There are countless reasons why this week will live long in the memory of poker enthusiasts. This was the first EPT event to be hosted in Berlin and it was the first time there was a guaranteed €1m to the winner. And, of course, there was that incident. It happened, but no need to say more.
Today’s final table, however, was the perfect tonic to end a week of highs and lows. It featured eight players who had each earned their place by playing the best poker of their lives, and they gave a terrific show of fearless deep-stack final table play. When we were down to three – Kevin MacPhee, Ilari Tahkokallio and Marc Inizan – any of them would have been a more than worthy winner. The other five weren’t too shabby either.
In the event, our first EPT Berlin champion is that man MacPhee from Coeur d’Alene, in Idaho, USA. MacPhee, a serial qualifier to major tournaments on PokerStars, is better known as “ImaLuckSac” online, and his immediate reaction echoed the sentiments of that username.
“I am a luck-sack,” MacPhee said. “What can I say? I ran extremely good and I had the nuts every time someone played back at me.” Advised that he was now a millionaire, MacPhee said: “Yeah, that’s nice. About time.” MacPhee is 29-years-old.
Tahkokallio, from Finland, who finished second, emerged with immense credit too. “He’s an amazing player and my hat’s off to him,” MacPhee said of his adversary. And MacPhee was in the best position to judge.
Early yesterday, MacPhee had turned to Tahkokallio and said: “Are we going to get heads up again?” It was a reference to a side event at EPT London earlier this season, when the same two players had gone mano-a-mano for that title. “Probably,” Tahkokallio replied, and despite all the intervening disturbances, the two of them kept their date tonight.
Their heads-up battle this time lasted more than three hours, with more than one exchange of the chip lead. MacPhee eventually persuaded Tahkokallio to get all his money in on a low board with the Finn holding a couple of overcards. MacPhee had middle pair and rivered a straight. Cue hugs, handshakes and a new champion.
Final table line-up: (l-r) Marko Neumann, Marc Inizan, Artur Wasek, Kevin MacPhee, Ilari Tahkokallio, Marcel Koller, Nico Behling, Ketul Nathwani
MacPhee had the dominant stack coming into the final, but he was gracious enough to allow two of the shorties to get involved early on, costing Nico Behling his shot at the million. Behling was out on the second hand of the day, sent packing by Marcel Koller’s pocket tens.
MacPhee then came out firing, flopping a set with pocket sevens to out-run Marko Neumann’s big slick, and busting Ketul Nathwani in fifth with A♦9♣ against the Englishman’s A♠6♦.
Tahkokallio stuck his head briefly above the parapet to knock out Marcel Koller in between. That was a standard queens (Tahkokallio) against A♣Q♠ (Koller) cooler – a rare moment of normalcy amid all the fireworks.
The first slowdown came four-handed, but the most pressure was on the Polish player Artur Wasek. He had made a last-minute decision to play this event, wagering money made at the cash tables on the eve of day one, and so had already progressed further than he could have hoped.
He wouldn’t be shifted without a fight – or another cooler. Wasek found queens when Inizan had kings, and Inizan had a bigger stack. It all went in, the board was dry, and out went Wasek.
Inizan’s tournament didn’t last much longer, but here was a man who had demonstrated beyond doubt that he is a shark patrolling the waters of the biggest tournament fields. He led almost from pillar to post in a recent 800-strong event in Belgium, making the final table but finishing ninth, and he had been in the top nine at the end of every day here.
The momentum took him further than ever before in Berlin, but he was halted in third, flopping top pair when MacPhee had hit the nut straight. All in. Gone.
So here it was, the second date MacPhee and Tahkokallio had arranged in October. And although this time it was MacPhee picking up the check, few would bet against this tete-a-tete prospering around the tables of major poker tournaments on many more romantic occasions from here.
typos action can be relived in all their its glory at the following links:
All the photography on PokerStars Blog comes from Neil Stoddart and the words are the combined magic of Stephen Bartley, Marc Convey, Howard Swains and Simon Young. Hubble hubble, boil and bubble, etc.
We’ll be back on the EPT at Snowfest in Austria in a couple of weeks time. We can safely assume that you’ll be there too – without the compound fractures that us non-skiers will surely have suffered during our ill-advised attempts at cliff-hucking and indie grabs.
Until then, cheerio from Germany.