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One of the many prestigious poker tournaments springing up across Europe, the EPT Season 5 Polish Open, concluded yesterday. Held in Warsaw at the Hyatt Regency, the event hosted a modest 217 player field crammed full of the continent’s finest players. No less than 10 former EPT champions were among the starting line up, along with other big name pros such as Roland de Wolfe, Marty Smyth, Dario Minieri, Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier and Isabelle Mercier.

Generating column inches throughout the tournament was Italian dynamo Dario Minieri. Up against one opponent on an 8-8-6-Q board, Dario mucked his cards and proceeded to claim that he would give his adversary $1 million if he didn’t have K-Q. Hands were shook and cards were flipped and, to Minieri’s, horror his opponent showed 8-8 for flopped quads. Dario at least had a chance to make a large dent in his debt, entering the final table as the chip leader and the favorite to take the title.

Chip stacks going into the final table were:

Seat 1: Arnaud Mattern – 238,000
Seat 2: Ludovic Lacay – 296,500
Seat 3: Andrea Benelli – 100,000
Seat 4: Michael Muheim – 89,000
Seat 5: Joao Barbosa – 123,000
Seat 6: Dario Minieri – 359,500
Seat 7: Nico Behling – 343,500
Seat 8: Sergey Shcherbatskiy – 349,000
Seat 9: Atanas Gueorguiev – 186,500

Minieri wasn’t the only recognizable name at the final table. Among the last nine were 2007 EPT Prague winner, Arnaud Mattern, looking to become the first ever double EPT title holder, and prolific online star Ludovic Lacay – better known as “Cutsss.” One unknown name was practically guaranteed an extra slice of luck, Portuguese Joao Barbosa turning 26 on the day of the final table. Although, as one of the shorter stacks at the start of play, he would perhaps need more than a slice in order to finish in the big money places.

Predictably, the shortest stack was the first to go. Michael Munheim moved all-in over the top of Sergey Shcherbatskiy from the big blind and ran straight into pocket Aces. Munheim’s A-9 was trailing badly and, although a nine on the flop provided a little hope, Shcherbatskiy was never in any serious trouble as he eliminated Munheim in 9th.

Next on the hit-list was French online pro Ludovic Lacay who fell foul of Nico Behling at just the wrong time. Behling was starting to build up some momentum, although his decision to call a re-raise preflop with 8-8 almost got him into trouble. An 8 on the flop meant that it didn’t take long to get all the money in the middle, Ludovic flipping A-A and cursing his luck as he drew to his final two outs. The turn and river failed to oblige the Frenchman and he was out in 8th. Off the back of this victory Behling began to climb away from his opponents, but he couldn’t keep the momentum going and soon slipped back into line.

Despite running riot earlier in the tournament, Minieri had had a quiet final table until he tangled with Andrea Benelli part-way through the proceedings. Benelli moved all-in preflop with J-J and was called by Minieri with A-Q hearts, setting up a classic race. An 8c5h4h flop put Minieri on the front foot, and a 3h on the turn meant that Benelli was drawing dead and out of the event.

Sergey Shcherbatskiy had fought for the chip lead earlier in the final table but didn’t manage to make it any further than 6th place. Birthday boy Joao Barbosa called Shcherbatskiy’s all in with Q-Q, giving him a sizable edge over his opponents A-5. Neither an Ace nor a 5 found its way onto the board, with a meaningless straight on the end for Barbosa confirming Shcherbatskiy’s exit in 6th place.

Arnaud Mattern’s dream of making EPT history ended after Barbosa used up a fair chunk of his birthday luck. Mattern put in a raise with 10-10 and Barbosa fired back with a re-raise, holding 8-8. It seemed like Mattern was in a pretty strong position after his over the top all-in was called, but the cards had other ideas. Spiking an eight on the turn put Barbosa in the driving seat and, missing his two outs on the river, Mattern out in 5th. It might be a while before the former EPT champion wants to see another 8, having lost most of his stack a few hands previously when his A-K was beaten by the A-8 of Atana Gueorguiev, thanks to an 8 on the board..

By this point Barbosa had built up a formidable stack and set about putting it to good use. He rode his luck once more, calling an all-in with K-Q on a K-4-3 board, against the A-K of Guerguiev. With only three outs on the river, the miracle Queen arrived, saving Barbosa a good chunk of his stack and eliminating Guerguiev in 4th.

The remaining three players fought it out for some time before the next knock-out blow was struck. When it came, it fell against final table favorite Dario Minieri, who’s strong finish in this event confirms his place as one of Europe’s finest young talents. It was Barbosa again on elimination duties, calling Minieri’s all-in with 9-9. Not needing any luck this time around, Barbosa came out on top after the board completely missed both players.

Thanks to his consistently deadly play, Barbosa took a substantial chip lead into the heads up contest. Despite this advantage, a tight, tense contest unfolded and it would be some time before a champion was crowned. On the final hand Nico Behling raised preflop with J-7 of spades and Barbosa re-raised with A-10 hearts. Behling made the fatal all-in push and, after some deliberation, Barbosa made the call. An Ace on the flop put Barbosa in a commanding position, and it was one he did not relinquish – taking home the title and the €367,141 first place prize.

Full Final Table Cashes:

1. João Barbosa – Portugal – 367,140
2. Nico Behling – Germany – 205,270
3. Dario Minieri – Italy – 123,162
4. Atanas Gueorguiev – Bulgaria – 87,973
5. Arnaud Mattern – France – 72,724
6. Sergey Shcherbatskiy – Russia – 57,476
7. Andrea Benelli – Italy – 45,745
8. Ludovic Lacay – France – 32,843
9. Michael Muheim –  Switzerland – 21,114