Hot on the heels of the LAPC and Celebrity Invitational World Poker Tour events in Los Angeles, the German Open began in Dortmund March 8. Hosted by Casino Hohenysburg on the outskirts of town, the festivities began not at the casino but at a downtown nightclub.
As I mentioned in my blog for that day, despite being a supposedly up-scale club it was located in a slightly less-than-upscale part of town. The cab ride there began innocently enough but as it proceeded we soon found ourselves off the beaten track, heading into the warehouse district of the city.
Down cobble-stone streets resplendent with graffiti and the occasional homeless man we continued, drawn forth only by the prospect of German beer and the comely frauleins sure to be serving them.
We finally made it, without receiving bodily or monetary harm, and were faced with an entirely un-German scene. Picnic tables on a man-made sand beach? Face-painted fire spinners? A surfboard proclaiming the entrance to the washrooms? Not exactly the traditional beer-hall I was hoping for, this place seemed more like the beach shacks we frequented at the Caribbean Poker Classic in St. Kitts!
After adjusting to our surroundings we were soon heaving mugs of Warsteiner and Dortmunder Pils like pros. In attendance at the PokerStars.com sponsored party were such notables as Marcel Luske, although he didn't favor us with a song on this occasion, Noah Boeken, EPT creator John Duthie, Team PokerStars member Katja Thater and many an unknown online qualifier.
The party went off without a hitch and gave everyone a chance to meet one another and loosen up a little bit before the beginning of the tournament the following afternoon. The next morning, after shaking off a rather tenacious German hangover - yes even the hangovers are more effective in Germany - I made my way out of Dortmund for the first flight of the EPT3 German Open.
In addition to their reputation for creating some of the world's greatest beer, the Germans are perhaps best known for their relentless pursuit of efficiency, so much so that it has even earned a place in the English lexicon. I was hoping that German efficiency would extend to their poker tournaments but, sadly, my dream of an event run with clock-work precision was dashed as the scheduled 3 p.m. start time passed us by without commencement of the action. It seems that even in Germany it's impossible for a tournament to begin on time.
The first three days leading up to the final table went smoothly although there was markedly less action than I had expected. With so many Scandinavian players bringing their trademark maniac tendencies to bear, I thought it would be a madhouse of sneaky moves and aggressive plays.
Quite the opposite was the case though as players started out slow, getting their bearings and feeling out their opponents. The real action didn't begin until the money bubble broke on the third day of play.
After enduring a grueling stage of hand-for-hand play, the players made it to the money and the eliminations came fast and furious. It's customary to stop the clock during hand-for-hand since so much time can elapse, but the staff opted not to and when we reached the money the blinds had become astronomical.
We went from 48, the number of people paid in this event, to 13 in just a few hours, and it was then that staff decided to break for the day. In most events it's unheard of to terminate play before whittling down the field to just the final table, but on the EPT it's apparently commonplace. Regulars on the European Poker Tour related the fact that none of this season's events has made it to the final eight players by the conclusion of the third day.
We reconvened the following afternoon, bracing ourselves for a long one since we would need five eliminations before the final table even began. Only three hours into the afternoon we had done it, and after a short break, the players were asked to take their seats and decide who would take home the title and the €672,000.
For a full rundown of all the final-table action, as well as full coverage of the entire event, check out the Live Updates Page. What it all boiled down to though was the three-handed match between Andreas Hoivold, Sebastian Ruthenberg and Cristiano Blanco.
Ruthenberg was the quietest player at the final table for the entire evening, barely noticeable until late in the night. He played only a few hands and was able to maintain an average stack until winning a massive pot due to an ill-conceived bluff on the part of Gunnar Rabe.
Gunnar opened the pot to $125,000 and Sebastian smooth-called to see a flop of 4♠ A♠ T♦ . Seb checked and Gunnar led out with $120k. Ruthenberg check-raised to $260,000 and Rabe called.
The turn was the 8♠ and Sebastian led out with $400k. Gunnar called and the river was the 5♠, putting four spades on the board. Seb checks and Gunnar immediately goes all-in. Seb called rather reluctantly and turned over pocket eights for the set as if he'd already lost the hand. Gunnar, however, turned over Q-T with no spade for second pair. Sebastian must have felt like he'd hit the lottery as he raked in the $2 million pot.
With that blunder Rabe was crippled and Sebastian, the lucky beneficiary of Gunnar's stack, was given enough ammunition to take a shot at chip leader Andreas Hoivold. Rabe was busted shortly after which left just Sebastian, Andreas and Cristiano Blanco.
It was Andreas in the lead with $2.2 million, Ruthenberg next with $1.8 million and Blanco bringing up the rear with $1 million. It looked like it would be Seb and Andreas going at it in heads-up play, but only a few hands later Ruthenberg was gone and Hoivold had become the prohibitive favorite to win the tournament.
It began with Andreas opening to $140,000 from the small blind and getting a call from Sebastian in the big blind. The flop came 2♦ 3♠ T♥ and Hoivold bet $200k. Seb called and the turn was the 9♠. Andreas bet out $500k and Seb pushed all-in. It was a quick call for Hoivold who turned over pocket kings. Ruthenberg's A♠ 5♠ needed some help and he was looking for a four for the straight, any spade for the flush or an ace. None of those many outs hit though as the river brought an eight.
After that it was a speedy resolution to the event as Cristiano and Andreas got all their money in on just the second hand of the heads-up match. It was pocket queens for Hoivold way ahead of Blanco's 9-T with the board cooperating and sending Cristiano home in second. Andreas Hoivold became the newest EPT champion with 672,000 reasons why he was number one.
I had a chance to chat with Andreas at the club later that night, and he had a few interesting things to say. First of all he referred to the €672,000 as "pocket change" before going on to relate how he had predicted himself to be the first player to win back-to-back EPT events.
This may sound arrogant, but let me assure you, Andreas is anything but. Of the eight players to sit at the final table, he was by far the friendliest, a quality which should garner him more than his fair share of TV time when this episode of the EPT airs.
With the first of two EPT's done, it was time to pack up shop and head for Poland, Warsaw to be exact. The completion of a short plane ride found me in a cab doing what seemed like mach-five through the streets of Poland's capital. About four and a half seconds after leaving the airport we pulled up to the Hyatt Regency, my home for the next week and the site of the first ever EPT Polish Open.
When I entered the poker room, I saw many of the same faces from Germany who had made the short commute east to play this event as well. The first few days began slowly with not much action to speak of. The players were restrained, clearly saving their big moves for later in the event. Two Day 1 flights and a Day 2 went by before we found ourselves at the final table.
For a full rundown of all the Polish Open action from wire-to-wire, check out our Live Updates Page. It came down to The Dane Peter Jepsen and France's Farid Meraghni in heads-up play. Jepsen started the match with the chip lead but over the next hour and a half there would be a few big swings before we arrivied at a champion.
The hand that ended the tournament came with both players almost even in chips. Peter raised from the button to $90,000 and Farid min-re-raised from the big blind. The flop came 2♣ 5♣ T♦ and both players checked. The 5♠ hit the turn and Farid fired $100k.
Peter Jepsen raised to $300,000 and Farid quickly announced all-in. It was an insta-call from Peter who turned over 9♥ 5♥ for trips. Farid's hand surprised everyone when we saw he had shipped it with 2♦ 3♥ for bottom pair. No one had to sweat the river since Farid was drawing completely dead.
In an interview I did with Peter shortly after, he told me had been waiting for Farid to make just such a mistake. Farid is notorious for losing patience in live tournaments; accustomed to the online arena, it was difficult for him to stay focused on just one table. He clearly got out of line here but was unlucky to run into such a big hand from Jepsen.
Left with less than $200,000, Farid was eliminated a few hands later making Peter Jepsen the first ever Polish Open champion. Due to various reasons, this EPT event was not taped and so will not be appearing on TV screens around the world. Because of this, the final table was wrapped up much more quickly than we're used to. Just a small presentation of the winnings, a few photos and we were on our way.
After publishing the interview with Peter, it was down to the lounge to kill a few hours before my 7 a.m. flight. Beers, shots and a whole lot of hands of Chinese poker seemed to do the trick, and before I knew it I was watching the sun come up, cigarette in hand and iPod in ear, as I waited for my ride to the airport.
Back at home here in Vancouver, I've got the week to tie up a few loose ends before pressing on to the next WPT event which takes place in Reno this weekend. As always, I implore you to keep it locked on PokerListings.com for the very best in live tournament coverage.