EPT £1m Showdown report

An in-depth look at the EPT London’s £1m Showdown

Whilst the commoners were grinding like Tony Hawks in the $1/2 cash games, an elite group of poker’s ‘high rollers’ were busy fighting it out for a £516,000 first prize in the EPT’s £1 Million Showdown. My pockets weren’t quite deep enough, but 85 pairs of trousers (safari shorts in Raymer’s case) did boast such depth, the high buy-in and six-figure guarantee luring over a who’s who of poker to the Grosvenor Victoria which included messieurs Ferguson, Brenes, Seidel, Antonius, and Mizzi, as well as a host of other notable names from across the poker globe.

With a registration fee that could have fed The Brady Bunch for a month, you’d expect only the best for the crème de la crème, but not so as chips of EPT seasons past were shipped onto the table. A nostalgic Praz Bansi took them to his heart, but admitted with a grimace, “We could catch something off these.” Meanwhile, £20,000 clearly wasn’t enough to get Barry Greenstein’s blood circulating, the Robin Hood of Poker stealing only forty winks as he napped at the table. Similarly lethargic was Isaac Haxton, although he was awoken from his slumber by the splash of split coffee and the reddening face of a clumsy waitress.

Although Dario Minieri, Brandon Adams, Joe Hachem and Phil Ivey will have wished they’d stayed in bed, the year’s most expensive wooden spoon (Brazilian Rosewood, apparently) went to Pier Ruscalla, the Frenchman making a flush on the river but paying off the flopped full house of Peter Eastgate. Gus Hansen didn’t fair any better, his Ah-Ad came up short against Daniel Negreanu’s 7h-4h on an all heart flop, whilst Chris Ferguson soon joined the Great Dane in the kennels when he ran sixes into eights.

One man who did launch out of the blocks like Ben Johnson on his way home from the Chemists was Dennis Phillips. If a WSOP final wasn’t enough to get him excited, then an early stack of 80,000 might have massaged the adrenaline gland. But Negreanu was snapping at his ankles like an alligator with toothache, and a level or two later it was Kid Poker sitting top of the pile with 90,000.

With this being London, it was nice to see a few players flying the British flag. Sadly, they forgot to bring a pole as our less populated contingent were soon caught floundering. Vicky Coren and Neil Channing slipped away soon after the starting whistle (read into that what you will), and Devilfish’s plans of world domination were also foiled, his Q-J failing to out-gun Steven Silverman’s K-J to see him drop towards the end of Day One. Praz Bansi did provide a glimmer of hope, but one wrong look at the Poker Gods was enough for them to snap as his pocket aces were cruelly out-drawn by Jani Sointula’s A-Q when two more ladies joined the party.

With 12 remaining, and the clock ticking fast into the early hours, it was Sami Kelopuro who would miss out on a second outing, his Q-9 unable to outdraw Peter Jetten’s K-J. Bald Eagle Steve Zolotow also suffered a late departure, as did Barry Greenstein, Daniel Negreanu and Nathan Lee. Meanwhile, the chip lead had changed a number of times, but finally settled on online titan David Benyamine who took 295,900 into Day Two with Alexander Roumeliotis sniffing his posterior with 229,400.

With the players returning eager faced and with dollar signs lighting up their eyes, it was of no surprise to see Sointula hit the deck first. With less than two big blinds, he pushed with A-3 but ran into Andrew Feldman’s (pictured) A-5. A five on the flop dashed any hopes of a split pot. With Feldman himself, as well as Ghassan Bitar (the ‘Bitar End’ pun was too good to pass) and Roumeliotis soon following, it was time for the bubble to cast its foreboding shadow with Haxton, Isabelle Mericer and Scotty Nguyen all clenching their buttocks profusely. However, it was November Niner Dennis Phillips who felt the full splash, his Q-9 running into Haxton’s A-4 and failing to improve on a raggy board, whilst consequently producing the following final table line-up:

Seat 1: Peter Jetten — 347,000

Seat 2: Michael Watson — 104,000

Seat 3: Isaac Haxton — 193,000

Seat 4: Isabelle Mercier — 86,000

Seat 5: David Benyamine — 175,000

Seat 6: Scotty Nguyen — 68,000

Seat 7: Jason Mercier — 204,000

Seat 8: Masaaki Kagawa — 142,000
9: John Juanda — 302,000

With Nguyen doubling straight off the bat, it was French/Canadian sex kitten Mercier who adopted the role of short-stack. Sadly for the salivating male segments of the rail, she busted in ninth when her A-J ran headfirst into Watson’s A-K. With Watson eliminating sole European Benyamine in eighth with A-A versus K-J, he then completed an incredible hat-trick when Kagawa (right) became his third victim with A-Q failing to improve against the American’s A-K. Watson may have been snipering down the short-stacks, but he wasn’t winning the big pots, and when Juanda took out Haxton with aces versus eights, the recent WSOPE winner merely extended his lead with Watson forced to settle for second.

With five remaining, it would be Nguyen who would walk the plank next. He may have enjoyed more doubles than a night on the tiles with the Devilfish, but he would ultimately snap up fifth nonetheless when his A-T was unravelled by Juanda’s K-9 suited which made a flush on the river. With Jetten losing a costly 2-2 versus A-J coin-flip to fall in fourth, we were left with our final three Trojan high-rolling warriors:

John Juanda — 801,000

Jason Mercier — 754,000

Michael Watson — 166,000

Watson doubled through within a few hands, but couldn’t prevent himself from exiting in fourth. All in with A-7, he was snap-called by Juanda’s A-K which subsequently survived an uneventful board.

A two to one chip lead hinted at an incredible Juanda double and a trip report that would have kept the wife on side for years, but with all the chips going in with A-2 versus Q-J, Mercier spiked a dramatic knave on the river to not only stay alive, but also take the chip lead. A back and forth battle of Pong proportions then ensued, but Juanda never fully fought back, and with the fibre of the EPT’s fabric in touching distance, it was Mercier who lapped up gold when his K-Q flopped a straight against Juanda A-J. A rag-tastic turn and we had our winner, America’s 21-year old wonder kid Jason Mercier.

With already $2.7 million in tournament winnings to his name, Jason Mercier is fast becoming one of poker’s hottest properties. In the space of several months, he’s won an EPT main event, finished sixth in another, finalled a WSOPE side event and now, with the phrase ‘flash in the pan’ finally escaping people’s vocabularies, overcome one of the toughest pound for pound tournaments the world has ever seen. Ivey, Chan, Hellmuth, Brunson, pft. Move over, folks, there’s a new kid in town.

1. Jason Mercier (USA) — £516,000

2. John Juanda (USA) — £327,000

3. Michael Watson (Canada) — £241,000

4. Peter Jetten (Canada) — £189,000

5. Scotty Nguyen (USA) — £137,500

6. Isaac Haxton (USA) — £103,000

7. Masaaki Kagawa (Japan) — £86,000

8. David Benyamine (France) — £69,000

9. Isabelle Mercier (Canada) — £51,500

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