EPT Monte Carlo: Final Table Report

The river card hit. All that mattered to Jeff Williams was that the card was not an eight or a six. For a split second, it appeared the worst possible thing had happened. But, no, no. It was not an eight. It was the half-shape of an eight. It was a three. Williams, perhaps for the first time in three days, exhaled. Then he looked four rows up in the bleachers and gave his parents a look that said, undeniably, "Thank you."

To define a parent's pride, one should look no further than he gut-wrenching days spent by Dave and Cindy Williams as the European Poker Tour Grand Final wound its way through its early stages. Stuck in the middle of Georgia, they knew their 19-year-old son Jeff was half a world away. They knew he was locked in the competition of his young life. They knew huge money was on the line and yet, they were relegated to watching on the PokerStars Blog, clicking refesh every few minutes, and learning that their son's stack of chips was changing with every fevered beat of his parents' hearts.

It is a fifteen hour trip from Atlanta, Georgia, through New York City, to Nice, France, and then a wild taxi ride at 140 kph to Monte Carlo. Along that trip, Cindy Williams held a Blackberry and read the blog as she traveled. Like any poker game, there was the undeniable chance that one turn of an ugly card could render the Williams' trip useless. And yet, they traveled on, with hope and pride swelling in their hearts at every tiresome connection.

Little could they imagine what would happen in the next 24 hours.





The final table of the European Poker Tour Grand final was as diverse as the starting field. Made up of pros and internet qualifiers, it stood out both for its eclectic breed of players and the talent it took to rise to the final eight. Here's how this blog decribed the players as they sat down to fight for the big money:


Seat 1: Marc Karam (Canada) 231,900

Marc hails from Ottawa, Canada and in recent months has developed quite a reputation as a poker player there. After cashing in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, the well-dressed PokerStars qualifier quietly made his way to the final table in Monte Carlo.

Seat 2: Marcel Luske (Holland) 486,000
A player who needs no intrudction, The Flying Dutchman is famous all over the world for his stellar poker play, sharp dress, upside-down sunglasses, and table-side serenades.





Seat 3: Jeff Williams (USA) 495, 700
American University of Georgia Student Jeff Williams (known online as "yellowsub86") traveled from the music capital of the Southeast, Athens, GA, to play in his first major live event. At just 19, he stands to make more money than he's ever seen. As a surprise, the Bobby Baldwin look-alike's parents just dropped in before the final table to root him on. Williams qualified on PokerStars.com.

Seat 4: Ross Boatman (UK) 119,700
Another player in need of no introduction, Ross Boatman is a member of the famous (perhaps, infamous) Hendon Mob. Boatman has been a force at the tables for years and it comes as no surprise to anyone that Boatman is here.



Seat 5: Thierry Cazals (France) 766,650
French management consultant Thierry Cazals makes a profession of turning businesses from failing to success. Now, he has turned several near-death poker experiences into the chip lead at the final table.




Seat 6: Arshad Hussain (UK) 131,600
A well-known UK player with a taste for flashy cars, Arshad Hussain is an FPP qualifier on PokerStars.com. When heads up in his PokerStars qualifier, Arshad's opponent offered him a deal, which he refused, preferring to play in this event than take any cash. He had only 6000 in chips after day one and was feeling horrible about his chances. But in a taxi, a cameraman told him about young Ben Grundy who last year survived on a shortstack all the way to the final table. Arshad has done the same.

Seat 7: Fraser Dunphy (UK) 125,600
Fraser Dunphy is like a lot of recent graduated university students. It's been several months since he graduated. Since then, he's not found himself in a job. Nonetheless, he's found a way to pay the bills. He's been playing poker. He says any money he makes at this final table will be far and away his biggest win. No word on whether he'll keep looking for a job after this.

Seat 8: Aleksander Strandli (Norway) 633,500

Aleksander 'Klinsmann18' Strandli's dream was to join the Norway army equivalent of the SAS. But his nickname of Smaen, which means 'the little one' in Norwegian couldn't have been more apt. Aleksander only weighs 64kg. SAS training involves running around with a 68kg backpack on. Within a few days, Aleksander had dislocated his shoulder and that was the end of that. So young Aleksander, now 21, turns his attention to poker and starts a year of intense online (PokerStars, of course) and Oslo card room performances. In February, an Norwegian online company took Aleks to the EPT Deauville tournament as a blogger. While there, he entered a $500 side event, and won it for 68,000 euros. A few weeks later, he qualifies on PokerStars.com for the EPT Grand Final. And now he's on the final table as second chip leader ...guaranteed at least 84,000 euros even if he goes out in the next five minutes!

***

Thierry Cazals lived his poker life on a knife's edge. It had been less than 24 hours since he had pushed in every one of his chips with no more than ace-high and a gutshot straight draw. The young Jeff Williams, with top pair-top kicker, called in a flash. With just one card to come, Williams was more than a 90% favorite to win the hand. French cheers of elation blasted through the tournament room when an eight fell to fill in the gutshot draw and save Cazals' tournament. Less than an hour later, Cazals would call an all-in with the five an two of spades in his hand. He had the flush, but there was no way of knowing if he was anywhere close to good. Nonetheless, his opponent was on a stone bluff and Cazals rocketed to the chip lead.

Now, he sat at the final table and had only played two hands when fate turned her back on him. Cazals raised the 10,000 big blind to 40,000. Fraser Dunphy, short-stacked, pushed all-in. Cazals quickly called the additional 83,000 with AK. Dunphy showed AJ. The board ran out quickly...an eight, a two, a three, a five...a jack. It's impossible to know whether Cazals thought about his four-outer from the night before. However, it's certain Cazals knew that he'd just been beaten by a three-outer. And it wouldn't be the last time.

However, where bad luck was concerned, it was Marcel Luske who suffered the worst. Less than 20 minutes into play, Ross Boatman got all his chips in the middle with AK versus Luske's QQ. A king on the flop and ace on the river doubled-up Boatman and left the Flying Dutchman shaking his head. Within another 45 minutes, Luske came in for a raise with AQ. This time, he called an all-in from short-stacked Arshad Hussain. This time, there was no ace, and again, Luske suffered the worst of it.

As Luske's bad luck drama played out, a battle began to brew between Jeff Williams and Fraser Dunphy. Separated by just a few odd years in age, the two youngsters took to battle. Every time Dunphy would raise, Williams would come over the top and force Dunphy to fold. It happened time and again, until finally Dunphy had enough of it--and had the hand with which to battle. He got all his money in with pocket aces versus' Williams' pocket tens. A ten fell on the flop and Dunphy disappeared as fast as his chips--only now, Dunphy was 84,000 euros richer for his eighth place finish.

It may have been the dynamic of the table or just good old fashioned testosterone. Regardless, the players found themselves picking an opponent and battling with him mercilessly. First it was Williams and Dunphy. Then, it was Husssain and Luske. Then it was Williams and Aleksander Strandli. And then came the fight between Luske and Canadian Marc Karam.

With the blinds now at 7500/15000/1500, Karam came in for a raise to 45,000. Luske called from the small blind. When the flop came out, 3-9-A, Luske moved all in for his final 76,000. And then began an odd conversation. The two men began to chat like they were having tea. In fact, Luske poured a cup of tea and stirred in some sugar while Karam pondered whether to call. Karam counted out his chips, perhaps wondering if Luske was playing the old stop-and-go on him. The question was, how strong was Karam? Apparently, not strong enough, as he soon mucked.

As Luske raked in his chips and drank his tea, the wholesale pillaging of Cazals' stack continued. Hoping to make a flush with a a small spade in his hand and three on the board, Cazals put Hussain all in. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, Hussain had flopped top two pair. Hussain's hand not only held up, it improved to a full house by the river. Again, Cazals' stack took a hit.

Moments later, after doubling up Ross Boatman with AT versus Boatman's 77, Jeff Williams took a shot against the Frenchman. Williams came in for a raise in late position and Cazals made it 190,000 to go from the blinds. Williams decided to put all his money in and Cazals called in an instant with AJ. Williams, on the verge of elimination, elatedly flipped over AQ. Williams' hand held up and Cazals, once the chip leader, fell into a dire set of circumstances.

With that battle complete, the fight between Karam and Luske continued. Perhaps not content to have Luske play back at him on the flop, Karam pushed all in from the button with J7. Luske was happy to call with pocket eights. The flop was meaingless, but the turn and river were both sevens. Luske, who had not yet finished his tea, stuck his finger in his throat and pretended to vomit on the stage. Out in seventh place, he earned 112,000 euros.

Boatman, the other big-name pro at the table, could not get his head above water the whole day. Alhtough he managed to double through twice, it was never enough to overcome his short-stacked start. Finally, after an ill-timed bluff against Jeff Williams, Boatman went for a steal with T6 of clubs. Hussain woke up with a pair of jacks and Boatman was gone in sixth place, taking 140,000 euros back to Hendon.

With three players gone, the match, like most final tables, fell into a long series of blind steals and push-fests from the short-stacks. A dinner break and many hands passed before another player would fall. Williams came in for a raise from the button with A4 of spades and Cazals pushed all-in. Williams, sitting on a huge stack, said, "Let's gamble. I call." Cazals showed AT of clubs. While more of a gamble than Williams likely hoped for, the board laid out two spades on the flop and a heart-breaking ten of spades on the river to send Cazals out in fifth place with 168,000 euros.

With Cazals gone, the four remaining players each found themselves facing nothing but PokerStars qualifiers. None of the players had spent even a fraction of what they could possibly win to enter, least of all Arshad Hussain who was in on an FPP freeroll.

Therein came the time to duel for a bit. The money jumps were suddenly quite substantial. The players began to measure their aggression. Finally, though, the blinds became such that one slip could mean disater. It finally came when Karam wrongly read Williams for a bluff and called a river bet that cost him half his stack. It forced him to move in shortly thereafter will no more than 85 offsuit. Williams woke up with a pair of nines and Karam found the rail, 195,000 euros richer.

With three players remaining, the chips counts were as follows:

Jeff Williams: 1.872 million
Arshad Hussain: 346,000
Aleksander Strandli: 772,000

After a short break, everything started moving fast. Williams doubled up Hussain in short order. And then came the hand of the tournament.

Aleksander Strandli came in for a raise and Williams moved over the top. Strandli looked stricken, looked over his shoulder at his compatriots in the bleachers, and finally called, showing K8. Remarkably, it was good for the momenet, against Williams QT. The board came out quickly, but all anyone saw was the ten on the river. Like a punch to the gut, Strandli was out in third place and earned 251,000 euros.

Those in the business of predicting things might have suggested the heads-up battle could last for a while. Those people would be very wrong.

Within just a few hands came the ultimate hand of the tournament. Hussain got all in with A8 versus Williams' AT. And so, then, we go back to the beginning of this report. As the board laid out a five, a nine, a seven, and a seven...

The river card hit. All that mattered to Jeff Williams was that the card was not an eight or a six. For a split second, it appeared the worst possible thing had happened. But, no, no. It was not an eight. It was the half-shape of an eight. It was a three. Williams, perhaps for the first time in three days, exhaled. Then he looked four rows up in the bleachers and gave his parents a look that said, undeniably, "Thank you."




In a stunning run that saw the 19-year-old American storm through a field nearly 300-strong, Jeff Williams, a freshman at the University of Georgia, won the European Poker Tour Grand Final. For his win, he takes home 900,000 euros.

Click here for a play-by-play of the final table.

Congratulations, Jeff.

EPT Grand Final Results (all prize in euros)

1. Jeff Williams (USA) 900,000 PokerStars Cash Qualifer
2. Arshad Hussain (UK) 492,000 PokerStars FPP Qualifer
3. Aleksander Strandli (Norway) 251,000 PokerStars Cash Qualifer
4. Marc Karam (Canada) 195,000 PokerStars Cash Qualifer
5. Tierry Cazals (France) 168,000
6. Ross Boatman (UK) 140,000
7. Marcel Luske (Holland) 112,000
8. Fraser Dunphy (UK) 84,000
9. Ben Grundy (UK) 56,000
10. Thomas Wahlroos (Finland) 33,500
11. Mark Teltscher (UK) 33,500
12. Matthew Davey (Ireland) 33,500 PokerStars FPP Qualifer
13. Arnuad Mimran (France) 28,100
14. Markus Golser (Austria) 28,100
15. Radu Butan (Canada) 28,100 PokerStars Cash Qualifer
16. Jim Kerrigan (UK) 22,400 PokerStars Cash Qualifer
17. Alain Bilodeau (Canada) 22,400 PokerStars Cash Qualifer
18. Terrence Halliday (UK) 22,400
19. Nick Gibson (UK) 16,800
20. Kim Darling Wittendorf (Denmark) 16,800 PokerStars Cash Qualifer
21. Martin Wendt (Denmark) 16,800
22. Dario Minieri (Italy) 16,800
23. John Kabbaj (UK) 16,800
24. Peter Gould (UK) 16,800
25. Dustin Dirksen (USA) 16,800 PokerStars Cash Qualifer
26. Paul Jackson (UK)16,800
27. Marc Bolliger (Switzerland) 16,800