It was quite a year for British poker players on the PokerStars European Poker Tour especially for Rupert Elder and Zimnan Ziyard, two friends who met at Warwick University and two friends who now have EPT Main Event titles to their name.
Elder had already had a number of live scores in his relatively short career before he really hit the big time at the end of April when he decided, along with 986 of his fellow poker players, to enter the €5,000 EPT San Remo Main Event. The tournament attracted some of the best player from around the world due to the huge prize pool and the fact the majority of the field were Italian! Amongst those exchanging €5,000 for 30,000 tournament chips were the likes of Vanessa Selbst, John Eames, Roberto Romanello, Carter Phillips, Joe Cada and Andrew Teng, along with three great players who made the final table Team PokerStars Pro Max Lykov, Xuan Liu and Elder's heads-up opponent Max Heinzelmann.
Elder started the one-on-one battle with his talented German opponent holding 20,290,000 to 9,245,000 chip advantage but Heinzelmann not only fought his way back into contention but managed to completely turn the tie on its head, but one hand span the tie around once more and seemed to take the wind out of Heinzelmann's sails.
With blinds 80,000/160,000/20,000a Heinzelmann min-raised to 320,000 and Elder made the call. A flop reading saw Heinzelmann bet 300,000, Elder raise to 825,000 then Heinzelmann make it 1,700,000 to play. Elder called and the pot was already massive. It grew even further when Heinzelmann bet 2,410,000 on the arrival of the , Elder shoved and the German snapped him off. Elder turned over for a set but Heinzelmann had him crushed as his had flopped a straight! But just as it looked like Elder was to be eliminated the fell on the river to gift him a full house and the chip lead.
It was all over half hour later when Heinzelmann open-shoved holding and Elder made the call with . The board ran out and Elder had won the EPT San Remo Main Event and was now €930,000 richer!
Then in November, at the inaugural EPT Loutraki, all eyes were on Elder again as he found himself down to the final 13 players and it looked like he could become the first-ever EPT champion. However, the headline writers had to come up with something new because Elder was sent packing in 13th spot by his good friend Zimnan Ziyard. Ziyard, or Zimmy to his friends, then put his friend's chips to good use and went on to win the title!
Until Loutraki Ziyard was still looking for the one big score to put him on the map, although he had a number of four figure cashes to his name in 2010. At the start of 2011 Ziyard finished 20th in the EPT Deauville Main Event for a then career-best haul of €24,000 but he smashed that personal best when he came sixth in the $3,000 Pot Limit Omaha event for $71,548. But after his super performance in Greece Ziyard now has a major title and a massive six figure payout on his CV and it will almost certainly be the first of many.
Ziyard was involved in a brilliant battle when three-handed that saw each of the players use ICM almost perfectly, which also resulted in three-handed play taking several hours. Then the heads-up battle was an intense affair and it came to a spectacular ending too.
Both Ziyard and Hauke Heseding exchanged the lead several times during heads-up but when the last hand took place both players were almost dead level. Heseding opened to 325,000 on the button and Ziyard called. The dealer put out the flop, Ziyard checked then called a 325,000 continuation bet from Heseding. The turn was the and Ziyard checked for a second time. Heseding then bet again making it 575,000 to play and Ziyard called again. The final community card was the and Ziyard now lead out with a 1,075,000 bet only to see Heseding move all in after thnking for around a minute. Ziyard made the call and turned over for two pair whilst Heseding sheepishly revealed for complete air. Once the dealer had counted the stacks it became apparent that Ziyard covered his opponent by 150,000, less than one big blind, and had won EPT Loutraki!
Two great wins for two great players and anyone who has met either of them, as I have, will say they are two of the nicest guys you can meet in the game. Here's to more success to them both in 2012.
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