After battling through two Day Ones and 922 entries, the Main Event of the European Poker Tour’s stop at the Casino de Monte Carlo has ended. In what was a stirring battle after a three-way chop for the money, Germany’s Manig Loeser emerged as the champion in defeating China’s Wei Huang and Hungary’s Viktor Katzenberger to take home the title.
An Uphill Battle
To say that Loeser had an uphill battle to winning the title would be a huge understatement. Nicola Grieco of Italy held the chip lead at the start of the six-handed final table, with Katzenberger holding down the second place slot. Huang was is the third post position as Loeser held the fourth position at the start of the festivities. If it weren’t enough, former World Champion Ryan Riess was in fifth (and with a sizeable stack of chips) and the short stack at the table, Luis Medina, still had enough chips (1.105 million) to give one pause before attacking.
Medina tried to make some inroads to move up the leaderboard, but he instead never gained any traction on the day. It would take slightly more than two hours for his departure to come, however, and it would come at the hands of Loeser. Medina got in a race with the German, his A-3 off suit against Loeser’s pocket sevens, and there was no saving Ace on the 9-8-2-4-10 board to change the situation. As Loeser moved up the leaderboard, Medina headed to the rail with his sixth-place finish.
If it took a while for the first elimination to come, it would seem like a lifetime before the next one. Riess, who was now on the short stack, would get a key double through Huang to get healthier as Grieco was headed in the opposite direction. It seemed as if every move that Grieco made was the wrong one and, two hours after Medina’s elimination, Grieco would find himself on the brink of that same fate. But he would fight back too, doubling up twice to get back to a respectable stack.
For more than six hours the remaining five men battled it out, with Loeser quietly sneaking out to the lead, Grieco regaining his momentum and the rest looking to catch up. In fact, the players would head to the dinner break with just the elimination of Medina under their belt. Once the players came back from their sustenance, however, they would up the intensity in the game.
Action Ramps Up Following Dinner Break
Loeser didn’t lose a bit of momentum from the dinner break, racking up the first hand back at the table. On the button, Loeser pushed all in with a suited Ace and got Riess and Huang to get out of the way. Two hands later, he would punish Katzenberger for limping in on the button by raising Katzenberger’s limp out of the big blind (it turned out he had the goods with pocket Queens). Those hands would push Loeser over the ten million mark in chips and would separate him from the pack as the eliminations came.
Nine hours after Medina had been eliminated, the next man to walk away from the EPT Monte Carlo final table would be determined. Grieco would shove his stack with Big Slick and Loeser, in the big blind, actually stated, “I’m gonna gamble,” before making the call with a miserly 8-7 off suit. Loeser got everything he could ask for in the 8-7-3 flop and, once the Jack on the turn was dealt, Grieco was drawing dead, packing his backpack, and heading to the rail in fifth place.
Riess was the next to go at the hands of Huang. Hovering in the “push or fold” zone, Riess decided to push in the small blind against Huang. Huang, knowing that Riess would be pushing with most anything, made the call. Riess’ Q-3 was surprisingly leading Huang’s J-6 pre-flop, but that’s why they deal the cards after that point.
Things looked great for Riess on the A-A-Q flop as his two pair rocketed him to an almost insurmountable lead. Just how “insurmountable?” According to odds calculators, Riess would have won the double 94% of the time. This was that 6%, unfortunately for Riess, as a ten on the turn brought Huang’s chances up to 25%. The King on the river completely changed the futures for the players as Huang, now the proud owner of a Broadway straight, scooped the pot and Riess was out in fourth place.
The final trio of players – Loeser, Huang and Katzenberger – would play for two more hours before settling in for discussions on a deal with their chip stacks all roughly equal. After an hour of discussion, they decided on the following deal:
The threesome left the trophy and a €78,061 bonus on the table to play for and went to decide a champion.
From Three to One
Huang would step out to an early lead, but Loeser quickly caught up and passed him. On a big hand with Katzenberger, Loeser was all in with pocket threes against Katzenberger’s A♣ J♣ and survived when the Queen high board had nothing for Katzenberger. Loeser took the lead again with that hand while Katzenberger, down to just over a million in chips, would succumb to Huang on the next hand in third place.
Loeser had a 3.5 million chip lead over Huang at the start of heads up and, save for one hand where Huang eked into the lead, dominated the play. On the final hand, the twosome saw a J-9-5 rainbow flop, with Huang’s K-8 leading Loeser’s Q-8. That changed on the ten turn, however, as Loeser caught his straight and moved into the lead. Loeser didn’t slow play his hand and, after Huang moved all in with only the gut shot straight draw (river Queen would have given him a better straight), Loeser was more than happy to call with his made hand. The audience was breathless in anticipation of the river, which fell with an Ace to end the 16-hour marathon with Manig Loeser as the winner.
1. Manig Loeser, €603,777*
2. Wei Huang, €552,056*
3. Viktor Katzenberger, €529,707*
4. Ryan Riess, €265,620
5. Nicola Grieco, €206,590
6. Luis Medina, €152,800
7. Rustam Hajiyev, €109,510
8. Timothy Adams, €78,030
(* – indicates three-way deal)