The European Poker Tour is 100 stops old, but the oldest story of them all will never grow tired.
We have lost count now of how many low-stakes online poker players have won a satellite at PokerStars, earned a trip to play their first live tournament among the stars of the game, and then crushed them en route to a dream-come-true payday.
In Barcelona today, the man in the spotlight is a 30-year-old Dutch banker named Bram Haenraets, who is at the top of the leader board heading into the penultimate day of competition at this fiercest of tournaments.
It cost Haenraets about $80 to get here and he is now guaranteed at least €40,200. If things continue to go so well tomorrow, he’ll move closer to a €1,261,000 jackpot and a place among some of the most celebrated rags-to-riches tournament poker players on the planet. He has 4,395,000 chips at bagging time tonight, which leads the final 25.
“I can’t believe it, it’s been a surreal day,” Haenraets said. “In my dreams I thought about being chip leader, but this is one in a million. I think my chances of winning are pretty good because I have a big stack and have the chip lead.”
It’s fitting that Haenraets should lead at the the end of a day that started amid familiar talk of another potential two-time champion. There were seven players in today’s starting field who have sampled life at the top table, but Haenraets personally accounted for at least two of them.
He knocked out Mike McDonald with aces against sevens. He then cooled Davidi Kitai with aces again against Kitai’s A♠K♦. And even though Nick Rampone took the last of Robin Ylitalo’s chips, Haenraets still got his hands on them eventually.
In what was, at the time, the biggest pot of the day, Haenraets flopped top pair with his K♥J♦ on a board of J♣10♠4♦. But he didn’t know he was being lured into a trap laid by Rampone, who had J♠10♥. But the hunter can sometimes become the prey in poker and the K♣ on the river put Haenraets back on top and earned him a pot of more than 3.3m chips.
When they finally got bagging tonight, at the end of level 25, this record-breaking field of 1,496 had been cut to ribbons. These were the players clinging to the wreckage:
Bram Haenraets – 4,395,000
Piotr Sowinski – 4,355,000
Mikkel Nielsen – 3,135,000
Hossein Ensan – 3,075,000
Slaven Popov – 2,695,000
Ji Zhang – 2,285,000
Andrea Dato – 2,290,000
Pawel Brzeski – 1,988,000
Kiryl Radzivonau- 1,860,000
Mikhail Rudoy – 1,815,000
Maximilian Senft- 1,795,000
Dominik Panka – 1,705,000
David Dvoress – 1,570,000
Andre Leattau – 1,535,000
Andrey Shatilov- 1,390,000
Sergei Popov – 1,255,000
Robert Schultz – 1,240,000
Samuel Phillips – 1,045,000
Gerald Karlic – 955,000
Thomas Hueber – 945,000
Mark Wagstaff – 990,000
Benjamin Nicolas-Teboul – 735,000
John Andress – 710,000
Mathieu Clavet – 575,000
Nick Rampone – 520,000
Not many of them are particularly well known, it’s fair to say, and, our leader excepted, there appears to be a bit of a vowel drought going on. However, anyone who follows poker with even a half-hearted interest will know to keep a very close eye on Dominik Panka. This young fellow from Poland won the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January, then the EPT Deauville High Roller.
He also needed to hit a river card today to stay alive, but Panka is in one of those runs of form where his luck is good and his skill is even better. He hit, then soared up the leader board.
We bade farewell to Jan Heitmann today. The last Team PokerStars Pro fell in 39th and in lieu of a memorial bench in a park, we present a small memorial post garden with coverage from today of the German gent.
Team Online’s Grzegorz “DaWarsaw” Mikielewicz also perished in 55th — doubly frustrating because we didn’t get a chance to interview him. Next time, Grzegorz. Next time.
Dan Smith also won a side event, but that’s not really even news any more.
The High Roller event will play into the night, and you can follow that on the main High Roller page.
We resume with Main Event action at noon tomorrow. Join us then.