by Stephen Bartley and Brad Willis
All photos © Neil Stoddart
Glen Chorny lifted his arms in the air. His A-5 had bettered Denes Kalo’s K-Q and in that moment he had become the new PokerStars.com European Poker Tour Grand Final champion.
It was the longest, the biggest, some of the best poker the EPT has ever seen. When play ended and the trophy was held aloft by Chorny, the faces of the players spoke thousands of words. Relief, mixed with fatigue, combined with an adrenaline daze. They had come through a mental exertion to get this far, but only one could come out winner and in keeping with the running theme of the week, it ended after some thrilling poker.
It was a final that could have gone all sorts of ways. Antonio Esfandairi stood on the verge of a remarkable Triple Crown, needing only an EPT title to go with this WPT and WSOP wins. Then there was Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano, making his third ever EPT final table and looking to recapture that season one form in what would be his record ninth EPT cash.
Then there was Isaac Baron, widely tipped as tournament favorite and known to his peers as the best player in the game. The story of internet hellraiser to live poker champion is an oft told one, but Isaac’s first EPT win was not to take place here.
When we started today, ten players remained. After Stig Top Rasmussen and Henrik Gwinner were both eliminated, we moved on to the lights and cameras of the feature table, where the players lined up like this…
Seat 1. Denes Kalo — Hungary — 1,190,000
Seat 2. Michael Martin — USA — 1,320,000
Seat 3. Luca Pagano — Italy — Team PokerStars Pro — 688,000
Seat 4. Valeriy Ilikyan — Russia — 1,396,000
Seat 5. Antonio Esfandiari — USA — 501,000
Seat 6. Maxime Villemure — Canada — 1,206,000
Seat 7. Glen Chorny — USA — PokerStars qualifier — 3,613,000
Seat 8. Isaac Baron — USA — PokerStars qualifier — 2,853,000
With his father Claudio sitting nervous in the gallery, Luca Pagano put on an early show. He first doubled through Isaac Baron after raising and calling a re-raise with KJ. Baron, with a much bigger stack, pushed all-in on a jack-high flop and Pagano called to see AK. Pagano dodged the ace and got a key early double-up.
Just a few minutes passed before Pagano came in for another raise. This time, Antonio Esfandiari pushed all-in. Having to call 480,000, Pagano barely hesitated before making the call. Esfandiari showed A8 to Pagano’s AJ. The flop came down and gave Pagano the stone cold nuts–QTK for Broadway. Esfandiari had three outs for a chop, missed, and exited in eighth place, earning €168,000.
Upon Esfandiari’s exit, the first person to shake his hand and congratulate him was Luca’s father, Claudio Pagano. Esfandiari later said he’d made a good read on Pagano and put him on a decent hand, then promptly forgot it after seeing his own ace. Hear more in the PokerStars Video Blog below.
After Esfandiari’s exit, play continued for a bit without much incident. When American Michael Martin–decked out in a USA hoodie–came in for a raise, Russian Valeriy Ilikyan pushed all-in. He got a snap call from Martin.
“Bring on the Russians,” he said with obvious confidence. He held AQ to Ilikyan’s A4. The flop brought both the ace and queen. The turn and river were worthless to Ilikyan and he exited in seventh place for €253,000.
Two short stack eliminations seem to light a fire under Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano. In a pot that would define the next hour of play, Pagano bet 500,000 into a 9d 4d 2h 4s board, and pot amounting to 814K. Glen Chorny called. The Qh fell on the river and once again, Pagano fired out a bet, this time 400,000. Chorny called and showed pocket sixes, no good against Pagano’s KdQd. Suddenly Pagano had the chip lead with 3.3 million chips.
Pagano has nine cashes on the European Poker Tour. This Grand Final marked his third final table. In all that time, he never managed to find a victory. This time, with his father on the rail, it was clear Pagano smelled his first EPT title.
Fifteen minutes later, Luca came in for a raise to 130,000 and Max Villemure re-raised to 400,000. Pagano did not wait long before re-raising all-in. It was no small proposition. The bet was nearly a million more chips. Villemure, however, was not deterred. He called quickly to see Pagano’s pocket jacks. Villemure turned over his AK. The pot was worth more than 3.4 million and would go the way of the Canadian when an ace hit the flop.
That pot made it clear that the final table would not end early. At the 8:15 dinner break, the players’ stacks remained so deep, some tournament veterans were predicting the final table may not finish until well into the morning. They would be right.
But things changed for Luca after the break and after just 15 minutes in his fortunes had taken him to the brink of elimination. He moved in from the button over a 125K raise from Denes Kalo. The quick call was not good for Pagano, showing his AJ only for Denes to turn over pocket queens. The K-7-7 flop was no good and Luca called out for an ace, just one more chance. But it didn’t come and after gracious handshakes he left the final, collecting €337,000.
Then after two levels of no eliminations we had a second 15 minutes later.
Michael Martin had surged ahead late yesterday and at times today had been atop the chip list, but the lead had changed several times, and big pots were able to quickly change the dynamic of the day. When Glen Chorny raised pre-flop to 125K, Michael called from the big blind. He then checked the 6-7-T flop before Chorny bet again, this time 225K. Martin then upped the stakes, making it 675K. It was a sudden change of pace and when Chorny pushed in there was never any other option for Martin than to call, showing QT to the pocket jacks of Chorny.
“Don’t do it to me dealer,” said Chorny as the dealer complied, laying out an ace and a deuce on the turn and river. Martin’s tournament was over in fifth place for € 421,000. In just 20 minutes the final had gone from six to four-handed.
Thoughts had suddenly turned to the notion that this could all be over much quicker than anticipated when just a few minutes later Denes Kalo moved all-in. Glen Chorny had raised pre-flop with A3 of spades, called by Kalo with AQ. Chorny missed his outs, whilst Kalo had been catapulted into the chip lead, with 4.5 million.
But in keeping with the spirit of the event no one was in any mood to lay down and let their fate be controlled without a fight. Chorny picked up a 1.7million pot from Maxime Villemure with AJ, the jack on the flop good enough.
By now there was no clear chip leader and the final had developed into a battle between four players, none of whom held any significant advantage. But perhaps favorite, from the point of view of poker playing contempories, was Isaac Baron, often refered to by his peers to be one of the best players in the game today.
It would be close to three hours before the next elimination…
Then as level 29 got underway, the players saw a huge pot for Maxime Villemure, who came in for a raise, watched Isaac re-raise to 650K and then pushed all-in. Isaac raced him into the pot with a call, showing pocket eights. For Maxime it was pocket queens. Neither hand improved, doubling up Maxine to the tune of 4 million. Isaac had had the lead stripped from him and was suddenly the short stack with a mere one million chips.
But Isaac would have his twist of good fortune. He pushed all in with Q3 and Denes Kalo called with AT. All looked lost for Isaac, destined for a fourth place finish. Instead a miracle queen hit the river. The crowd erupted in an involuntary roar which almost carried Isaac back into contention as much as the boost to his stack did. He was back, with more than 2 million chips once more.
But even the best stories can sometimes end abruptly and for Isaac it was AQ against AA. The hand snuck up on everyone and sent the the tournament favourite crashing out. On a low flop of 6s2c7s Glen led out for 335K and Isaac began a period of deep thought. Glen then called the clock, the first move of its kind which nudged Isaac into his all-in move. Glen called immediately, showing his aces. The nine of spades on the turn sparked thoughts of a respeite for Isaac, holding a spade to go with the three on the board, but no flush came. Baron was out in fourth place for € 589,000.
By now another issue had grown apparent. Maxime had shown signs of a bad cold all week and the stresses fo five days of play and all that came with that was beginning to show.
Glen was now edging ahead, up to 6 million, then 7 million as the others’ did what they could to keep pace while the level 30 blinds grew in size. Max moved in with AQ on a near perfect flop T-Q-3, doubling up when Glen called him with Q-J.
The slow march continued as the clock nudged past 2am. But with Denes as the short stack, it was Max and Glen who tangled, reducing the field by one and sending the grand final heads-up.
Maxime limped in from the small blind to see a flop of ThAd4s. When the turn came Js Maxime made it 200K and was called. A 9d on the river and another bet, 450K from Maxime, prompting Glen to move all-in. Maxime called quickly. Max held Q8 for the straight, but Glen held KQ for the nuts. The cooler sent Maxime Villemure out in third place for € 715,000 and leaving just two players to battle it out for the title.
From there it was less than a minute later that this mamoth contest was completed. After nearly 12 hours of play Glen held a ten-to-one chip lead over the Hungarian. Kalo knew his chances relied on acting fast. He found KhQd and made his move, raising first, finding Glen moving all-in and calling in a shot, showing his Ah5h. The board came AsQs6s6cTd, making Glen Chorny the Season 4 PokerStars.com EPT Grand Final champion.
Chorny took the applause after a handshake, first with Denes Kalo, his worthy opponent, and then with Tournament Director Thomas Kremser. For Denes, he’ll pick up €1,179,000 on his way home tonight, whilst for Chorny € 2,020,000 and the honor that comes with winning the biggest poker tournament in European history.
Monte Carlo is nothing if not opulent, glamourous and well, expensive, a fact not lost even on players competing for what were millions of dollars. “It hasn’t set in yet” said Glen in an interview with Kara Scott shortly afterwards. And when asked how he intended to celebrate his €2million haul tonight… “Maybe go to a bar, but I’m not going to Jimmy’z [Monte Carlo Bay’s night club]. It’s too expensive.”
Maybe not anymore for Glen, a man who got here via PokerStars Steps qulaifiers. As the fireworks lit up the stage and crowds applauded a new champion, too young to play when the EPT started four seasons ago, it seems only right to salute him with some kind of celebration.
“There’s no better way to feel right now than like this,” Chorny said. “It feels like you’re a rock star.”
You can find a full run down on the winners here.
Editor’s note: Special thanks to the PokerStars Blog team for their tireless and selfless efforts throughout the Grand Final. To Stephen, Ed, Steve, Chris, Lina, Noelia, Klaus, Robin, and Mad: You are appreciated. Thank you. –BW