The European Poker Tour has been enjoying their stay at the Casino Barcelona in Spain as they have worked their way to the final table of their Main Event. In a rather shocking move, it was one of the start of day “shorties” in the field, Simon Brandstrom, who ascended to the top of the leaderboard. But, as he has been through the last three days of the tournament, Marton Czuczor is sitting in second place and presenting a formidable challenge to anyone on the baize.

How to Come Off the Short Stack…

To say that Brandstrom had some work to do would be putting it mildly. At the start of Day 5, Brandstrom was only clear of two players and looking way up the ladder at the chip leader Rui Sousa. There were other tough players on the felt, including Czuczor, longtime pro Johan Storakers (who had improved on his 18th place finish in this event last year) and U. S. pro Shannon Shorr, who were all ready to mix it up.

That spirit of “mixing it up” was not present on Saturday, however. Perhaps with the levity of the final table looming on the horizon, the players weren’t quite as willing to let the chips fly as they had been earlier in the event. Two full levels of action went by with the same 16 players still alive. Eventually, the blinds and antes began to catch up and the players began to fall.

After a break following the second level, Brandstrom caught fire with some help from the cards. Brandstrom, in the small blind, saw Shorr open the betting from early position and three bet the action with an all-in shove. After Sousa got out of the way, Shorr made the call and the cards went on their backs:

Brandstrom: two red Aces
Shorr: pocket Queens

After the board ran out Jack high, Brandstrom had a new lease on life with 2.13 million chips, while Shorr (985K) would drop down the leaderboard. Shorr would eventually depart in 15th place to Braco when he was caught stealing on the button, his K-8 off suit falling to Braco’s pocket Aces, while Brandstrom continued to climb.

It was another pair versus pair situation that thrust Brandstrom into a lead he would not relinquish. In a blind versus blind battle, Balakrishna Patur and Brandstrom rapidly got all the chips to the center with Brandstrom at risk. Brandstrom once again had the goods, his pocket tens over Patur’s pocket sevens, but a seven on the flop brought Patur to his feet. Just as quickly, however, a ten came on the turn, this time leading to exultations from Brandstrom. Looking for the case seven, Patur instead saw a King and most of his chips go to Brandstrom, who would not let them go.

Czuczor Looks to Go One Place Better

Czuczor, who finished second in the EPT Prague Main Event in 2016, is looking to improve on his best finish ever on the circuit by going one place better. Throughout the day on Saturday, Czuczor fended off all challengers and actually helped a few of them to find the door. He flopped two pair against the open-ended straight draw of Leandro Bustillo that didn’t come home to end Bustillo’s tournament in 12th place, then cracked the 10 million chip mark by taking a pot off of Storakers. But it was Brandstrom who would end the day’s play by making the final elimination of Saturday and it was Storakers who would be the victim.

After a raise from Brandstrom, Storakers wasted little time in pushing his 1.3 million stack into the center of the felt. After Diego Falcone folded his big blind, Brandstrom made the call and was behind with his A-10 off suit against Storakers’ pocket Queens. That deficit was eliminated on the flop when it came down J-A-8. A third diamond came with a seven on the turn, which was good for Storakers in that it gave him more outs with his Q♦. But the dreams of a final table for Storakers were crushed when an innocuous seven came on the river, knocking him out in seventh place and setting Sunday’s final table.

1. Simon Brandstrom, 18.5 million
2. Marton Czuczor, 14.45 million
3. Rui Sousa, 9.1 million
4. Diego Falcone, 8.6 million
5. Yunye Lu, 4.5 million
6. Giovani Torre, 4.45 million

The least that any of the final six men will walk away with is €295,520, but they all want the big prize. The eventual champion of the EPT Barcelona Main Event will walk off with a seven-figure payday of €1,659,000. Action will begin at noon local time (6AM Eastern time in the U. S.) and will play down to the champion of the latest stop on the European Poker Tour.

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