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Martin scoops EPT London thanks to skill, luck
Even when you know what you're doing at the poker table, it's better to be lucky than good. Just ask Michael Martin, the EPT's newest champion, who took down PokerStars.com EPT London last night thanks to some incredible good fortune.
The 24-year-old American began the day squarely in the middle of the pack with $718,000 in chips, putting him just a double-up away from the chip lead held by his countryman, Eric Liu. Things would eventually turn ugly for Martin before repeatedly swinging back in his favor.
Antony Lellouche was just ahead of Martin in the standing to start the day but trailed him by $240,000 in chips. But Lellouche found himself playing the role of the short stacks' ATM in the early stages of the final table.
The Frenchman doubled up both Canada's Philippe D'Auteuil (whose 4-4 outran A-K) and Germany's Johannes Strassman (whose A-A held up against 7-7) before shoving all-in with A♥ 9♥; Strassman made the call with K♠ J♠ and sent Lellouche packing in eighth place with £81,569 when a king hit the flop. It was Lellouche's third EPT final table, and surely a disappointing one for him.
Down to just a few big blinds, he got his stack with A♦ Q♣ against Strassman's K♠ J♣ and appeared to be heading for the rail when the board read T♠ 8♦ 2♠ K♦. The American caught a break on the river, though, when the Js gave him a broadway straight and a $600,000 stack.
Strassman doubled up one more time before finally meeting his ultimate fate in a standard coin-flip situation. Crippled by a Horecki suck-out on the previous hand, Strassman got his stack in the middle with J♠ J♥ against Michael Martin's K♦ Q♥, only to see a queen hit the flop.
The third time on the EPT's biggest stage wasn't the charm for Strassman, and he took home £120,723 for his seventh-place finish.
Alan Smurfit would be the next to go. After coming in with the short stack to start the day and playing very few hands in front of the TV cameras, he was lucky to have two other players go out before him.
He eventually moved all in with A♠ 4♥ and ran into Michael Martin's J♦ J♥. A jack on the flop ended Smurfit's chapter in the final-table storybook, bouncing him in sixth place for £153,351.
Bookending Smurfit's departure was a polar ice cap style meltdown from Canada's only final-table hope. Philippe D'Auteuil's downfall began when he decided to get aggressive after Marcin Horecki opened the pot; he shoved a stack worth roughly $1 million in the middle with A♣ 9♥ in response.
Horecki made a quick call with A♦ K♦, which held up to cripple D'Auteuil to a stack of just $165,000. After managing to double up and seeing Smurfit hit the rail, D'Auteuil shoved with 8♣ 8♠ and ran into Horecki's K♥ K♦; the two-outer never materialized, leaving D'Auteuil with a £195,766 check to console him.
That may not have been enough, though, if his abrupt interview with EPT hostess Kara Scott - in which he both denigrated the EPT structure and made some unfortunate racial remarks - was any indication.
Horecki and Eric Liu were virtually tied for the chip lead at the dinner break, but Liu would collapse in short order once the players returned. First he doubled up Sweden's Michael Tureniec when his A♣ 6♣ never came close to cracking the Swede's pocket aces.
Then, following a coin-flip double-up against fellow American Martin, Liu would come crashing down when he shoved with J♠ T♥ against Martin's A♣ 9♣; he flopped a gut-shot draw when the board came A♥ K♠ 5♣ but caught no more help, and went home in fourth place with £234,920.
The hand with Liu had actually capped off a spectacular comeback for Martin, who had found himself all-in a few hands before with a lonely pair of eights against both Horecki and Tureniec; the pocket pair managed to hold and triple Martin's stack.
On the next hand he got his entire stack in the middle with pocket nines against Tureniec's K♠ 7♠, only to see the flop come K♥ J♣ 7♦; the 7♠ on the turn gave the Swede a full house, but the 9♥ on the river gave Martin the proverbial "bigger boat" and kept him going.
He boosted himself to $1.4 million when his pocket aces held up against Tureniec's Q♠ J♥, and capped off a run to $2.8 million by eliminating Liu in the hand recounted above.
Three-handed play didn't take long to turn to heads-up action when Martin took control.
First he caught trips on the river and got paid off by Horecki to claim a pot worth over $800,000. Then he closed out Horecki with another miraculous river card; the Polish PokerStars pro shipped with K♥ 8♦ against Martin's K♠ J♥ and caught the 8♥ on the turn before Martin came back with the J♠ on the river to claim the pot. Horecki took home £303,439 for his third-place finish.
Martin held a significant chip advantage over Tureniec as heads-up play began, but the Swede wouldn't go down without a fight. He doubled through Martin in the early going when his A♣ J♥ flopped trips and then managed to claw his way back to almost even through sheer Scandie aggression. In the end, though, it was all about timing.
Tureniec ran a queen-high bluff that came up short when Martin made a big call with second pair for a pot worth $2.2 million. Just a few hands later he shoved with K♥ 9♣ and Martin called with 4♥ 4♣. The 6♥ 3♠ 2♦ 4♦ 2♠ board gave Martin a full house and the right to raise the EPT London championship trophy over his head for all the photographers in the house. He also took home a cool £1 million. Tureniec, meanwhile, gets a healthy consolation prize of £525,314 for his second-place finish.