It’s becoming clear that Prague is a home away from home for Italian players. It started two seasons ago when Salvatore Bonavena, accompanied by dozens of high-strung countrymen, dominated a televised event. Each of them in some way marked the start of Italy’s poker boom, and each of them also made it into the final winner’s photo. A new poker nation emerged that week, ready to take on the world.
Two years later and we’re seeing the continuation-bet of that Bonavena gambit. Tonight Marco Leonzio leads, with 5,075,000 chips, after four days at EPT Prague, performing in some high drama hands to seize the lead.
Chip leader Marco Leonzio
The same passion that energised the Italians of Season 5 remains in the spirit in which they play. Often overly sentimental and flirting with poor etiquette, the Italian players make up for any failings with bravura and sheer weight of numbers, and three of them will return tomorrow.
Italian Roberto Nulli celebrates
As the wise young pros of the internet weaved their way through the day’s carnage, the likes of Leonzio, Emilliano Bono and Roberto Nulli shocked and awed through the day. While swaggering in nature, and never really knowing how the cards would fall, they remained confident that if they fell towards them they would simply prove invincible.
But if Leonzio’s lead is a trick of the light it will be ruthlessly exposed tomorrow. The final table line-up is perhaps one of the most talent-filled finals in recent time.
Seat 1 – Marco Leonzio, Italy, 5,075,000 chips
Seat 2 – Peter Skripka, Russia, PokerStars player, 4,010,000 chips
Seat 3 – Roberto Romanello, UK, 1,220,000 chips
Seat 4 – Roberto Nulli, Italy, 745,000 chips
Seat 5 – Jan Bendik, Slovakia, PokerStars qualifier, 445,000 chips
Seat 6 – Emilliano Bono, Italy, 1,530,000 chips
Seat 7 – Manuel Bevand, France, 615,000 chips
Seat 8 – Marcin Horecki, Poland, Team PokerStars Pro, 3,290,000 chips
The name not appearing on that list is that of Kevin MacPhee. The American was eight places away from what would have been an historic double win, adding to his victory at EPT Berlin back in March and which would have made him the first player in the world to win two EPT titles. But that bid came to an end prematurely, MacPhee crashing out in ninth place.
Nearly man: Kevin MacPhee
The chip leader coming into the day, MacPhee had his stack battered and slimmed down as play progressed, Leonzio finally seeing him off. The history books, or more accurately, a chunk of html on the EPT website, will be filed away for at least one more event.
But if there is a particular breed that doesn’t care for such administration it’s the rival player. Romanello, still wearing the spiky grey wig worn since Day 1, will count himself among them, finishing tonight on 1,220,000. A sixth place in Copenhagen in February left him feeling short-changed. The Swansea man must now believe he could be a step towards being a double-winner himself by this time tomorrow.
Marcin Horecki will feel the same. The Polish Team PokerStars Pro, who closed on 3,290,000 chips tonight, is as close to an EPT title for the first time since he finished third at EPT London in 2008.
The losses were significant, among those on the rail tonight are Rob Hollink, winner of the EPT Grand Final in season one, who departed in 14th-place, and that same Bonavena of Prague success two years ago, who was also eliminated today in a massive pot of ace-king against ace-king. He departed in 17th.
Bonavena’s fellow Team Pro Richard Toth, would also suffer cruel fortune. Toth lost a vital race to hyperactive Italian Emilliano Bono, whose peculiar affectation was to place a black cloth on his head, akin to a judge passing a sentence of execution, when all-in. As a gimmick it proved brutally effective. Toth crashed out in 15th place.
It was a day of drama, amateur and gut-wrenching, all of which is detailed in full at the links below. You can also find names of all those who were eliminated today on the prizes and pay-outs page.
Play continues tomorrow when the field that was once 563 players strong will reveal its champion. For now, let us guide you to events in German, Dutch and Italian on the foreign blogs. Who knows, they may even have different winners. At the very least they are unlikely to have made over-optimistic predictions about the England cricket team. Thanks also to photographer Neil Stoddart.
Players in action on Day 4
We’re now going to take advantage of the early finish. We’ll be back at 12 noon local time tomorrow in white tie. Until then it’s good night from Prague.