EPT Dortmund: Cream of the crop

March 14, 2009

Four years is a long time in poker. If we cast our minds back to season one of the EPT, we can probably remember the sight of a spiky-haired young Swede and a suave young Italian making quiet yet confident progress through fields of about 200 players, anteing something like €2,000 a pop. There was some raw, rude talent in each of those young frames — and about fifteen pots of hair gel on top of them.

These days, EPT fields regularly top 600, the buy-in is up to about €5,000 and any wetness behind those two pairs of ears is just the gel. William Thorson and Luca Pagano might still be only 26 and 31, respectively, but they are veterans of the EPT, with a huge string of impressive results behind them. They are proudly decked in the livery of Team PokerStars Pro and an EPT really isn’t an EPT without either of them. They are seasoned campaigners, fearsomely talented, and part of the furniture.

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Team PokerStars Pros William Thorson and Luca Pagano

It has been a genuine delight, then, that this week in Dortmund, we have been treated to the maximum exposure of both of them. Both Pagano and Thorson have battled all the way through this monstrous field and will take their place around the familiar beige baize of an EPT final table. It’s the third time for Thorson, the fourth time for Pagano, but the first time they have been there together. And neither is going to need reminding that they haven’t yet gone all the way to the title.

This week, though, has been the time to break records. And doesn’t a young Canadian named Mike McDonald just know it. He became the youngest-ever EPT champion when he took down last year’s Dortmund renewal at the preposterously young age of 18.

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Mike McDonald

This year, he is back to defend his title, and defend it to the death. At the preposterously young age of 19, McDonald is now at his second EPT final table, and in with a very real shout of becoming the tour’s first double winner.

Those are only three of our finalists, and the other five are really not to be overlooked either. This week in the Ruhr region has also been the time for the PokerStars ShootingStars team to shine. That hand-picked band of the best players from the German-speaking countries has already recorded a number of high-profile results, most notably Sebastian Ruthenberg’s victory in Barcelona this year.

And the last nine players here ended up featuring the two most-recent additions to the team: Sandra Naujoks and Florian Langmann, the former added to the teamsheet ahead of the PCA in January, and the latter earning his stripes on the opening day of this tournament. Although Langmann would ultimately perish in ninth, missing out on the final table, he has already taken a huge step towards paying back the supporters. Naujoks takes her place on her first EPT final.

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Sandra Naujoks

Also joining them on the final table is Marc Gork, a young German who has been among the most distinctive presences here in Dortmund, not only for his happy-go-lucky table manner, but also for his unique stylings.

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Mark Gork

He has been mixing it up in the vocal jousting for most of the day, but has also featured in more of his fair share of photographs, owing to a pair of headphones that he clamps over his eyes, and a book of poetry that he reads between hands. Poetry. Poker. It’s another first.

No one knew a great deal about the Turkish player Cengizcan Ulusu at the start of today, except for the fact that he started yesterday with only 9,000 chips, which he built up to more than 300,000.

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Cengizcan Ulusu

In truth, no one still knows a great deal about Ulusu except for the fact that he has been sitting under the studio lights of the featured table all day and never once looked out of place, flustered, or anything but utterly comfortable among the sharks. He also now has close to a million in chips and would surprise no one if he could really upset the form book.

Holger Kanisch was our overnight chip leader, and he has taken a roller-coaster ride through the day, but stays in with a shot at the title.

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Holger Kanisch

Kanisch has, however, yielded the chip lead today to a man named Johan Storakers. The Swedish stalwart of the European scene has enjoyed his best run at an EPT here in Dortmund, and he seems to have been enjoying every minute. He was sitting for a long time beside Andreas Hoivold and the pair of them were laughing right up until the point that Storakers knocked Hoivold out, nines holding up against A-K. That started Storakers on a roll that takes him to tomorrow’s final table with more than a million chips.

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Johan Storakers

Storakers has ample experience of tournaments in all countries across the globe, and will fancy his chances.

All of which nine million words is a rather long winded way of saying that this is one awesome final table lined up for tomorrow in Casino Hohensyburg. How we got there is best discovered by clicking on any of these links below, where it’s pretty much a blow-by-blow account.

The teddy bears’ picnic
EPT Live
Clash of the titans
All in, English style
Out, out and … out
Shipping lanes
Langmann’s long game
Italian sandwich
Luca doubles, Kellett back, Gork up
Level 20 updates
Level 21 updates
Level 22 updates
Level 23 updates
Level 24 updates

If you’ve survived all this English and not understood a word of it, then here’s what you’re probably looking for: coverage in German, Dutch or Swedish. And head over to PokerStars.tv for video blogs, archive footage, and enough poker in pictures to fill your brain and have it trickling out your ears.

All static photography comes courtesy of Neil Stoddart. And we’ll be back tomorrow, along with EPT Live, for all the action from the final table. The prizewinners to date can be found on the prizewinners page, and the full final table chip counts are on the chip count page.

Bis morgen, meine freunde.

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