The main event at the EPT Grand Final struggled in attendance, but the final table made poker enthusiasts around the world forget about the 20 percent year-over-year decline in participation. A star-studded final few tables ultimately resulted in a battle between eight faces of the game: Daniel Negreanu, Jason Mercier, Steve O'Dwyer, Johnny Lodden, Jake Cody, Noah Schwartz, Grant Levy and Andrew Pantling. Each had his eye on the $1.6 million top prize, and it seemed fitting that the man who has dominated the European felt since Black Friday reigned supreme. O'Dwyer picked up the victory and the largest score of his career to move into fifth on the 2013 money list.
"People are saying this was the toughest final table of all time, so for me to be able to say that I won is unbelievable. I am in shock," O'Dwyer told PokerStars. "At the start of the final, I knew I needed to get lucky to win because these guys are so good. It's very satisfying to finally have that title."
O'Dwyer wasn't just deservingly talking up his win; every player at that final table has at least $1.8 million in lifetime career tournament earnings. Freddy Deeb (ninth), John Juanda (11th), Victor Ramdin (13th), Andrew Lichtenberger (14th), Kevin Iacofano (17th), Mickey Petersen (18th), Paul Volpe (20th), Luke Schwartz (22nd), Noah Boeken (26th), Oleksii Kovalchuk (28th) and Ville Wahlbeck (29th) also made deep runs out of the 531 entries.
Making his fourth appearance at an EPT final table and second over the past two months, O'Dwyer entered action on the final day with a slight lead over Pantling. Cody, Negreanu and Lodden were essentially knotted up at third through fifth while Schwartz, Mercier and Levy all were "short stacks" with less than 36 big blinds. Each player had plenty of time to maneuver, but the action started quickly as Pantling eliminated Levy within the first hour of play. Pantling took out his second competitor at the final table shortly after, knocking out Mercier who three-bet all-in with Q-10 and was called by Pantling's A-Q. The seventh-place result, worth $179,642, was Mercier's largest score since his win in the $100,000 buy-in High Roller at the Five Diamond in December of 2011.
Negreanu, fresh off his WSOP Asia Pacific main event victory, had a rough time moving in the right direction at the start of the day, but regained the momentum as he eliminated both Schwartz and Cody by picking up aces at the perfect time. Negreanu opened, Schwartz three-bet all-in with K-10, Cody four-bet all-in with J-J and Negreanu happily called and watched the board run clean. Moments later, in perhaps the largest pot of the tournament to date, Negreanu dominated Lodden with Q-Q to 9-9 and was set to compete with Pantling for the chip lead. This time the cards wouldn't oblige. A nine on the turn gave Lodden the win and put Negreanu on the short stack. Now sitting with a comfortable stack, Lodden risked a coin flip and finished off Negreanu with A-Q to Negreanu's 4-4. Negreanu's $420,912 gives the Canadian pro his third consecutive year of at least $1.5 million in tournament earnings.
Pantling had control of the match with three remaining and as witnessed on the live stream of the final table, was able to make tremendous reads at key times. However, his reads couldn't overcome O'Dwyer's domination of Lodden. O'Dwyer first doubled through Lodden after a bold four-bet all-in that resulted in a race with (Q-10 over 6-6), then knocked him out by inducing an all-in on the turn with ace-high to O'Dwyer's top pair. Lodden's payday of $612,355 was the highest of his career.
As heads-up play began, Pantling had a 24 big-blind edge over O'Dwyer and maintained that lead as the two swapped small pots for the last hour before the dinner break. When they returned, Pantling came out firing. As it turned out, it wasn't in his best interest. O'Dwyer earned nearly a 3-1 edge after Pantling got creative at the wrong time with 6-3, then found himself in a crazy spot with 10-8 to earn the title. On the final hand, O'Dwyer opened with the 10c-8h and Pantling called. The flop was Js-8s-8d giving O'Dwyer trips to Pantling's flush draw. Pantling checked, O'Dwyer bet and Pantling called. The turn 4s gave Pantling the flush and once again he checked. O'Dywer then bet, Pantling raised and O'Dwyer moved all-in. Pantling called in a heartbeat with excitement, but the eight on the river crushed his best intentions and gave O'Dwyer quads for the victory.
"Thank god I played it bad and shoved the turn, because he would have probably check folded the river," O'Dywer said to ESPN.com via Twitter. O'Dwyer's sights are now set on the Spring Championship of Online Poker.
Here are the results of the 10,000 euro buy-in EPT Grand Final main event in Monte Carlo:
1. Steve O'Dwyer (1.2 million euros)
2. Andrew Pantling (842,000)
3. Johnny Lodden (467,000)
4. Daniel Negreanu (321,000)
5. Jake Cody (251,000)
6. Noah Schwartz (189,000)
7. Jason Mercier (137,000)
8. Grant Levy (103,000)
Small blinds: Steven "Zugwat" Silverman, Tony Gregg and Fadi Jamar chopped the 121-entry 25,000 euro high-roller event at the EPT Grand Final. Silverman earned the extra 15,000 euros as he emerged with the victory. Vanessa Selbst, Body Levis, Chris Moore, Igor Kurganov and Victor Sbrissa, fourth through eighth, also made the final table and earned at least 116,100 euros. ... The PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker began over the weekend. Early champions include Benny Spindler ($2,100 no-limit hold 'em), Paul Volpe ($2,100 badugi) and Ana Marquez ($1,000 no-limit hold 'em rebuy). ... Nancy Birnbaum became the second woman in WSOP Circuit history to win three rings. ... On May 17, the WPT will present "Tiger's Poker Night," an exclusive event hosted by Phil Hellmuth and Tiger Woods. Proceeds go toward the Tiger Woods Foundation. ... Amir Babakhani won the 735-entry PartyPoker WPT Canadian Spring Championship for $442,248. His previous best tournament cash was worth $8,810. The WPT now heads to Vegas for the WPT World Championship and Super High Roller. ... Phil Ivey filed a lawsuit against Crockfords for them withholding his $12.1 million in winnings from a Punto Banco session. Crockfords responded by saying the cards were flawed. ... Rex Clinkscales won the WSOP Circuit Philadelphia main event for $121,097.