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Barbosa does Portugal proud at EPT Polish Open
Another PokerStars.com European Poker Tour event, another European champion from an unheralded poker nation.
An Italian may have held the chip lead coming in to the final table, but it was the tiny Iberian nation of Portugal that produced its first major poker tournament winner last night when Joao Barbosa won the EPT Warsaw main event.
To make the day even more special, Barbosa's come-from-behind win occurred on his 26th birthday.
Barbosa entered the final table seventh in chips and faced a tough fight given the strength of the remaining field.
French professional player Ludovic Lacay, EPT Prague champion Arnaud Mattern and the incoming chip leader, Team PokerStars Pro's Dario Minieri, loomed large as the day began at 2 p.m. local time yesterday, but the day would see the cards turn against them all as Barbosa climbed to the top of the heap.
After the usual jittery final-table opening rounds, Swedish short stack Michael Muheim was the first to go. After Sergey Shcherbatskiy limped in, the Swede shipped in his stack holding A-9. His timing couldn't have been any worse; Shcherbatskiy held pocket rockets, and they stood up to send Muheim home in ninth place with 78,120 PLN.
Not long afterward Lacay became the next casualty, thanks to a hand gone wrong in the big blind with pocket aces. Germany's Nico Behling opened the pot and then called a Lacay out-of-position reraise holding pocket eights, and when all the money got in the middle on the eight-high flop he was in fantastic shape.
The board ran out bricks and the Frenchman retired for the day in eighth place with 121,520 PLN. Behling, meanwhile, used Lacay's chips to begin running over the table.
The German would come back a little closer to earth but still manage to retain the chip lead. Minieri, meanwhile, decided to take out the only other Italian at the table coin-flip style. Super Dario's A♥ Q♥ was racing against Andrea Benelli's pocket jacks, but two hearts on the flop and a third on the turn sent Benelli home in seventh place with 169,260 PLN.
Minieri would try to deliver another knockout blow with a suited ace, but his A♦ J♦ was in bad shape against Barbosa's pocket jacks.
Barbosa doubled his stack there and then quickly caught another break. The short-stacked Shcherbatskiy made a move with A♦ 5♥ and Barbosa called with pocket queens, which held up to send the Russian packing in sixth place. He earned 212,660 PLN, quite a return on a $7.50 PokerStars satellite investment.
After a Minieri double-up to take the chip lead away from Behling, the next player on the chopping block was EPT Prague champ Mattern. The Frenchman would bow out early despite getting in way ahead on two big hands.
On the first, his A-K fell to Bulgarian Atanas Gueorguiev's A-8 to take away half his stack; on the second, his pocket tens fell to Barbosa's pocket eights when the turn produced a set for the birthday boy. Mattern's dreams of becoming the first-ever repeat EPT champion were dashed in fifth place, earning him 269,080 PLN.
Gueorguiev had survived domination to double through Mattern, but when he got in ahead things didn't turn out nearly as well. The Bulgarian's A♣ K♣ was in fantastic shape on a king-high board against Barbosa's K♠ Q♠ when all his money went in the middle, but a queen on the river was all it took to send him home in fourth place. He earned 325,500 PLN for his finish.
Following the dinner break Barbosa held the chip lead three-handed, but the more experienced Minieri was still a threat despite sitting on the shortest stack. The Italian even found a pocket pair to get his stack in the middle, but his sevens were dominated by Barbosa's pocket nines.
The two-outer never came, and just like that, Super Dario was done. He took home 455,700 PLN for another fine EPT performance.
Down to the final two, play slowed once more as both would-be champions played very carefully. Barbosa held a chip lead of 2-1 over Behling when they began, and worked his advantage up as high as 3-1 before crashing back down to even again.
It briefly looked like Barbosa might lose his lead when he shoved A-9 into Behling's A-J, but the board produced a split pot and Barbosa stayed ahead.
From there it was just a matter of time before Barbosa put Behling away. The final hand saw the German make a desperation all-in reraise holding J♠ 7♠ and Barbosa call with A♥ T♥. They both paired on the flop, but Barbosa caught the best of it with his ace.
The deck couldn't save Behling on the turn or river, sending him home as the runner-up with 759,500 PLN. Barbosa, meanwhile, took home 1,358,420 PLN and a couple of sweet trophies, not to mention the honor of being Portugal's first major tournament winner.
To find even more coverage of the EPT stop in Warsaw, visit the Live Tournaments section.
The EPT will take a few weeks off before returning to action in Prague on Dec. 9. As usual, PokerListings will be on hand with the top-notch tournament coverage you've come to expect, so be sure to join us then for all the action live from Eastern Europe.