The final nine players out of a starting 424 began play at 2pm on the fourth and final day here at the Golden Prague Poker Room, and by 6:30pm the winner had been decided – and it was young Finn Henri Ojala, who takes home the trophy and €157,000. This is by far the fastest final table of a major live event we have ever experienced – and was in marked contrast to yesterday’s fierce (and slow) struggle to eliminate tenth place, which took over two levels to accomplish.
Today it seemed as though everyone had shifted gear overnight, and two hands after the players walked down the red carpet, draped in their countries’ respective flags, the first player was eliminated – Jaroslav Vajgl. He moved in over a preflop raise by Benjamin Jensen with AQ, but found himself dominated by the Dane’s AK and exiting almost before his seat was warm.
The favourites at the start of the day were for many Perica Bukara and Jan Skampa, both of whom had built formidable stacks on Day Two, but the tide quickly shifted against the former when Nino Ryschawy doubled through him early on, which actually laid the foundation for his run all the way to heads up. Laur Sibold was eliminated in 8th place after another preflop move from the big blind, but original raiser Jan Skampa looked him up after a long think with A9 which held against his suited JQ. At this point the backers of EPT winner Skampa were probably confident, as with this exit he saw his chip stack grow to even more dominating proportions, but it was only to last minutes as Ryschawy’s sneakily played Aces finessed a squeeze from the aggressive Czech player and won him another double up.
It seemed as though someone had swapped about 20% of the deck with Aces in the following half hour, as two players succumbed to this hand. First was one of a veritable horde of Dutch players who’d made it to Prague (and are often to be found circling Unibet Open events around Europe), Joost Mengerink. He fell in 7th place when his shortstack shove hit the bullets of Perica Bukara, but Bukara himself was to crash AK into AA ten minutes later. He exited in 6th place, in the process handing Henri Ojala a dangerous stack of over a million chips. Relatively quiet thus far, Ojala was to go on to win the key pot of the tournament, and finally the event itself. On the way he busted Benjamin Jensen (who looked for a while as if he would be a serious contender for the title himself) with Queens against Threes, Jensen along with Michal Maryska being the shorter stacks at the time.
The most dramatic moment of the final was undoubtedly the threeway preflop all-in which followed where Ojala took on Maryska and Skampa with AQ, finding the main pot fought over by Maryska’s pocket Nines and Skampa’s dominating AK. A Queen on the flop, however, was enough to scoop the lot for the Finn, and suddenly shift play from four-handed to heads up. It also shifted three quarters of the chips into Ojala’s stack, and he drove the action (while the Finnish supporters chanted about this very thing) until finally getting it in preflop with pocket Sixes against Nino Ryschawy’s AJ. Ryschawy didn’t sit back during the brief heads up battle, however, doubling once when Ojala had gone into set-in mode on the button with Eight high, but in the end his chip disadvantage and the loss of all large key pots left him flipping for his tournament life. He lost and accepted defeat (and his €101,000 payday) graciously, while Ojala, who doesn’t usually play live tournaments, or No Limit Holdem, instead favouring Omaha cash games online, took the title.
While we hear the whole Finnish contingent changed their flights when their friend made the final, in preparation for some serious celebration tonight, the atmosphere created by all competitors from 34 countries made the weekend fly by in a daze of competition, side event action and multinational partying. The next chance to join in and take part at Unibet Open is in Valencia in October; hope to see you there!
Final Table Results:
1 €157.000 – Henri Ojala – Finland
2 €101.000 – Nino Ryschawy – Germany
3 €67.600 – Jan Skampa – Czech Republic
4 €48.800 – Michal Maryska – Czech Republic
5 €37.700 – Benjamin Jensen – Denmark
6 €25.800 – Perica Bukara – Serbia
7 €19.000 – Joost Mengerink – Holland
8 €13.500 – Laur Sibold – Estonia
9 €11.140 – Jaroslav Vajgl – Czech Republic