All eight who returned to the felt this afternoon had dreams of EPT glory dancing in their heads but, like that great Christopher Lambert flick, there can be only one!
It seems like just yesterday that this final table began, with Vladimir Poleshchuk of Russia leading the pack and Julian Thew not far behind. In actuality it was today and the afternoon came out of the gates at a gallop! On the very first hand we had an elimination and on the second, another player was headed to the rail.
The first casualty was none other than Switzerland's Anton Allemann. Affectionately dubbed Anton Ramone by PL.com for his love of leather jackets, scarecrow frame and sullen expression, everyone had high hopes for the young gun from the land of Swiss chocolate. Unfortunately they were not to be realized as his stack was gobbled up by the one-man wrecking crew also known as Vladimir Poleshchuk.
On the first, and what turned out to be the last, hand of Allemann's day he opened the pot to $40,000 with Poleshchuk making the call. The flop came out K♠ 9♣ 8♣ and Joey Ramone's long-lost brother led out for $70,000. Vlad snap-shipped all-in and, with a shrug of his shoulders, Allemann made the call. Anton's A-K was in great shape against Poleshchuk's K-9 before the flop but was now in need of some serious help. The turn and river bricked and he was out in eighth for €60,000.
The very next hand saw Vlad continue his rampage, dispatching a short-stacked Ted Lawson. The American came into the day with just $81,000 and, after an opening raise from Poleshchuk, moved all-in. The Russian looked him up and was in the lead with A♥ 9♥ against Lawson's K♣ Q♣. The dealer laid T♥ 7♥ 3♥ down on the felt, giving Poleshchuk the immortal nuts and rendering the turn and river irrelevant. Lawson was out in seventh for €83,600.
The third notch on Vladimir Poleshchuk's belt bore the inscription Manfred Hammer, which solidified Vlad's chip lead and sent Hammer to the rail in sixth for €105,000. We never did ascertain whether Hammer's middle initial was C which would, for obvious reasons , have made our day but one thing was for sure, Manfred was not one to play post-flop. As we saw on Day 3, he was prone to either move all-in before the flop or simply fold.
As they say: That move works every time except the last. We saw that even the formidable Manfred Hammer was not immune to that bit of wisdom and, after shipping it with pocket fives, he lost a race against Poleshchuk's A♦ Q♦. Within seconds Web sites around the world were buzzing with witty titles like "Hammer Time" and "Can't Touch This." Poker journalists are nothing if not imaginative.
After the whirlwind start to the day it seemed inevitable that things would slow down. We saw our fears confirmed as the remaining five players geared down and began playing a much more restrained game of poker.
One pivotal hand did develop however, where we saw the first of many chinks in Poleshchuk's armor appear. Thomas Fuller, America's last representative at the table, got all-in with pocket sevens dominated by the pocket jacks of Poleshchuk. It looked like a fourth player would be taking the walk of shame courtesy of the Russian but a seven on the flop changed all that. No re-draws were in the cards and Fuller began a climb that would take him to chip leader status a few levels later.
Thierry van den Berg, meanwhile, was busy not living up to his reputation as a maniac as we watched his stack dwindle to dangerously low levels. Left with less than $100K, he open-shoved from late position and got a call from Thomas Fuller who was getting a discounted price in the big blind. A♣ T♥ for Fuller was leading VDB's J♠ 9♠ and the ace-high would hold up for the elimination. Van den Berg was out in fifth for €132,900.
Without causing too much of a stir, Julian Thew had been quietly amassing chips through the acquisition of blinds, antes and small pots. It was around this time that both Thew and Thomas Fuller had surpassed Vladimir Poleshchuk in the chip counts, setting the stage for an epic clash and the biggest pot of the tournament thus far.
Thew, Poleshchuk and Fuller all saw a flop of K♣ Q♥ 6♣ and after both Julian and Vlad checked, Fuller bet out $100,000. Thew, not to be bullied, popped in another $150,000 and after Poleshchuk got out of the way, Fuller did his opponent one better by moving all-in. With a substantial portion of his stack already invested, Julian made the call and tabled Q♣ 8♣ which would need to improve against Fuller's pocket sixes. The turn was a dream, the A♣, and after the river failed to fill up Fuller's boat the gargantuan pot was shipped to Thew.
On life support after that hand, Thomas Fuller was dispatched a few moments later by Hungary's Denes Tamas Kalo, by far the quietest player at the table at the time. Fuller got his money in bad with A♥ 6♣ against Kalo's pocket sevens and we had our fourth-place finisher. €160,800 was the American's payday as he quietly made his way to the exit.
With that monster pot Julian Thew was the undisputed heavyweight of the chip counts, with Kalo trailing and Poleshchuk miles behind on the short stack. It didn't take the Russian long to get said short stack in the middle, against Denes Kalo, and after he was unable to make his A♠ Q♠ hold up against Kalo's K♣ J♦ we were ready for heads-up play.
With Thew in the lead with approximately $1.7 million to the $1.1 million of Kalo, the two players took a short stroll to talk business. Unlike some poker tours in the world which will remain nameless, deals are not verboten on the EPT. An agreement was hammered out whereby Thew would take €550K, Kalo would take €450K and they would play it out for the remaining €45,000 and the title.
The blinds were already substantial, at $15,000/$30,000, and after a full level of sparring in which Thew built up his lead to more than 2-1, the price of poker went up to $20K/$40K. There wasn't much room for maneuvering at this point and it only took a few hands for the money to find its way into the middle. Thew opened from the button, Kalo re-raised from the big blind, Thew moved in and, after a bit of time in the tank, Kalo made the call. A♦ 8♦ for Thew was in great shape against Kalo's A♠ 5♥ and after the board ran devoid of bad beats or chops it was all over.
Taking the aforementioned sums agreed upon in the deal the two players shook hands and Julian Thew found himself confronted with the media circus that is a major-tournament winner's circle. Two trophies, one from the EPT and one from Casino Baden, were presented, photos were taken and PL.com got down to the business of interviewing our champion. A truly gracious winner, Julian Thew was a pleasure to watch play and a joy to speak to after winning.
The interview will be up after PL.com joins Julian at the bar for a few celebratory libations - we're nothing if not polite -, so make sure to check back in a few hours to get the inside scoop straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
The next stop on PL.com's tour of absolute tournament-coverage domination is Barcelona where the WPT is touching down in just two days' time. We'll be there, along with all the biggest names in the game of poker, but it just wouldn't be the same without you. So as always I advise you to do the right thing and check in frequently and for long periods of time as we give you everything you need to know about the world of poker.