The final day of the EPT Monaco Main Event started with eight players. Eight hopefuls, all looking to put their hands on their very first EPT trophy. But all of them knew if they were to achieve this feat, they would first have to eliminate the seven other players standing between them and the coveted first place title. When they sat down to play, no one probably thought the tournament would last for eighteen hours. But it did; and when it was all said and done, it was Antonio Buonanno walking away with the title after a heads-up battle of epic proportions.
We couldn’t call today’s final table star-studded by any standards; and some of those following the updates and the live feed were vocal about their dissatisfaction with this fact. But at the same time, this did not influence the quality of play in the least. In fact, we’ve seen a number of great and unorthodox plays and a lot of quality poker. Another interesting fact was that, of eight players, seven of them were PokerStars qualifiers – all but Buonanno.
It is usually the unwritten rule on final tables that shortest stack doubles up a couple times before exiting or even winning. Today, it wasn’t the case. Sebastian Bredthauer came with the smallest amount of chips and was the very first to exit. The young German qualified online for only 100 FPPs and this was his first live tournament and, obviously, first live cash. So he is probably not that disappointed with his 8th place finish in the EPT Grand Final and a payday of €128,800. We will probably be seeing much more of him in the future.
American Kenny Hicks came to this final table guaranteed to make the biggest live cash of his career. This doesn’t mean Hicks was lacking experience, as he had some big online results and has been playing in EPTs since Season 4, but a big score simply eluded him. He actually tweeted before the start of the tournament that this was the biggest day of his poker career. Unfortunately, he couldn’t go further than 7th, as he was stopped by Buonanno. It was a classic flip, but one in which Buonanno’s pocket Tens managed to hold against the #ac#kd of Hicks. He walked away €188,500 richer.
After Hicks departed, it was Sebastian von Toperczer with the shortest stack at the table. Hailing from Germany, Toperczer, too, was guaranteed the biggest live cash of his career. He found himself in an awkward spot when he picked up #7h#7c with a raise and 3-bet shove in front of him. It was a hard decision, but Toperczer eventually decided it was the time to go for busto or robusto. Although the original raiser folded, he was in bad shape against Malte Moennig’s #10h#10s and the board offered only disappointment. For his sixth place finish, the German received €258,300.
Play calmed down significantly after Sebastian’s exit, but it was just a matter of time. The next elimination played out in quite a dramatic way. Magnus Carlsson was now the short stack and when he picked up #3s#3c under the gun, all of his chips went in the middle. Next to act was Malte Moennig, who found pocket Eights and after giving it some serious thought, moved in as well. The action got folded to Mayu Roca, who looked down to find #9h#9s and decided to go for it and try to eliminate two players. Although he got it in good, it was Moennig who got lucky by flopping the set of Eights, tripling up and sending Carlsson home. The Swede from Linkoping will have to be satisfied with a fifth place finish and a €332,000 prize to go with it.
It was down to four, and once again things got really, really slow. Nothing changed until the dinner break as players went away for 60 minutes. Upon their return, they obviously found new vigor as the very first hand saw another elimination. It was Mayu Roca who fell to Jack Salter, running his pocket Fives into Salter’s Queens. Roca, who is number one on Colombia’s all-time money list, had dreams of becoming the first Colombian EPT winner, but the dream has been put on hold as he finished 4th in Monaco for €419,000.
The three remaining players tried to make a deal, but after some fifteen minutes of discussion, they failed at finding numbers all would be comfortable with and play continued. Only a couple of hands later, it was down to heads-up, as Bounanno’s Ace-King sent German Malte Moennig to the rail. Moennig was visibly disappointed by the result, although this is by far his biggest cash as he pocketed €547,000.
Before heads-up play started, there was another round of deal-making, which, again, failed. Although the players were unable to reach a deal between themselves, Salter actually made a deal with someone else, selling 75% of the difference between second and first place.
Once again, they were back in their seats and playing for the first place prize money of more than €1.2 million. Salter had about 11 million in chips against Buonanno’s 8.5 million, but both players were fairly deep and seemed to avoid big confrontations during the early phase of heads-up play. Things did not change much further into the night as the chips moved back and forth with Salter holding the chip lead for the better part and Buonanno coming ahead at times as well.
It was a marathon battle, lasting about eight hours straight, but eventually concentration started to fall for the Italian. He made a couple of missteps to surrender most of his chips to Salter, leaving himself with only about fifteen blinds.
After this, Salter really started applying pressure, shoving his stack in to force Buonanno to make the decision for all of his chips. Buonanno wouldn’t give up and managed to double up and seize the lead before we would see the ending of this battle of epic proportions.
Some nine hours into the heads-up which turned out to officially be the longest heads-up in EPT history, it was Jack Salter sitting on the short stack. Buonanno raised from the button with #as#4h, Salter shoved for nearly 5 million with #kd#7d and the Italian made the call. The board ran safe for the best hand and just like that, it was all over – hard to believe after such a long period of play.
Jack Salter will have to be satisfied with second place and €765,000. This is a significant result for the Englishman who came back yesterday as the chip leader, as before Monaco, his live winnings amounted to about €450,000. Salter has every right to feel unlucky, as he had his opponent all-in several times, well ahead or flipping, but the poker gods wouldn’t let him finish the job. The first time he was all-in for his tournament life, that was it.
You will hear no complaints about it from Antonio Buonanno, however, the player who can proudly walk away with the title of EPT Monaco Grand Final champion and €1,240,000. After an extremely long and grueling day and night of play, the Italian businessman turned poker pro can let out a sigh of relief and get some rest before starting to think what he should do with the cool million he had just won.
That is it – not only for the Monaco Grand Final, but also for Season 10 of the European Poker Tour. And what a season it was – full of great poker, big moments and, perhaps most importantly, it was the season that brought us the very first two-time EPT champion after Victoria Coren-Mitchell won the EPT in San Remo.
The European Poker Tour will be back in August with the event in Barcelona, which will also be the 100th tournament of the tour and, appropriately, will be taking place back where it all started. In the meantime, we have a WSOP to look forward to, making sure there won’t be any lack of good poker to keep us entertained during the summer heat!