Eight players returned to the Casino Gran Madrid Thursday for the final day of play of the PokerStars European Poker Tour Grand Final. All eight were guaranteed €130,000, but each player's eyes were firmly on the €1.5 million first-place prize. Ivan Freitez from Venezuela had the chip lead at the start of the day and only lost it once. Freitez's considerable rail of assorted South Americans had been the most vocal supporters throughout Day 4 and the final table, and by the end of the day they had a serious reason to celebrate — Freitez became the first Latin American to raise an EPT trophy.
First to hit the rail was Andrew "azntracker" Li. The American, who this year broke the record for reaching PokerStars Supernova Elite status in the fastest time (just two months, playing up to 45 tables at once - he's planning to move to Australia to continue his online career), came back for the final table as the shortest stack with 1,120,000. Li wasted no time in shoving over a raise from Eugene Yanayt. The first time he did it, Yanayt folded, but the second time, Yanayt made the call with . Li's were not in bad shape, but the board counterfeited Li's pair and sent him home in eighth place for €130,000. Not a bad payday for a man who only decided to come to Madrid the day before the tournament because his roommate Pariesh "Dana Gordon" Jain was coming.
Next to go was Team PokerStars Pro Alex Gomes. Like Li, Gomes returned Thursday with a relatively short stack, so when it folded around to him in the small blind and he had just 1.2 million to his name, he went all-in with . Unfortunately for the Brazilian, Eugene Yanayt woke up in the big blind with and made the call. The board contained only the merest hint of a sweat for Gomes — and he was gone. There was no triple crown for him this time, (Gomes has a WSOP from 2008 and a WPT title from 2009) but his seventh-place finish scored him €185,000.
Eugene "oogee" Yanayt, at one point early in the final, found himself flirting with the chip lead, but after doubling up Andrey Danilyuk with nines against tens, he dropped to around 20 big blinds. Yanayt three-bet shoved to a raise from start of day chip leader Ivan Freitez and got a call. Freitez held and was well ahead of Yanayt's . The board ran out without a five, , and the last American standing hit the rail with €250,000 for sixth place as consolation.
With Gomes gone, Juan Maceiras became the last Team PokerStars Pro standing. He didn't last long. Down to around 15 big blinds, he shoved with to a raise from Torsten Brinkmann. Brinkmann made the call with , and following the board, Maceiras' EPT dreams were over. He picked up €315,000 for fifth place on his way out the door. Ivan Freitez lead the final four players.
At this point there was a three-hour hiatus for the remaining four players and five hours for the media and everyone watching at home before the whole thing was broadcast with a two-hour delay, hole cards and all. This was the first time that an EPT final table had been televised in this way, and it was broadcast not only on Pokerstars.tv but also on nine TV channels worldwide with commentary in nine different languages.
When play resumed, it was quickly apparent that Freitez intended to abuse his chip lead. Early four-handed play was completely dominated by the hyper-aggressive Venezuelan. He kicked off the four-way affair by raising with under the gun and got respect. He won every hand in the first 20 minutes of play — and then he started picking up real hands.
Andrey Danilyuk was the short stack when they started the four-handed play and was first to hit the rail, the victim of none other than Freitez. Danilyuk shoved with and Freitez, who already had two thirds of the chips in play by this point, made the call with . The board ran out and the Russian busted out in fourth for €400,000. Freitez's chip lead became even larger.
As David Williams said on the commentary, "It's amazing how many aces this guy's had." And he soon found another. Torsten Brinkmann had raised from the button with but folded when Tamas Lendvai shoved for 2.2 million from the small blind and Freitez called in the big. Lendvai was well ahead with against Freitez's — but the board disagreed with the Hungarian and he busted out in third place for €550,000.
Heads up, Freitez started with roughly a 4 to1 chip lead. He never lost it. He whittled Brinkmann's chip stack down before doubling him back up to what he started the heads up with. Brinkmann held and flopped an ace against Freitez's . But less than an hour into the heads up match, Brinkmann succumbed. Freitez raised with when Brinkmann shoved for around 3 million with , the blinds were at 80,000/160,000. Freitez snap-called, and a board sent Brinkmann out in second for €900,000 while the South American rail went wild.
Freitez won €1,500,000, the Shamballa bracelet and a ticket into Friday's Champion of Champions freeroll tournament. The Champion of Champions will see almost all of the EPT Main Event winners from all seven seasons battle it out for a €100,000 prize pool. PokerNews won't be covering it, but our friends at PokerStars Blog will. Among the players who will participate is Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, who in addition to winning the High Rollers event at the start of the week, also won the €10,000 Turbo event Thursday. It will be a fantastic finale to another extraordinary EPT season.
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*Photo courtesy of Neil Stoddart for PokerStars