Stephen Graner defeated a record field of 1,107 players in the 2014 PokerStars.com European Poker Tour Season 11 Prague Main Event. Graner held a commanding lead coming in to the final day and he never looked back. This was the first time Graner had played an EPT event, and he has more than doubled his lifetime earnings from live tournaments, which stood previously at $676,642.
The action resumed at 12 p.m. local time at the Hilton Hotel in Prague with seven players remaining and it took under five hours of play to reach a winner. Two players would be eliminated in the first level of the day, with the first of those being Remi Castaignon in seventh place for €129,390.
Castaignon was first to act and moved all in with the . Anton Bertilsson looked him up with the , and a final board of sent the French player to the rail, ending any hope of a second two-time EPT winner.
Out in sixth place was Bjorn Wiesler who shoved over a raise from Graner. It was a race between the of Graner and the of Wiesler, and with the cards falling it was Wiesler who would lose that race to take home €172,340.
At the first break, Graner had extended his chip lead to 16,600,000 which was nearly double that of Bertilsson in second place, who then held 8,485,000.
The second level of the day would see three more bust outs. First, Simon Mattson fell next on Hand #36 in fifth place for €235,700 when he lost a flip with the against Graner’s . Then, Hand #45 saw Fabio Sperling run his into the of Bertilsson and he fell in fourth place for €308,180.
Jonathan Wong laddered up impressively and soon got some new life by shoving with the and getting called by the of Bertilsson. The flop smashed him on a final board of , but then just three hands later he was out. Wong shoved with the ,and wouldn’t you know it, Graner had the and knocked yet another opponent out as the cards fell . Wong was gone in third place for €410,190.
It was then heads up between Graner with 28,970,000 and Bertilsson with just 4,310,000. As if the massive chip advantage for Graner was any suggestion, the battle would last just under an hour. Bertilsson managed to double up fairly quickly with ace-ten versus Graner’s pocket sevens, but he gave most of it back on the very next hand.
Graner had one hand on the trophy at the start of the day, and he would finally seize it with both hands when he moved all in from the button holding the . A frustrated-looking Bertilsson made the call with the and must have been happy to see he had the two over cards. The final board of sealed the deal for Graner and he became an EPT champion in his first attempt. He also became a big, bad €969,000 richer.
Graner dominated the final table from start to finish. He may have picked up good hands in the right spots, but he also used his big stack to great effect to bully the short stacks and pick up pot after pot uncontested. He picked off a river bluff from Wong at one point and also got maximum value holding a better straight against Sperling. Graner also won a huge pot from Bertilsson when he rivered a better two pair and made a pot-sized raise that got paid off to win a 13,000,000-chip pot.
We'll leave the final word to the new champion Graner: "I played well and I ran very, very well." Check out his winner interview below: