23-year-old Pennsylvanian poker pro Michael Martin brought his career earnings up to $3 207 000 this week when he took down the PokerStars.net European Poker Tour London Main Event title and its GBP1 million first prize in an epic comeback against skilled and experienced final table opponents.
The maximum number of players accepted for the event had to be extended well beyond the 500 figure set by the organisers to accommodate demand for the popular tournament, which eventually attracted over 600 players, among them Gus Hansen, Annette Obrestad, Patrik Antonius, Kathy Liebert, Sorel Mizzi, John Phan, Max Pescatori, Shane Schleger, Joe Beevers, Ross Boatman, Chris Ferguson and Freddy Deeb.
Adding to the almost WSOP-gravitas of the event were Gavin Griffin who entered, as did Jeff Lisandro, Jean-Robert Bellande and David Williams, along with champs like Scotty Nguyen, Joe Hachem, Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer and world tennis legend Boris Becker.
Former EPT champions included Vicky Coren, Julian Thew, Andreas Hoivold, Mads Andersen and Sebastian Ruthenberg, and top pros Vanessa Rousso, Barry Greenstein, David Benyamine, Peter Eastgate, Roland De Wolfe, Alex Kravchenko and Isabelle Mercier.
Many of them had fallen by the wayside by Day 2, when only 32 players had survived, with French pro Philippe D'Auteuil heading the chip leader board, closely trailed by countryman Antony Lellouche and David Benyamine.
When it came to the final table of eight, there were few big names left although it included WSOP bracelet winner Alan Smurfit, and the respected French player Antony Lellouche. Other survivors were Martin, at that stage fourth in chip counts on 728 000, chip leader Michael Tureniec on 1 333 000, Eric Liu on 1 308 000, Johannes Strassmann, Phillipe D'Auteuil and Marcin Horecki – low man on the board with 309 000 who subsequently made a remarkable recovery to finish third.
Surprisingly it was Lellouche who was first to be eliminated, leaving in eighth place with GBP 81 569, a victim of firm play by Strassmann, who was himself the next to depart after a further two hours of play, leaving in seventh spot and collecting GBP 120 723 after tangling with Martin.
Smurfit was another Martin victim, headed for the rail in sixth place and a cashiers visit worth GBP153 351. Horecki was still hanging in and had improved his standing sufficiently to take out the Day 2 chip leader Philippe D'Auteuil, sending him to the exit and a fifth spot payday of GBP 195 766.
Eric Liu was next to go, again falling to Martin's play and finishing in fourth place with a check for GBP 234 920. Half an hour later it was Horecki's time to head home after tangling with the rampant Martin. His departure with a third place payout of GBP 303 439 set the scene for the heads up between Tureniec and Martin, with the latter taking a chiplead into the headsup which nevertheless took a gruelling ninety minutes to conclude in Martin's favour.
For the young American, who is an active Internet player under the handle "Martine23" this was his 9th big cash, but his first major tournament winner's check, and what a check it was – GBP1 million, leaving Tureniec with the second prize of GBP 525 314.