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EPT12 Malta: Jaroslaw Sikora leads. Jaka and Greenwood in pursuit

We're into the interesting bit. Sure, those early stages can produce some important moments, flagging up the early signs of a player in form. But Day 3 is where things are turned up a notch, for there is money involved now, and that's ball game.

But not everyone was entitled to a share when play began today. Some 131 players returned, but only 95 would have something to show for their efforts by the end of the day. But it felt like a long day, except perhaps for Jaroslaw Sikora, who leads with a stack of 1.65 million tonight.

sikora_jaroslav_malta12_28ot15.jpgChip leader Jaroslaw Sikora

Sikora has been among the leaders since Day 1, and spent today in the same way, with his arms either side of an ever expanding stack. Behind him is Alexander Ivarsson who can claim an almost identical story.

Then things get familiar. Faraz Jaka is in third place, while Sam Greenwood is in fourth place. Both, along with Niall Farrell in fifth place, are within sight of the lead, and will be the principal challengers tomorrow.

faraz_jaka_wrap_2_malta15.jpgFaraz Jaka

Elsewhere there was a new record for cashes on the EPT, set by Team Pro Johnny Lodden, who bags up 399,000 and is a guaranteed his 21st cash finish tonight.

johnny_lodden_malta12_28oct15.jpgJohnny Lodden

Here are the full chip counts at the end of Day 3:

Jaroslaw SikoraPolandPokerStars player1,457,000
Alexander IvarssonSwedenPokerStars player1,306,000
Faraz JakaUSAPokerStars qualifier1,200,000
Niall FarrellUKPokerStars player1,160,000
Sam GreenwoodCanadaPokerStars player1,160,000
Giulio SpampinatoItaly 785,000
Alen BilicBosnia and HerzegovinaPokerStars player745,000
Apostolos BechrakisGreecePokerStars qualifier720,000
Mike McDonaldCanadaPokerStars qualifier689,000
Michael HoCanada 680,000
Darrell GohIreland 633,000
Mikael JeanLebanon 598,000
Kitty KuoChinaPokerStars qualifier574,000
Bjorn GeissertGermanyPokerStrars player526,000
Rainer KempeGermanyPokerStars qualifier490,000
Andreas ChalkiadakisGreece 482,000
Gianluca EscobarItaly 447,000
Shannon ShorrUSAPokerStars player407,000
Johnny LoddenNorwayTeam PokerStars Pro399,000
Ferdinand Le PichonFrance 364,000
Ivan LucaArgentinaPokerStars qualifier349,000
Hani BahnaCanada 344,000
Jens LakemeierGermanyPokerStars qualifier336,000
Akim AouineFrance 308,000
Ezequiel KleinmanArgentinaPokerStars qualifier301,000
Erik ScheidtGermanyPokerStars player283,000
Mikko TurtiainenFinlandPokerStars qualifier282,000
Natasha BarbourUSA 280,000
Daniel DvoressCanadaPokerStars qualifier278,000
Marcin WydrowskiPolandPokerStars qualifier257,000
Nabil Mohamed Abdien CardosoSpain 255,000
Pierre ChevalierFrance 240,000
Anton BertilssonSwedenPokerStars qualifier216,000
Kevin Lee SharpCanadaPokerStars qualifier176,000
Bryn KenneyUSAPokerStars qualifier172,000
Antonio ChemiItaly 164,000
Enrico CamosciItalyPokerStars player162,000
Thomas MuehloeckerAustriaPokerStars qualifier135,000
Paul BerendeNetherlandsPokerStars qualifier108,000
Antonio MitrottaItaly 103,000

But the day was dominated by the bubble, one which lasted longer than expected and included some short stack heroics.

As Nick Wright put it earlier, the bubble brings with it various degrees of relief:

"They're delighted to now have locked up a cash because... they've essentially achieved their goal. The mid-stacks are happy because now they can actually start playing some poker... and the big stacks are happy because well, they're a big stack."

While Christopher Adler is the unhappiest man in Malta tonight, going out on the bubble, the happiest is surely Andrew Atkinson, out in 95th place after having survived the bubble with less than a small blind.

out_bubble_malta12_28oct15.jpgChristopher Adler would go out on the bubble

The relief on his face will be one of the lasting images of the event, the scene of those at his table congratulating him, will prove the lasting meme. It was hard not to feel he'd earned every cent of his €9,320 min cash (shattering his previous best cash by nearly €9,000). Not bad given he qualified on PokerStars for €32.40.

andrew_atkinson_worry_wrap_malta12_28oct15.jpgIt was a nail biter for Andrew Atkinson

Then the not so cheerful fallers made their way to the payout desk, among them Matthias de Meulder, Joni Jouhkimainen, Jeff Rossiter, Isaac Haxton, Govert Metaal, Christoph Vogelsang, Steve O'Dwyer and Dan Smith.

isaac_haxton_ept12malta_28oct15.jpgIsaac Haxton among the fallers today

While you can fill the rest of your evening with side event action, it leaves 40 players to return tomorrow for Day 4, when they'll play down to 16 and move a step closer to the final table on Saturday. Coverage will continue here on the PokerStars Blog, where you'll find live updates and live coverage every step of the way from 12pm.

Join us then.

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Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.

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