Ask those who spend their time working on the European Poker Tour to name the worst final table they ever seen and most will undoubtedly say Copenhagen, Season 4, an epic all-nighter that somehow managed to make time stand still.
It’s true, it was a tough night. But they’re also wrong. That final table was a belter, a classic, and among the most memorable of EPT stories.
It started with a final table line up that promised a lot. It ended, at 1.40am, with a heads-up contest that featured extended periods of boredom, interspersed with occasional moments of drama. Well one moment of drama, a coup de grace delivered in Hollywood fashion.
The only snag was that the heads-up lasted nearly five hours.
Before that the final had rattled along nicely. Danny Ryan departed in fifth, which most thought was premature. Rasmus Neilsen followed in fourth before Magnus Hansen departed in third place.
It left the heads-up finalists; Tim Vance, a gravel voiced amateur player from the United States, and Soren Jensen, the local man from Aarhus, Denmark.
Tim Vance: No one sings like you any more…
No one could have predicted that the heads-up would last so long. The final up to then had been at a heady pace, with Vance, a man who wears a cap on his head and his heart on his sleeve, swaggering past the opposition. Heads-up, all that would change.
The initial impression was that both players were simply sizing each other up, deploying clever, sophisticated analytical skills to get the measure of each other. These were no ordinary finalists.
Vance, who looked more and more exhausted as the night went on, would pace the stage, repeatedly asked to return to his seat where he would stand, the adrenaline in his blood making sitting impossible. Time and again he would shout towards the bar for more orange juice, demanding more and more ice in his drink each time.
“Tell them American ice!” he said, as if this would explain all to the fatigued bar staff.
Jensen on the other hand was as muscle bound firebrand, who celebrated victory in the hands he won by yelling “Come on the whites!” which everyone hoped referred to the colour of shirts worn by his favourite soccer team Aarhus.
As time went on this “sizing up” period soon revealed itself to be something completely different. It was in fact a stalemate, both players beginning long process of folding, as each, it seemed, waited for the nuts before progressing any further than a checked flop.
It was at time agonising for those watching as the levels passed by without so much as a change in the chip counts, which had Vance ahead by some way.
Then the hand that brought everyone back to life.
Both players checked the flop of 2-7-8 with two spades. Those watching were used to seeing both players check so had no idea this would be the last hand. The turn came a three, another spade, at which Jensen bet 115,000 which Vance called without delay for the four of spades on the river, which prompted Jensen to move all in. With the same degree of theatre Vance had used throughout the tournament, he stood up, turning to Jensen.
“It’s been nice playing with you sir… I call.”
Vance threw down ace-ten of spades, the nuts, to wrap up what in hindsight had been an incredible performance. He immediately screamed in delight and then walked straight out of the tournament room. Tournament staff, keen to get things wrapped up, wondered what to do before it was agreed that Vance had at least earned a cigarette break. Hell, we all had.
When he returned Vance, almost asleep, collected his trophy and check for more than €800,000. His name would now be part of EPT folklore and Vance himself one of the best loved, and oft talked about players in the tour’s history.