Instead it was American Jason Mercier who stole the limelight and outlasted everyone to become the first champion of the inaugural EPT San Remo.
It was also the fastest final table in EPT history, taking barely three hours for seven eliminations and a mere two hands for heads-up.
The media knew they were in for an interesting day when the first hand saw Minieri and French wild man Eric Koskas crank up the table talk in the middle of a hand.
Minieri opened and Koskas called; the flop came 8♠ 6♠ 6♣. Both players checked. The turn came 3♥, and Koskas moved all-in.
Both players stood up and launched into a long conversation.
"I wouldn't move all-in on the first hand with nothing would I?" said Koskas. "I'm crazy but I'm not stupid."
"If I fold to you will you show me?" asked Minieri.
"If you show me both of your cards I will show you one of mine," responded Koskas.
The whole conversation brought to mind a hand between William Thorson and Minieri which had occurred the previous day. Minieri had told Thorson that if he showed him two cards he would only show one. Minieri was on the receiving end of that joke at the final table.
In the end it was a moot point because Minieri folded his hand face down.
Short-stack Marcus Bower was the first elimination of the day. Bower got jacked when his pocket fours were no match for Lellouche's A-Q.
Minieri was up to his old tricks at the final table, frequently raising pots and taking them down without showing his hand.
Dag Palovic was Minieri's first victim at the final table when Minieri hit a set of treys against Palovic's pocket queens. Nothing developed on the board and it was back to Slovakia for Palovic, who also made the final table at this year's EPT event in Prague.
William Thorson, who made a questionable fold leading up to the final table, wasn't able to get much going at the final table and eventually went out when his A-Q failed against A-K. Not a particularly fantastic performance from the Swedish sensation but it's likely we'll see him at another final table in short order.
Minieri wasn't the only horse the Italians were cheering on. The little-known Gregory Genovese was another crowd favorite who had the honor of making the final table. Genovese suffered from a small stack heading into the final table, however, and was crippled when he lost a coin flip against Eric Koskas. After doubling up Koskas, Genovese was forced to shove with T-9 and couldn't beat A-3. That was it for Genovese, who finished fifth.
In the hand of the night, perhaps of the tournament, Jason Mercier made a sick, sick call against Koskas.
Mercier and Koskas limped to a flop of J♥ 6♦ 5♣ and both players checked. The turn came 8♣ and Koskas led out for $200,000. Mercier called and the river fell 8♥. Koskas instantly went all-in and after two minutes Mercier, sensing something was amiss, made the call. It proved to be the right decision as Koskas held T-3 for nothing but ten-high. Mercier had him beat with 9-5.
It was a pivotal hand at the final table because suddenly Mercier, who had been somewhat quiet compared to the ultra-aggressive Minieri and Koskas, had a firm grip on the chip lead with over $3 million chips.
The next elimination came quickly, shocking everyone to their very core. Crowd favorite Minieri opened for $140,000 and Mercier re-raised to $340,000. Minieri called and the flop came 8♦ 7♥ 2♦. Minieri bet $400,000 and Mercier instantly announced he was all-in. Minieri called almost as quickly and flipped over Q♠ Q♣ which was in the lead, but Mercier had the big draw with A♦ 4♦.
The turn came 4♥ which gave Mercier even more outs with his pair of fours. All of Italy was on their feet for the river card, which came... 3♦!
The Italian crowd was shocked and their hero, the diminutive Minieri, was sent to the rail in third place.
All of a sudden it was heads-up and no one seemed more surprised than Lellouche, who had not been very involved with the final table. The normally aggressive Lellouche was not in great position with merely $1.3 million to Mercier's overwhelming $5.7 million.
In just the second hand of heads-up play the tournament was finished. In the final hand Mercier made a standard raise and Lellouche re-raised to $400,000. Mercier announced he was all-in and Lellouche called almost instantly.
Mercier flipped over K♠ Q♥ to Lellouche's 7♠ 7♦ and we had a classic race situation on our hands for approximately €300,000.
The flop board came A♠ Q♠ 4♣ 8♣ 2♣ and that was it for the first edition of EPT San Remo. An American, strangely enough, was the ultimate victor and will be taking home an exceptional €869,000.
We here at PokerListings.com had a great time in San Remo and want to applaud PokerStars for bringing a big-buy-in tournament to an area that is absolutely poker-crazy. We'll see you next in Monte Carlo for the Grand Final.
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