The days are short in Sweden at this time of the year and the winter is closing in. In Swedish poker terms, it must therefore seem like decades since Ramzi Jelassi was clutching the EPT Prague title (actually December last year) and an aeon since the likes of Kent Lundmark, Michael Tureniec, Anton Wigg, et al, would seemingly win an EPT title for the crazy Scandis practically every month.
But the Swedes are now well and truly back as Robin Ylitalo, a 27-year-old pro from Gothenburg, has just stomped all over the final table at EPT London to win £560,980, a Slyde watch and give Scandinavian Airlines their familiar problem with stowing a weighty EPT trophy in the overhead locker.
“I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time, I didn’t think it would come true,” said Ylitalo as he was congratulated on the feature table stage. “I had a lot of good cards in a lot of good spots and really good timing to get good hands.”
Ylitalo prevailed from a final table today that featured short-stack ninjas and big-stack bullies; the card racks and the card dead. He was perhaps the only player who remained on the right side of most of the major skirmishes, steering a steady ship through waters that were deliberately made choppy by some volatile players.
“I think they tried to force it too much, and play too much against the Greek guy who I honestly think played very well,” said Ylitalo, referring to Georgios Karakousis, who would eventually finish second. “He put a lot of pressure on the other guys. But they didn’t adjust to him that well and they tried to play every pot against him. It doesn’t work that way. So I tried to stay away and wait for my spot and yeah, it worked.”
There was a thick line running through the final table starting field dividing the haves from the have-nots. While the likes of Rossiter and Karakousis had plenty of wriggle room with stacks of close to 100 big blinds, none of Kully Sidhu, Ludovic Geilich, Jan Olav Sjavik nor Leo McClean had more than 20. All four knew they would need to get busy.
Geilich had spent the best part of a week wielding one of the biggest stacks in the room and was clearly uncomfortable to be playing shove-or-fold poker. So he shoved and although he was a long way behind with Q♦4♦ when called by Stefan Vagner’s K♣Q♣, Geilich had all the support from the rail. They bellowed for a four, the dealer dealt a four, and Geilich was up and running.
It left Sidhu terribly exposed at the bottom of the leader board and when he found A♠Q♦ it was time to get it in, even though Karakousis had opened the pot. Karakousis called with J♥10♠ and the Greek player hit a jack. That was the end for Sidhu, who took £60,640 for eighth and left them seven-handed.
Sjavik had been to the EPT London final table before and finished third behind Victoria Coren in Season 3. During that event, he made some excellent plays, including one heroic call in particular, that were rewarded only with outdraws. He had been denied the title.
Sjavic returned to London this week with some kind of score to settle, albeit quietly, and had been steady in his progress to the final. But the first time he really got many chips in the pot today — all of them, in fact — his pocket sevens couldn’t beat Geilich’s pocket nines. They were down to six.
Nothing that had happened to this point had been out of the ordinary. We had lost two short stacks and another had started to move up the counts. But now it did start to get slightly weird, as the big stacks ran into trouble. First Vagner and then Rossiter went out.
We’d seen some properly big hands on the final table. The cards-up coverage on EPT Live showed just how many big pairs and ace-face some of the players had been seeing.
Unfortunately for both Vagner and Rossiter, they had been the main two players to miss out on all this beneficence from the poker gods. Vagner tried to ignore the cards and let his strong arm do the talking, but he found a terrible spot to try bullying. His Q♣J♥ never caught up with Ylitalo’s A♥K♦ and the search for a first champion from Slovakia continued.
Rossiter, meanwhile, who plays the nosebleed cash games in Macau, will probably consider himself lucky that this run of cards came during a tournament rather than on his habitual stomping ground. The number of times he found his hand dominated could have otherwise cost him a fortune.
Instead, he gradually chipped down and down and down, making shrewd laydowns when beaten, but never managing to get any hand that stood up. He made his last stand with pocket fours but lost yet another flip to Karakousis’s K♦Q♥. A television edit of this final table might suggest that Rossiter had met his soul-reading nemesis in Karakousis, but the director’s cut would show that he simply never had the best hand.
Back to Macau for the Aussie (via Paris).
The quartet that remained represented the full gamut of chip stacks from the start of the day. Leo McClean had never had many to play with and he didn’t now. Geilich started short but had built something workable. Karakousis had never been anything but comfortable, yet now he no longer had the chip lead. Ylitalo, who had started in the middle of the pack now had all the momentum.
Geilich was next to fall. The Scot had been irresistible on the feature table for the best part of two days, and the TV shows in which he appears will be must-see television. But he finally came unstuck after he first doubled up McClean in a standard race and then three-bet light once too often and was caught by Ylitalo.
Geilich had Q♥8♥ and Ylitalo had A♣Q♦ and the Swede’s dominant hand remained so.
In all honesty, if you’d have asked Leo McClean at the start of Day 5 where he hoped to finish, he’d have been delighted if you’d have offered him anything from eighth upwards. So the way he ninja-ed his short stack through two days, taking him to the final three, was already way above expectations.
He won more flips for his tournament life than perhaps most people have in a year, and he knew exactly when to get his chips in to maximum profit at other times. Then there he was, with an almost identically-sized stack to Karakousis and A♦Q♦ and the Greek player moving all in.
McClean called and was racing for a genuine chance to win this tournament. He was up against Karakousis’s pocket threes. But for once the young PokerStars qualifier from Northampton, in this event for only £93, couldn’t bink when he needed.
McClean departed, heading straight to the launderette to wash the hoodie that has been wrapped around his face for six days. He’ll put it on the luxury wash, nearly a quarter of a million pounds better off. It really is the stuff dreams are made of.
It left Karakousis and Ylitalo for the title and the difference between £560,980 and £349,200. It was no chump change. There was no question of a deal being negotiated between these two tough competitors and they took a 45 minute break before resuming to play heads up.
But the duel didn’t even last as long as their dinner: Karakousis found A♠6♦ and Ylitalo A♣K♣. In it went, and there were no miracles. Ylitalo hugged every one of the players on his rail, who had chanted their lungs out in competition with cheering sections from England, Scotland, Slovakia and Greece.
He is half a million pounds richer, and that dark winter won’t seem so gloomy after all.
EPT10 London Main Event
Date: October 6-12, 2013
Prize pool: £2,929,400
1st – Robin Ylitalo, Sweden, £560,980
2nd – Georgios Karakousis, Greece, PokerStars Qualifier, £349,200
3rd – Leo McClean, United Kingdom, PokerStars Qualifier, £249,850
4th – Ludovic Geilich, United Kingdom, £193,340
5th – Jeff Rossiter, Australia, £152,320
6th – Stefan Vagner, Slovakia, £119,225
7th – Jan Olav Sjavik, Norway, £88,175
8th – Kully Sidhu, United Kingdom, £60,640
The next stop on the European Poker Tour is in Prague from December 12-18. Qualifiers are available right now on PokerStars, if you fancy becoming the next Leo McClean or Georgios Karakousis. In the meantime, it’s goodnight from London.