The European Poker Tour is no stranger to breaking new ground and welcomes players from across the globe. Last week it was in the Caribbean, soon it will be the ski-slopes of Austria, after it hits Berlin for the first time. Its 51 champions hail from 15 countries, and today in Deauville, there was the chance to jab a flag in even more virgin turf.
We thought we were going to get our first double champion, then we thought we would see the first man from Romania to clinch one of these events. But when push came to shove there was no getting past a 21-year-old named Jake Cody, who produced a miraculous comeback from the brink of elimination to become the seventh British player to enter the EPT winner’s enclosure.
“This is so overwhelming,” Cody said. “It’s the sort of stuff I dreamed about with my mates just a few weeks back. I feel like I should be asleep as I can’t believe this is happening.”
It was his first time at an EPT but few would deny him the plaudits. This kid can play.
Cody takes €847,000 and a buy in to the Grand Final in Monte Carlo. He also has the satisfaction of emerging victorious from arguably the most compelling final table in any poker event in years. Cody found himself utterly crippled by a massive coup against the Canadian Mike McDonald when they were six handed: ace-king against tens, king on the flop. But Cody simply would not die and eventually got it heads up with Teodor Caraba, the aforementioned Romanian, who was chip leader going into the final table, as he was when there were 24 players left.
Caraba played an almost strategically perfect match, mostly sitting out the opening exchanges of the final table as players around him bust. He stayed out of trouble until his chip lead cruised him to the final three. But even after pulling out all the stops when it got short-handed, he could not overcome the fearless tenacity of Cody, who embraced the variance, rode the volatility, and only broke into a smile once the deal was sealed.
The final hand came after they had played two hours mano-a-mano during which Caraba had Cody strangled, then the Brit had the Romanian scratching the felt, and then honours evened out again. But after massive chip leads in each direction, the death knell sounded at 11.45pm local time. Caraba found ace-king and Cody had kings. All in. Game over.
Before that, McDonald had carried the hopes of the sentimentalists. No one has ever won two EPT Main Events, but the young Canadian, known as “Timex”, had the best chance to break that hoodoo since Mark Teltscher finished second in Barcelona in 2007. Still too young to play cards in Las Vegas, McDonald is an online and an EPT sensation: this was his third final table and he is still only 20 years old.
McDonald assumed the chip lead at one point today, prompting the engraver’s hand to hover over the trophy, looking for the stencil of “Mc”. But he hadn’t accounted for Caraba, who enjoyed the first major suck-out of the final table, taking A♠10♦ against McDonald’s jacks and flopping an ace. Timex and history will need to wait.
Going into the final table, the other story featured a man named Peter Eastgate. The Team PokerStars Pro had the chance to add an EPT title to his glittering resume – something that no other former World Champion has managed, despite six seasons in the attempt.
Indeed, no other former World Champion has ever made an EPT final table, but this was Eastgate’s second in the same season – and he was keen to go one better than his second place in London in October.
However, it was always going to be a tough ask with a short stack, and although Eastgate set it to work in the opening level, he eventually ran pocket tens into Craig Bergeron’s K♣9♠ and a king flopped. Eastgate’s own quest for an historic double was put on ice. He was out in eighth.
A division in the chip stacks soon developed, with the likes of Michael Fratty, Stephane Albertini and Claudiu Secara languishing way behind the big four. And although they all jousted and doubled up a couple of times apiece, the big stacks found big hands at the right time to pick them off.
Fratty ran A♥Q♦ into Jake Cody’s kings; Albertini’s K♣9♣ couldn’t beat Cody’s aces. And then when McDonald’s cowboys held on over Secara’s jacks, pins seven, six and five had been quickly skittled.
Amid the wanton culling of the short stacks, there had also been some violent swings at the top of the ladder, with McDonald and Cody chomping at one another’s throats like pit-pulls in the back-room of a pub. Timex was actually all in and with his tournament life on the line when he flopped a king holding A♦K♦ to beat Cody’s 10♣10♥. They had three, four, five bet it pre-flop as the shorties looked on in glee.
“The flip I lost against Timex was a big moment as I felt I would have a great chance of winning if I won that hand,” Cody said. “It wasn’t to be and I had to grind to get back in to it, which I did.”
No kidding. The Cody fightback was terrific, starting with a major pot against the lone American Bergeron, who will probably regret limping from the button with 9♠6♠ and flopping a nine. Cody, who had checked his big blind also had a nine, but flopped two pair and they got it all in.
Bergeron could not recover and fell in fourth, two places short of fulfilling the wish of his online screen-name to play HU4ROLLZ. But he had played his part particularly in the tournament’s later days, where he had never been far from the chip lead.
No one had any clear advantage when they went three handed – each of Cody, McDonald and Caraba had about the seven million mark. Caraba had been the quietest of the three at the final table, but loosened up as befitted the situation when the octet was reduced to a trio. He re-raised McDonald out of a decent pot to be the first through the ten million mark. And he certainly looked comfortable and at home amid the madness of a fearlessly fought three-handed battle.
But Cody. There was no denying Jake Cody.
Read all about that remarkable victory in any of the following level-by-level run-downs:
There are video blogs and loads of other goodies always available at PokerStars.tv. And pictures, pictures and more pictures are all © Neil Stoddart.
So there we have it. Romania still waits for its first champion and still no one has won two EPTs. But on the showing of the past week, Jake Cody has as much chance as any of breaking through that glass ceiling. It’ll be fun to watch him try.
Live event coverage on PokerStars Blog barely lets up for one minute, with the ANZPT Adelaide event, the UKIPT tournament in Manchester, the NAPT’s debut at the Venetian in Las Vegas, the EPT Copenhagen event and the LAPT Punta del Este tournament in Uruguay all coming at you next month.
Good night for now, but see you again very soon. We’ll leave you with all this in moving pictures…
PokerStars Blog reporting team: Howard Swains, Stephen Bartley, Marc Convey and Simon Young