Of all the casinos on the EPT tour, Baden is my favourite, I never managed a trip to Deauville and have heard many a story about how wonderful it is there, but out here in the Austrian countryside, there is a quiet pleasantness unlike anything I think you'll find in the UK or anywhere else for that matter. Dana and I had a spot of slight crazy panic when our original flight to Prague was 20 minutes late leaving us (literally) with a mad dash through the terminals and security to reach our mosquito sized connecting flight to Vienna.
Anyway, who should be on this tiny hamster of a plane but Aussie Mark Vos, still on tilt from his boys losing the rugby, he's played five events whilst in Europe (the two EPT's and the WSOPE events) and cashed in two, but I could sense his preference for online play, especially when his regular game is the 200/400 PLO on Full Tilt.
Whilst collecting our baggage in Vienna, I felt a familiar hand on my shoulder, that of Julian Thew, who, with his birthday coming up was in no doubt looking for a special present to celebrate. Then our taxi-cab was complete when Nicolas Levi also appeared at the airport, of course, complete with his hat. A 30 minute ride later which included conversations about or relating to some card game or other and we had arrived in the picturesque town of Baden.
Dana and I went to check into the Hotel Schloss only to find we weren't booked in there, the friendly but ever so slightly haughty man on reception pointed out we hadn't booked a room at the Hotel Schloss, but had actually booked a room at the Schloss Hotel which was two minutes round the corner. He seemed slightly unimpressed that I had mixed the two up.
After a quick dumpage of the bags, Dana and I headed to nearby Club 2, where the free bar and Pokerstars greeting party was being held. Although pretty quiet from when we arrived with few players around and a couple of slightly bemused locals, there was a wonderful moment of balance where the number of young twenty-somethings from Baden began to fill the club as the official party subsided and Lee Jones, John Duthie and Barry Greeenstein became lost amongst a swathe of indie and dance fans who probably would've have been quite irate if they'd known about the free bar they'd missed. Of course, at this point they were all too busy dancing to 'Funky Town' by Lipps Inc. Disco is not dead in this part of the world baby!
Only a single start day this time for the players, but amongst the few Brits who had chosen to make this trip, Thewy was sharing his table with Vanessa Rousso and Barry Greenstein, managing to lose 4k within the first couple of hands to a rivered flush. Rousso would be the first of the three out, top pair and flush draw coming unstuck against a set. Barry Greenstein though would get through the first day, and as for Mr Thew? Well, read on, dear reader...
A more colourful presence would not have been found in all of Austria, let alone Baden, than Jeff Lisandro's outfit on the opening day. It was what could only be described as a clown-type costume, but Jeff sadly didn't have any party tricks to help outlast the first day, whilst Ramzi Jelassi's Travis Bickle-style haircut couldn't get him through either.
Day 2 saw just the craziest implosion of a stack. Sander Lyloff, the Barcelona champion, went from the chip leader at the start of the day with 66k to out in the first level and a half, after making a series of questionable calls and a tendency to gamble with the worst of it. Richard Ashby wasn't complaining though, he was one of a number of players to be doubled up by the chip-spraying Dane.
Baden has a reputation of being a regular stop-off place for wealthy, gambling businessmen. No where was this more in evidence than on Matt Tyler's table. With the blinds 600/1200/100 A couple of players limped into the pot. The small blind makes up and then the big blind moves all-in for about 22k or so, both limpers fold and then the small blind asks how much it is as a faint air of bemusement takes over the table. The small blind makes the call for about half his stack with...... K-4 suited. The big blind, a dutch player I think turns over Ac Qc , says, "Are you crazy? How can you call there with King-Four?" It's as if he knows the inevitable is coming. And true enough the K-4 makes two pair by the river, and the small blind who the Hungarian updating team inform us, is Gyoergy Moger, takes down the 45k pot.
40 players returned for Day 3, with 24 being paid, with the action has moved from the second floor to the first. Mike Lacey had informed us that every time we went to the top floor we had climbed 77 steps each time, it's not easy this updating lark...
Hedvad Khan was the first casualty of the day, knocked out by the equally fabulously named Manfred Hammer. Matt Tyler was unfortunate to run Jacks into Aces, whilst Surindar Sunar was equally unlucky that Julian Thew chose the right time to make the wrong move, catching his set on the turn of a J-T-4-8-4 board against A-J after most of the money went in on the flop. It seemed as though it was going to be Thewy's day, cracking Kings with Jacks to knock out one player, then Kings again with Ace Jack to break Alan Smurfit. Finally, (for the sake of balance), he did get it in with the best hand, Aces against Pascal Perrault's A-Q for a huge pot that made him the chip leader.
The other remaining Brit, Peter Gould, who did so well here last year, once again went out agonizingly close to the final once more, A-K into Aces before missing out when his A-9 predictably couldn't overcome Kings.
As we approached the final table, we became witness to some very unorthodox play, particularly from Manfred Hammer. Every time someone raised, if Manfred liked his hand, he just moved all-in. No re-raising for a percentage of a stack. Just a push-bot move into the middle. This action seemed to be winding up Thierry Van Der Berg a little, he suffered this occurence twice, whilst it's also happened to Sebastian Ruthenberg too. The other players then became unwilling to play against him without a hand and also the close proximity of the final table.
Of course, even if they did get it in with the best hand, he could still outdraw them too. Gunnar Rabe, who'd managed to comeback from just 1k with blinds 4k/8k/1k to a sizeable stack was forced to watch it disintegrate before his eyes when his Tens were trumped by Manfred Hammer's Q-T which made a straight, and a hundred reporter's days who could type the headline 'Hammertime'...
The final table looked like this:
With the blinds 5k/10k, we were expecting a good amount of play, but of course the poker gods decided to throw us a curveball with two exits in the first two hands. Both down to Vladmir Poleshcuk, (who Dana helpfully nicknamed 'Vlad the Impaler'), first he took down the Ramone lookalike Alleman with K-9 vs A-K on a K-9-8 board before knocking out Ted Lawson the very next hand with A-9 against K-Q.
Manfred Hammer would be out next, continuing his tactic of open pushing for 25 – 30 BB's, this time with Fives, Vladmir opting to call with Ace-Queen and hitting. This meant the Russian was buzzing, with twice as many chips as anyone else, and almost half of those in play. However, luck would desert him, when Thomas Fuller came over the top of his raise with Sevens, Vladmir showed Jacks, but the first card out was a Seven, and the quiet American re-stacked his chips whilst the Russian shook his head
With chips to play with, Fuller, who had been very tight, began to go after the blinds with increasing regularity. Thierry Van Der Berg who spent the final table card-dead, tried to push him off one such move, with J-9, but Fuller was having none of it, his A-T staying good.
Four-handed, play went on for a fair while with little happening until a crucial pot that was going to swing it for one of our remaining players...
Thomas Fuller raised, Vladmir and Julian called and they saw a Kc 6c Qh flop. Vladmir and Julian checked, Thomas bet 100k, Vladmir passed, Julian raised 300k more with about the same behind. Thomas moved in and Julian was forced to call with his Qc 8c, suspecting he had to hit, which he did because Thomas had flopped a set with pocket sixes. The Ace of clubs, came on the turn to save Julian, and the board stayed unpaired on the river to give him the biggest pot of the tournament. Thomas, who hadn't made a mistake in the final, was crippled and was knocked out soon after by Denes Kalo.
Kalo then took out the previously invincible Poleshcuk, but was still facing a 3:1 chip deficit going into the HU battle. After an amicable deal between the Hungarian and the Brit, battle commenced, though it was clear that after about 10 minutes or so, Julian was the agressor and gradually began to grind down Denes' stack. Eventually, something gave and Julian's A-8 managed to hold it's slender advantage over the A-5 of his opponent. Amidst much celebration, there was a lot of emotion as Julian did his interviews, but also great satisfaction, not least because he only swapped 1% of himself before the competition began, (Martin Wendt, the lucky recipient). It's amazing to think how he's won so many of the smaller £200 to £500 comps and now, suddenly, he's won the Plymouth GUKPT event and EPT Baden almost back-to-back.
Dublin is on the horizon... You know what they say about buses...