When the €100,000 Super High Roller event at the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo®Casino EPT Grand Final was down to its final 16 players, Erik Seidel tweeted his assessment of the field. “Too many geniuses left,” he said.
Seidel is a wry and dry tweeter, but he also packed into this micro-blog a hefty dose of self-deprecation. He was indeed surrounded by geniuses — the final eight boasted tournament earnings of about $54 million. But the lion’s share of that total was in the record books next to Seidel’s name.
Furthermore, tonight, after a punishing final table in the third-richest event ever held under the auspices of the EPT Grand Final, Seidel is the biggest genius in the room. He is the champion, and his €2,015,000 victory tonight represents the single largest cash of a 27-year poker career.
What’s more, in order to wrap up this one, Seidel had to do what nobody in the game has deemed possible in the past couple of months: beat Dzmitry Urbanovich heads up. Seidel wasn’t in Malta last month when the 19 year old Pole announced his arrival on the global poker scene by winning four events, including the €25,000 Special High Roller tournament.
Despite only buying in at the start of Day 2, and despite coming to the final table with the second smallest stack, Urbanovich had seemed set to continue his devastating run with victory in this enormous event. Let’s not do him down — second place and €1,446,600 is yet another sensational result in Urbanovich’s embryonic career — but Seidel overcame a three-to-one heads up chip lead to prevail and hand out a harsh lesson to this incorrigible upstart.
“So tough, so tough,” Seidel whispered to Urbanovich when he shook his hand at the end of a five-hour heads up duel.
For some more perspective, Seidel was heads up at the World Series of Poker seven years before Urbanovich was born. But he’s still got it.
“It feels so good to get the win,” Seidel said. “I’ve knocked on the door so many times. It was a surprise to me because I was low on chips all day [but it’s] definitely one of the best overall tournaments for me.”
Seidel, who is now 55, added that he still relishes the competition. “I really enjoy it,” he said, cracking a smile at the end of the titanic encounter. “I really look forward to coming to these tournaments.”
Urbanovich, who had donned a suit for his debut on the biggest stage, was crushed, but his friend and countryman Dominik Panka spoke for him. “Losing heads up to Erik Seidel is almost like a win,” Panka said.
Coming into today’s final, Scott Seiver has the proudest of all records at EPT Super High Roller tournaments, with four cashes in the nine events he has played, including victory at the PCA in 2013. With ten players left yesterday, he was prowling between the two remaining tables, anxiously shepherding a short stack through the most meaningful phase of the tournament.
But in short order, Piotr Franczak suffered a bad beat at the hands of Vladimir Troyanovskiy to burst the bubble, then Troyanovskiy himself endured the wrath of the poker gods and went out in ninth. It meant that Seiver, still short, was guaranteed €261,800, whatever the outcome today.
As it turned out, that was precisely what Seiver got as he could last no more than five hands. Fedor Holz opened from late position, Seiver defended his big blind with J♠3♠ and was mistaken for thinking the J♦4♥8♦ flop was good for him. It wasn’t. Holz had A♦J♥ and all the money went in.
That sent Seiver off to join his family, who had come to Monaco to watch. He also played and was knocked out of the main event, but there’s still a €25,000 High Roller at the end of the week.
Even before Seiver left, action had been volatile. On the very first hand of the final table, Dario Sammartino opened the betting, Thomas Muelhoecker called, Seidel three bet and Igor Kurganov four bet. It set an aggressive tone.
It also meant that Holz did very well to fold an over-pair (tens) on a seven-high, flushing board soon after when faced with a shove from Kurganov (who had pocket sevens). But it also meant it was understandable when Muelhoecker called Urbanovich’s shove with two pair soon after that, paying off Urbanovich’s flopped set of aces. That gave Urbanovich some wiggle room, which he duly exploited to maximum effect.
For all the shrewd discipline of his play, Holz was the next to leave. The WCOOP champion, two seats to the left of Urbanovich, was doing his best to get some momentum of his own going, but found himself relentlessly three-bet by the Pole. Eventually, Holz shoved with K♠J♥ over the top of Kurganov’s late position raise, but Kurganov, with the chip lead at that point, called with A♥9♦ and won. Holz took €337,500 for seventh.
Kurganov, who had led at the end of Day 1, was in command of the table at this point, but Urbanovich continued to play his part. With Muelhoecker a short stack and action folded to the small blind, Urbanovich moved all in, covering Muelhoecker. The Austrian snap-called with A♠J♦, smashing Urbanovich’s range. But Urbanovich’s 6♥3♥ were both live and he hit a three, sending Muelhoecker out in sixth, earning €427,100.
Then came the pot that had seemed set to define this tournament, bludgeoning Urbanovich into the lead. Having grown attached to low suited connectors, particularly in hearts, Urbanovich made a standard defend of his big blind with 6♥4♥ when Kurganov opened from early position.
The flop brought the world for Urbanovich: 5♣4♦4♣. He then played every street aggressively, improving his hand on the 6♠ turn and, unbeknownst to him, seeing gin on the A♥ river. Kurganov had A♠8♦ and found reason to call Urbanovich’s 1.725 million bet on the river.
That hand gave Urbanovich more than half of the chips in play, five handed, and three players fell in rapid succession after that.
Kurganov, wounded from the previous monstrous confrontation, might have known it would be Urbanovich who would finish them off. It went in as a flip, Urbanovich with 10♦10♣ to Kurganov’s A♠Q♦, but Urbanovich made sure it was nastier than that. He allowed Kurganov to flop an ace before he turned a ten. Kurganov earned $551,000 for fifth.
Sammartino was next for the Urbanovich buzzsaw. And again, he made it cruel. Sammartino, who came into the final table with the chip lead, hadn’t managed to get any momentum going today and had dwindled to his last 1.7 million when he found A♥K♠ and shoved. No one could blame Urbanovich for calling with A♦Q♦ and the board peeled 2♦6♥6♣4♦ and, yes, boom: 6♦ on the river.
The flush sent Sammartino out in fourth and earned him €709,500 – his largest tournament score by a factor of about eight.
At this point, both Altergott and Seidel were short and, in truth, seemingly helpless to stop the Urbanovich juggernaut. Their best hope was for one of them to double the other up, but it would only be the equivalent of assisted suicide. It is, however, precisely what happened because Seidel open shoved from his button with Q♥5♠ and Altergott saw enough, with 8♦8♥ to call.
The flop favoured Seidel, though. It came 6♥9♠Q♠ and Altergott could not catch up. That set up Seidel for the heads up challenge and sent Altergott looking for €940,300. He now has a first and a third in Super High Roller events in this room. Good going.
The last two remaining players had 36 years between them, but they immediately reached an age-transcending agreement to pause the tournament for dinner before they went heads up. When they returned, Seidel would be sitting with about 4.5 million, while Urbanovich peered over the best part of 14 million.
Nobody has ever beaten Urbanovich when he had got to this position before, but Seidel is the toughest competitor of them all. The best way to see how the whole thing played out is to flick through all the hand-by-hand action on the main Super High Roller page.
There were, of course, a couple of double ups. And as the duel edged past midnight, both players began to yawn. But it didn’t dull their senses: there were at least two calls with nought but king high to win pots at the river, and Seidel also picked off an Urbanovich bluff with jack-high.
When it came to it, Urbanovich limped from the small blind and then shoved for about 2.5 million when Seidel made it 600,000 more. Seidel snapped it off with 10♣10♥ and Urbanovich couldn’t catch with K♦9♠.
That wrapped it up. Seidel was the champion, and wandered off into the middle of the empty tournament room to text whoever Erik Seidel texts and allow himself a secret smile. Urbanovich is tough. Seidel is tougher.
EPT11 Grand Final – Super High Roller
Total entries: 71
Prize pool: € 6,888,420
1st – Erik Seidel, United States, €2,015,000
2nd – Dzmitry Urbanovich, Poland, €1,446,600
3rd – Max Altergott, Germany, €940,300
4th – Dario Sammartino, Italy, €709,500
5th – Igor Kurganov, Russia, €551,000
6th – Thomas Muehloecker, Austria, €427,100
7th – Fedor Holz, Germany, €337,500
8th – Scott Seiver, United States, €261,800
9th – Vladimir Troyanovskiy, Russia, €199,620