After a day full of action, just six players remain in the €50,000 Super High Roller at the last ever PokerStars European Poker Tour event, in Prague.
Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier (photo, left) bubbled the event, going out in eighth place while King's Casino Rozvadov owner Leon Tsoukernik (photo, right) leads the star-packed final table.
Charlie Carrel, two-time EPT High Roller champion, sits in second place. Russian online player Viacheslav Buldygin comes into Day 3 third in chips. Rounding out the table are German 2013 WPT Prague winner Julian Thomas, 2014 EPT Prague Super High Roller runner-up Paul Newey and EPT Deauville High Roller champion Juha Helppi.
|Seat||Player||Country||Chip Count||Big Blinds|
|1||Leon Tsoukernik||Czech Republic||4,330,000||87|
|2||Paul Newey||United Kingdom||955,000||19|
|3||Charlie Carrel||United Kingdom||3,565,000||71|
The penultimate day of the Super High Roller started with three players signing up, bringing the total to 49 entries (39 unique players, plus 10 reentries). Besides David Yan and Martin Kabrhel giving it another go after having played on Day 1 already, Justin Bonomo was the sole new player in the field. Bonomo came straight from Vegas where he had made the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic final table (fifth for $345,272), but didn't last long in Prague. He spun up a stack before doubling Ali Reza Fatehi and busting to Martin Kozlov not much later.
By that time, Steffen Sontheimer and Max Silver had already fallen. They wouldn't be the only ones; Russian players Sergey Lebedev and Vladimir Troyanovskiy followed them to the rail rather quickly.
Steve O'Dwyer, who won this event last year for €746,543, doubled early in the day through Mustapha Kanit, but wouldn't put those chips to good use. Bit by bit he lost his precious stack and eventually got it in with ace-seven against the kings of Leon Tsoukernik.
While big names like Isaac Haxton (ace-nine to the ace-eight of Vojtech Ruzicka), Ben Heath (fives to ElkY's aces) and Martin Kabrhel (king-queen to Vojtech Ruzicka's ace-ten) all fell, Leon Tsoukernik was gaining chips by the dozens. The King's Casino Rozvadov owner splashed around in a lot of pots; showing big bluffs, tricky semi-bluffs and sneaky value bets. Like yesterday, Tsoukernik was the life of the party, battling with his neighbor Charlie Carrel on multiple occasions and coming out on top just as many times as going under.
Tsoukernik first busted Koray Aldemir in a huge pot to get his stack up to 1.8 million. He added another 2 million in a huge three-bet pot against Carrel and Jean-Noel Thorel. Tsoukernik got it in with a set of nines against the top pair and top kicker Thorel held with ace-king, and had his French opponent drawing dead on the turn.
That was after Charlie Carrel had taken care of Mustapha Kanit in a pot just as big. Kanit couldn't get away from his straight, only to discover upon showdown that his British adversary had the nut flush.
While Carrel and Tsoukernik took care of the big pots, most other players built their stacks by playing small ball. Paul Newey, as patient as ever, waited for his spots and got it in with big hands several times to hang in there and make the money. He finished runner-up in 2014 for €557,090, and tomorrow he'll be back on the final table to try and one-up that result.
PokerStars Team Pro Grospellier, once a staple on the EPT Super High Roller scene but absent in recent years, made his return to the big stage here in Prague. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, he ended up bubbling the event. Down to just short of four big blinds, he pushed with pocket fives. Leon Tsoukernik called with nine-eight and flopped a nine to send "ElkY" packing.
With that, the remaining seven players were in the money and guaranteed €123,520. Anthony Zinno, who bubbled this event last year going out against Dzmitry Urbanovich, made the money this year, but won't be coming back on Tuesday's final day. He went out in seventh place when his jack-ten was up against Paul Newey's ace-queen. Zinno hit a jack on the flop to stay hopeful, but the river gave Newey a straight and the tournament was six-handed.
With that, and almost 50 minutes left in the 25,000/50,000-level, play was done for the day. The remaining six players return to the Hilton Hotel Prague Tuesday at noon to play down to a winner. The final table will be live streamed with hole cards up on a one-hour delay. PokerNews coverage of the final table, with every hand covered, resumes at 1 p.m. local time.
Seat 1 — Leon Tsoukernik (4,330,000, 87 BBs)
One of Europe's true high rollers, Tsoukernik runs the show over at King's Casino on the Western edge of the Czech Republic but has made the short journey to Prague for this last EPT Super High Roller. Tsoukernik is no stranger to big action, having been a participant in a number of nosebleed cash games in his home casino against the likes of Patrik Antonius and other big-name pros. Tournaments don't see to be his area of expertise as he has just one recorded cash, coming back in 2011 for €33,020. It's clear the joy of pulling off big bluffs plays a central role in Tsoukernik's drive to play poker, and he's certainly not afraid to get chips in the middle at any time. He'll be active as ever in seeking his first big tournament cash.
Seat 2 — Paul Newey (955,000, 19 BBs)
Newey is one of the high rollers without a true poker pedigree in the sense that he did not build a roll in smaller buy-in events. The well-bankrolled Brit hopped into deep water pretty much right away and has cut his teeth against some of the world's best tournament players over the past few years. Observe nearly any high buy-in event around the globe recently, and one was likely to lay eyes on Newey. He has been a regular face at final tables, including making the second $1 million Big One for One Drop final table in 2014. He's totaled over $4 million in cashes but is still seeking that first big win. Will this be it for him?
Seat 3 — Charlie Carrel (3,565,000, 71 BBs)
A young British pro who crushed online under the name "Epiphany77" on PokerStars, Carrel has made a remarkably smooth transition to live poker. He has already bagged a pair of EPT High Roller titles, winning a €25,500 High Roller at EPT Grand Final 2015 for €1.1 million and a €10,200 High Roller at EPT Dublin for €164,500. Indeed, Carrel is already acutely attuned to looking for live tells, as he spends quite some time studying the faces and reactions of opponents in every notable hand and isn't afraid to get the banter going in search of information. Carrel's looking to add to his $3 million in live cashes and is certainly a favourite to do so given his stack.
Seat 4 — Julian Thomas (535,000, 11 BBs)
Thomas is a young German grinder, and while he hasn't attained the fame or fortune of some of his compatriots like Ole Schemion and Christoph Vogelsang, he still doesn't lack for some nice results. Thomas' best live score came in this very city in 2013, when he beat out a field of 306 runners to win World Poker Tour Prague for €206,230, almost exactly half of his live cashes. Thomas has shown he isn't afraid to gamble in big spots, like when he surprised Anthony Zinno with a raise-call for almost 20 big blinds holding king-jack, and he'll take that fearless attitude to the final table.
Seat 5 — Viacheslav Buldygin (1,230,000, 25 BBs)
Not much is known about Buldygin, a young Russian player who has reportedly done well online. That would be the likely explanation for Buldygin's ability to play in some of the high-stakes live events, considering he had no live cashes until August 2015. Since then, he has been unafraid to mix it up with in the nosebleeds of the EPT, with three of his four live cashes coming in EPT High Rollers to account for most of his $258,094. Buldygin has been close to grabbing wins twice but finished runner-up in a pair of Malta events. He's a bit hot right now after cashing the €10,000 prelim event here at EPT Prague for €20,250.
Seat 6 — Juha Helppi (1,615,000, 35 BBs)
Among the high roller community, few have been doing it as long as Helppi, whose first live cash came way back in the day at an event called Helsinki Freezeout 2001 for just over $5,000. The Finn has come a very long way since then with over $6.5 million in cashes and nary a score bigger than $400,000. Helppi has experienced his share of success on EPT high rollers, with five top-five finishes. One of those came in this very event two years ago, when Helppi finished fourth for €269,360 in a tournament won by Leonid Markin. He tends to be the quiet sort at the table, contrasting him a bit with some of his opponents here, but the Finn will be drawing on a vast well of experience.