When the European Poker Tour first came to Prague four years ago the final table was played in what felt like a coliseum, three banks of supporters surrounding a single table where Frenchman Arnaud Mattern earned himself the title amid an electric atmosphere.
There was no repeat win for a Frenchman this week, although it would be close, but the cauldron-like setting was back, with a big crowd of spectators here to watch the finale of another record-breaking event.
The final table begins
What they saw was a new young player claiming his rightful title. Martin Finger, from Germany, was the chip leader at the start of play, and was the chip leader at the end. But his journey there was not as easy as most thought it would be. In a change to the billed show, his heads up rival David Boyaciyan decided to put up a fight. It was some fight.
Finger, scoring his first EPT cash in ten attempts, reached heads up with a four-to-one chip lead. But it was Boyaciyan dictating play, the Dutchman spending three-and-a-half hours delaying what everyone believed would be Finger’s inevitable win. Suddenly, using nothing but small pots, Boyaciyan had taken the lead. When he lost it it was fair to assume we’d be waiting a further three hours for Boyaciyan to do it all again.
But Finger wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. Finding Ace-King, a raising war got the chips into the middle in what was the first pre-flop four-bet of heads-up, Boyaciyan showing pocket tens. The board delivered a king and, a little late perhaps, Finger had his prize.
Martin Finger mobbed by his friends
It was a hard fought win against top draw opposition.
At the start of play Finger was just two big blinds ahead of Nicolas Levi. But the Frenchman was struck down almost from the off when he flopped two pair against Boyaciyan’s top set. Levi was forced to play catch up from then on, while Boyaciyan was set up for a deep run.
Levi would finally succumb to third place leaving only Boyacayin to challenge Finger. Four hours later the expression on Finger’s face was one of delight and relief. But more than anything Finger had been enjoying himself.
“Still having fun?” asked Boyaciyan, an hour into the heads up.
“Yeah!” replied Finger with a grin. “You?”
A record setting event with a finale to suit. Martin Finger is the new EPT Prague champion, the third German of the season to lift EPT main event silverware.
1. Martin Finger, Germany, PokerStars qualifier, €720,000*
2. David Boyacayin, Netherlands, €535,000*
3. Nicolas Levi, France, €270,000
4. Guillen Usero, Spain, €205,000
5. Denys Drobyna, Ukraine, €160,000
6. Ari Engel, United States, PokerStars qualifier, €125,000
7. Andreas Wiese, Germany PokerStars qualifier, €90,000
8. Mads Wissing, Denmark, €66,700
* reflects two-way deal
When the players arrived it was Mads Wissing living on borrowed time. With just a handful of blinds he was left little choice of determining his fate. He lasted less than an hour, departing in eighth. Andreas Wiese would go next, ahead of Ari Engel, one of the most impressive players of the week, in sixth.
Denys Drobnya had proved a difficult man to play against, his departure in fifth place ending a good week for the Ukrainian who at times shows similar swagger to Finger. Guillen Usero seemed to be most effectively when against the ropes, a belief in himself coming to the fore and earning him fourth spot.
Each of them will likely have their moment in the sun, none of them looking out of place at the pinnacle of European poker, but today the limelight rests on Finger.
EPT8 Prague champion Martin Finger
Read the full account of the day in German and French as you please. All photography here and there is courtesy of Neil Stoddart, whose copyright legal team will be starring in Panto at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane this Christmas.
Back after Christmas
That’s all from our coverage in Prague. Our next coverage begins on 5 January, opening day of the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Plenty of time for chestnuts to roast on open fires, jack frost to nibble at your nose and Santa Clause to make his way down the chimney. Unless it’s burglars. Always check to make sure.
Until the PCA then, have a good festive season. The family Finger can expect bumper presents this year.
From all of us, it’s goodnight from Prague.
(Plays national anthem).