Jasper Meijer van Putten, a 29-year-old poker player from Alkmaar in The Netherlands, is the final Main Event champion on the European Poker Tour (EPT), prevailing from a field of 1,192 players in Prague to win almost €700,000.
As has been documented, the EPT is undergoing a re-brand at the end of this year, before relaunching as PokerStars Championship and PokerStars Festival events. Whoever won today knew they would claim a permanent place in history as the last of 115 champions over 13 years.
After seven hours of play at Hilton Prague today, Meijer van Putten became that player.
His was a victory of perfect pacing. Earlier in the week, he was feeling under the weather and left a stack to be blinded away in his absence. But he came back in better spirits and was never out of the top half of the reducing field through the next five days.
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Then today, Meijer van Putten bided his time through some turbulent early exchanges, before he won a massive pot from fourth-placed finisher Sergei Petrushevskii that put him into the chip lead. He never relinquished it despite coming up against two extremely tough opponents for an intriguing three-handed battle.
David Peters, who finished third, assumed the lead in the Global Poker Index’s Player of the Year race after winning more than $6 million in 2016. He is not just good, he is PoY good.
Meanwhile Marton Czuczor, whose bid to become Hungary’s only EPT champion came up short in second, was the biggest stack coming into the final day and was in the deep stages of an EPT Main Event for the third time. He gave up two years’ life lessons to Meijer van Putten, but had more tournament poker experience against a self-confessed cash-game player.
But Meijer van Putten was in irresistible form today, carving through the final table with utmost confidence. It ended in a two-way deal with each of them guaranteeing a mighty pay-day. Then there came a huge race, and to the winner the spoils.
“For now it’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Meijer van Putten said.
Six players were still involved when they started at noon today, on the sixth day of competition. We were always going to be making history. It was merely the question of whose name went at the other end of the bookshelf to Alexander Stevic’s. He was the first, who would be the last?
The EPT has seen it all over its 13 years, including its fair share of grim out-draws and nasty coolers. By way of tribute to that memory, our first elimination was a horror. Sam Cohen, who had the chance to become the EPT’s fourth female champion, saw her final day challenge last all of three hands.
She peeled a flop with Q♣8♥ in the big blind after both Czuczor and Peters committed money to the pot pre-flop. Then she flopped top two pair. But when the 9♥ appeared on the turn, Peters hit a set–he had pocket nines in the hole–and Cohen was toast.
She took €145,900 for sixth place, but looked appropriately stunned and sickened by the worst start possible.
Marius Gierse was next out, although he didn’t look quite so blue as Cohen after he lost with pocket fives to Czuczor’s tens. Gierse showed this week that he can play big stack or short stack; he has been both in the deep stages of this tournament.
He was card dead at the final (that happens too) and turned to his rail for reassurance that his shove was correct with 24 big blinds. They agreed. He was knocked out. That’s poker. He took €203,800 for fifth.
The EPT has always prided itself on being a breeding ground for brilliant new players, and also for offering a chance for long-time grinders a shot at a life-changing score. Buried in fields composed of these types of players, there is usually at least one person who is on the run of a lifetime without necessarily understanding how that could be possible.
At EPT Prague this week, that particular role was played by Petrushevskii, a 36-year-old amateur from Saint Petersburg, Russia. His previous best result in any form of the game was sixth place in a $55 buy-in tournament on PokerStars, but here he was in the last four of the Main Event, playing with the very best of the best.
Railed by two friends with whom he had travelled to Prague (and who had both also cashed in the Main Event), Petrushevskii made it all the way to fourth. He pulled off some cheeky moves at the final, but ultimately got short and four-bet jammed A♣7♣ into Meijer van Putten’s pocket Queens.
Petrushevskii picked up €284,550 and has a great story to tell anyone who will listen.
Stacks were almost even when only three players remained and the trio began discussing a potential deal. After about 30 minutes, and even a handshake that seemed to suggest amicable resolution, it transpired that there had been a misunderstanding and that Czuczor was not happy with the agreement he had apparently reached.
Czuczor reneged on the deal he hadn’t actually agreed to so they played on for the lot.
Meijer van Putten, who had been quiet in the opening stages, put his foot on the gas. He had the chips to play the game he wanted after knocking out Petrushevskii and started making moves.
Czuczor became his bunny for a while. Then he moved on to Peters. It was a remarkable sight: the two players who had been entirely dominant forces were helpless in the face of Meijer van Putten’s chip power. He built a stack that was more than twice as much as the others combined, and knew how to use it.
The other coincidence at this stage was that the three end-of-day leaders from days three, four and five were the last three players at the table. And it was Peters, who led the final 65 players, who was first of the three to go looking for the payouts cage.
Peters made one sensational fold when three-handed, correctly discarding top pair to leave himself with nine big blinds. It was further evidence, should it be needed, that he is a player at the very top of the game. (The other evidence is a year in which he has already won $6 million in live tournaments, including a WSOP bracelet.)
But Peters was unable to overcome his deficit and ended up calling all-in with a dominated Q♠7♥ to Czuczor’s A♦Q♣. He flopped seven, but there was an Ace on the river and Peters’ stellar year came to an end in third.
Meijer van Putten had a three-to-one chip lead when heads up play started, and they talked again–unsuccessfully–about another deal. But after Czuczor chipped up to almost even, they looked at the numbers again and locked up €649,300 (Meijer van Putten) and €630,000 (Czuczor), with €50,000 on the side.
That won Meijer van Putten a heap and they subsequently got it all-in with him holding K♣J♣ and Czuczor 2♦2♣. There was a jack on the flop and the day, the tournament, and the EPT was done. (Relive it all with our blow-by-blow account.)
A Dutchman won the biggest Main Event prize on the European stops of the EPT: Pieter de Korver’s €2.3 million in the Season 5 Grand Final will never be beaten. But Meijer van Putten’s name will last long in the folklore too as the final champion after all these years.
We will, of course, be back in the Bahamas in January. Meijer van Putten will be too: “Absolutely,” he said, when asked. Make sure you are too.
EPT13 Prague Main Event
Dates: December 13-19, 2016
Total prize pool: €5,781,200
|1||Jasper Meijer van Putten||Netherlands||PokerStars player||€699,300*|
|2||Marton Czuczor||Hungary||PokerStars player||€630,000*|
|3||David Peters||United States||PokerStars player||€397,300|
|4||Sergii Petrushevskii||Russia||Live satellite winner||€284,550|
|5||Marius Gierse||Germany||PokerStars qualifier||€203,800|
|7||David Lopez||Spain||PokerStars qualifier||€104,510|
|8||Kiryl Radzivonau||Belarus||PokerStars player||€74,850|
*denotes heads-up deal