Earlier in the day, Brandon Schefer said to me, "I'm living a charmed existence."
Whether it is charm or an inborn skill, the young man from Seattle Washington is on his way to writing a very, very good story.
Just a few weeks ago, he had no plans to play on the European Poker Tour. He won a seat for free on PokerStars.com to the French Open just so he could go play with his buddy, Carl Olson. He and Olson provided the French Open crowd with quite a story by placing first and second. They both won seats to this event and now Schaefer has made the final table again and comes in as the chip leader.
The hour now grows quite late. We've just put in three 12-13 hour days of poker. Now, only eight are still alive.
Seat 1: Romain Feriolo 475,000
Seat 2: Alex Stevic 57,500
Seat 3: Abdulaziz Abdulaziz 181,000
Seat 4: Ben Grundy 90,500
Seat 5: Kevin Seeger 364,500
Seat 6: Mikhail Ustinov 68,500
Seat 7: Brandon Scahefer 488,500
Seat 8: Rob Hollink 384,000
The Frenchman who now lives in Spain, playing in his first live tourney
Abdulaziz, the 19 year-old student who apparently had to pull the wool over his mom's eyes to come here. He also won his seat on PokerStars.com and ended up chopping the pot with the co-winner. His opponent took the cash, Abdulaziz took the seat. Guess who got the better deal?
A fellow blogger, Ben Grundy struggled to stay alive all day but picked the right spots and made the TV table
Kevin Seeger, the man behind the chips. Ask him how he feels, he almost always responds with gusto, "I feel GOOD. I feel STRONG."
Mikhail Ustinov, the quiet Russian
Alex Stevic, winner of the EPT Barcelona event, told his lovely lady Cecilia if he made the final table, he was taking her on a shopping spree. Cecilia, get out the Mastercard
Rob Hollink, right, next to the dearly departed 9th place finisher,Jani Sointula
Now, they play for money that is hard to view as insignficant.
If you think your heart, and, yes, your soul can handle it, let's take a quick ride through the day.
There's a guy in the U.S. they call the Blogfather. He often borrows a catchphrase from a certain Zeppelin catastophe which I couldn't help but re-borrow all day today.
"Oh, the humanity."
It's all I could think as I watched hopes and Monte Carlo dreams dashed like Buddhist sand sculpture built in playground sandbox.
Perhaps it is the players' potential that made this day such a hard one to watch. As the beginning of the day, the 38 players who started each had the potential to leave with money in their pockets. Sure, some players' potential was greater than others. But, that's not the point. Nearly all of the players controlled some portion of their destiny. In the end, 30 of them left this room without a chance to take the championship. For some of them, it happened at their own hand. For others, the cruelest of Fates stepped in and robbed them of their chance at greatness.
No full house, but we better have a boat, because we're about to go to the river
The Fates were ugly to the likes of young Nate Kelly. The poor kid flopped the nut straight only to face running cards that sent him home in 31st place, just four out of the money.
Nate Kelly, no money but a great bad beat story to tell
The Fates played games with The Flying Dutchman Marcel Luske's heart. Facing two flat callers, Isabelle Mercier raised from the small blind. Finding AQs in the big blind, Luske moved over the top for all his chips. Mercier called. Luske showed his cards and Mercier flipped over QQ. The flop came down 689, leaving Luske with an overcard. The turn gave him his ace and a flush draw. It left Mercier with only one out. That out, the queen of diamonds, came on the river. It sent Luske out before we reached the money.
The Flying Dutchman, Marcel Luske
Queen Isabelle Mecier
The queen of this room lived by the queen and nearly died by the queen a moment later (thanks to fellow blogger Mean Gene for the thought). With the blinds at 1000/2000, Mercier raised to more than 6000. Brandon Schaefer flat called from the big blind. The flop came down with two clubs. Mercier made a pot-sized bet and Schaefer came over the top for the rest of his chips. Mercier called. Schaefer showed KQ in clubs for a club draw. Mercier turned over aces with the ace of clubs. The turn and river came running queens to give Schaefer trips. From across the room, railbirds thought Schaefer had lost he hand. He appeared crestfallen. He later explained the look on his face was excited relief. He also said he felt a little bad for laying such a tough beat on Mercier. Nontheless, Schaefer said he couldn't have played the hand any differently. With a little shrug, Schaefer admitted, "I'm living a charmed existence."
Brandon "I'm Not Good Enough to Fold" Schaefer
Others would not be so charmed. Enter Willie Tann.
The Bubble: Who needs a river when you have a turn
With only 28 players remaining (27th gets paid, 28th gets nothing), Willie Tann raised an uncalled pot from the small blind with KT. Rob Hollink, chip leader at the time, called from the big blind. The flop came down ten-high with two diamonds. Tann, who still had nearly 100,000 in chips, bet out. Hollink flat called. The turn was the five of diamonds. This time Tann checked-called a Hollink bet. The river, as it turns out, was irrelevant. Willie check-called Hollink's all-in bet. Hollink showed T5 for a flopped top pair and turned two-pair. Tann's KT was no good and he left on the bubble.
Willie Tann, drinking a bubbly drink as he bubbles out of the Grand Final
Later, in an interview, Tann said, "I feel very miserable." He sulked around the room for some time, before sitting down at an empty table behind Hollink. Hollink overheard Tann telling the story of his exit to a young lady. Hollink turned around.
"Willie," Hollink said, "I really think you made a big mistake."
"Mistake?" Tann was indignant.
"Raising the chip leader out of position with king-ten..." Hollink mused.
Tann, still miffed, mumbled, "Yah, you're the best player. Forget it."
Once we reached the money, the grind began. The small stacks battled to stay alive, and the big stacks (and sometimmes a good stroke of luck) obliged.
Abdulaziz doubled up after Gus Hansen called his KQs all in bet with 89c. Hansen later gave the rest of his stack to Martin Wendt after jacks couldn't hold up against AK.
Ben Grundy doubled up after getting all-in with AQ versus Martin Wendt's KK. Grundy flopped two pair for the win.
Jani Sointula survived as well with A9 of hearts when he made a flush against Kevin Seegers pair of tens.
Moments later, Abdulaziz raised the 6000 big blind to 25,000 and Julian Gardner came over the top all in with JJ. Abdulaziz held aces and those aces held up, crippling Gardner. Gardner left shortly thereafter.
The beat of the night came from the hands of Kevin Seegers. With a very nice-sized stack, he somehow got all in with KQ of hearts versus Martin Wendt's AK. The flop couldn't have been more powerful. It came down all hearts, crippling Wendt and ruining his chances at a good finish.
A little side action
A funny thing happened on the way to eight players. At these festivals, players can essentially call their own Sit&Go tournaments. It gets sort of fun. Throughout this night I heard calls for everything. Omaha-8, Seven Stud Eight or Better, you name it. And then...as we wound down to 11 players, I heard that a a crowd formed in an anteroom, where ten players say down for a €5000 No-Limit Hold'em Sit&Go. The winner of that tournament would end up getting more than the 12th place finisher in the Grand Final. oward the end of the night, John Fanning, Greg Raymer, and Marcel Luske ended up in a €1000 Sit&Go together. That's one thing about poker players: give them a deck of cards and they'll create the action in a vacuum.
Action in the anteroom, the final table of the €1000 event
After a quick look, I wandered back to the Main Event where the tough beats continued. After that, it was dfficult to watch much more. While I watched almost every card, I won't subject you to all of it.
Suffice it to say, when we reached the final ten, I was sitting behind Isabelle Mercier. She had hung on and hung on, doubling through when necessary. With her lipstick sitting next to her chipstack, she sighed. She looked exhausted.
"Can I get you something?" I asked. "Dou you need anything?"
She looked around for a second, smiled, then laughed.
"I need...to double up a couple more times. I need...chips." She laughed again and headed toward the final table.
That's what keeps me going during these marathon events. After 36 hours of poker over three days, when asked if they need anything, these people only want one thing.
They want to win.
Moments later, Mercier got all-in with the best hand AJ versus AT.
Her opponent rivered a runner-runner flush and she was gone. Later she wandered by with the look of 36 absent hours in her eye. She apologized as if a runner-runner flush wqas her fault.
When she softly stepped away, she whispered, "Next time..."
A little while later, we lost the last player of the day. This is how it ended up.
10th--Isabelle Mercier, Canada
11th--Michael Luber (The Anvil), USA (PokerStars.com FPP qualifier)
14th--Martin Wendt (Svend sværd), Denmark, (PokerStars.com FPP qualifier)
15th--Julian Gardner (MrCoco), Great Britain, (PokerStars.com FPP qualifier)
16th--Gus Hansen, Denmark
17th--Scott Bush (Shrubluv), USA, (PokerStars.com FPP qualifier)
19th--Jonathan Senn (holdem2000), USA (PokerStars.com cash qualifier)
21st--John Fanning, USA
22nd--Martin DeKnijff, Sweden
23rd--Barny Boatman, G.B.
24th--Declan Barker (Hitecdeck), Ireland(PokerStars.com cash qualifier)
25th--Harry Fitzpatrick (Surrey Rock), (PokerStars.com cash qualifier)
26th--Ben Sprengers (-BBJ-), USA (PokerStars.com cash qualifier)
27th--Ryan Walters (bbaced), Canada, (PokerStars.com Frequent Player Point qualifier)
We begin the final table tomorrow at 5pm. The current plan is to live blog it hand-by-hand. See you then.