Perhaps because of the remoteness of the location, perhaps because of the time of year (winter), perhaps because of the plethora of tournament poker in the States of America right now, the European Poker Tour’s stop in Sochi, Russia, didn’t get that much attention. The EPT did crown two new champions, however, in a High Roller event and, naturally, the Main Event.
Rushand Iskandarov Wins High Roller
In the ₽371,000 (roughly $5500 U. S. dollars) High Roller Event, 84 entries were received. The final table was highlighted by Ramon Collilas, the champion of the PokerStars Players’ Championship at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, and Pete Chen, who final tabled the World Series of Poker’s online High Roller tournament last summer. But it was two men from Azerbaijan who were able to capture the attention of the railbirds at the Casino Sochi that battled it out for the title.
Collilas would depart in seventh place and Chen in fourth, but Ruslan Iskandarov and Elvin Sarkarov would square off for what was an epic battle. Sarkarov started the heads-up match with about a million-chip lead, but Iskandarov immediately switched that situation within minutes of the opening salvos. Sarkarov wouldn’t go quietly, however, after he was able to get three streets of action out of Iskandarov when Sarkarov had flopped a wheel straight and retake the lead.
For over three hours the duo would swap the lead before Iskandarov would be able to assume command of the event. On a 5♣ 5♠ 7♦ flop, Iskandarov would check-call a 125K bet from Sarkarov. When a King came on the turn, however, Sarkarov wouldn’t take Iskandarov’s offer for action as both men checked. A Queen completed the board, which brought about the end of the tournament.
For the first time in the hand, Iskandarov opened with a 235K bet and Sarkarov moved all in against him. Iskandarov wasn’t fazed, however, as he immediately made the call and turned up a 5♥ 2♥ for the flopped trips. All Sarkarov could show was a 9-2 off suit – complete air on the bluff – as the championship went to Iskandarov.
1. Rushand Iskandarov, ₽7,840,000 ($119,351)
2. Elvin Sarkarov, ₽5,579,000 (84,935)
3. Maksim Bukreev, ₽3,650,500 ($55,575)
4. Pete Chen, ₽2,807,000 ($42,734)
5. Valery Yantsevich, ₽2,222,500 ($33,835)
6. Sergey Kolyasnikov, ₽1,739,500 ($26,482)
7. Ramon Collilas, ₽1,368,500 ($20,834)
8. Irshat Shaykhov ₽1,071,000 ($16,305)
For Iskandarov, the win was a memorable one. A veteran of online battles for the past four years, this was the first live event he ever played. To walk away with an EPT High Roller trophy in your first soiree bodes well for the future for Iskandarov.
Uri Gilboa Becomes Oldest EPT Main Event Champion in History
The final day of the EPT Sochi Main Event began with only six players remaining (from the 758 entries) after two members of the official EPT final table were eliminated in the previous night’s action. The beneficiary of that action was chip leader Zakhar Babaev, who held a huge lead with his 9.03 million chip stack. It was the oldest player left in the tournament, however, that would emerge victorious.
Coming from Israel, Uri Gilboa was in the bottom edges of the final table, sitting on a fourth-place stack of 2.115 million chips, and patiently waiting for his chance to come to him. That opportunity would come on Hand #43 when Gilboa, holding pocket Jacks, was able to double up through Vyacheslav Mizun and moved into second place. It was a distant second place, though, as Babaev continued to rule the table at the time (Babaev had 9.18 million, Gilboa 4.69 million).
It seemed inevitable that Gilboa and Babaev would clash and, when it did, Gilboa came out on the positive side. He chipped up through Babaev twice to pull within three million chips, then took the lead on Hand #102 after Gilboa backdoored a flush against Babaev’s two pair. The duo would combine to eliminate their competition and met for the heads-up battle with Gilboa holding a five million chip lead over Babaev.
The key hand of the tournament was Hand #176. After erasing the deficit he faced and taking a nice lead himself, Babaev and Gilboa would get it in pre-flop on the hand that decided the event. Babaev had a nice A-9, nominally good in a heads-up situation, but Gilboa had Big Slick and the edge. A King in the window (K-J-3) pushed Gilboa further into the lead and a deuce on the turn left Babaev drawing dead. Once the chips were counted out, Gilboa had been at risk in the hand and the massive 21.09 million chips pushed his way left Babaev with only 655K in his stack. The tournament ended on the next hand as Gilboa’s A-4 turned an unnecessary two pair against Babaev’s 8-4 to end the event.
1. Uri Gilboa, ₽27,475,000 ($412,125)
2. Zakhar Babaev, ₽16,737,000 ($251,055)
3. Maksim Pisarenko, ₽11,865,000 ($177,975)
4. Ivan Ruban, ₽8,953,000 ($134,295)
5. Vyacheslav Mizun, ₽7,091,000 ($106,365)
6. Sefarim Kovalevsky, ₽5,390,000 ($80,850)
7. Francisco Benitez, ₽3,850,000 ($57,750)*
8. Dmitry Yurasov, ₽2,625,000 ($39,375)*
(* – eliminated the previous evening, part of official EPT final table records)
According to EPT statistics, the 61-year old Gilboa is the oldest ever Main Event champion in the history of the circuit. Additionally, he is the first Israeli EPT champion, another important first.