by Brad Willis and Simon Young
Gavin “wsop2005” Griffin may have showed up with a frivolously pink-hued hairdo. He may have kept on his boyish smile and joked around with his fellow players. He may have sneaked to the rail to share a kiss with his girlfriend. He may have done all those things that might indicate he was just in it for the fun.
Anyone who thought that, though, would’ve been making a mistake. The young man had been sick all day. Even from the rail, you could see him sniffle and wearing under the week-long event. Still, he held strong. Gavin Griffin, the PokerStars qualifier and one-time youngest WSOP bracelet winner, showed the whole of Europe he is a professional. And now he is a professional who is more than $2 million richer.
The event itself was unlike anything anyone had seen in Europe. The venue looked like a planetarium. The tournament was paying bigger than most players had ever seen outside of Las Vegas. The side action (we heard reports of €40,000 SNGs) was bigger than ever. The success of PokerStars qualifiers was proof of the online world’s skill. In total, 246 of the 706 players made it here to Monte Carlo as PokerStars qualifiers to experience the trip of a lifetime. Sixteen of the final 32 runners were here courtesy of PokerStars — and four of them made it all the way through to the final table. What’s more, this event was held in one of the most luxurious places in the world.
Here’s how the final table players stacked up as they headed into final table play.
Seat 1: Ram Vaswani (UK) 432,000
Seat 2: Steve Jelinek (UK–PokerStars qualifier) 758,000
Seat 3: Marc Karam (Canada) 1,742,000
Seat 4: Andy Black (Ireland) 683,000
Seat 5: Soren Kongsgaard (Denmark–PokerStars qualifier) 1,612,000
Seat 5: Josh Prager (USA–PokerStars qualifier) 1,593,000
Seat 7: Gavin Griffin (USA–PokerStars qualifier) 2,597,000
Seat 8: Kristian Kjondal (Norway) 1,203,000
Ram Vaswani announced his intentions from the very beginning. He didn’t have a lot of chips and he wanted more. Soft-spoken as he is, he made his plan clear in another way–all-in on the first hand. He didn’t get action that time. Four hands later, though, he was ready to play again.
Ram raised to 70K in mid-position and Marc Karam called from the button. Both blinds folded and the flop came out 445 with two diamonds. Both players checked. The turn was a ten. Ram checked, Marc bet 70K, and Ram moved all-in. He got a very quick call from Marc. Ram showed JT of diamonds with top pair and a flush draw. Marc showed KT. Ram needed jack or diamond to win…or a ten, ace, or four for the split. That was just the fifth hand of the day and the first flop we’d seen here. It spelled Ram’s end. He exited in 8th place for €159,270.
Andy Black didn’t look as though he was ready to give up. He had a rail full of green-hatted buddies. He was happy to joke about the number of chips moving to Marc Karam on his right.
“It’s one-way traffic at the moment, boys,” Andy Black down at the parade of chips moving into Karam’s stack.
On the last hand of the day’s first level, Andy Black saw all his chips march away. On a flop of 883, Andy check-raised Kristian all-in. After just a brief moment of thought, Kristian called. Andy flipped up a pair of sevens. He shook his head when he saw Kristian’s pair of jacks. No miracle seven on the turn or river and Andy Black departed 7th place, earning €238,910.
During the break, Steve Jelinek stepped outside to cool off with his girlfriend, Irina. It was a private moment and one we reported chose not listen in on. He came here hearing an upcoming corporate merger could mean the end of his day job. A big won here might have allayed a lot of those concerns.
Just back from the break, Steve came in for a raise and got a re-raise from Marc Karam. Steve moved all-in and Karam called. Steve showed pocket nines to Karam’s pocket jacks. The board ran out KT7/2/J and Steve was eliminated in sixth, earning €305,270.
PokerStars qualifier Josh Prager was starting 2007 out in style. After taking a year off to spend time with his new baby, Prager got back into poker and cashed in the Aussie Millions. His day started badly after having to fold his hands with lots of money already in the pot. Finally, he had chipped down and needed to find a double-up hand. Holding 7-7, he called Soren Kongsgaard’s 85,000 opening raise. The flop was 8-2-2 rainbow. Soren bet out 200,000, Josh moved all-in over the top and was called quickly by the Dane. Soren showed 10-10, a mile ahead of Josh’s pocket sevens. The turn and river, an eight and a jack, brought no miracle seven. Josh took home €391,550.
Four-handed so fast, there was some thought the game would slow down a little bit. Not so. Griffin came in for a raise to 80K under the gun. It was folded to Soren in the big blind. He made it another 120K to go. Gavin announced, “All-in.” Soren did not think long before calling with pocket jacks. Gavin showed QQ. The board ran out AA5/K/3. Soren fell down to around 800,000 and Gavin moved up close to four million chips.
Players headed to dinner with chip stacks that looked like this:
Seat 3: Marc Karam (Canada) 4,148,000
Seat 5: Soren Kongsgaard (Denmark, PokerStars qualifier) 845,000
Seat 7: Gavin Griffin (USA, PokerStars qualifier) 3,896,000
Seat 8: Kristian Kjondaln (Norway) 1,676,000
Shortly after play resumed, Gavin tried to get rid of Soren. They got it all-in with Gavin’s AJ vs. Soren’s 88. No ace or jack came on board and Soren got a key double up when he needed it. Gavin’s luck didn’t improve in the next few minutes. He lost about 1.2 million chips to Marc after calling a 700K river bet on 3sTdQc/6d/Jd board. Marc showed him the king-high flush and Gavin mucked.
However, it would not be long before we were heads up.
Gavin Griffin and Kristian Kjondal saw a flop of 6-9-4. Gavin then bet 165,000, Kristian moved all in over the top, and Gavin called. It was 4-4 for Gavin, and 8-9 for a pair for Kristian. The turn was 5, giving The Dane a straight draw, but the river was a king. Kristian left with a healthy €471,180.
Gavin, now with the chip lead, went to work on Soren’s stack. His end was a battle of the blinds, with Soren calling from the small blind, and Gavin checking. The flop was 5-4-6, and both players checked. The turn was an ace, Soren checked, Gavin bet 200,000 and Soren moved all in. He got an instant call. Soren turned over 9-10 for just ten high. Gavin, meanwhile, had A-J for top pair. The river would change nothing, and Soren, from Denmark, left with €610,500.
Left heads up, Marc Karam and Gavin Griffin settled in for a lengthy heads up match. Having dispatched their fellow players rather quickly, they were both left with enough chips to play for a long while. After playing for an hour, they sat basically even in chips. After a break, they came back and traded a million chips back and forth for a while. Neither player, however, gave up much ground. It took until the end of the 25,000/50,000/5,000 level for the final hand to play out.
Gavin made it 150,000 to go pre-flop and Marc re-raised to 400,000. Gavin called. The flop came 3-2-4. Marc pushed out a bet of 500,000. Gavin thought for just a few seconds before raising to 2 million. The room suddenly felt like it does just before a huge electrical storm in the American Midwest. The skies opened when Marc announced, “All-in.”
Gavin, still with the sniffles, looked like he was in pain. He had Marc covered by only about 500,000. After about two minutes of thought, he said, “You have the best hand.”
“You’re calling,” Marc asked. We couldn’t tell if he was incredulous or happy.
“Yeah, I call,” Gavin said.
Marc forcefully put his 4-7 on the table. Top pair, seven kicker. Gavin showed K-5. He may not have thought he was in such good shape. With fourteen outs twice, he was in good shape. The turn, though, suddenly didn’t look as good for the pink-haired pro. it was a three. The river seemed to come down slow. But just by looking at the boy’s faces, it was clear what had happened. The river was a king, and just like that, Gavin Griffin had won the EPT Grand Final. Marc Karam, who everyone agrees played a stellar game here, finished in second place for €1,061,820.
Gavin, who said he expects to win every tournament he enters, still gave a lot of credit to his opponents and girlfriend.
“I’ve been sick all day, and I’m really tired, but I’ve had the support of my girlfriend here, who has been fantastic,” Gavin said. “It’s not the most exciting thing to watch every day, so thank you to her. Marc played great. It was a hell of a move on that last hand, but by the time he moved all in I had to call.”
Griffin actually qualified on PokerStars for the EPT Grand Final on the same day he qualifier for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. There, he confesses that he didn’t play very well. Here, however, was a different story.
Griffin came to both win this event and support the a breast cancer charity walk. PokerStars donated $15,000 to his charity and matched all donations from PokerStars players 100%. Griffin said, he was able to acheive both goals at once.
“This tournament’s structure was awesome, just incredible. It was my first visit to Europe, and you can be assured I will be coming back,” he said. “I have been supporting the breast cancer charity here because when my girlfiend was 21, she suffered from it. In September we will be doing a 39-mile charity walk over two days as we thought it was important to try and give something back, and hopefully help women in the future.”
Congratulations to Gavin Griffin on his amazing win.
Goodnight, from Monte Carlo and the EPT Grand Final.
Many thanks to everyone who helped out on the blog this week. It would not have been possible without all your help –Brad