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Sensational comeback seals EPT title
Fairy tale stories are rare in poker, but Dutchman Pieter de Korver's thrilling comeback to take the PokerStars.com EPT Grand Final in Monaco was just that.
Reduced to less than three big blinds at one stage, De Korver stormed back to take the title in dramatic fashion, steamrolling the other final table participants in the process.
"It feels incredible," de Korver told Pokerlistings. "It was an amazing rush. I felt invincible."
It was a fittingly dramatic denouement to what has proved an incredible tournament.
Coming into the final table with a big chip lead, Norwegian Dag Martin Mikkelsen was heavily favored for the title and the early stages only seemed to confirm this prediction.
Mikkelsen wasted little time in turning his big chip lead into a dominating one, racing his queens versus the ace-king of fellow big stack Peter Traply for a gargantuan 8 million chip pot.
He won the crucial race, busting a distraught Traply in eighth spot for €170,000.
Mikkelsen then went on to send German Daniel Zink to the rail in seventh place for €250,000 and it looked like the Norwegian's name was already on the title.
Nothing can be taken for granted in poker, however, and Mikkelsen started to bleed chips off soon after, growing visibly frustrated as play continued.
About that time Russian Mikhail Tulchinskiy's star began to rise as he eliminated Alem Shah and Eric Qu in close succession to move into second spot on the leader board.
But from that point on it was the Pieter de Korver show.
The Dutchman had come into the final table as one of the shorter stacks and when Matt Woodward won a big coin-flip against him, he looked to be down and out with just three big blinds.
That proved highly presumptuous.
Instead, De Korver went on the heater of all heaters, winning double through after double through to smash his way back into contention.
"Everytime I was winning an all-in I was laughing," he said "'Can I lose a coin-flip?' I was asking myself."
In contrast, Mikkelsen seemed frustrated at his inability to finish the Dutchman off.
A fact that may have led to the huge, unsuccessful bluff he attempted with pure air.
Perhaps Mikkelsen should have known better than to take on a man in such red-hot form and when De Korver called with a full house, Mikkelsen's stack was decimated.
There was no Korver-esque recovery in the offing and a few hands later Mikkelsen went out fourth.
The hand also propelled De Korver into a big chip lead, completing the fairy tale comeback that had looked so unlikely just a short while earlier.
It was actually Woodward who sent the Tulchinskiy to the rail third, but the momentum leading up to heads-up was still with the Dutchman.
As play continued Woodward struggled to cope with the aggression and pressure De Korver piled on him as the vocal Dutch supporters in the crowd helped spur him on.
"They drove for 15 hours to come and watch me," de Korver explained. "I wanted to keep them entertained."
He did just that, pummelling Woodward into submission to a crescendo of whoops and cheers from his adoring fans, eventually polishing the American off after an hour-long heads up battle.
Woodward collected a handy €1,300,000 for his second place finish.
Pieter de Korver, however, was the man to claim the title, grabbing €2,300,000 for the win.
"My opponents seemed so focused," he said, revealing his blueprint for success. "I was just having fun. If I'm not having fun, I'll do something else."
For a detailed account of how the EPT Grand Final played out, check out PokerListings' Live Updates.