That McDonald, who crushes online games under the now rather unsuitable tag "Timex," should emerge from the eight-handed final table the victor shouldn't come as a surprise. McDonald has strung together an impressive five cashes in the last six weeks, including three final tables at the Aussie Millions in Melbourne and a 14th place at the EPT tournament in Prague in early December.
McDonald, who briefly studied at Canada's collegiate poker haven at the University of Waterloo (also alma mater to 2006 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure champ Steve Paul-Ambrose) before online poker became too profitable, entered the fourth and final playing day of the German Open chip leader at a final table that also included German maniac Johannes Strassmann and American online pro Christian "charder30" Harder.
Early in the proceedings, Timex would flex his formidable poker chops by making the first of the many sick calls he'd make throughout the day, though it wouldn't work out quite in his favor in the early going. After openly admitting to bluffing a min-raise on a king-high flop he called Gülünay's all-in when a jack hit the turn, claiming he felt his hand (A-J) was good. It was, with Gülünay having third pair and a spade flush draw, but the German made two pair on the river and doubled through young McDonald.
It would prove to be only a minor setback, as on the next hand Timex was dealt aces and saw Christian Harder dealt big slick. In a hand that more or less played itself, all of Harder's money got in pre-flop and though the American flopped a king and turned a flush draw, the river bricked out and Harder was eliminated in eighth place. He earned €85,500 to complement the $200,000 USD he won at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in early January.
At this point in the proceedings, the cracks started showing for 22-year-old pro Johannes Strassmann, who played an increasingly erratic game marked by a number of rather eccentric hands, including hands in which he mistook players' raises for all-in shoves and nearly flipped over his cards prematurely, hands in which he trash-talked opponents Gülünay and Diego Perez incessantly before folding to their raises, and a hand with Thibaut Durand that saw Strassmann, who had position on Durand, move all-in in the dark pre-flop with Durand yet to act.
Despite this, Strassmann managed to at least refrain from self-bustification, while Durand wouldn't be so lucky. The Parisian found himself short-stacked and had to shove with A♠ 4♦. Strassmann finally found a hand he liked enough to call and turned up pocket eights, and after an eight fell on the turn it was over for Durand, who busted in seventh place and earned €120,200 for doing so.
It would prove to be only a brief respite for Strassmann, who would hit the bricks in sixth place in a characteristically unusual hand that saw him shove all-in for $550,000 over the top of a $57,000 opening raise from McDonald. Timex, holding pocket kings, was more than happy to call and Strassmann could only muster 8♥ 7♥ in his defense. A king on the flop ended things early and Strassmann was eliminated, sent home with €152,000 to add to the €39,200 he earned at EPT Prague in December.
Then it was dinner break, and the players were released to the ample bounty of the Casino Hohensyburg buffet for the last time. Upon their return after an hour's worth of gorging, the carnage that followed constituted an after-dinner rush the likes of which have rarely been seen.
First it was Claudio Rinaldi, who got his short stack all-in pre-flop against Gülünay's pocket sevens to his own A♦ 9♦. The board ran K♥ 4♦ 3♠ K♦ 5♠ and the sevens held, consigning Rinaldi to the rail in fifth place, where he collected €193,000 in prize money.
A few hands later and Diego Perez Marco was signing for his check, the victim of another incredible call from McDonald. The young Canadian had raised to $75,000 from the button and saw Perez move all-in for $610,000 from the small blind. Gülünay folded out of the big blind and the action was back on McDonald, who thought for a few moments before making the call and showing a measly pocket pair of twos.
His read was incredible, however, as Perez could only muster J♦ T♣, and after the board came A♣ 9♥ 4♥ 6♥ Q♣ the deuces held, sending Perez to the rail in fourth place for a €234,200 haul and giving McDonald full share of the chip lead once more.
Then it was Torsten Haase's turn to get cute with McDonald and pay the ultimate price. Haase raised to $75,000 from the button and was called by both McDonald and Gülünay in the blinds. The flop came Q♥ 5♥ 3♠ and the action checked to Haase, who bet out $150,000.
McDonald, holding K♠ Q♠, check-raised him all-in and Haase insta-called with A♣ 5♣ for middle pair. The board finished out 3♣ 4♦ and that was the end for Haase, who burned down in third place with €307,000 to show for his efforts.
That left only McDonald and Gülünay to do battle for the title, with Gülünay holding a sizable advantage when it came to fan support but McDonald holding a $3 million to $1 million chip lead. Despite reasonably healthy stacks compared to the blinds, it wouldn't take very long for the two players to clash.
In the final hand of the tournament, McDonald raised to $80,000 pre-flop and Gülünay made the call. The flop came K♥ J♦ 7♣ and Gülünay check-raised McDonald's $120,000 bet to $300,000, which McDonald flat-called. The turn was the K♣ and Gülünay fired out $300,000. Again Timex simply called and the river was the 2♥. Now Gülünay shoved all-in for the last of his stack and McDonald paused only briefly before making the call, turning up A♣ K♠ to Gülünay's T♣ 7♦. Trip kings were good for the pot and it was game, set, and match for McDonald as the young Canadian had clinched the title.
For the win, McDonald takes home €933,600 as well as a shiny EPT vase and the rare honor of two back-to-back PokerListings.com interviews. Runner-up Gülünay earns €528,500 for his efforts. Congratulations are in order to both finalists, as well as the staff at Casino Hohensyburg, PokerStars and everyone at the EPT who pulled off yet another incredible tournament. See you in Copenhagen!