A field of 686 arrived in Madrid to contest the European Poker Tour Grand Final in Madrid. Now just eight remain.
We’ve watched them since Day 1, and now one of them will win a first prize of €1,500,000, having paid €10,000 to enter.
So who are these last eight players? Well I’m glad you asked.
Seat 1: Eugene “oogee” Yanayt, 27, Santa Monica, California, USA – PokerStars SuperNova Elite – 2,420,000 chips
Yanayt is one of the top Triple Draw cash games players in the world, regularly competing against high-stakes players such as Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey and Matt “hoss_tbf” Hawrilenko. Yanayt’s family hail from Russia and he grew up in Moscow until he was nine when he moved to Boston with his mother.
Yanayt majored in Computer Science at University in Los Angeles (where he now lives) but has been playing poker for around nine years. As a SuperNova Elite, Yanayt was given a package to this year’s PCA and bought his way in to the 2010 PCA with FPPs, but he doesn’t play many tournaments and still has virtually no live tournament results apart from a 414th place cash in the WSOP Main Event in 2006 for £30,000.
On Day 3, Yanayt, who is a FIDE ranked chess master, went from 64,000 to a 2,374,000 chip lead, thanks to three big hands against Allen Bari, EPT Berlin champion Ben Wilinofsky and Ole-Kristian Nergard.
Seat 2: Tamas Lendvai, 39, Budapest, Hungary – 1,655,000 chips
Last July Tamas Lendvai beat a 505-player field at IPT Venice to win €235,000, propelling him well on his way to topping the Italian Poker Tour tournament leader board. That victory was one of five cashes the Hungarian has made on the IPT. His achievements last year, live and online, also convinced Lendvai to become “three-quarters pro,” as he puts it, spending much of his other time running his own security company.
Lendvai started playing five years ago, dabbling in small live tournaments in Hungary after becoming enthralled with the game on TV. It’s become a profitable passion as he’s since racked up $566,464 in live winnings and another quarter-million at PokerStars under the screen name ‘tomicars’.
On the chance of winning the EPT Grand Final title and €1,500,000, Lendvai said: “It’s the most prestigious event in the world, more so than the World Series now, it’s packed with the best players. My first goal was to make the final table, we’ll see what happens after that.”
The Hungarian, a regular feature at PokerStars tournaments around the world, has achieved his first goal. Live TV will reveal how much further he can go – he’s a very real threat at this final table.
Seat 3: Juan Maceiras, 26, La Coruña, Galicia, Spain- Team PokerStars Pro – 3,150,000 chips
Former law student Maceiras took up poker while studying international business in St Louis, Missouri. After building his bankroll in local tournaments in Spain, he started to compete in bigger buy-in events and in 2007 got his first break when he came ninth at EPT Barcelona, earning €64,800. Just a few months later, he bettered that finish with a sixth place at EPT Warsaw, worth 344,641 Polish zloty (approx $148,000).
In addition to those big scores, Macerias has also cashed at EPT San Remo and EPT Prague; came third in the €2,000 event at last season’s EPT Grand Final, and was runner-up in the Estrellas Poker Tour inaugural event in Alicante, for €44,000.
He has also clocked up impressive results online, including PokerStars’ Wednesday Quarter Million in January 2009, and the Main Event of the first-ever Iberian Championship of Online Poker in February 2011.
When Maceiras turned pro, he was following in the footsteps of his sister Maria – a former Spanish poker champion – and his father Juan Antonio “Vietcong01” Barros, who has won both the PokerStars Sunday Million and the PokerStars Warm-up.
Seat 4: Andrey Danilyuk, 25, Moscow, Russia – PokerStars qualifier – 2,645,000 chips
Danilyuk has played numerous EPTs (he thinks around 20) but making the final table of this season’s Grand Final is his best result to date. Last year Danilyuk played in Team PokerStars Pro Alex Kravchenko’s World Cup of Poker team and he is being railed in Madrid by a large group of Russian players.
Danilyuk, who also runs an online food-and-drink retail business, has been playing poker around six years, both live and online. Online his biggest cash has been for around €20,000.
He says he steers clear of big buy-in events. He came 51st at last season’s EPT Grand Final, for €31,000, but his biggest live cash to date was 201st at last summer’s World Series Main Event, where he earned $48,847.
Seat 5: Andrew Li, 25, Arlington, Virginia, USA – PokerStars SuperNova Elite – 1,210,000
Li has been playing poker since 2004 and professionally since 2008, after he graduated from the University of Virginia where he studied Biology and Psychology.
Li primarily plays sit and goes on PokerStars under the handle “azntracker” and plays between 30 and 40 tables at once. This year he broke the record for reaching SuperNova Elite in the quickest time. It took him just two months, breaking the previous speed record by nearly three weeks. He only decided to come and play Madrid the day before the tournament started as his room mate (Pariesh “Dana Gordon” Jain) was making the trip.
He’s now banking his biggest win by far – wherever he finishes in the final. After this year’s WSOP he is planning to relocate to Sydney, Australia so he can carry on his online career. Away from the tables Li likes to travel and participate in many outdoor action-adventure pursuits.
Seat 6: Ivan Freitez, 46, Caracas, Venezuela – 5,995,000 chips
Freitez has played numerous EPTs and already cashed twice this season – 16th at EPT Copenhagen in February, for DKr 105,000 (nearly $20,000) and 55th at EPT Snowfest, for €6,400.
His best result to date was winning a $1,000 no-limit tournament at the Venetian last July, for $108,170.
Seat 7: Torsten Brinkmann, 27, Osnabrück, Germany – 1,875,000 chips
Economics student Brinkmann has been playing poker since 2006 and is a regular in heads-up cash games, as well as the Sunday tournaments on PokerStars. He also plays live in his home casino in Osnabrück.
His best online result was runner-up in a $215 WCOOP event, for $193.620, in 2009, losing heads-up to Team PokerStars Pro Bertrand ElkY Grospellier. His best live finish was first place at the €1,000 Twente Classics Enschede, for €33,480.
This is his third EPT. He cashed last season at EPT Berlin in 88th place for €12,000. Brinkmann is being railed in Madrid by his girlfriend Natalie Hof, one of the last six contestants left in the German poker talent show “Das PokerStars.de Ass” which is airing now in Germany.
Seat 8: Alex Gomes, 28, Curitiba, Brazil – Team PokerStars Pro – 1,670,000 chips
Team PokerStars Pro Alex Gomes is in a unique position to become only the third ever winner of poker’s “Triple Crown.” The 28-year-old Brazilian already has a WPT victory under his belt (Bellagio Cup, 2009, $1,187,670) and a WSOP bracelet ($2,000 No Limit, 2008, $ 770,540); now he needs an EPT title to become only the third member of poker’s most exclusive club.
Only four years ago Alex was fully set on a career as a lawyer. He played poker at home with friends but was committed to his career and was already a partner in a corporate law firm. However, once he started playing online poker he was soon winning big money, including first place in the Wednesday Hundred Fifty Grand for $65,333.
Eventually he turned pro – a decision which brought rapid rewards. First he took down the $2k NLHE event at the 2008 WSOP, for $770,540; then he joined Team PokerStars Pro and only weeks later came fourth at the first LAPT event in Punta del Este, in Uruguay.
Gomes, who came 33rd at last season’s EPT Grand Final, earning €35,000, is a keen sportsman and plays soccer regularly, as well as supporting his local team, Curitiba FC. He plays online as ‘Allingomes’.