Amid jubilant scenes in the Casino Gran Madrid, Ivan Freitez was crowned EPT Grand Final Champion tonight, an unstoppable force at a most unique EPT final table.
Broadcast on live television across Europe (albeit with a two-hour delay) and across the world, and those watching on EPT Live, watched Freitez put on a show of unorthodox, but effective high-stakes poker, surging past his seven opponents with ease to a first place prize of €1,500,000, a bracelet from Official Sponsor Shamballa Jewels, and a seat (should he choose to accept it) to the Champion of Champions event tomorrow. A few bottles of champagne may be the decider on that front.
"Overall he was the best player at the final table," said David Williams, in the EPT Live commentary box. "He may have been unorthodox, but he deserved to win."
EPT Grand Final winner Ivan Freitez
Four players had been dispatched before the live broadcast began, to those watching it was obvious, it was simply Freitez's event to win. The Venezuelan had the momentum in what was never going to be a long affair. Andrey Danilyuk was first to go from the final four, Freitez sending him home - or to the two hour sequestered debrief area - just half-an-hour after the restart, his pocket threes undone by Freitez's ace-nine with a nine landing on the river.
Then went Tamas Lendvai; again Freitez sending him for an early consolatory drink, and again with ace-nine, this time overcoming Lendvai's pocket nines when the ace hit the flop.
By now Freitez had it sewn up, with only Torsten Brinkmann between him and an EPT Grand Final title.
In terms of opposition to Freitez, Brinkmann was perhaps most able. Watched by his girlfriend on the rail, the German put up what defence he could but was always behind, entering the heads-up phase behind 4,500,000 to 16,000,000, and never able to get a
When Brinkmann looked down at ace-king he three-bet shoved for his last few million. Freitez made a speculative call with T♦9♦ turning over the hand that would win him the title. It was, a nine on the flop sending his railbirds into delirium, and Freitez himself into euphoric celebration.
Handshakes all round heads-up
Freitez, the champion, the final four decided in less than two hours.
The Venezuelan was not the first choice, but he was the worthy one. Entering the final table this afternoon eyes were on Team PokerStars Pros Alex Gomes and Juan Maceiras; Gomes for being on the brink of a Triple Crown, Maceiras as potentially being the first Spanish EPT champion. Neither would come to good, each departing in the first part of the day.
That all seems so long ago, when the cards were faced down and the sun still shone. As far as the latter stages went the poker was some of the most gripping in EPT history. There is no denying that hole cards faced up added a shot of pure adrenaline, giving the audience a welcome sense of dramatic irony that made each hand more delicious as the winning hand approached. There may have been a delay, but few would argue that it wasn't worth it.
The tour now winds down, the players released from their enforced quarantine, the celebrations allowed to commence in public. It brings an end to another fantastic season on the European Poker Tour. They'll be a gap now until August but the prospect of Season 8 makes the wait all the more easy to bear.
The season may be over but there's still one more day of action to look forward to. Tomorrow the Champion of Champions event kicks off at 2pm, a unique invitation only tournament with a cast comprised entirely of EPT winners. It will make for a perfect epilogue to the season.
Until then that's all from the lobby bar of the Intercontinental Hotel. To be honest we expected a late night. Instead we got a high speed finale, which has at least pleased the barmen counting on tips from another round of gin and tonics.
For now, it's goodnight from Madrid.