EPT Prague

EPT Prague

Thursday, 28 February 2013

All the action from the EPT Prague 2012

It’s not always possible to put a finger on why it’s more pleasing, as an observer, to watch some players win an EPT rather than others. Hopefully it’s not because of some mawkish sympathy for players we’ve grown familiar with over eight and a bit seasons. Maybe it’s just because some of the winners in previous years have made people cry for altogether different reasons. No matter. My best guess is because of the feeling it evokes, similar to putting out a fire in your kitchen, or dodging a train at a level crossing – a small celebration that things will go on and that all is right again. Ramzi Jelassi created something along those lines by winning EPT Prague, because he deserved it.
That said, it was 3am when he finally wrapped it up, so the feeling could actually have been relief. The new and extended 90-minute levels in the latter stages of EPT main events give players ample time to grow tired, wear themselves out and get emotional, as Prague would demonstrate. But it does give the better player time to do the job, to win, and prove to us all that, contrary to what we might tell each other, poker is quite difficult.


In a similar fashion to Ludovic Lacay in Sanremo, Jelassi’s win, and the bonhomie that came with it, shouldn’t really be so surprising.
The Swede, still only 26, has effectively grown up on the tour, playing first in Season 2 in training wheels, then in later years with a university text book on his lap, and ever since then with the gentlemanly swagger of a veteran. In a poker world in which longevity is a greater feat than a big tournament win, Jelassi had already earned the respect of his peers. But then a win is always nice and, at €835,000, it pays well.

"I realise that I won, but with such a lot of money it will take a while before it really settles in,” said Jelassi, in between fielding calls on his mobile from well-wishers. “It feels great now. I'm really happy that I won... my first win. I'll be really happy when the money reaches my bank account.

"I just came here and played. I got caught up in my game and played. There really wasn't anyone playing back at me. That's why I won."

That Jelassi thought it appropriate also to utter the word “finally” as the last hand played out summed up the elation that must come after years trying to win a major title. There’s also something about an EPT win, more than any other tour that speaks of accomplishment. The WPT finds a winner every week (it feels like every week), but the EPT is less predictable and more prestigious. It’s also more eclectic, with 63 nationalities represented in Prague.

Jelassi wasn’t the only one to mutter “finally”. The final had started in the spirit of a child’s birthday party before descending several hours later into a bad-tempered divorce, the parents beautifully played by Sotirios Koutoupas and David Boyaciyan.

Diego Gomez swapped his bow tie on the penultimate day for a lion outfit for the final and, at times, was a chicken nugget short of a happy meal. Gomez the Lion played very little part in the first few hours, but came to life when executing the only play open to him.

After each of these all-in barnstormers, which he inevitably won by good fortune, he would roar around the table, dashing into the crowd where a mass of Spaniards clung to the mistaken belief that he might actually pull it off. Never in the history of the EPT has a player been less likely to win, but then again we said that about Lucien Cohen in Deauville a few years back, not to mention the dastardly Ivan Freitez in Madrid.
But Gomez was no Freitez, principally because he was likable. He departed, tail between his legs, having laddered his way into fifth place, ahead of Mark Herm in eighth, Aleh Plauski in seventh and Sergey Kuzminskiy in sixth. When Ben Warrington went in fourth it left a three-way impasse when discussion turned to a deal, a delay lasting nearly two hours. Villain in the scene was David Boyaciyan.

Boyaciyan’s belligerence will explain the lack of consideration given to his performance. A year earlier he had finished second and was now on the verge of topping that. But the Dutchman sat with his finger in the dyke, plugging up the flow of money, while Jelassi and Koutoupas tried their best not to toss him into the Vltava.
With five million of the roughly 25 million chips in play, Boyaciyan wanted more than a proportionate share, pointing to his heads-up record for justification. “Look it up,” he said repeatedly. No one looked it up.

Koutoupas was incensed by this dirty trick. As if talent had anything to do with any of this! He’d bent as far as he was willing, but was becoming more reliant on a committee of friends that doubled as the drinks committee and took to conferring with him at every chance, with red faces and swollen neck veins.
Jelassi, meanwhile, remained composed. Prior to the dinner break he appeared to have given away more than he wanted simply to keep the Dutchman happy. But the deal collapsed after the break, Koutoupas returning to spit vitriol at Boyaciyan, and suggesting it was time to gamble. Sooner or later, someone always says it’s time to gamble.

It had been the highlight of the last day; a bigger draw than the high roller win by Marvin Rettenmaier, or the success of Dan Smith in a €5,000 side event. What should have followed was a display of recklessness on the part of Koutoupas, and the inevitable doubling up of Boyaciyan, who had predicted as much during the deliberations. Instead Koutoupas, usually a small stakes player, attacked Boyaciyan at every moment, taking his chips to the roar of the Greek crowd, which sensed it could be on the verge of a first Greek winner.

Boyaciyan took it as best he could, but his forced smile was increasingly embarrassing to watch. He was quickly beaten and left before anyone felt too awkward. Second place was as good as a win for Koutoupas whose torn clothes now looked less like a fashion motif, and more the result of a the fight he’d slogged through, albeit successfully.

For his part Jelassi remained calm, the only obvious sign of lassitude were his drooped shoulders, which he rubbed from time to time. But it would be a fatigue cured by winning. He’d vetoed a deal with Koutoupas, quite rightly. Despite losing his lead, he knew how to get it back, and to punish the Greek for keeping him up so late. In short, for such a long final, Jelassi was superb.

He was also uniquely gracious in victory, personally thanking staff and dealers for their efforts, which at least one dealer thought was the most wonderful thing in the world. It seems even the staff like it when one of the good guys wins. Here’s to more of the same in 2013.

Tags: ept san remo, jelassi