A record-breaking EPT Super High Roller event in Barcelona this afternoon ended with the breaking of one of the tour's most unlikely and unpopular droughts.
Olivier Busquet, who has amassed tournament earnings of more than $4.5m in an outstanding poker career, but who has never before won a major tournament outside of his native United States, finally got his neck over the finishing line in first place.
To do so, he had to beat 57 other exceptional poker talents, including the high roller sensation Daniel Colman, who also happens to be Busquet's protege. The two great friends ended this event heads up, cut a deal, and then set about a Luke-versus-Vader-style master-versus-apprentice duel for supremacy.
After a friendly heads up battle, it was the old master (yeah, old; he's 32) who prevailed and earned an €896,434 payday. Suddenly his three runner-up finishes, in the Campione Main Event in Season 9, a €25,000 High Roller at the Grand Final two years before and one in a €10,000 High Roller in Prague, seemed a long time ago.
(Colman will probably be all right with his €843,066 second-place prize, plus victory at the Grand Final Super High Roller and the One Drop.)
"Honestly, it just feels so good," Busquet said. "I have had a bunch of second places on the EPT so to win one feels amazing. Dan is probably the best heads-up player in the world but obviously anything could happen. Yes, [we're friends] but when it got to heads-up, I was rooting for myself totally."
There were nine players still involved when action resumed on Day 3. That was one player more than usual, but fears of a long final table were eased by a glance at the chip stacks: Mustapha Kanit and Sam Trickett had only 12 and 13 big blinds, respectively, and both Colman and Busquet were also relatively short.
Furthermore, the biggest stack at the table was in front of Morten Klein, the flamboyant Norwegian, who had demonstrated a blithe willingness to get his chips in the middle at any opportunity. The early action was predictably frenetic as a result -- but the outcome was not always precisely as expected.
First up, Kanit. The Italian had been hotly tipped to make an enormous breakthrough this season on the EPT and he had the chance to assume the lead of the all time Italy money list had he managed to win this event. As it was, he was the first to perish, receiving the first bad beat of the day. Kanit shoved over Sven Reichardt's open to 125,000 and was in great shape with A♣Q♦ against the German player's A♠8♣.
However the 8♠ on the flop put an end to all the hopes of a comeback. Kanit was crushed and took €105,455 for ninth. Messrs Pescatori, Candio and Bonavena remain ahead of him. For now.
Reichardt's victory in that hand put him top of the leader board for a while, alongside Vladimir Troyanovskiy, who was one of the most active players at a very active table.
Klein was the main benefactor as many of the other players consolidated their stacks. He doubled up Scott Seiver when he called a Seiver shove with A♥5♥. Seiver's A♠K♥ stayed strong. Klein then doubled Trickett too, when Trickett moved all in with A♠Q♠ and won the race against Klein's 9♦9♠.
We then witnessed one of the most outrageous hands ever played on the European Poker Tour, the kind that would have a micro-stakes online grinder writing to PokerStars support.
Reichardt opened with K♦K♠ and Busquet moved all in with A♠2♠. It seemed as though this would be the end for Busquet, especially when the flop came 8♥8♣K♣. "Reichardt almost flops him dead," James Hartigan said in the EPT Live commentary booth.
But that "almost" was telling. Despite now being more than a 99 per cent favourite to win the hand and send Busquet to the rail, there was still the slightest mathematical chance of a comeback.
The turn was the A♥, which was one tiny step towards the ridiculous out-draw. The A♦ on the river was a giant leap. Neither man even cracked a smile. It wasn't funny. It was absurd.
"No matter how good you are that's what has to happen to win a tournament, especially with this tough a field, so I'm just super grateful," Busquet said of his moments of good fortune.
That gave Busquet plenty of chips to play with, and he soon got the cards to continue his surge up the leader board. After Dan Shak three bet Trickett, Busquet found red aces in the big blind and his small four bet persuaded Trickett out, but Shak to shove.
Shak was in a world of hurt with A♠8♠ and this time couldn't find one of his oft-seen final table suck-outs. (Ask Vanessa Selbst about those.) Shak finished eighth for €138,600.
Klein, who had one of those days yesterday, when he went from short stack to tournament leader, had one of those days today, when he couldn't win a pot. Busquet had again found aces when Klein found A♠Q♠ and they got it all in.
The aces held again and Klein was looking for €177,500 for his seventh place.
It did then get a little bit ridiculous. We were down from six to two in the blink of an eye. Reichardt went first, having never recovered from the hand against Busquet. Reichardt's tens couldn't beat Colman's kings. Reichardt took €225,000, which is several years salary for a primary school teacher, his chosen profession.
Trickett's run came to an end on the very next hand, when his A♠K♣ came up short against Busquet's 8♠8♥. Trickett's €288,400 was his biggest payday on the EPT. Just lucky he's made about $15m elsewhere, isn't it.
Seiver managed to cling on for another orbit or so, but when he shoved with A♥Q♦ from the big blind, Colman had already been priced in after three-betting J♥9♥ from the small. A nine came on the river to end Seiver's bid to be the first two-time Super High Roller champion. He had to make do with €364,200 for fourth.
Troyanovskiy is a familiar sight at final tables of high buy-in events, but he has never yet managed to win one. He couldn't win a race with A♦8♥ against Busquet's 5♣5♥ either and that was the end of his latest attempt.
Troyanovskiy's €473,200 put his career earnings up to more than $2.5m.
That left us, then, with the master and apprentice, the battle between friends and colleagues, who most likely had swapped some of each other's action and were now splitting the big prizes between them. Busquet had the chip lead when they quickly agreed a deal: €866,434 for Busquet and €843,066 for Colman, with €30,000 still to play for.
That meant that either man could still win the biggest chunk along with the trophy, and the two heads up specialists, who know each other's games well, got down to deciding who it would be. As it happened, Busquet had the rub of this green, winning most of the significant pots with the best hands. When Colman grew short and found A♠K♥ he got it all in. Busquet had Q♥J♥.
The slight mathematical disadvantage was no match for Busquet in this mood, though. The Q♦ on the turn was decisive. He was finally the champion.
"It's a really special thing," Busquet said. "Dan and I have known each other for a long time. There's no one in the poker world I'm closer with. For us to get heads up together, we were both just happy for each other. I don't really feel bad for him as he's won everything now."
But enough about Colman, what about the winner?
"There's nothing in poker quite like winning a tournament, a pure feeling of joy," Busquet said. You can't say fairer than that.
EPT11 Barcelona, Super High Roller
Date: August 18-20, 2014
Players: 58 (19 re-entries)
Prize pool: €3,697,155
1 - Olivier Busquet, USA, €896,434*
2 - Daniel Colman, USA, €843,066*
3 - Vladimir Troyanovskiy, Russia, €473,200
4 - Scott Seiver, USA, €364,200
5 - Sam Trickett, UK, €288,400
6 - Sven Reichardt, Germany, €225,500
7 - Morten Klein, Norway, €177,500
8 - Dan Shak, USA, €138,600
9 - Mustapha Kanit, Italy, €105,455
10 - Jake Schindler, USA, €92,400
11 - Ryan Fee, USA, €92,400
*denotes heads up deal
The EPT11 Barcelona Main Event begins at noon tomorrow (Thursday). Follow all the action with us here on PokerStars Blog.