The first Epic Poker League Main Event is in the books and Chino Rheem has emerged victorious with the $1 million first-place prize. To claim victory, Rheem conquered one of the toughest final tables in poker history.
When the final table began, six of the best poker players in the world were in contention for the title. Rheem was joined by Erik Seidel, Jason Mercier, Hasan Habib, Huck Seed and Gavin Smith. About 10 hours after the first hand was dealt, all five had been eliminated and only Rheem remained.
The first player to go was Seed, who began the final table with the short stack. Seed had almost 900,000 and got all of his chips in preflop against Jason Mercier. He held against the of Mercier with his tournament life at risk. The flop was and Mercier's rail, about 15 to 20 deep, let out a loud roar. That was followed shortly by repeated "Yeahhhpp" and "Yuphs" from the likes of Vanessa Selbst, Dan O'Brien, and Brent Hanks and others. Seed found no help on the turn and river.
He was followed by Smith in fifth place and start-of-the-day chip leader, Habib in fourth. On Smith's elimination hand, Mercier raised from under the gun to 60,000. Seidel flatted, and then play folded to Smith in the big blind. He reraised all-in for around 600,000. Mercier came with a reraise of his own and shoved his entire stack into the middle. Seidel quickly folded.
The flop, turn and river ran out to keep Mercier's queens in front and eliminate Smith from the tournament. On Habib's bust-out, Rheem raised to 70,000 first into the pot and Habib moved all-in for about 600,000. Rheem called immediately and the hands were turned face up.
The flop was and the turn brought the leaving Habib with only one out. The crowd seemed to get behind him as he looked for the river miracle, but it was not to be. The bricked off on the river and Habib was out the door.
When three-handed play began, Rheem was up against Mercier and Seidel. All three were fairly close in chips and had been playing their A-games.
Mercier was clearly the fan favorite in the final table arena. He had the largest rail, and almost everyone seemed to be pulling for him. After losing a big flip to Seidel with pocket fives versus Seidel's big slick, Mercier was left short. He ended up shipping the last of his chips in from the small blind with and was called by Seidel in the big blind with . No help came for the youngest player to make the final table, and he was out the door in third place, setting the stage for a Rheem-Seidel battle.
After nearly 50 hands of heads-up play, the last hand finally took place. Rheem had been steadily eating at Seidel's stack throughout the duel and then the two got all the money in with Seidel being dominated. He held to Rheem's . Both players flopped and ace, but it was the king kicker for Rheem that held strong throughout the hand, eventually giving him a flush on the river and the victory. Rheem outlasted a superstar field of 137 players to take home $1 million and the gold championship ring.
Final Table Results
That wraps up PokerNews' coverage of the first EPL Main Event.
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Photo courtesy of Epic Poker.