Sebastian Ruthenberg is the newest champion on the European Poker Tour after a thrilling finale to the season opener in the Gran Casino, Barcelona. The self-styled "luck box" proved to be anything but, starting second in chips this afternoon and navigating a steady and skilful course through a day where the blinds threatened to swallow even the largest stacks.
PokerStars Shooting Star, World Series bracelet winner, and now EPT Barcelona champion, Sebastian Ruthenberg
Ruthenberg was at times the dominant bully; at others he was under threat himself. But showing consummate versatility he made the most from each situation to claim the winner's cheque of €1,361,000, plus a seat into the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo.
The PokerStars Shooting Star basked in what has been some electric form this year. This title follows his great form displayed at the World Series in July where he overcame Chris Ferguson heads-up to win the seven card stud hi/lo bracelet in Las Vegas. Flash forward two months, and his performance today displayed ample evidence of how it takes far more than just cards, with some great reads on his heads-up opponent and PokerStars qualifier Fintan Gavin to amass the huge stack with which he delivered that last crushing blow.
It all started at 4pm on day five of this tournament. Already the blinds were beginning to bite thanks in part to more than three hours of tense play late last night when nine-handed. The blinds would always be a factor but meant players had to adapt or fail. An hour and a half passed before the first elimination. The unlucky player was Denmark's Martin Nielsen, whose late charge yesterday earned him the chip lead coming into today. But he fell victim to the tournament's history-seeking PokerStars player Jason Mercier, who was aiming to become the first ever EPT double champion.
Martin Nielsen: from chip leader to first out
Five minutes later the Canadian Samuel Chartier met with the same fate, this time busted by the amiable PokerStars qualifier from Ireland, named Gavin. He accounted for Chartier and then turned the knife into Mercier, ending that particular chapter in EPT history.
Jason Mercier started with the chance to be the first double EPT winner
Mercier had doubled through Gavin, but ultimately the Irishman took his revenge a full two hours later, ending Mercier's chances in sixth place for €227,000, sevens against Gavin's pocket tens. An eye-opening performance regardless from the Floridian, who continues to light up the EPT.
It wasn't until after the dinner break that play would be reduced to four players and it was the German PokerStars qualifier Dren Ukella out next for 290,000, another casualty of Gavin's ferocious campaign. Gavin's pair held up against Ukella's busted nut flush draw.
In fifth spot was the Italian Daniele Mazzia. His €351,000 was probably the hardest earned of all, and only came after he had dodged countless bullets and had a good case to have the river card renamed after him, surviving three all-ins on fifth street. Alas it was a crippling hand before his eventual exit that cost him dearly. A pot of more than two million against the Belgian Davidi Kitai's pocket tens to his own pocket nines. He'd been there before, but the miracle could be repeated yet again. Then, with just 101,000 left, it was a matter of the sharks circling to finish him off.
Kitai went next. The Belgian's day was not unlike the Italian's, one that seemed full of rigorous defence and agonising decision-making, watching his fortunes rise and fall in rapid swoops.
Davidi Kittai, feeling the strain of four long days
It came in the kind of massive hand that can only really take place after five full days of play, starting when the then-chip-leading Ruthenberg moved all-in pre-flop. Kitai called for his tournament life but not until a good deal of anguish. Gavin folded, showing his A-Q, which was like a knife in the heart for the Belgian who turned over the same hand. Ruthenberg showed pocket fours.
With two of his outs gone, Kitai found small mercy in an inside flush draw on the flop but it was not to be and Kittai, who himself was extending his World Series bracelet success form from this year, busted in third place, earning €455,000.
By now the tournament had taken a distinctly lop-sided appearance with Ruthenberg sitting with nearly five times the stack of Gavin.
The PokerStars qualifier Fintan Gavin, in raising mood
Few people were therefore surprised when it all ended just a few minutes later. With all the chips in the middle, Ruthenberg holding Kc-9c to Gavin's 7c-4h, the flop looks set to extend the night a little longer, 2h-Ac-7h for middle pair and a backdoor flush draw. The turn changed all that, though, bringing a Kh to match Ruthenberg's for top pair. Fintan's flush never got there, instead sending a first EPT crown Ruthenberg's way.
Fintan Gavin was gracious in defeat, collecting €792,000 for a hard day at the table. But the new champion collects €1,361,000 and a ticket to the Monte Carlo Grand Final next spring.
"My plan was to play tight to begin and then loosen up" said Ruthenberg, before quipping, "It's more money than the World Series and money means a lot to me, not the title. So I'm more happy."
Ruthenberg had overcome violent swings a period of being card dead but brought his natural ability to the table securing him an EPT title after coming close twice before. "I know I'm just running good" he said. "Nothing more."
Congratulations to Ruthenberg, one of the PokerStars family on the German side. On now to the EPT London and the high-roller event.
A full list of all 64 prize-winners can be found HERE.
And all of these links tell the story:
Our video blog team set the scene for the day:
Watch EPT Barcelona 2008 Final Day intro on PokerStars.tv
And caught up with the Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano as the action progressed:
Watch EPT Barcelona 2008 Final Day Luca Pagano on PokerStars.tv
Watch videos from the whole of EPT Barcelona, plus an archive of all other PokerStars events, all for free, at PokerStars.tv
The next EPT event takes place in London from October 1-5. Full details of qualifying, hotel information, EPT structure, etc., is all available on the official EPT website.