The European Poker Tour kicked off back in 2004, and it took four seasons before the tour found its way to venerable Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic and home to more than 1 million residents.
Back in those days, the "festival" included just four events, a far cry from the current setup. Those thirsting for big buy-in action could do no better than the €5,000 Main Event, but eventually a High Roller was added to the schedule. As high roller events continued to gain steam in the poker community, EPT brass decided to up the ante by adding a €50,000 Super High Roller. As part of our EPT Prague retrospective series, we'll take a look at the first and only iteration of the Super High Roller in Prague.
Soshnikov Leads After Solid Turnout On Day 1
Reentries were allowed, and the tournament drew 42 runners, with nine reentries logged to bump the total to 51. However, only 48 of those entries were logged on Day 1, which was more of a setup day than anything else as just eight levels were played. Each player began with 250,000 in chips and blinds started at 500/1,000 with a 100 ante.
Given the high stakes of the tournament, big names obviously abounded, so plenty of notable pots still took place on Day 1. Level 4 (1,000/2,000/300) saw the first elimination of the tournament, as Adrian Mateos three-bet a button open from Mike McDonald and barreled down a board with the . Unfortunately for the young Spanish phenom, McDonald had hit a flush on the river with the .
Meanwhile, Russia's Ivan Soshnikov decided to try and tackle the Super High Roller while simultaneously grinding a stack near the bubble of the €1,100 Eureka Poker Tour Main Event. Playing against some of the world's best tournament players while also navigating tricky bubble decisions fraught might be considered ill-advised by some, but Soshnikov managed the task with aplomb.
In one late pot, he snap-called the check-shove of German superstar Fedor Holz on a board while holding the , and Holz was unable to find help on the river for his . He hit the rail for the second time that day, while that pot powered Soshnikov to bagging the chip lead at 905,000. He also booked a cash in the Eureka event for good measure.
Markin Surges On Day 2 and Bubble Bursts
When Day 2 commenced, Timothy Adams and Holz reentered, and Pablo Fernandez signed up for the first time to make it 51 total entries. Brian Roberts got things rolling early by busting fellow American Jason Mercier with the against the , and Roberts continued to successfully grind from there as he spent much of the day as the tournament's top stack.
The name everyone had eyes on was Martin Jacobson, though, freshly crowned world champion of poker who had put on a masterful display at the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event. He surged early, busting high-rolling stars Steve O'Dwyer and Ole Schemion in a three-way all-in pot, but by the time the final table of nine was reached — just seven would be paid — Jacobson was nursing a short stack along with Mustapha Kanit. Both of them would hit the exits empty-handed, with the world champ bowing out as the "bubble boy" after losing a race to Soshnikov.
However, it was another Russian, Leonid Markin, who would overtake Roberts and emerge as the leader heading to Day 3. Markin sent a number of players packing during his hot run, including Holz (the German's third elimination of the tournament) and Micah Raskin, the latter courtesy of a two-outer with tens against kings.
A three-bet pot against British star Stephen Chidwick may have been the most crucial for Markin as the two saw a flop hit the felt with Chidwick in position. Markin check-shoved for almost 60 big blinds over Chidwick's continuation-bet, only to have his snapped off by the . After the turn, the completed Markin's flush on the river.
Chidwick still managed to put 660,000 in the bag, but Markin led the final seven players with 3.35 million as play wrapped up after Jacobson's elimination with plenty of time still left in Level 17 (20,000/40,000/5,000). Paul Newey, Juha Helppi, Soshnikov, Roberts, and Vladimir Troyanovskiy were the other remaining contenders.
"Top Dollar Man" Finishes Runner-Up To Markin
Roberts managed to make a six big blind stack last a few hours but ultimately did fall in seventh and took home a min-cash of €128,565. Russia then lost two of its three representatives, as Troyanovskiy fell in sixth (€159,170) and Soshnikov in fifth (€208,150).
Markin had lost his lead early on to Helppi, but regained it and sent the Finnish player packing with the against the on a flop when Helppi (€269,360) wouldn't give up his top pair. After pulling off a daring three-barrel all-in bluff against Chidwick, Markin finished him off with aces against the for €355,070.
That left only British "top dollar man" Newey, who turned a 2-1 deficit into an identical lead with an early double. Markin turned the tide, though, and chipped away at Newey until catching him three-bet shoving the last of his chips with the when Markin held the . An board later, Markin booked the biggest cash of his career for €771,360, while Newey had to settle for €557,090.
That concludes the first part of our retrospective on EPT Prague, but stay tuned for more to come as PokerNews will look at the €5,300 Main Event and €10,300 High Roller.