There would be no curse of the chip leader on Day 5 of the PokerStars.fr EPT Deauville Main Event as Sotirios Koutoupas led wire-to-wire to take a huge lead to the final table of eight.
The 31-year-old from Thessaloniki, who finished runner-up at the EPT Prague Main Event Season 9, is looking to become the first Greek player to win an EPT. He went into Day 5 with a slight chip lead, and in the two-and-a-half levels that it took to go from 16 to 8 he just kept on extending it. He'll start the final table with almost double the chips of Eugene Katchalov, who is second.
|Seat||Player||Chip Count||Big Blinds|
|3||Carlo De Benedittis||685,000||17|
Koutoupas was responsible for three eliminations on Day 5, those of Jean-Yves Malherbe, Dimitri Holdeew, and the one that set the final table. On the final hand of the day he opened with pocket eights and was flat-called by Harry Law. Florian Ribouchon then moved all in for 16 big blinds, and only Koutoupas called. Ribouchon had pocket sixes and was unable to improve, leaving eight players remaining.
The other seven finalists each got there in their own way. For Team PokerStars Pro Eugene Katchalov his Day 5 initially looked to be going awry. Katchalov lost a big pot to JP Kelly to dip to 35 big blinds but that was as bad as it got for the Triple Crown-chasing Ukrainian. He won some back from Kelly and then eliminated Tatu Maenpaa in 14th place with against . That pot gave him a million chip boost and took him to 2,236,000. He then put on a short-handed poker clinic and won the next million almost without showdown. As Nicolas Levi said in the commentary booth, "He's playing pots in position and chipping up with little risk." He'll start Saturday's final table second in chips, and his dream of winning poker's Triple Crown (EPT, WSOP and WPT) is well and truly alive.
Just four big blinds behind Katchalov in third is Harry Law, one of three Brits to make the final table. He was responsible for the first exit of the day when his went from worst to first against Bahram Chobineh's on a flop. That aside, the player who admits he doesn't play a lot of tournaments just quietly went about his business and flew under the radar.
British counterpart Eli Heath was another whose strategy for just standing still while others fell around him seemed to work out pretty well. Having a chipped-up Katchalov on his left all day didn't help of course, but it wasn't until a final flourish that Heath built the stack that sees him start the final table in fourth position. The biggest pot he played all day came with 10 players left and would see him eliminate JP Kelly.
The action was folded to Eli Heath on the button, and he raised to 45,000. Eugene Katchalov called from the small blind and JP Kelly then three-bet 190,000 from a stack of 1,046,000. Back on Heath, he four-bet to 340,000, Katchalov folded but Kelly moved all-in for 1,046,000 and Heath said, "Yeah I call."
"What a brave four-bet call with eights" said Nicholas Levi in the commentary booth. Joe Stapleton added, "He's got to be happy to see ace-king," added. Heath was even happier after the board kept his pair of eights in front. Will the bravery be rewarded with victory on Saturday?
Of those who find themselves in the bottom half of the final table chip-wise, Oliver Price has perhaps the most cause to consider himself unlucky. He came into the day 6/16 and steadily built his chip stack all day, mostly at the expense of Alex Goulder. First he won a big pot with a raise on the river and then took Goulder's remaining 30 big blinds in a classic race to eliminate Goulder in 11th. At that point he had 2.7 million, but then ran pocket jacks into Anthony Lerust's pocket kings to drop back into the pack. That pot kept Lerust and he'll start the final table in sixth.
Although he's the second-shortest stack going to the final table, Rustem Muratov has already surpassed even his wildest expectations. Muratov qualified for EPT Deauville on PokerStars for just €82 and, in addition to reaching the final table, he also won the EPT Deauville Skrill Last Longer, banking another €5,300. The 41-year-old from Kazan in Tatarstan, Russia, is headed for the biggest live cash of his life. Muratov, who works as a distributor for an electrical equipment company, is guaranteed at least €63,900 for making the EPT Deauville final and whatever happens, is already up at least €69,118. This is his first ever EPT, only his fourth live tournament, and is by some way the biggest buy-in event he’s competed in. He said: "I’m already very happy. My best result before now was winning the seat for this event!"
He was one of the shortest stacks at the start of the day but doubled up through Tatu Maenpaa and kept his stack afloat mostly by three-bet shoving.
While Carlo De Benedittis might be the shortest in terms of chips, he might just have the biggest personality. He qualified for just €20 and every day since he got to Deauville, he’s made it a mission to get nearer and nearer the sea; today he dipped his toe in. It was freezing but he’s now thinking that he might have to go for a swim on Saturday to keep up his good luck. At one stage on Day 5 he hit a one-outer against Sotirios Koutoupas to survive, and was so relaxed he got his phone out to photograph the board. Then against the same player, who was the overwhelming chip leader at the time, he three-bet half his stack on a flop and showed . He can play a bit too and eliminated Alexandre Amiel in 12th place in a pair-versus-pair situation.
Play will begin Saturday with 41 minutes and 34 seconds left in the level. A reminder that the final table is 'cards up' and as such we'll be blogging on a one-hour delay, so live coverage on here and pokerstars.tv will start at 1 p.m. local time.