It was, to PL.com's knowledge at least, the first final table ever to be conducted inside the walls of a castle. Six players took to the felt at the beginning of the evening but, as is the case in all tournaments, only one had the privilege of emerging victorious. Markus Lehmann of Austria was the one lucky individual and in order to go the distance he had to wade through the likes of Gus Hansen, Christer Johansson and Steve Sung.
The evening was originally slated to get underway at 5 p.m. but when that time arrived it became obvious we were in for a bit of a wait. A little over an hour later the players were in their seats and the action began.
Coming into the day it was Russia's Vladimir Poleshchuk - whom PL.com first saw just a week ago when he finished third in the PokerStars European Poker Tour Baden main event - on the short stack. It didn't take him long to get what few chips he had into the middle. He moved in a few times before being looked up on what would be the last hand of his tournament. Poleshchuk shipped it in from the button holding K♠ 9♥ and Steve Sung made a strong call with A♦ 2♠. The board was unable to extricate the Russian from his predicament, bestowing upon him the honor of being the first final-table contender to be sent to the rail.
Not long after Poleshchuk's trip to the exit came the announcement of a quick five-minute tape-change break. Five minutes went by and the action did not resume. Half an hour went by and the action did not resume. About two hours later the action finally did get underway again. Apparently there was some sort of technical difficulty having to do with the cameras which took some time to sort out.
With that snafu behind us the action picked up and we saw one of the first in a long series of hands that would take Markus Lehmann to victory. One of the most pivotal pots Lehmann took down was against Gus Hansen, who had started the day atop the chip counts. Lehmann opened the pot and it was folded to Hansen, who was in the big blind.
Hansen eyed his opponent's stack and announced that he wanted to raise half of Lehmann's available stack. After a quick visual accounting Hansen made it $175,000. Lehmann only took a second before moving in and Gus, priced into the hand, made a reluctant call. The Great Dane must have been surprised to see that his A♠ T♠ was ahead of Lehmann's 7♣ 8♣. The flop put Lehmann in the lead when an eight hit the felt, doubling the Austrian and crippling the Dane. Hansen was unable to recover.
Shortly after it was Gus Hansen all-in after making a raise and getting a call from France's Ludovic Lacay. The flop came Q♣ 6♥ 4♥ and Hansen only took a moment before moving in. Ludovic snap-called and Hansen knew he was in trouble, commenting, "And I'm drawing dead." He wasn't quite dead in the water but his A♠ T♠ needed running cards to crack Lacay's pocket aces. When the board failed to cooperate Hansen was gone in fifth, leaving just Steve Sung and Christer Johansson as the big names at the table.
Along with the remainder of Hansen's stack, Ludovic Lacay took down a few big pots in quick succession and established himself as the dominant chip leader. Right behind him was Markus Lehmann who was quickly climbing the chip counts, knocking out Steve Sung on his way to the top.
Sung's final hand began with him limping from the button, Lacay calling from the small blind and Markus Lehmann raising from the big blind. Sung then moved in and after Lacay folded, Lehmann insta-called. A♥ A♦ for Lehmann were, to the astonishment of everyone assembled, in great shape against Sung's K♦ K♥. The J♠ 9♥ 8♥ flop didn't do much to change the situation but the K♥ on the turn made things interesting.
Sung had nailed his set but with one card still to come and Lehmann drawing to the nut flush, he wasn't out of the woods yet. Sung's fan section, which included J.C. Alvarado, Adam Levy, Nam Le and Kirk Morrison, was on its feet along with the rest of the audience, watching in disbelief as the T♥ hit the river. With that roller-coaster hand Steve Sung was out, leaving Christer Johansson as the sole surviving name-brand pro left in the mix, short-stacked as he was at the time.
After a few repeated all-ins Johansson saw an unraised flop of T♣ 8♥ 7♦ and led out at the pot. He got a call from the other player in the hand, Markus Lehmann, and the K♠ hit the turn. Johansson fired again on fourth street and was raised all-in by his opponent. With a substantial portion of his stack already invested Johansson made the call and saw his Q♣ T♥ had been run down by Lehmann's K♥ 5♥. The river was a brick and just like that we were on to the heads-up match.
Ludovic Lacay began the mano-a-mano segment of the evening with a slight edge in the chip department with $1,809,000 to Lehmann's $1,583,000 but it didn't take long for the underdog to pull even and surpass his opponent. Through a combination of aggressive play and good cards when it counted, Lehmann amassed a more than 2-1 lead going into what turned out to be the last hand of the tournament.
After Markus opened the pot to $125,000, with blinds of $25K/$50K, Ludovic re-popped to $350,000. After Lehmann made the call and the flop had come 8♠ 5♠ 3♥ Lacay shipped it. Lehmann snap-called and calmly tabled K♥ 8♦. We saw he was in the lead against the Frenchman's A♠ 5♣ and after the board finished out with nothing but blanks the tournament was over and Markus Lehmann was champion.
While there wasn't room in this blog to cover everything that happened today, luckily for you PL.com has a place where that information lives. Simply click through to our Live Updates page and take a gander at all the big pots, bad beats and brilliant plays that decided this championship.
As we stated earlier, it's not every day one gets to go to a castle to see the conclusion of a major poker tournament. PL.com would like to thank the WPT, Casino Peralada and everyone else who made this possible for a wonderful couple of days. We'd also like to congratulate Markus Lehmann and all the other players who cashed in this event. PL.com will be back on the scene next year and if you play your cards right, we might just see you there.