Thursday was Day 3 of the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour Madrid €5,300 Main Event. From the starting field of 477, the final 112 players returned to the Casino Gran Madrid to play through the bubble and on down to the final 24. That goal was reached right around the bewitching hour of midnight, and João Paulo Simão carries the biggest stack of 1.973 million into Friday's penultimate day.
It took a couple of hours to reduce the field to within a few eliminations of the bubble, and a slew of notables were among the early casualties. Matthew Frankland was one of the very first to go, and he was soon joined on the rail by Yorane Kerignard, Ondrej Vinklarek, Joep van den Bijgaart, David Benyamine, and Ebony Kenney in the pre-bubble madness.
On the first of the hand-for-hand shuffles, McLean Karr was the one who bit the bullet and took matters into his own hands. He three-bet shoved for about 30 big blinds with pocket fives, but Javier Etayo's had him crushed. Karr had a sweat on the turn, but the board meant the end of the road for Karr, and a small celebration for the 72 players who outlasted him.
Once the bubble burst, the pace of the eliminations began to quicken further, and another batch of notables were dispatched. The second wave of knockouts saw Vadim Markushevski, Barny Boatman, James Sudworth, Dermot Blain, Jan Collado, Olivier Busquet, Kenny Hallaert, and Melanie Weisner all sent off.
At least one of those players made good use of the rest of their day. Hallaert went promptly to his computer to late register for the $1 Rebuy Micro Millions event as his alter-ego, "SpaceyFCB." Five hours later, he was sitting at the final table trying to collect the rest of the 1.6 billion chips in play. He outlasted 44,739 of the 44,740 players, besting everyone but the last man standing. A runner-up finish earned SpaceyFCB $12,562.45 — just a bit more than his middling cash in the EPT Main Event. Not a bad day, all in all.
Back to the Main Event where the Day 3 starters' list included a quartet of Team PokerStars Pros. Unfortunately for the sponsor site, none of them were able to survive to night's end. Mexico's Angel Guillen fell out just a few spots short of the money, and Norway's Johhny Lodden managed to squeak into a small payday before being relegated to the rail. His pocket threes were ahead of ace-jack until the last card, but the proverbial ace on the river ended his run in 60th place. Henrique Pinho was relieved of his short stack just a few minutes later, and that left only Alex Kravchenko flying the PokerStars banner. He lasted until 35th place before losing his short stack and his tournament life.
For the bulk of the day, Ilan Boujaneh weilded the big stack, and he and Simão were hovering around the million-chip mark hours before anyone else even came close. Boujaneh's biggest boost came one hand before the dinner break when he played a pot for his tournament life against Simão.
Boujaneh had raised and four-bet preflop, and Simão called another bet on the flop. He raised the turn, but Boujaneh led right back out on the river. Simão called him down with two mystery cards, and the appeared in front of Boujaneh to give him a monster pot and a commanding chip lead.
The two men traded the big stack back and forth for the remainder of play, but Simão got the last laugh in the last hand of the night. His ace-king toppled two players, one with pocket queens and one with pocket sevens. A king on the river locked up the biggest pot of the tournament, and Simão's count of nearly 2 million gives him a big cushion heading into Day 4. It'll be his largest cash regardless of where he finishes, though he does have some other results of note. In 2010, he won the WCOOP $215 Heads-Up event playing as "IneedMasari," and he took down a side event at LAPT Florianopolis the same year. He's got the chips, but he'll have to deal with the likes of Michael "Timex" McDonald, Clayton Mozdzen (783,000), Taylor Paur (734,000), Nicolas Levi (526,000), and Tristan Clemencon (395,000) on his way to what he hopes will be a final table appearance.
Eight seasons in and the EPT is still looking for its first double champion. A few players entered the day with glowing aspirations of making that happen. It came mostly unraveled, though. Season 7's San Remo champion, Rupert Elder cold-four-bet shoved pocket sixes into pocket nines to end his day shy of a cash. Near the end of the night, EPT6 Berlin champion, Kevin MacPhee four-bet ace-queen into two aces, though he did manage to pick up a little spending money on his way out the door. Toby Lewis and Joao Barbosa have won EPTs in Portugal and Poland, respectively, but they too fell short of super deep runs in Madrid.
We've still got one former champion left looking for the double dip — Canada's Michael "Timex" McDonald. He won in Dortmund in 2008, and he's since made two more EPT final tables. Those efforts have come up short, but he'll return with a top-five stack of 883,000 on Friday and another crack at the trophy.
Also worth a mention is the presence of Bruno "Kool Shen" Lopes in the remaining field. Kool Shen is one of the most prominent figures in French rap, and he also dabbles a bit in acting, break dancing, and graffiti art. Oh, and poker. You'd be forgiven for underestimating him as just another celebrity-turned-poker-player, but Lopes has been doing some serious work on the felt. He won a €5,000 event in Paris earlier this year, and he'll likely creep over $400,000 in career earnings with this cash.
Lopes' progress was impressive throughout Day 3, and he first came onto the radar when a chip-leading stack suddenly appeared in front of him during the early stages of the day. He took a nice pot off McLean Karr with on a board full of undercards, and he won a big flip later in the day with pocket nines against Javier Piazuelo's . At the end of the night, Kool Shen was sitting pretty with 1.103 million chips — good enough for third place overall.
End of Day 3 Top 10 Chip Counts
|João Paulo Simão||1,973,000|
|Ricardo Ibanez Rodriguez||635,000|
Day 4 will begin on Friday at 1200 CET (0400 PST), and play will proceed until the final table is set.