The first annual World Poker Tour Merit Cyprus Classic crowned its inaugural champion tonight inside the walls of the Merit Crystal Cove Hotel and Casino in Cyprus. French pro Thomas Bichon, 32 years old, claimed the bracelet, the title and the cash, to become the first and only player to have won a major international poker tournament on Cypriot soil.
Bichon and five others outlasted a star-studded 181-player field to reach Saturday’s TV final table, each vying for the lion’s share of the $1.5 million final table prize pool.
Lebanese amateur Rony Jazzar, who began the final table as chip leader, wound hitting the rail first. An untimely bluff against Rep Porter cost Jazzar half of his original starting stack, and he lost the rest of it to Uri Keidar after moving all-in for his last 431,000 holding on a board. Keidar looked him up with and the gamble paid off when the fell on the river, giving Keidar a pot-clinching spade flush and the overall tournament chip lead.
Estonian pro Janar Kiivramees was the next to go. Facing a 150,000 raise from Steven Fung, Kiivramees looked down at a pair of fives in the big blind and moved all-in over the top of Fung’s bet for 890,000. Fung made the call with pocket nines, and a board fell in favor of the American, eliminating Kiivramees in fifth place.
Play continued four-handed for approximately three hours until another player was eliminated from the tournament. The unfortunate honor belonged to American pro Rep Porter, who many thought was the odds-on favorite to win the tournament heading into the final table.
Porter got off to a good start, quickly doubling his starting stack by the end of the first level but hit a snag when Fung outdrew his with the , making a runner-runner straight to win a $1.5 million pot. Porter proved resilient, however, bouncing back to three million in chips before the hand that changed the entire tournament took place.
Near dead-even in chips with Bichon, and the blinds at 50,000/100,000, Porter opened the pot with a raise to 275,000 and Bichon three-bet to 650,000. Porter made the call after asking how much Bichon had behind and the flop came . Bichon then fired a small sneaky 450,000 bet on the flop and Porter moved all-in. Bichon couldn’t call fast enough, tabling two red nines for top set. Porter turned over for a flush draw. The fell on the turn, giving Porter a few additional outs to win the pot, but the on the river cemented the hand for Bichon.
Porter was left extremely short-stacked after the hand but managed to triple-up twice and climb back to 240,000 in chips before eventually getting knocked out of the tournament in fourth place by Keidar.
From that moment on, it was the Thomas Bichon show. Bichon began three-handed play with a monster chip lead and swatted Fung and Keidar like flies at a summer picnic. Fung was first up on the chopping block after he got it all-in preflop and dominated holding against Bichon’s . The flop came out king-high and Fung was eliminated from the tournament in third place, leaving Bichon and Keidar to play heads-up for the title.
Those who paid close attention to Keidar’s final table performance would likely say he played a rather conservative game all day. Such was not the case during the heads-up part of play. It took just two hands to settle things and Keidar was all-in preflop in both of them.
In the first, Bichon limped and Keidar shoved all-in, taking the pot down uncontested. In the second and final hand of the tournament, Keidar opened with a raise to 350,000 and this time Bichon moved all-in. After spending a brief moment in the tank, Keidar made the call holding and found himself racing against Bichon’s pocket sevens. The flop came , prompting an early celebration from Bichon, who walked a small circle behind his chair, pumping a fist all the while. The turn and river both blanked (,) securing the victory for Bichon, who dropped to his knees, arms flailing.
Our own Lynn Gilmartin caught up with the winner moments after the final hand was dealt.
Bichon took home over half a million dollars in prize money for the win — the largest of his career.
Here’s a look at the rest of the final table payouts:
1st: Thomas Bichon - $579,165
2nd: Uri Keidar - $380,645
3rd: Steven Fung - $216,275
4th: Rep Porter - $121,115
5th: Janar Kiivramees - $90,835
6th: Rony Jazzar - $73,535
That wraps it up for us here in Cyprus. Be sure to follow us on Twitter in between events to get the lasted poker news, entertainment and lifestyle.