malta so that he could continue crushing the virtual realm in the shared liquidity pool. He’s known as “1mDonuts” on PokerStars, and his packed online résumé includes both second and third place in a Sunday 500 and a final table in a Sunday Million. However, Sorrentino’s biggest online score came during his trip to EPT13 Prague. It started with his bust-out in a €500 Turbo tournament. Sorrentino then went up to his room, registered in to the Thursday Thrill, and eventually ended up winning it for $106,166. The 37-year-old has been successful on the live scene too. Sorrentino’s biggest payday was €102,000 for first place in the EPT13 Barcelona €1k Turbo Event. Sorrentino went also deep in the EPT11 London Main Event, falling just shy of the star-studded final table. He was forced to leave in 10th place after a cruel knock out by the eventual champion Sebastian Pauli. Sorrentino held queens then, and had flopped the top set while Pauli was drawing for a nut-flush. A third spade card on the river left Sorrentino collecting a receipt for £33,500.
Seat 6: Michael Kolkowicz, 31, from Paris, France
Michael Kolkowicz may be an amateur poker player, but the 31-year-old from Paris has been steadily building his stack through the whole tournament. Kolkowicz was among the top five at the end of each day. He first took the overall chip lead at the end of Day 3. Remarkably, he didn’t plan to play the Main Event but changed his mind after having a solid first night at the cash game tables. Kolkowicz certainly doesn’t regret his decision to register. Playing in the Salle des Étoiles may be his advantage as the real-estate agent calls it his “lucky room”. Kolkowicz got married in this room ten years ago. “Winning this tournament would be my second best memory from this room,” he said. He now has three children with his wife Cynthia, who is supporting her husband during the Main Event, albeit remotely as the family lives in Lyon. Kolkowicz keeps Cynthia updated about his poker journey through frequent Facebook messages. And she would travel all the way to Monaco to support Kolkowicz here in the rail, should he make it to the final day. Kolkowicz admires Davidi Kitai’s game, considering him the best pro he’s ever played against, pointing out Kitai’s abilities to read his hand “all the time”. When playing poker, Kolkowicz can be mostly seen in cash games. He also likes chess, and plans to share his passion for it with his children.
Seat 7: Maxim Panyak, 44, Yekaterinburg, Russia
Although not among the most recognisable Russian poker players on the circuit, the 44-year-old Maxim Panyak has already racked up more than $1 million in live tournament winnings. Panyak earned the biggest prize of his career when he took down the 2015 €10k TonyBet Open Face Chinese tournament in Prague for €110,000 but he’s proved his abilities in No-Limit Hold’em, too. Panyak won the Russian Poker Tour Main Event in Kiev six years ago, collecting €73,888 along with the title. His showcase also features a trophy from Monaco as Panyak topped the EPT12 Grand Final €2k Hyper Turbo Win the Button, scooping €44,280 together with the silverware. Panyak has notched four EPT Main Event cashes in his career, with the best result earned at PCA 2013 where he finished in 27th place for $47,000. He’s active online too. His accolades include several five figure results including a SCOOP final table and a Sunday Supersonic title. Panyak is the oldest player at this final table; he’s five months older than his countryman Andrey Bondar.
Seat 8: Romain Nardin, 25, from Toulouse, France
Romain Nardin is a French professional poker player, who now lives in Malta, where he grinds online in the shared liquidity pool. Nardin is mainly a tournament player, but also spends afternoons playing Pineapple Open-Face Chinese Poker against his mates on his terrace. Nardin’s live tournament winnings amount to less than $40,000. However, he’s now guaranteed to collect his first five-figure score and may as well be aiming for more. While he entered Day 3 with less than nine big blinds, he sky-rocketed towards the chip lead on Day 4 after knocking out Vicente Delgado in a huge cooler. Nardin’s aces held against Delgado’s ace-king and The Frenchman leapfrogged to the pole position with more than 3 million in chips. Nardin is a good friend with his countryman Paul Testud, who finished in 27th place.