After what has seemed to be a lifetime – it HAS been since April, to be honest – the European Poker Tour has jumped back into action. Play is underway at the Casino Barcelona in Spain for the €5000 Main Event and the €100,000 Super High Roller. The Super High Roller finished off its action for the EPT streaming crowd, while the tables were packed for the Main Event, eventually numbering 791 entries after the initial ten levels of play in the tournament.
Finland’s Toni Kaukua Holds Day 1A Main Event Lead
It was stunning how the Casino Barcelona tournament floor filled up for the start of action in the 2023 EPT Barcelona Main Event. Within the first level of play, the tournament clock counted 528 entries in the tournament, with 506 actual players holding down a place at the felt on the first break. The prize pool is already approaching the €5 million mark (€4,791,800, to be precise, from the 791 entries in the books), and it could well crack the €10 million mark after an expected throng of players for Day 1B on Monday.
It wasn’t just the European amateurs getting in on the game, either. The U. S. was well represented by defending GPI Player of the Year Stephen Song, Poker Hall of Famer Erik Seidel, Women in Poker Hall of Famer Maria Ho, Jen Shahade, and Jordan Westmorland; out of those players, only Song and Westmorland were able to find a bag for Day 2. The Canadian contingent was a small one, but Luc Lafontain and Ryan Yu will be around for more poker come Tuesday.
As it is the European Poker Tour, you would expect the Europeans to be holding down many of the top positions on the leaderboard. Two previous EPT champions, Anton Wigg and Dominik Panka, are in excellent shape in the Top Ten. They will be looking up the leaderboard at Finland’s Toni Kaukua, who was able to stack 346,000 to take the Day 1A chip lead of the 2023 EPT Barcelona Main Event.
1. Toni Kaukua, 346,000
2. Julio Chia Cabrera, 290,000
3. Stanislau Shyikou, 247,000
4. Benjamin Lebor, 231,000
5. David Docherty, 221,500
(tie) Dominik Panka
7. William Hani, 221,000
8. Anton Wigg, 214,000
(tie) Andrea Dato
10. Petr Bartagov, 211,000
Kayhan Mokri Captures First Major Championship in €100K Super High Roller
It was Championship Day for the €100,000 Super High Roller at the 2023 EPT Barcelona, and there was quite a bit of money to hand out from the tournament. After Steve O’Dwyer, Jean-Noel Thorel, Sam Grafton, and David Yan got back into the tournament before the close of registration, a total of 18 entries were registered in the EPT logs. That meant that €1,746,360 was up for grabs – the bad news was that only four players would share in that largess.
A player who has quietly made a name for himself in the High Roller circles (if such a thing were possible) was the chip leader at the start of the day and he would not be threatened throughout the action on Day 2. Kayhan Mokri, who routinely takes on the best that Bobby’s Room has to offer and has been a fixture on the EPT High Roller scene, held almost a million-chip lead over Alejandro Lococo, with Patrik Antonius and Timothy Adams making it through the Day 1 carnage. After the tables were shuffled with the addition of the four re-entries, play began as they looked to figure out which four men would benefit from their efforts.
For O’Dwyer, Thorel, and Grafton, the re-entry was a good idea. They were able to maneuver their way through every player not named Mokri to make it to the money. Mokri, who eliminated Mikalai Vaskaboinkau to bring the final four to the cash, simply had too big a lead to be caught; his 2.84 million in chips dwarfed the stacks of Grafton (810K), Thorel (560K), and O’Dwyer (480K).
Thorel did the dirty work in bumping off Grafton in fourth place and seemed to get a bit of a heater going. Thorel would break through in taking the lead from Mokri on his way to putting O’Dwyer out of the tournament in third place to take a 3.1 million to 1.3 million lead over Mokri. Thorel continued to apply pressure to Mokri in an attempt to crack the Norwegian, but those efforts would come up short.
The tournament changed course without a card being seen. Thorel would raise the pot to 115K, only to be met by a three-bet from Mokri to 390K. Thorel pondered his response for a bit before he put out a couple of stacks of 25K chips that totaled over a million. Nearly as soon as the chips were counted, Mokri announced he was all in and, just as quickly, Thorel tossed his cards in the muck and slid a massive stack and the chip lead to Mokri.
Thorel would never see the lead again. On the final hand, Mokri limped in and Thorel checked to see an A-K-5 flop. Thorel chose to check-call another bet out of Mokri, bringing a four on the turn. Thorel would check again but, after Mokri put out another bet, Thorel moved all in. With two diamonds on the board in addition to a potential wheel draw, Mokri didn’t like the all-in, but he would make the call, showing A-Q off suit for top pair. Thorel had that flush draw that Mokri was concerned about with his J♦ 3♦ (also the potential straight), but he was able to dodge everything with the trey on the river to seize his first-ever EPT title.
1. Kayhan Mokri (Norway), €750,960
2. Jean-Noel Thorel (France), €471,500
3. Steve O’Dwyer (Ireland), €314,300
4. Sam Grafton (United Kingdom), €209,600