There are dozens of opportunities in a given year for a poker player to pull off a breakout, career-defining victory. In the case of Ihar Soika, it couldn’t have come at a better time than the final day of the EPT100 Barcelona festival – where he won the €10,000 High Roller early Thursday morning.
Soika fought his way through a talented field and a difficult final table, capping it off by defeating Jason Mercier heads-up to capture the €747,200 ($986,304) first place prize – earning more than five times his previous career tournament earnings in a single payout.
After leading for the majority of the final table, Soika fell off the pace for a bit when it got down to four players. After eliminating Ismail Erkenov in third place, however, Soika rolled on to victory. Soon after busting Erkenov, Soika three-bet Mercier and then called his all in with A 9, racing against Mercier’s 6 6. The A T 3 flop gave Soika what he needed, and neither the 5 nor the 2 was what Mercier needed to survive, bringing their brief heads-up match to a swift end.
It was the end of a long day of poker, and a long three days in this event. Back on Day 1 of the tournament, players kept rolling in by the dozen and by the close of play Monday there were 378 total entries – a number that already shattered the record for any €10,000 High Roller on the EPT. By the time Day 2 kicked off, 15 more decided to get into the mix (or back into the fray with a re-entry) and the field reached 393 – building a prizepool of €3,851,400 ($5,083,848).
Even with a long day of poker Tuesday, it took quite some time to burst the money bubble. Adrian Mateos Diaz (49th), Dan Smith (40th), Mustapha Kanit (35th), Timothy Adams (33rd), Dominik Nitsche (29th) and George Danzer (28th) were each jettisoned on Day 2, and when the bags came out for the second time 21 players remained in the hunt for the first High Roller title of EPT Season 11.
Angel Guillen and Vladimir Troyanovskiy were gone in the blink of an eye at the start of Day 3, and they were soon joined on the rail by Juha Helppi (17th), Dario Sammartino (15th) and Dylan Linde (12th). They finally made their way down to the official final table with the exit of Maxim Panyak in ninth.
Stephen Chidwick, who was among the biggest stacks from the start and ended Day 1 with the chiplead, played the first significant pot of this final table with Carlos Chadha. It started when Chadha raised for nearly half his chips in the cutoff and Chidwick clicked it up to 280,000, which Chadha called to leave himself just 110,000. Chadha check-called off his stack on a K K 3 flop with Q 8 and never caught up to Chidwick’s 6 6, going out in eighth place.
Soika built a sizable chiplead as the final table played on, chopping down player after player, in pot after pot, but he’d give doubles to both Benjamin Pollak and Ami Barer just before the dinner break. Chidwick had similar issues soon after they returned, doubling Mercier up with A K against K K and Marc-Andre Ladouceur in a very similar spot with A Q shortly thereafter. Ladouceur passed some of those chips on to Erkenov when the latter turned a flush, but after all of this action Chidwick was the one on the shortest stack.
Before he could make his exit, however, Mercier would dodge elimination with a massive suckout. He three-bet all in with A T and Barer snap-called with A A – only for the flop to come T T 6 to spare Mercier. Chidwick would not be so lucky, as his K Q could not suck out on Erkenov’s A Q, dooming Chidwick to a seventh place result.
Barer, the 2014 Aussie Millions Main Event champion, won a race with Ladouceur as his T T held off A J. This jettisoned Ladouceur in sixth, and his exit was soon followed by that of another French-speaking pro. Benjamin Pollak’s three-bet all in with 9 T could not have come at a worse time, as it came when Soika picked up A A. Despite making trips by the river of a J 9 6 A 9 runout, Pollak’s hand couldn’t hold a candle to Soika’s aces-full as Pollak went out in fifth.
Things started to fall apart for Barer after he lost with 7 7 against Mercier’s J J, giving him a double, and he’d never recover. Barer picked up A J and opened for a minraise, only for Mercier to three-bet for just over twice that amount. Barer four-bet all in and Mercier quickly called, tabling A A. There would be no turnabout in this runout as Mercier’s pair of aces held, and Barer was sent to the rail in fourth place.
The hand that made victory a likely outcome for Soika came against Erkenov. Soika opened for a minraise to 320,000, Erkenov made a small three-bet from the small blind, making it 600,000, and Soika called to see a flop of A J T. Erkenov led out at the flop for 1 million, Soika called, and the turn was the 5. This time Erkenov slowed down and Soika took the lead for 1,425,000, which Erkenov quickly called. The river J paired the board, and after thinking over his options Soika elected to put Erkenov all in. After a few tense moments of his own Erkenov called with A 2, only to be shown K Q for the flopped straight.
After a brief heads-up encounter with one of the most successful tournament players of the last decade, Soika sealed his victory against Mercier and hoisted the first major trophy of his career.
2014 EPT Barcelona €10,000 High Roller – Final Table Payouts
- Ihar Soika – €747,200 ($986,304)
- Jason Mercier – €473,500
- Ismael Erkenov – €342,400
- Ami Barer – €276,900
- Benjamin Pollak – €219,000
- Marc-Andre Ladouceur – €168,600
- Stephen Chidwick – €125,600
- Carlos Chadha – €90,900
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