Day 3 of the European Poker Tour main event has come to a close with the clock having just ticked past 1am; a long day at the tables that worked through 117 eliminations, 117 personal disappointments, leaving just 24 players to return tomorrow.
A day like today can bring players to the point of exhaustion, and the same feeling permeates those watching. But the flip side to a hugely popular event like this, one that started the best part of four days ago with a field of 811 players, is that the winner will have to earn their title the hard way, turning their back on the sunshine and beach outside in favour of hard graft day after day inside. But if records are correct, the winners always seem to say that it’s worth it.
The TV table
Feeling that way after today’s strain will be tonight’s chip leader Tomeu Gomila, who bags up 2,543,000 tonight, giddy with excitement as he departed his seat under the TV lights, the bulk of his fortune amassed in a single hand that witnessed the departure of Simon Charette and Jose Latorre, albeit with the etiquette of the game under scrutiny (see 12.47am).
Your chip leader tonight, Tomeu Gomila
One of the key questions tomorrow will be whether Gomila’s momentum was down simply to good cards or simply solid play?
Raul Mestre may have the questions to find out, the closest finisher to Gomila, with 2,363,000 chips.
The Spaniard has left it a while to score his second cash, his only other money finish being an eighth place at the Bonavena final table of EPT Prague in Season 5. Today though it was a case of what took you so long as Mestre barrelled his way into the lead with a seemingly impervious display of aggression, not to mention having the right cards at the right time.
“Brutal,” said Mestre, summing up his day. “Poker is very fun when you run so good. I lost some small flips but I won the important ones. If you don’t win the important hands you’ll never win.”
With 141 players returning today 21 of them would have to leave empty handed. With the bubble approaching Jeffrey Hakim, his face easy to spot for his Anthill Mob stubbled chin, watched as Boris Becker, in the seat next to him, avoided a cash free elimination. But before too long Hakim himself was forced into a make or break decision, one that would go against him, and cast him from the main event on the bubble.
On the bubble, Jeffrey Hakim
Hakim has played enough of these events to know that as a professional, this is all part of the job. But as the bustling world around him awaited his fate Hakim seemed peacefully resigned, at least as he looked into the camera, knowing all this but boy, wishing it was happening to somebody else. Hakim will be back.
From that point on the eliminations flowed like celebratory champagne. Benny Spindler was among the first in 118th, Tobias Reinkemeier followed in 113th, as did former EPT champion Jan Skampa in 111th.
As for Becker, the former tennis ace would go in 97th place, scoring his first EPT cash one place ahead of Team PokerStars Pro Rino Mathis.
More Team PokerStars Pros would follow in the form of Juan Manuel Pastor (86th), Vanessa Selbst (84th) and Victor Ramdin (74th). Andre Akkari soon followed in 61st.
The list grew longer. Former chip leader Guillaume Darcourt went in 46th, much, it seemed, to his own deep personal surprise. Another Team PokerStars Pro Alex Kravchenko went in 39th, having attempted (but never succeeded in doing) to get his stack up to somewhere around average. Local favourite Leo Margets went in 36th.
It begs the question, after all of that, who’s left?
Well, the hopes for a Team PokerStars Pro win rest on the shoulders of Matthias de Meulder and Eugene Katchalov.
De Meudler pulled rabbits out of hats today. All in several times he turned imminent failure into burgeoning success, bagging up 1,376,000 at the close
Matthias de Meulder
If you needed to rest your hopes on someone’s shoulders, Katchalov would be a wise choice. Ranked the third best tournament pro in the game at the moment, Katchalov has 1,452,000 chips with which to continue his campaign and ruin a few hopes and dreams tomorrow.
His success today seemed like the ascension of someone doing everything right. No dramas, no tantrums, nothing in between, just a methodical unassuming destruction of those whose plans he was able to unpick.
“I think I played ok,” said Katchalov. “I’m a little tired. I definitely got lucky now and then. Other than that, I ran pretty good.”
For now though the tournament room has grown quiet and the TV lights have dimmed. Players have left for the comfort of bed or a bar, the sensible to rest up ahead of tomorrow’s campaign for a place on the final table. That will be their target and the focus of our coverage tomorrow afternoon.
For the scores of all of those remaining check out the official chip count page. At the same time you can recap on all the action from today at the links below.
That puts a lid on Day 3 at EPT Barcelona. Join us tomorrow for more of the same as we narrow down the field to eight.
The winner’s trophy
Until then it’s goodnight from Barcelona.
All photography © Neil Stoddart.