When we finished the energy sapping Day 3, after a 15-hour shift, everyone thought that the final table would be completed in double quick time.
What the hell do we know about poker!
As it turned out the final table lasted nearly ten hours but every minute of it was superb and enthralling entertainment. The new World Poker Tour (WPT) Champion Prague is Andrey Pateychuk and he takes home a cheque for €468,200 just five months after winning over $1 million for finishing 15th in the WSOP Main Event and then going on to win EPT San Remo. Quite an astounding achievement.
When the final six lined up to have their first photograph taken it was Stanislaw Kretz who was the commanding chip leader with 6,300,000 chips. Just perched behind him was the man who finished Day 3 on red-hot form, Benjamin Pollak, while Pateychuk was comfortably positioned in 3rd spot with 2,310,000 chips.
The short stack was Russell Carson and as is so often the case he was the first person eliminated. Carson moved all in for 545,000 in the small blind and predictably it was Kretz who called in the big blind to eliminate the Canadian after his Q 9 struck a 9 on the flop to out pair the 5 5 of Carson.
Next we had what would prove to be the first of many bad beats on this table chocked full of them. Kretz had Balaguer absolutely crushed when he found K K against the Spaniards 6 6 but when the board ran out 8 7 3 9 T Balaguer survived with the bottom end of the straight.
Our next elimination was the man with the WSOP bracelet. Sigurd Eskelund was all-in with K Q versus the J J of Pateychuk. The Q gave Eskelund the lead and he was cast iron sure he was doubling up until Pateychuk hit his two outer on the river to send Eskelund home in a state of shock.
When you talk about bad beats, coolers and just plain horrible luck, then spare a thought for poor old Benjamin Pollak. He had an horrendous final table and it all started when he flopped A 4 2 while holding J T. His opponent in the hand was Balaguer who held A 7 and the turn of 7 and river of 7 handed him a runner-runner boat and cruelly dispossessed Pollak of over 2 million in chips. Balaguer, on the other hand, flew into contention at the top end of the charts.
Pollak was eliminated shortly after. He moved all in with J 9 and was called by Balaguer holding A T. The flop of J 7 4 put Pollak into the lead until another combination of runner-runner cards eliminated the Frenchman. The turn of K and river of Q handing Balaguer the straight.
When the action moved three handed it was Kretz who seemed to be exposed as the most inexperienced player out of the three. After bluffing off two million chips to Pateychuk, Kretz was eliminated in 3rd place at the hand of Pateychuk and once again we had to wait until the river for confirmation of the kill. Pateychuk raised on the button, Kretz moved all-in from the small blind holding 9 9 and Pateychuk called with A 6. Of course the river brought the A and Kretz was out leaving Pateychuk and Balaguer heads up and even in chips.
The heads up encounter was absorbing and emotionally draining for both players. As a viewer you just couldn't predict a winner as the cards had a funny way of screwing up your preconception of what the hell was going on! Adria Balaguer grabbed a 10:1 chip lead when his 8 8 faded the spades on a deck of 6 5 2 9 6 to beat Pateychuk's A 5. Everyone in the room was ready to crown the young Spaniard our new WPT Champion.
Then we believe the excitement got to Balaguer for the first time in the contest. When Pateychuk moved all-in for 1,500,000 holding K J Balaguer must have already envisioned his hands on the trophy, because the super-light call with T 9 not only doubled up Pateychuk but it swung the gate wide open for him to get back into the yard and start kicking and screaming. Right on cue, Pateychuk picked up big slick in the very next hand, doubled up through the ace-queen of Balaguer, and the two players were once again neck and neck.
Pateychuk then had a purple patch and moved into the chip lead before Balaguer had another big double up. Pateychuk raised to 500,000, Balaguer moved all-in with J 4 and Pateychuk called with A K. In yet another wonderful twist, the dealer gave Balaguer two jacks on the flop and he was right back in the game.
With that double up came the Balaguer momentum and the chip lead. Then another pivotal moment. Pateychuk moved all-in with A 6 and Balaguer picked up A J for the call. The WPT officials started to pack the trophy up and send it to Spain when Pateychuk hit a six on the flop and that hand destroyed Balaguer's stack and his confident posture. When the final hand of the competition was played it was no wonder that yet again we would have a river card that changed everything. Balaguer moved all-in with pocket queens and Pateychuk called with A 5. The flop came down with more spades on it than a gravediggers convention and only Pateychuk had one, the turn of the 3 brought Pateychuk even more outs and when the final 2 hit the river to give Pateychuk the straight the Russian rail went bonkers!
So congratulations to Andrey Pateychuk who at 22-years of age now owns EPT and WPT titles. Commiserations go to Adria Balaguer who came so close so many times.
Sigurd Eskelund raises to 125,000, the aggressive Andrey Pateychuk three bets to 285,000 and Eskelund moves all-in for 1,460,000. Pateychuk snaps him off and the two players turn over their cards and we have one almighty flip.
Pateychuk: J J
Eskelund: K Q
The flop propels Eskelund into the lead Q 8 6 and the 8 on the turn keep things the same. Heading to the river and Pateychuk needs to hit one of two jacks to stop himself for being crippled, and would you believe it! The dealer lays down the J right smack into the face of Eskelund and he is out of here! Pateychuk proving once again how critical a run of luck can be in major poker tournaments.
Form is everything and Pateychuk is on a run of form hotter than lava spewing out of a volcano!
Adria Balaguer has just bluffed away a big portion of his stack. Unfortunately, we only caught the tail end of the action. The board was already drawn J 7 5 T 2 and Sigurd Eskeland checked out of the big blind. Balaguer takes this as a sign of weakness because he bets 350,000 chips and Eskeland moves all-in prompting an immediate fold from Balaguer.
Andrey Pateychuk opens, Sigurd Eskeland three-bets, Pateychuk moves all-in for 710,000 and Eskeland calls.
Pateychuk: A K
Eskeland: 9 9
The flop of J 9 4 is a great one for Eskeland and everyone in the room starts to wave bye-bye to Pateychuk. The turn Q gives Pateychuk a little more hope and the T sends him into a spin of ecstasy. His friends on the rail go wild and are hugging Pateychuk who eventually apologises to Eskeland for his excitable celebrations.