EPT Vilamoura: Final table player profiles

November 22, 2009


The final table is set for the Main Event of EPT Vilamoura, with the following players gunning for the €404,793 first prize.

For a full list of prizewinners to date, see the prizewinners page. There’s also a full prize structure there.

Stay tuned to PokerStars Blog throughout the day for all the latest updates.

Final table player profiles:

Seat 1: Ryan Franklin, 18, Lake Tahoe, USA – 1,047,000 chips


Despite living in the one of the best casino destinations in the world, Franklin, 18, is too young to play in his home town so instead made his way to Portugal for his first live tournament. Having just graduated from high school Franklin is now taking a year odd to focus on poker before going to university next year. He has already had some big results online including individual wins of $94,000 and $71,000 in separate tournaments. The switch to live poker doesn’t seem to have fazed him, being “super-excited” to have made a final table on his debut in the live environment.

Seat 2: Jan Skampa, 23, Prague, Czech Republic – 926,000 chips


Jan Skampa is an economics student at Charles’s University in his home town of Prague but spends most of his time as a poker player. The 23-year-old has been playing poker for five years, having learned the game from friends, but he’s been playing seriously for three years, scoring his first big result in August at the WPT in Slovakia, $24,508 for eighth place. He followed that with a win a month later, $24,881 at a WPT side event in Cyprus. His progress this week hasn’t always been straightforward. He finished well on day one but ended day two as one of the short stacks. But on day three he was able to turn things around with some good cards and good situations, and by making the final table in Vilamoura he’s already guaranteed the biggest pay-day of his career.

Seat 3; Jeff Sarwer, 31, Kingston, Ontario, Canada – 1,983,000 chips


This is the second EPT event in a row in which Sarwer has gone deep. Disappointed to have busted in tenth place in Warsaw earlier this month, a result worth approximately €30,705, Sarwer arrived in Portugal determined not to let the same thing happen again and has been either first or second in chips since day two. Sarwer has a background in chess, emerging as a young phenomenon having learned the game at four. His chess career as a young boy became the inspiration for memorable scenes from the film Searching for Bobby Fischer before he quit the game. Now living in Gdansk, Poland, Sarwer switched his attentions to poker a year ago, cashing in Prague last season.

Seat 4: Antonio Matias, 54, Setubal, Portugal – 3,003,000 chips


António Matias couldn’t have hoped for a better experience at his very first EPT event. The 54-year-old businessman usually plays cash games but didn’t want to miss the first EPT in his home country. He said: “I’m an economist and the general director of a travel agency. Poker is really just a hobby for me as my work means I spend a lot of time abroad – in Luanda, Angola – or I’m at home in Setúbal with my wife and two daughters. No limit hold ’em is my beach.” Matias also likes watching football in his free time and is a keen supporter of Benfica, one of the top three teams in Portugal.

Seat 5: Andrei Vlasenko, 45, Moscow, Russia – 371,000 chips


Vlasenko has only been playing poker for a year and says this is by far his best result so far. The 45-year-old businessman originally hails from Moscow but has been living in Marbella on Spain’s Costa del Sol for the past 11 years where he works in real estate. He said he is thrilled to have made the EPT Vilamoura final table but says his wife Olga will be even more excited than him. “She taught me everything I know,” he said. Olga has been supporting her husband at the tournament and also caring for the couple’s two-year-old daughter, Daria.

Seat 6: João Silva, 27, Lagos, Portugal – 780,000 chips


Even though there is another Portuguese player at the final, only João Silva can really say he is playing at home. The 27-year-old pro came to his first EPT event from Lagos, a small city in the Algarve region around half an hour from Vilamoura. He quit his job as an IT consultant 14 months ago to dedicate himself 100% to poker. He says he prefers playing cash but he has already made more than €32,000 in four live tournaments since August this year, including three final tables and a first place in Casino Estoril. When he is not playing poker, he loves to go to the Algarve’s beaches and kite surf. Even though he is far away from the chip lead, he assures that he has only one goal in EPT Vilamoura: “To win it!”

Seat 7: Michel Abecassis, 57, Paris, France – 488,000 chips


Before becoming one of the best-known faces of French poker, Michel Abécassis embraced many different careers. He originally studied to become a doctor but, despite qualifying, he quickly set aside his stethoscope to become one of the best bridge players in the world. After 13 French Champion titles and two European titles, Abécassis decided he had to find more lucrative employment. He became a journalist at the French magazine Elle where he swiftly became chief editor. In 1997, Abécassis discovered poker and thus began another career. He has five titles in French tournaments, and has made two World Series final tables and won a pot-limit Omaha tournament at the 2002 WCOOP. Despite playing many EPT events, this is Abécassis’ first final table on the tour. He came tenth in London in 2006 and 21st in Warsaw last month.

Seat 8: Pierre Neuville, 67, Knokke, Belgium – PokerStars player – 1,027,000 chips


Neuville started playing poker 50 years ago at university when he and his fellow students used to play every day. He then took 25 years off while working at Hasbro games where he eventually became vice president. After he retired two years ago, he decided to follow his dream of playing poker around the world. He took his wife to the PCA in the Bahamas in 2008 and finished in 18th place, laying to rest his wife’s doubts that he could compete against world-class players. The following season he did even better and, although hugely disappointed to bubble the final table, he took ninth place in San Remo on season five winning €78,800. He believes making the final here in Portugal has a lot to do with being better prepared. Up against younger players, Neuville tries to give himself an edge by making sure that he is fit and also by planning scenarios ahead of time. Neuville has had tons of support from the Belgian poker community and woke up this morning to a barrage of emails from fans. He feels he is proving that ‘older’ players can handle the modern game against young aggressive players.



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