Five Thoughts: EPT Barcelona, Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Wraps Up, and More

Posted at 14:00 2013-09-05 by Rich Ryan

Season 10 of the PokerStars European Poker Tour kicked off in the Catalonian city of Barcelona this past weekend, and to no surprise, the numbers were huge.

Thanks to a great lead-in from the Estrellas Poker Tour, whose Barcelona Main Event attracted 1,635 runners to make it the largest freezeout tournament in PokerStars tour history, the EPT Barcelona Main Event fielded 1,234 players. It’s the second-largest non-PCA EPT Main Event in PokerStars history, only six players shy of the EPT6 Sanremo Main Event (1,240).

It’s the fourth year in a row that the EPT Barcelona Main Event field has increased from the previous year. The EPT10 Barcelona Main Event showed a 14% increase compared to the EPT9 Barcelona Main Event.

While the Main Event saw an increase, the €50,000 High Roller dipped four entries. With a few players traveling to California for the World Poker Tour Legends of Poker (David “Doc” Sands and Phil Laak), and Phil Ivey inexplicably missing, the tournament drew fewer players, but 51 entries for a €50,000 buy-in event is still phenomenal in the current poker economy.

Let’s take a closer look at the turnout in Spain, the winner of the high roller, and more in this week’s edition of Five Thoughts.

1. Vamos España

Our very own Donnie Peters crunched some numbers leading up to the start of EPT Barcelona, and according to his column, EPT9 averaged 825 players per main event. This was the largest average ever by over 100 entrants (the second largest was 722 in Season 7).

One of the biggest reasons for this increase was the decrease in events. For three consecutive seasons heading into EPT9 there were 13 stops, but in Season 9 that number dipped to eight. The newfound scarcity of events created more gaps and thus more hype, making each stop a must-attend for players. The spaces also allowed the smaller tours like Estrellas and the UKIPT to grow and create lead-ins, like this past weekend in Barcelona.

Beyond the amazing numbers, there were also a pair of amazing faces at Casino Barcelona. Gerard Piqué, member of both FC Barcelona and the Spanish national football team, and legendary footballer Ronaldo were both in the house. Ronaldo, a member of Team PokerStars SportStar, participated in a single table event called the Phenomenon Table and plans to play in a €2,000 side event, while Piqué played and busted from the Main Event.

While Ronaldo is retired and more willing to talk with media and represent poker, Piqué is generally reserved. This summer he did his best to hide during the WSOP Main Event, and in Barcelona he declined to talk about poker. Still, his presence alone is very good for the game of poker. The world-class centre back has 6.7 million Twitter followers, while his wife, Shakira, has 21.9 million.

Quite the power couple.

Hopefully Ronaldo can find the back of the net in a side event or two and start playing in the Main Events. It’s nice to see him on the felt, but it would be even nicer to see him graduate from the kiddy table to the great hall.

This December, the EPT will greet another popular member of the sports community, as 12-time Grand Slam winner and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Rafa Nadal will finally make his highly anticipated Team PokerStars Sport Star debut. The Spanish tennis wizard, ranked No. 2 in the world, is currently working with a poker coach and will be attending EPT Prague.

2. Lunkin Makes the Donuts

Two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Vitaly Lunkin took down the EPT Barcelona €50,000 High Roller on Sunday, earning €771,300. The Russian defeated American Erik Seidel in the end with the help of a fortuitous double at the start of heads-up play. Seidel’s pocket queens were well ahead of Lunkin’s ace-seven off-suit preflop, and Seidel was five community cards away from his first live tournament win since May of 2011, but there was an ace on the flop. Lunkin held as the turn and river both produced bricks, and eventually Lunkin eliminated Seidel in second.

EPT10 Barcelona High Roller Results

Place Player Prize
1st Vitaly Lunkin €771,300
2nd Erik Seidel €557,100
3rd Steve O’Dwyer €355,100
4th Mike McDonald €269,400
5th David Benefield €208,150
6th Ole Schemion €159,200
7th Fabian Quoss €128,515

Lunkin now has nearly $5.5 million in career tournament earnings, and this seven-figure (USD) score is more than 90 times more than what Lunkin earned in 2012 ($11,245) in live tournaments. He is now less than $200,000 behind Igor Kurganov for second on the Russian all-time money list.

Young German Ole Schemion (ninth in the Global Poker Index Player of the Year race and seventh in the GPI 300) and November Niner David Benefield also made the final table. Schemion, who entered the final table as the chip leader only to finish sixth for €159,200, has over $3.2 million in earnings over the past two years and is already on my radar for the 2014 $25,000 Fantasy League. Benefield’s €208,150 fifth-place prize is his largest live score to date, but he is guaranteed at least $733,224 for making the WSOP Main Event final table.

The winner will of course receive $8,359,531.

The three other pros at the final table were Steve O’Dwyer, Mike McDonald, and Fabian Quoss. O’Dwyer currently ranks ninth in the GPI 300.

As stated above, despite the decrease in entrants, this event was still a great success. Anytime you can get that many people to fork over that much money to play in a high roller, then you’re doing something right. I look forward to the EPT London high roller and the always massive PCA super high roller and high roller events.

3. Pay That Man His Money!

Last week, the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open came to a close in Hollywood, Fla., and the winner of the extremely successful $10 Million Guarantee Championship Event was Blair Hinkle. He defeated Justin Bonomo heads up, and although the two talked at length with one another prior to the start of heads-up play, no official deal was announced. Thus, I presume that Hinkle may have walked away with $1,745,245, while Bonomo earned at least $1,163,500.

SHRPO $10m Guarantee Final Table Payouts

Place Player Prize
1st Blair Hinkle $1,745,245
2nd Justin Bonomo $1,163,500
3rd Mukul Pahuja $872,625
4th Ray Qartomy $639,925
5th Samuel Bernabeu Guilabert $494,490
6th Greg Lehn $378,138

Bonomo, who told me after Day 4 that a top three finish would be his actual largest career score, tweeted the following after the match:

Hinkle received a shout out from Kansas City Airport:

Hinkle and Bonomo battled for over six hours before the latter check-jammed with top pair on the turn only to be called by the former, who held the nuts. The two were already shaking hands before the meaningless river card even hit the felt, and afterwards Hinkle happily grabbed the Hard Rock guitar with a big smile on his face.

The back-and-forth between these two great players was extremely entertaining, and part of me hopes that they did make a deal. The chip stacks were pretty much even when the two started butting heads, so if they did a chip chop the amounts would’ve been very similar. This means that there’s a possibility the two players battled that hard just for pride – and the guitar. Winning means a lot to great players like Hinkle and Bonomo, but after six hours of essentially a freeroll, most players would probably alter their style and end the match by either winning every pot or losing every pot.

For Hinkle, it’s beyond awesome to see him ship a seven-figure score, because he chopped the very last Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS) Main Event before Black Friday. He has yet to see a penny from his $1.1 million score.

Bonomo was also adversely affected by Full Tilts mismanagement, and has six figures floating in limbo (aka the Department of Justice’s office).

Also, the Seminole Hard Rock staff, along with Matt Savage, did an awesome job. I would be shocked if they didn’t host another massive tournament – or two – in the next 12 months.

4. Asia Championship of Poker Schedule Announced

On Tuesday, PokerStars LIVE Macau released the schedule for the 2nd Annual Asia Championship of Poker (ACOP), the flagship festival of the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT).

The 18-tournament series will take place from Oct. 18 through Nov. 3, concluding with a HK$250,000 high roller and the HK$100,000 ACOP Main Event (HK$20,000,000 guaranteed). The US$2.6 million guarantee is the biggest in all of Asia.

In the inaugural year, the ACOP attracted a total of 2,757 player, generating a total prize pool of HK $46.2 million (US$5.9 million). China’s Xing Zhou chopped heads up with Hong Kong’s Ying Kit Chan. The two players earned HK$3,547,500 ($454,808) each.

The ACOP schedule is very kind to Asian players during the the European madness in October. EPT London, World Series of Poker Europe, and WPT Grand Prix de Paris are essentially back-to-back-to-back in October, and some Asian players will not want to spend an entire month in another continent. Likewise, for grinders looking for a little more action, the ACOP is a nice alternative. The main event buy-in is north of US$10,000, and the guarantee is fairly large. Even some Europeans will be tired of Europe by the end of October, so jumping on a flight to Hong Kong and a ferry to Macau will seem like a nice idea.

Macau plays host to some of the largest cash games in the world, and APPT President Danny McDonagh is excited about the tour’s presence in the world’s richest gambling city.

“Last year’s ACOP was a great success but it was still just Year 1,” he said in a statement. “The awareness is so much greater this year and we expect the 2013 ACOP to break the previous APPT records.”

The PokerNews Live Reporting Team will be on hand to catch the action, so be on the lookout come October.

5. Stay Stacked

In the latest episode of Stay Stacked, mental skills coach of MindSync Consulting, Alessandra Farley, M.A., discusses a popular combination of techniques she works on with her poker-playing clients — circle breaths and mantras.

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