A fascinating dynamic between Davidi Kitai and Albert Daher is developing. Kitai raised to 44,000 preflop from middle position and Albert Daher responded on the button with a three-bet to 112,000. Kitai came back over the top with a four-bet to 288,000 and after a think, Daher gave it up.
The very next hand saw Kitai open to 44,000, again Daher three-bet to 112,000 - this time from the small blind but once again Kitai four-bet to 288,000!
"You again huh?" said Daher with a wry smile. The Lebanese chip leader asked for a count of Kitai's stack, then, seemingly satisfied, gave up the pot.
Adrian Mateos Diaz raised to 34,000 preflop from middle position. Dominik Panka came in for a reraise to 76,000 a couple of seats behind him. It was passed back to Diaz who thought for a minute before moving all in, Panka again made a quick call.
Diaz needed some hearts or a three to survive but it never looked likely when the board came . Nevertheless, an EPT High Roller Final Table appearance is a good start for the GPI Rookie of the Year.
Just before the end of the last level, the final table saw its first big pot.
Dominik Panka opened to 26,000 from the cut-off before Albert Daher three-bet the button to 52,000. Martin Schleich then four-bet to 127,000 out of the big blind.
Panka quickly folded but Daher wanted to know how much Schleich had behind him. "I started with around 700,000," said the German.
Seemingly satisfied, Daher flat-called.
The flop was and both players checked. The on the turn saw a second round of checks and the dealer put the out on the river. Schleich checked a final time but Daher fired a bet of 175,000. The German thought for a minute or two and then made the call.
Ondrej “vinkyy” Vinklarek was the EPT8 Player of the Year and already has lifetime tournament winnings totalling more than $600k.
Vinklarek, 28, from Kolin, has been a poker pro for more than four years. As a Chess Candidate Master with a FIDE ranking of 2100, he first came across poker while playing at a big chess festival where they were promoting a live poker free-roll. He said: “I didn’t know the rules and had no idea what Texas Hold’em was but it was still fun. Later on I was in a shop with friends and we saw a chip set, so we started playing home games. After that I started playing small buy-in tournaments online.”
At the time, Vinklarek was studying Maths and Physics at Charles University; the turning point in his poker career came when he entered a $24 tourney online - and won it for $6,000.
Vinklarek’s best result to date was besting a 652-strong field in last year’s WCOOP $530 NL Re-buy tourney for $160,000. His biggest live cash was runner-up in a EPT Berlin €2k last season for €63,000 and other big scores include winning a €1k side event at EPT8 Barcelona, runner-up in an EPT8 Prague €5k NL Turbo and winning an EPT Barcelona €2k NL Turbo at the start of this season.
In Season 8, the year he won EPT Player of the Year, he said: “This has definitely been a break-out 12 months for me – both the WCOOP win and now doing so well in this season’s EPT side events.”
Vinklarek, dubbed “the Czech Chris Moorman”, first took the lead in the EPT8 Player of the Year race in Prague by winning the €1k NL Turbo Bounty, finishing second in the €5k NL Turbo side event and making the final of a €1k side event. He kept up the pace at the 2012 PCA when he finished third (out of 236) in a $2k NL Turbo tourney. He has nine other cashes on the European Poker Tour worth $10k or more.
Albert Daher is a poker player from Lebanon and good friends with many of the other Lebanese poker players including Jeff Hakim who made the final of EPT Deauville last year and went deep again this time.
Daher had his biggest ever results last year over the space of a few weeks. First he came second in the Merit World Cup of Poker for $137,299 and followed this up by finishing second in the WPT Merit Classic for $160,200. Daher has cashed twice in EPT Main Events: he came 28th at EPT London in Season 9 and 72nd at EPT Barcelona in Season 10. Daher will go into the final table as the chip leader and only has eyes on winning the event.
When Panka qualified for this year’s PCA – and then won it for $1,423,096 – he was totally uknown on the live circuit. However his composure and studied determination impressed every one who saw it and when he beat EPT veteran and Dortmund champion Mike McDonald heads-up (a player with far more live tournament experience), no one saw it as anything other than a well-deserved victory.
Panka hails from the tiny town of Brześć Kujawski in Poland and before the PCA only had $8,092 in live tournament cashes to his name, the majority of that from a 42nd place finish in the EPT 10 Barcelona Estrellas €2k High Roller. After his PCA victory, Panka said: “I’m an internet player and I haven’t played many live tournaments. I only started playing live last year and I expected my first big cash to be a tenth of this! It’s weird because I didn’t feel too much pressure on the final table. I concentrated on being a rock, a statue, and now I can’t really dance with joy because I’m still in that mindset.”
Thanks to his PCA victory, Panka was understandably under the spotlight during the EPT Deauville Main Event however, yet again, he seemed wholly unruffled by the attention and spent much of his time at the table reading a thriller by Lee Child. He didn’t cash in that event but has more than made up for it by reaching the final table in the EPT Deauville High Roller.
Lundmark was already an EPT regular when he took down EPT Barcelona in Season 7 for a massive €825,000. However his first impact on the tour came in January 2010 when he was the longest-lasting Swede at the PCA - finishing in 29th place for $66,000.
Other successes on the EPT include winning an EPT9 London £1k side event and runner-up in an EPT Sanremo €2k event. Lundmark, currently tenth on Sweden’s all time money list, finished 21st in the EPT Prague High Roller last December for €18,950 and has two other EPT side event victories to his name. His lifetime tournament winnings already total nearly $2 million. Lundmark first started playing poker seven years ago after finishing high school. He is also a keen footballer and has played for a team in Sweden’s Fourth Division.
Very few people had a better 2013 in poker than Adrian Mateos Diaz. The 19 year-old from Spain, who now lives in London, beat a field of 632 this time last year to win the Estrellas Poker Tour Madrid event for over €100,000. A few months late he followed it up by winning the WSOPE Main Event for €1,000,000 which sent straight up to 3rd in the all-time rankings for Spain.
At the GPI Awards last week, Diaz came away with the GPI Spanish Player of the Year as well as Rookie of the Year for his outstanding performances. He'll have a lot of work to do tomorrow though as Diaz will be the short stack at the final table.
Belgian pro Davidi Kitai hails from Brussels and was on his second EPT final table when he beat Andrew Chen heads-up to take down EPT Berlin in Season 8 for €712,000. His other EPT final was third at EPT Barcelona in Season 5 for €455,000 – the event won by Sebastian Ruthenberg. Kitai is the only Belgian who has won both a WSOP bracelet and a WPT title, and his EPT victory in Berlin gained him poker’s elusive “Triple Crown”.
His lifetime tournament winnings already total more than $3.4 million including his victory in the 2013 WSOP $5k PLO event for $224,560 and three other WSOP cashes last summer. His first WSOP bracelet came in 2008 when he won a €2k Pot Limit Hold’em tourney and he also has a WSOP-E bracelet from his victory in the $5k NL event in Cannes in 2012. Despite always appearing as if he’s just got out of bed, Kitai is no slouch at the table and is widely respected in the poker community. Kitai perfected his poker skills during a trip to Los Angeles in 2003. He had gone to the States to learn English, but it was Texas Hold’em that he mastered. He is #1 (and streets ahead) in the Belgium all-time money list.