PokerStars takes the European Poker Tour back to Ireland for the first time in eight years and Howard Swains watches the Next Big Thing sweep to a crushing victory…
Poker has a habit of uncovering new sensations at intervals of about 12 months. We’ve had Mike McDonald, Jason Mercier, Ole Schemion, Dan Colman and the like, while others like Steve O’Dwyer continue hot streaks year after year.
But for the past 12 months, there has been a new wunderkind in the halls of the European Poker Tour who may be the most sensational of them all. Dzmitry Urbanovich won four events at EPT Malta last season, including a €25,000 High Roller, and finished second in the first two Super High Roller tournaments he played.
Now, not even a year since that breakout in Malta, Urbanovich is EPT Dublin Main Event champion. The €561,900 first prize takes his career winnings close to $5 million.
Dzmitry Urbanovich, ladies and gentlemen, is 20 years old.
‘It feels very good, very good,’he said.‘It’s been a long week.’
This victory will rank among the most brilliant tournament displays of all time, with Urbanovich perhaps not putting a foot wrong ever since he joined the event in the late hours of Day 1. On the final day, he began with a huge stack, but lost an enormous flip to find himself on the ropes with four players left.
Then, after clinging on to get heads-up, he overcame a 5:1 chip lead to prevail just after 11pm local time. Urbanovich wasn’t even feeling 100 percent – he spent much of the first level or so running to the bathroom. But healthy or otherwise, Urbanovich truly does have the world at his feet.
It’s impossible to go any further in this eulogy without mentioning the player vanquished heads-up by Urbanovich. Gilles Bernies was chip-leader at the end of Day 1 and was the massive leader too when only two players were left. He was the man who had seemed most likely to halt the irrepressible Urbanovich. But Bernies, playing at his first EPT event, could not quite get over the line, and Urbanovich was there to pip him at the post. Bernies wins €349,800 and an enormous number of admirers.
There were only six players left when play got under way on the final day, but no one was expecting this one to be quick. Despite the one-man wrecking ball Urbanovich out in front, the stacks were remarkably deep for this stage of any tournament.
The one exception to that rule was the stack in front of Rhys Jones. It was, by any standards, short. And he didn’t take too long to find a hand worth getting it in with The only problem for Jones, whose hand was A♠-9♥, was that Urbanovich had A♣-T♣ and wasn’t going to fold it. Jones did hit a Nine on the time board, but only after Urbanovich had already paired his Ten. It meant Jones was first out today, sixth overall, earning himself €119,450.
The most significant battle at this stage developed between Patrick Clarke and Kully Sidhu, two medium-sized stacks. They should really have just got a room. Clarke gave to Sidhu; Sidhu gave to Clarke. This sideshow at least kept Urbanovich quiet.
However, Iliodoros Kamatakis could not find a way to get involved and his stack was dwindling. When he found Kings, he got minimal action, and then with growing frustration he got his stack in with Tens.
That was good for a double up through Sidhu’s Nines, but any momentum Kamatakis found soon evaporated. He picked up K♠-9♠ under the gun and open raised. Bernies called with A♠-Q♦ from one seat along and they saw a flop that had something for both of them: Q♠-9♥-5♦.
Maybe Kamatakis will live to regret his aggressive line – betting, then three-bet shoving over Bernies’ raise. But maybe he won’t. Kamatakis had a ball during this tournament and, after a called from Bernies and a blank turn and river, he headed to the cage with a smile on his face. He found €152,600 waiting there for him, the fifth-place prize.
Bernies’ stack enjoyed a huge boost after that coup, and the hand set up what seemed certain to become the tournament-defining pot soon after. Bernies, with close to four million in his stack, was really the only player at that stage who would hurt Urbanovich. And he managed in fact to inflict the most significant wound he could.
He found A♠-Q♠ in the small blind and opted to limp. Urbanovich, in the big blind, found 8♠-8♥ and raised to 300,000. Bernies now sprung a trap, and three-bet to 905,000. But Urbanovich responded with a four-bet shove, covering Bernies.
There has been a lot of talk all week about the relative ability of Bernies. He came to Dublin for his first ever EPT event after qualifying online, and without a huge number of live results to his name. He also had a peculiar breathing pattern when involved in pots that led more than one person to claim they could get a read on him.
But despite the apparent trappings of a rank amateur, Bernies played with a huge amount of guile, and many other commentators believed his entire backstory to be a bluff. It was this kind of hand that gave weight to the latter argument. Bernies called Urbanovich’s all-in. His courage was rewarded with the A♥ on the turn and no river re-draw from Urbanovich. This huge pot relegated Urbanovich back among the mortals and catapulted Bernies into a commanding four-handed chip lead.
As the remaining four played for a couple of hours, the structure shallowed out the tournament a good deal. Bernies continued to build, but Clarke, Sidhu and Urbanovich returned for Level 30 with stacks of fewer than 30 big blinds. And both Clarke and Sidhu would go no further.
First, Clarke found A♣-2♦ and shoved for two million. Bernies woke up with Q♠-Q♥ and there was a Queen in the window. Clarke couldn’t catch up after that, despite two clubs on the flop and another on the turn.
Clarke, the last remaining Irishmen in this tournament, had a huge and vocal rail, bellowing for the fourth club to appear on the river. But it never came. He headed out in fourth, pocketing €193,650.
Bernies had already established himself as a juggernaut at this final table, but knocking out two players in consecutive hands is not something we see very often. But that was Bernies’ next trick.
No sooner had Clarke wandered away than Sidhu found himself traipsing in the same direction when he called all-in with A♥-6♥ after Bernies shoved with 5♣-5♥.
The board was totally blank and Sidhu, an eighth-placed finisher in London a couple of years ago, went looking for €250,300 this time.‘Comeon,let’sgetyoudrunk,’aSidhu supporter said on the rail. Sidhu seemed open to the idea.
So that left two: the 20-year-old ‘veteran’, Urbanovich, and the total rookie, Bernies. The latter, however, had a massive chip lead, the best part of 15 million against Urbanovich’s three million.
Urbanovich has seen a lot in his short career, including a short-stack comeback heads-up for a major title. It wasn’t him who did it, however. It was Erik Seidel, who gave Urbanovich a lesson in Monaco to take down a €100,000 Super High Roller title.
And it appears that Urbanovich is a fast learner because he pulled off something similar here. First, he flopped a straight with T♠-9♣ and got the maximum when Bernies flopped middle pair. (Urbanovich raised the flop, bet the turn and shoved the river.)
Then Urbanovich was waiting in the wings with middle pair and a flush draw when battled back, doubling with A♥-8♦ against Urbanovich’s A♠-J♠ when he flopped an Eight and Urbanovich missed a flush draw.
This was far from over. The pair traded blows and Bernies managed to haul himself back into the lead with a series of small pots. However there then followed the hand that was the defining event.
Bernies had a pretty decent lead then he limped with 6♦-4♦ and Urbanovich checked his option. They saw a flop of A♠-A♦-2♦.
Of course, nobody will have expected Urbanovich to check with an Ace, but that’s exactly what had happened. Urbanovich was sitting with A♣-3♠.
Bernies, however, had the flush draw and was still interested, so he called Urbanovich’s 150,000 tickle. The T♠ came on the turn and this time Bernies got aggressive. He raised to 1.4 million after Urbanovich fired 415,000.
Urbanovich wasn’t going to take this lying down though and three-bet to 2.4 million, which committed him. Bernies shoved, Urbanovich called and had to fade a diamond.
Actually, he didn’t. There was a diamond on the river. But the T♦ filled Urbanovich’s boat and put him way ahead. He had slightly more than 12.5 million, with Bernies back on 5.5 million.
Bernies by this point seemed spent. He admitted to anyone who chatted to him that he was finding it tough to overcome his nerves. The heavy breathing, he said, was not an act. (A side point: when Urbanovich first played against Bernies yesterday, he was the only player to ask, ‘Are you all right?’)
Today, Urbanovich had slightly changed his tune. ‘It’s not to easy to perceive [how he] plays,’ he said of Bernies. ‘With play like that, y’know? I mean, he’s really too slow. Way too slow, than it should be.’
Sensing a beaten opponent, Urbanovich did his best to keep the pressure on, making his decisions almost instantaneously and keeping Bernies out of his comfort zone. Eventually, with Bernies on the ropes, Urbanovich found pocket Kings – and a short-stacked opponent willing to go the distance. If Dzmitry Urbanovich has Kings, there’s only going to be one winner. That much is obvious. We are entering a whole new era, an era in which Dzmitry Urbanovich is the king.
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