EPT Season 8: Memorable Moments

May 18, 2012


Season 8 on the European Poker Tour was one for the ages. Not only were 13 champions crowned and millions of dollars won, but also, numerous memories were made. We’re here to talk about some of those memories, specifically the most memorable ones as we see them. It’s important to point out that these are in no particular order. Let’s get to it.

We’ll start all the way back to EPT London and Benny Spindler’s big win, which took place at the end of September and beginning of October in 2011. Spindler was often regarded as one of the best young players in the game, but he hadn’t won a major title to really solidify his stance. He had previous deep runs in all kinds of events across the EPT, the World Series of Poker and also the World Poker Tour, but no major victories.

When the final table in London began, Spindler was third in chips. He assumed the chip lead early on at the final table after picking off a big bluff from Mattias Bergstrom. Then, he won a massive flip with start-of-the-day chip leader Martins Adeniya to get a massive stack. When heads-up play began, only American Steve O’Dwyer stood in the young German’s way. Spindler had the lead to start the battle and it didn’t last too long.

Many were saying that because of Spindler’s previous close calls, this victory knocked the monkey off his back. When asked if he felt like he had a giant weight lifted off his back, Spindler simply shook his head and responded, “No.”


Benny Spindler

Speaking of EPT London runner-up Steve O’Dwyer, he had one heck of a season on the EPT and that brings us to the next memorable moment. He banked numerous cashes including two big final table appearances in London and then in Copenhagen. In London, O’Dwyer scooped £465,000 for his second-place finish to Spindler and in Copenhagen he took seventh for DKr 290,000. He also had a second-place finish in the EPT Campione High Roller for €74,000. Not a bad season for the American, who really broke out over on European soil.

If we’re going to talk about players who broke out during Season 8 of the EPT, the biggest of them all was German Philipp Gruissem. When it came to High Roller events, Gruissem always had his hands on a massive amount of chips deep at a final table it seemed.

Things all started when Gruissem took third in last season’s EPT Berlin €10,000 High Roller for €67,000. He then went on to win the EPT Barcelona High Roller for €234,500 and beat Igor Kurganov in the EPT London High Roller to win the title and £450,200. Along with those impressive scores, Gruissem took fourth in the EPT San Remo High Roller, third in the EPT Prague High Roller and cashed in the EPT Berlin Main Event. All of that came before he went on to final table the EPT Grand Final €25,000 High Roller and take third for €266,000. Basically, Gruissem is the resident EPT high roller and we can’t wait to see the results he puts up in Season 9.

It’s always been known that no player has ever won a second EPT title. In Season 8, Kevin MacPhee nearly did it twice and each time everyone was pulling for him to become the first to do so.


Kevin MacPhee

A former EPT Berlin champion, MacPhee’s first real shot in Season 8 came in San Remo when he found himself at the final table. Unfortunately, the short-stacked MacPhee couldn’t gather any momentum and bowed out in eighth place. From there, he recorded a few in-the-money finishes with aspirations of a second title, but the second really big push didn’t come until Berlin.

In the same city he won his first EPT title, MacPhee found himself still alive on the penultimate day with the field down to 24 players. With this being the last stop before the EPT Grand Final and the culmination of the season, MacPhee had a second EPT Main Event trophy dangling right in front of him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for MacPhee as he was eliminated short of the final table in 19th place.

Even with hopes of a two-time champion in MacPhee falling, Anton Wigg and Vladimir Geshkenbein were two other former champions still in the mix. As the day wore on, it looked at though both of them may make the final table, but then Wigg fell in 14th place and left only Geshkenbein carrying the torch to a would-be two-time champion. But just like his fellow former champions fell before him, Geshkenbein headed to the rail short of the final table in 10th place to open up the throne to a brand new title winner.

One of those players remaining after Geshkenbein’s exit was Belgian pro Davidi Kitai. Although there may be some skepticism about the defining criteria behind Kitai’s WPT Celebrity Invitational win, he technically had a WPT title to go along with his WSOP gold bracelet coming into the final table and that made him eligible for poker’s Triple Crown achievement. Even though the excitement of having a two-time EPT champion crowned in Berlin was washed away with the eliminations of MacPhee, Wigg and Geshkenbein, Kitai could still win the Triple Crown and steal the headlines.

Kitai had a tough group of competitors in front of him, but he gathered a ton of chips early on in the final table to really put a stranglehold on things. From there, he seemed to cruise to victory and win a massive payday of €712,000 along with a prestigious EPT title.

While on the topic of close calls, plenty of big-name pros had their fair share of them this season, including many Team PokerStars Pros. Eugene Katchalov took third in Barcelona before fellow Team Pro Juan Manuel Pastor took fourth in London the following stop. Luca Pagano, who is arguably the best overall performer on the EPT since its inception, took seventh in Deauville and Pierre Neuville finished runner-up to Mickey Petersen in Copenhagen.

Speaking of Petersen, as if all those final table runs by team players weren’t good enough, the PokerStars Team Online member went out and won his first major title at EPT Copenhagen. Petersen seemed to use his youth, energy and aggressive online nature to beat down the older Team Pro until Neauville just couldn’t hold on any longer.

Prior to Copenhagen, another Team Pro had a major result and that was Viktor Blom. He conquered the elite field that came out for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 Super High Roller for his first major victory and $1,254,400. The final table was jam-packed with poker power, including some of the biggest names in the game maneuvering their way to the final five spots that were all in the money. Daniel Negreanu and Jonathan Duhamel finished in fifth and fourth place, respectively, and then Galen Hall fell in third before Blom dismantled Dan Shak to win the trophy.

Besides Blom winning his first major title, the other name that sticks out from the 2012 PCA was Duhamel’s. After scoring fourth in this event for $313,600, the 2010 WSOP Main Event champion took fifth in the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em Turbo event for $17,990, won the $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em event for $239,830 and then finished runner-up to Leonid “Alex” Bilokur in the $25,000 High Roller for $634,550. Altogether, Duhamel scored over $1,200,000 from his trip to the Bahamas and shot his way to the top of nearly all Player of the Year leaderboards around the community.

Duhamel may have won over seven figures from his four cashes in January, but between the PCA and the EPT Grand Final alone, nine players had seven-figure scores. Those players included Blom and Bilokur for the aforementioned wins at the PCA along with John Dibella and Kyle Julius, who took one and two in the PCA Main Event. The rest of the list is made up by Justin Bonomo, who won the EPT Grand Final €100,000 Super High Roller, the second-place finisher from that event, Tobias Reinkemeier, the EPT Grand Final €25,000 High Roller champion Igor Kurganov and then places one and two from the EPT Grand Final Main Event, Mohsin Charania and Lucille Cailly. Just think about this for a second: nine people had a single score of seven figures or more just from the PCA and EPT Grand Final in Season 8. We, too, just said “wow” out loud.

The final moment we’re going to talk about was from the EPT Grand Final and it’s only fitting that arguably the most memorable moment from the entire season came at the final stop in Monaco. Everyone knows the name Justin Bonomo. He’s young, he’s solid and he has plenty of results on record. No week will compare to the one he had in Monaco, though, at the EPT Grand Final.

Things didn’t start off in the right direction for Bonomo, as he found himself firing in a second €100,000 bullet in the Super High Roller. Went it came time for the final table, Bonomo had a massive lead on the rest of the field. He rode that chip lead all the way to a victory and one worth a whopping €1,640,000 — easily the largest score of his career.

From there, Bonomo took his run good to the Main Event and worked his way into the money. We kept an eye on him at all times and he was playing with a massive amount of confidence coming off the big win. He ended up finishing in 28th place for €35,000, but we had yet to hear the last from him. After that very deep run from the field of 665 players, Bonomo entered the €25,000 High Roller and again found himself making a big splash. He bobbed and weaved his way down to the final eight and was at a second major final table within a week. Bonomo eventually fell in fourth place, but it was worth another €266,000 in prize money to put his weekly total at €1,941,000. Easily one of the best weeks of poker we’ve ever seen.

As much fun as Season 8 of the EPT was, we had a great time reliving all of the big moments with you here. When August rolls around, it’s going to be time for Season 9 of the tour and things will be kicking off in Barcelona. With all of these amazing moments from Season 8, Season 9 sure has a lot to live up to, but we’re confident things will be bigger and better than ever.


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