I start day two with a healthy stack of 91,700. I’m in third position at the table in chips and with a table of complete unknowns, save for German pro Florian Langmann who has a big stack.
Elsewhere at the table we have big glasses wearing Rasmus Vogt (who actually turns out to be a very good player), Slobodan Bjelbork (who sounds like a character from Star Trek) and the other big stack Simon Boss (who looks like classical conductor Simon Rattle with a shock of unkempt grey hair and plays like this is his first ever poker tournament)
Day two is a struggle for me. I never manage to increase my stack and it hovers between 60,000 and 90,000 for most of the day. If day one was one of the best days of poker of my life, then day two was one of the hardest.
Seated on table 31 out of 50, I knew my table wouldn’t break for several hours as they split the tables in reverse order, so I dig in and try and get some reads as I know I will be playing with these people for a while.
However, the table dynamic soon blows wide open when the two big stacks get involved in a huge pot towards the end of the first level of the day. It goes something like this.
Simon Boss ~150k
Florian Langmann ~125k
Blinds 600/1,200, ante 100
Crazy Swiss man Simon Boss opens from the hijack to 3,500. He has been fairly active with his big stack and managed to win a few decent pots. However, it’s clear that he is a very inexperienced player. His hands shake every time he stacks his chips or makes a bet and he is reluctant to give out change to other players despite having way more physical chips than anyone else at the table.
It folds around the Florian Langmann on the button who re-raises to 12,000. The blinds fold and it’s back to the Boss who thinks about it and puts in an extra 7,500 to call.
K T 4 with two diamonds.
With just over 25k now in the pot, Simon Boss quickly donks out a bet of 15,000. Pausing, Langmann cuts out 40k and announces raise. Action is now back on the wild haired Swiss and just like that he announces “all in”, which is quickly met by “call” from the German pro.
The hands are turned over and Langmann has pocket tens for the flopped set and the second nuts.
To the utter disbelief of the table, Boss turns over 23 of diamonds for the nut low with the flush draw.
I knew it was coming, I just knew it was coming. After the turn bricks out, the river brings that inevitable diamond and Langmann is stunned. It takes a minute or so to count out the stacks but it is soon clear that he is eliminated goes from being amongst the chipleaders in his home tournament to being on the rail. Truly a sick hand, probably the biggest of the tournament to this point and puts the unpredictable Swiss man amongst the top chipstacks in the whole tournament.
“I’ve always thought you were great against erratic big stacks” texts my friend Paul after I send an SOS message to him saying I’m finding things tricky.
It’s hard going. I’m not getting many big hands and the hands I do get miss more often than they hit. Our Alpine amateur with the big stack is getting involved in a lot of pots and is a thorn in my side as I cannot put him on a hand or figure out what he has. For the most part I have to tighten up and be patient.
Eventually the table breaks and I move to my new seat. Scanning the table I don’t recognise any of the faces but it soon becomes apparent that seated directly to my left is young aggressive German player Nico Behling. I am aware of his online exploits and don’t relish having him directly to my left. Other than that though, it’s a table of unknowns, until seat ten busts out and it is filled with the imposing presence of Irishman Jude Ainsworth.
Ainsworth is shaven headed, wearing big aviator sunglasses and a mountain of chips in front of him. It is reported that he is the current chipleader. Recently signed by Poker Stars he is clearly in no mood to mess around and is looking to get a big result to put himself on the map. His demeanour at the table is aggressive and chippy and even his jokes have a tinge of aggression. It is probably the first time I’ve ever been intimidated by an opponent.
Soon afterwards, my first day tablemate Jan Collado is moved to the left of Nico Behling and I am faced with a murderers row of three big stacked, good, aggressive players.
I continue to be patient and am able to keep afloat with a few well timed resteals. Mostly I am just playing tight and waiting for a hand but I can’t afford to do that much longer. The blinds are increasing and my stack has stayed static the whole day.
There are still about 50 people left to bust before we get into the money and I can’t just sit on my stack, I have to pick up chips.
Two orbits in a row with about 15 big blinds in my stack, I pick up Ace King first to act. Both times I don’t do anything fancy and just shove all in to pick up the blinds and antes. Nobody calls either time, though the second time especially there seems disgruntlement towards what to live players seems like a very big shove.
My thought process is this - I don’t really fancy being flat called by anyone and having to play a flop probably out of position. Miss the flop I either have to fold and be down to 12bbs with the blinds about to go through me or get all in with just ace high - Plus the fact that I am raising from early position means that people will give me greater credit for a big hand and be less likely to resteal light on me. From late position I would have opened with a standard raise but I am happy with my choice of action and I am able to pad my stack and keep my head above water.
The next orbit I pick up QQ in early position. Having open shoved a stack of 15 big blinds the past two orbits it is a no brainer to do the same again and hope someone gets suspicious of me and decides to look me up. As soon as I declare all in, Nico Behling to my left seems like he has a difficult decision. He deliberates for a minute or two before calling. It’s interesting that he chose to flat call rather than reraise. I can’t give him credit for a Hollywood acting job, so I have to put him on a hand something like AQ or TT. Everyone else folds.
Nico flips over 99 and it’s the first time I’ve been all in with my tournament life at risk. Thankfully my hand holds up and I double up! Behling still has chips and in fact goes on to finish eighth in the tournament.
Now I’m in business and I can look to increase my stack on the bubble by putting pressure on even shorter stacks than myself. One guy hasn’t played a hand for about two hours so I target his big blind two orbits in a row and an able to take down the pot.
With about five people left to bust before the bubble a big stack opens from early position. I look down at pocket tens in middle position. I have thirty big blinds in my stack and this is a difficult situation. It is too risky just to shove all in here. I have too many chips, the raiser might have a hand and there are still several people left to act after me who might wake up with a monster. I could raise but it’s an awkward amount of my stack to put in and I will have to fold if somebody four bets. What I *should* have done is flat called and tried to see a flop, but for the only time in the tournament the magnitude of the money I am playing for hits me and think to myself how destroyed I will be if I don’t get in the money now. I fold and silently curse myself. Hopefully next time I won’t be so weak on the bubble.
When it happens it is over quickly. No sooner as it is announced that there is one more person left to bust, he does exactly that and I have locked up 7,000 euros.
There’s muted celebration but players like Jude Ainsworth (who has increased his already hefty stack) and the young Germans are I’m sure already thinking of going all the way.
There is a little play left in the day but soon the bags are being given out to put your chips in at the end of the day and it is declared that there are three more hands left to play. Sadly my chips never made it into the bag.
On the penultimate hand of the day I make my exit:
Unknown man with glasses ~200k
Blinds 2000/4000 – Ante 600
I am crossing my fingers and hoping an easy few hands so I can bag up and be on my way for the night, but in middle position I look down at pocket kings and open raise to 10,500. It folds around to the big blind who is quite new to the table. He makes the call and we see a flop.
Flop T 7 4 with two diamonds
There’s about 28k in the pot and it is checked to me. I fire out a continuation bet of 20,000. I really wouldn’t mind taking it down here and now but obviously I’m looking for action. There’s no way I’m folding this hand and if he calls then I’m likely getting all the money in on the turn. However I don’t need to wait that long as I am instantly check raised all in.
I take perhaps five seconds to confirm to myself that yes, there is indeed no way I am folding this hand, so I call.
We are sitting at opposite ends of the table and as we flip our hands over I make out that he has 89 of hearts for the up and down straight draw. The dealer turns and burns quickly and when the ten hits the felt at first I think it as a good card for me. Looking back at his hand I am stuck with the horrible sight of his hand which is now sharply in focus.
Ten nine of hearts.
And the realisation washes over me that he has sucked out on me and hit his dream card, putting me virtually out of the tournament. I can’t hit a miracle king on the river and I am out.
Stunned I am shepherded over to the desk where I see I have finished in 129th place for 7,000 euros. As I am filling out my details, the 128th place finished walks over and sits next to me. He is to be awarded 8,000 euros, so if I had paused and stalled for just a minute I would have made an extra 1,000 euros. This rankles more than the nature of my exit.
The next day I spend my profits on entering the 1,500 euro side event. My table is incredibly soft but I make a couple of errors and am disappointed with my play as I bust before the dinner break. This leaves me break even for the week.
The facts of the matter are, this was my first EPT main event. I shunned satellites and bought in directly out of my roll. It was a gamble for a bankroll nit like myself but it paid off as I cashed. I didn’t feel at all outclassed and had my kings held up, I could have gone deep. The structure was good and I played patiently and feel I was rewarded for it. I will certainly be playing another EPT event in future, either in Berlin or elsewhere.