The first major poker tournament of 2008 has come to an end with Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier's victory at the PokerStars European Poker Tour PokerStars.net Caribbean Adventure after a thrilling seven-hour final table staged in front of an aquarium stocked full of gigantic, man-eating fish.
Day 5 of the EPT PCA began at the ungodly hour of 10 a.m. (EST) on Thursday with the arrival of all the world's assembled poker media at the final table. Reportedly, the early start time, a tradition in the Bahamas dating from back when they used to film the final tables outside, was necessitated by the fact that someone had rented out the Grand Ballroom for later in the evening and nobody quite felt like moving the whole setup outside for old times' sake.
Unfortunately, no one thought to inform the final eight players, who showed up an hour later without any apparent empathy for their counterparts in the media. As we waited for the field to arrive, however, we had plenty of time to debate the total number of minutes it would take for chip leader David Pham's nines-up.
Grospellier would further augment his stack when he sent Christian Harder, another 20-year-old American, to the cashier after the short-stacked "charder30" open-shoved with pocket sevens and ran into the former pro Starcraft player's pocket jacks. Harder went out in seventh place and earned $200,000 for his time.
ElkY Erases Big Egypt
Next to see his fortunes fail was 19-year-old American Elpayaa, who moved all-in for his last $1.5 million over the top of a $225,000 raise from ElkY and was called by the French pro, who had more or less made it his mission to eliminate every player at the final table and aimed to do away with Big Egypt holding A♠ Q♠ to his rival's K♥ J♥.
The board came 8♣ 4♠ 3♦ 6♣ 2♠ and such was the end of Elpayaa, who took home $300,000 for his sixth-place finish.
Craig Hopkins entered the day second-last in chips and seemed to be a perennial short stack at the final table, but managed to turn some tight play into a fifth-place finish and $450,000 thanks to a tenacious effort at the felt on Thursday.
The sole surviving Englishman was finally felted after David Pham called his pre-flop all-in with pocket tens to Hopkins' K♦ 8♦. The board came T♥ 9♥ 7♠ K♥ 2♣ and that was the end of Britannia's presence on the baize.
With four players to go, Grospellier had planted himself firmly in the driver's seat, holding $10 million of the available $22 million chips and seeing none of his competitors able to amass more than $4.7 million to mount a serious challenge to his quest for the title.
Within a few hands, ElkY would further add to his stack while simultaneously reducing the field by one when he sent David Pham to the rail in a hand that played out as follows: ElkY raised to $400,000 under the gun and Pham made the call in the big blind.
The flop came K♥ Q♥ 5♦ and both players checked, but after the flop was the J♦ and the Dragon checked ElkY bet out $700,000 and saw his rival move all-in for another $2.5 million. After some thought, Grospellier decided he had to call and showed A♦ 2♦ for the nut flush draw, while Pham held Q♣ 5♣ for two pair.
The river was the 7♦ and ElkY made his flush, thus eliminating Pham in fourth place. The Dragon takes home $600,000 for his week in the Bahamas.
Then it was Kris Kuykendall's turn. The final member of the 20-something American troupe (he's 25), Kuykendall was crippled by Hafiz Khan when the two got all-in with A♦ J♦ and pocket kings, respectively, and after an unlucky chop a few hands later the Cincinnati Kid was forced all-in for his last $1.5 million with K♦ Q♠ against Khan's A♥ J♥.
The board came 6♦ 6♥ 4♥ J♠ 3♠, sending Kuykendall out in third place, the beneficiary of an $800,000 golden parachute.
That left only ElkY and 33-year-old pro Hafiz Khan, and after a substantial break the players returned to the tables for heads-up play having hammered out a deal that sought to close a bit of the almost $1 million gap between first and second.
ElkY Wins PCA Main Event for $1.75 Million!
As it panned out, ElkY entered heads-up play guaranteed $1.45 million and Khan $1.35 million with $300,000 left on the table.
Perhaps relaxed a bit by the guarantee of substantial figures, the players didn't take long to decide things while heads-up, with Khan moving all-in for his last $6 million after a few inconsequential hands and Grospellier happy to call with pocket eights.
Khan turned up 9♣ 3♥ for the nut bluff and after the board came 7♥ 5♣ 2♦ 4♦ 4♥ the octos held and Bertrand Grospellier was PCA champ!
Congratulations are in order to both Grospellier and Khan, and to PokerStars and tournament director Mike Ward for organizing another incredible tournament.
Further congratulations are due the Bahamas, which did a great job filling in for the continent of Europe and can go back to the Americas with its collective head held high. See ya!
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