Veterans of the European Poker Tour know that final tables in Copenhagen can take some time. From the epic Mads Anderson/Edgar Skjervold battle of season two, to the four-hour Tim Vance/Soren Jensen heads up of a year ago, television directors know to bring extra tapes, journalists are well-stocked with caffeine pills, and an emergency table has been arranged in the car-park should the casino close before play is done.
That was then, this is now. Thanks in the main to two players — Jens Kyllönen, from Finland, and Anders Langset, from Norway — crates of unused tapes will be floating down the Copenhagen canals tonight as wired reporters go buzzing around the city with hours to kill until they can sleep. I write this at 6.45pm, less than five hours after play began on the final table of the season five Copenhagen EPT, and minutes after Kyllönen was named the new champion, earning the equivalent of €878,057 for demolishing his seven adversaries in one of the swiftest ever final days.
This breakneck resolution reconfirmed every preconception of Nordic poker players we have ever held. Firstly, there were loads of them — from the final eight, only the French player Eric Larcheveque hailed from a non-Nordic nation. Secondly, they all played supremely quickly and aggressively — a “dwell” was anyone who thought about a million-chip call for more than about 30 seconds. And finally, they were all exceptionally talented — it surely says enough that three online superstars Jonas “Tulkaz” Klausen, Rasmus “Jungleras” Nielsen, and Petter “Slaktarn” Petersson were among the first four out. It was that tough.
Yet even among these notable talents, one was especially irresistible. Kyllönen was one of the relative short stacks at the start of play, but there was a rare focus to the Finn and seasoned observers noted early on that if he was to get chips, he could be very dangerous indeed. So it proved. The two massive overnight stacks — Langset and Nielsen — clashed in a 700,000 pot early in the day, crippling Nielsen and vaulting Langset clear at the top.
Nielsen never recovered and followed Klausen and Larcheveque, both of whom busted in the first level, out the door. That set the stage for Kyllönen’s rise.
Five handed, Langset was looking exceptionally comfortable. Rumours had been circulating around the tournament arena for the past couple of days that the young Norwegian had only graduated from the play money to real money tables of PokerStars within the past month or so.
But no one believed the story, not because Langset looked dishonest (far from it), but because he had put on such an accomplished display in what was his first-ever live tournament. He’d been chip leader and principal vanquisher for two full days, and here he was with more than the rest of his final four adversaries put together. Even advisors to Copenhagen’s prime yarn-spinner Hans Christian Anderson might have tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Listen, Hans. That’s a fairytale too far, mate.”
Langset, though, was able to sit back and relax as Pietterson perished in fifth, before Jussi Nevanlinna and Kyllönen went to battle in a series of Finn-on-Finn escapades. The countrymen seemed to have been targeting one another for much of the final table, and Kyllönen ultimately came out on top when his A-7 out-raced Nevanlinna’s pocket fives in a pot from which the latter never recovered. Nevanlinna left us in fourth.
Then there was the tournament-defining hand. Kyllönen and Langset had largely stayed out of one another’s way until the gloves came off in a whopping all-in pre-flop clash. Langset had pocket eights and the chance to eliminate his closest opponent; Kyllönen had [KD]-[QH] and the opportunity to get right back in it.
The two players put their arms around one another and stood as the dealer decided their fate. The flop was good for both: [9D]-[6D]-[4H]. The turn made things even more interesting: [3D] and the river was the clincher for the Finn: [QD]. He hit his overcard and his flush for good measure and for the first time Langset was on the ropes.
One further hand between the two and it was all over for the Norwegian: Kyllönen’s [AS]-[8S] flopped the nut flush and picked off Langset’s bluff. Langset went to the rail in the same manner he had played for four days: with a huge smile. One suspects we’ll see him again.
That left two players, and the absence of Peter Hedlund’s name in this report to date is only so that he can get his own full paragraph here, which he so richly deserves. Hedlund, firstly, is no mean poker player. This is his second EPT final table, and we’ve seen him through all five seasons of the tour, always offering a threat. But more than that, Hedlund is among the most charismatic players in the whole of the continent: sitting on the same table as him (or in the same tournament room as him, in fairness) means exposure to an incessant rat-a-tat-tat of observations, gags, questions, jokes, usually with himself as the brunt.
The waiting staff and bartenders usually get to know Hedlund quite well too, oiling the cogs of this unique machine. And once he got heads up today, he bought beers for the entire crowd around the final table: “You can’t beat me, so join me!” seemed to be the tacit invitation.
And so Hedlund and his enthusiastic supporters went heads-up with Kyllönen, who had now begun to sport a baseball cap emblazoned with the apt slogan: “Teenage Millionaire”. Hedlund had it all to do, giving up a three-to-one chip advantage to the young Finn. They probed and they jousted for a while, but ultimately it was something of a heads-up cooler. Kyllönen found jacks as Hedlund had A-J. The board ran out in favour of Kyllönen, and that was the end of that.
“I definitely didn’t expect anything,” Kyllönen said. “I came in as the short stack and tried to play the best game I could. It turned out well.”
No kidding. The money was shipped to the 19-year-old teenage millionaire as Finland produced its second EPT champion. Jens Kyllönen is our champion and I suggest you remember the name. I have a feeling you won’t be able to forget it in a couple of years.
Now take a look back at how this all played out, including some riveting internet connection issues during the first couple of levels:
Stuff in free flowing moving pictures: PokerStars.tv.
And where would you find a full list of the prize-winners? The prizewinners page, of course. Fools.
Good night from Copenhagen. It’s Dortmund next. Be back.
Photography: (c) Neil Stoddart