The inaugural PokerStars.net EPT Kyiv drew a respectable 296 players from 33 countries around the world, those numbers despite a frantic eleventh-hour move from Moscow here to the Ukraine. Just eight players returned to the Sport Palace today to take their seats at the final table, playing for the EPT trophy and a first prize worth €330,000. A great crowd of spectators turned up as well to support this multi-national group of finalists, many of them adorned in full blue-and-yellow regalia in celebration of this, Ukrainian Flag Day.
Just a few minutes after high noon, the cards went into the air under the bright lights of the television set up on the main stage. Right from the word “go,” the action was uninhibited as the early levels saw heavy betting and frequent all ins. Still, it would take nearly an hour of back-and-forth battling before the first casualty of the day. Coming into the final table second in chips, Vadim Markushevski would suffer the unfortunate fate of running his pocket kings into the pocket aces of fellow big stack, Alexander Dovzhenko. A board full of blanks meant an early end for the native of Belarus, his 8th-place finish good for €30,000.
About 30 minutes later, short stack Torsten Tent (Germany) was sent home in 7th place (€45,000) despite getting all in with the dominating against Maxim Lykov's . An eight flopped, but so did a king, and Tent was unable to catch up to stay alive.
Lykov wasn't done with his role of knock out specialist either. The lone Dutchman, Ad Schaap, became his next victim; Schaap's unable to outrun the of the big stack. Schaap picked up €60,000 for his efforts, but his exit meant the end of Holland's shot at three consecutive EPT titles.
Five-handed play would linger for more than three hours as the big stacks traded blows and the short stacks hunkered down for a long grind. Finally, the aggressive Vitaly Tolokonnikov opened with a raise to 140,000 before Lucasz Plichta moved all in over the top. Tolokonnikov quickly called him down with , Plichta's drawing slim for his survival. He would manage to flop a set, but so would his opponent as the board ran out . As the only player to make the trip here from Poland, Plichta turned an online FPP satellite into a 5th-place showing, good for an impressive €80,000 in profit.
Arthur Simonyan was next to depart in 4th place just a few minutes later. The native of Russia battled admirably today, never once working his chips up to a comfortable count, and it was clear that his plan was to sit tight and move up the pay ladder for as long as his stack would hold out. He was finally forced to move in with , and the pocket tens of Dovzhenko would be good enough to notch the elimination and move the tournament into three-handed play. Simonyan's reward for his short-stack wizardry was a near-podium finish and €100,000 in cash.
Dovzhenko had been leading the way for the bulk of the final table to that point, but the three remaining players would retire for dinner in a virtual deadlock, each within arm's length of three million chips.
All of that would change very quickly as fireworks erupted in one of the very first hands back from the break. Tolokonnikov started the action with a raise to 220,000, drawing a re-raise to 550,000 from Maxim Lykov. All of the chips went into the middle on a four-bet shove, Tolokonnikov's racing the of Lykov. The flop was a clean slate for Tolokonnikov, but a dramatic on the turn vaulted Lykov into a huge lead. Tolokonnikov would fail to find either of the remaining sevens in the deck, and the Russian was out in 3rd place, taking with him €140,000. That left one more Russian (Lykov) and a native Ukrainian (Dovzhenko) heads up for the trophy, Lykov enjoying a nearly two-to-one chip lead courtesy of that massive elimination hand.
From the outset of heads-up play, it was clear that Lykov would be hard to stop. Dovzhenko held down his fort for as long as he could, but the aggression of his opponent would simply be too much in the end. After a series of jabs back and forth, the two men engaged in what would be their final round of battle.
Both players would check the action on a flop of with a pot of 440,000 already in the middle from the preflop round. The turn brought the to pair the board, and with it would come the final betting actions of the day. Dovzhenko bet 400,000 before Lykov put in a check-raise to 1,000,000 straight. Dovzhenko quickly announced an all in, and, with a shrug of the shoulders, Lykov made the call to put his man to the test.
Dovzhenko turned over for two pair, but he would soon find out that it was no good at all. Lykov showed , having picked up trip fours on the turn. A blank on the river was a beautiful sight indeed for Lykov as it sent all 8.8 million chips into his stack.
Dovzhenko did his country proud this week, storming through this field with impressive poise and determination. In the end, his bid to keep the EPT trophy right here in Kyiv fell one spot shy, the title he so desperately wanted managing to just elude him. Russia's Maxim Lykov is the champion, his relentless aggression proving to be too much for his fellow competitors to overcome. For his fantastic performance this week, he will earn himself the beautiful etched glass trophy, an entry into the Grand Final in Monte Carlo, and €330,000 in cash.
Congratulations to Maxim Lykov, first-ever champion of the PokerStars.net EPT Kyiv!