Valner Victorious in Record-Breaking MPNPT London Main Event. Five years ago, the MPN Poker Tour held its inaugural event in Aspers Casino, the same venue in which Estonian history teacher Uku Valner was crowned London champion after besting Terry Simpson heads up.
The similarities in the ethos and friendliness of the tour between then and now were apparent, but the field size has grown from just 83 to 649 (the largest ever in a stand-alone MPNPT leg) and the prize pool paid out this weekend totaled £280,368, far surpassing the £200,000 guarantee.
The £50,000 first prize represents Valner’s largest ever large cash, although he was once a prolific online poker player who quit to pursue a teaching career after winning the Sunday Million.
“I’ve played five or six MPNPT tournaments and it is my first cash in the Main Event. The atmosphere is very friendly – it's competitive but always fun at the tables; it's not like work – we always have a good time!” he said, admitting that at one point on Day 2 his chances had not looked good as some cracked aces had left him with just two big blinds.
With such a huge field, the final day brought back an unprecedented 28 players, led at the start by David Gee. The early part of the day reminded live stream viewers just how dramatic the reversals of fortune in No Limit Hold’em can be, as Gee found himself suddenly on the rail in 19th place (£2,320) and the mid-stacked Valner, George Achillea and Terry Simpson ascendant.
Alexander Clark, fifth place finisher at the last MPNPT stop in Prague, exited in 14th place (winning £3,080) and was followed to the rail by Robin Davis, who had been grinding a short stack for some time. This elimination helped buffer Valner’s stack, and from this point on he did not drop in chips significantly. The final table bubble spot went to Tai Hoang (£3,810) and from then on every hand was streamed cards-up with commentary from the legendary duo of Padraig Parkinson and Jesse May.
First to bust from the final table (9th for £5,200) was the experienced Chris Da-Silva, who held the shortest stack on arrival, made a push to build (initially successful) and then ran deuces into nines shortly after the restart. Another thwarted comeback eliminated James Williams in 8th, as he worked 25,000 chips back to 750,000 before getting pocket deuces all in vs. the eight-nine suited of Gary Miller. A river-ed heart flush for Miller (who considers Aspers Casino “my home,” having won the WPT500 here for £114,000 last year) sent the online pro to collect his £6,900 prize money. Miller, a professional poker player himself, was not to last too much longer, busting in 7th for £8,700.
George Achillea provided yet another example of a spin-up abruptly halted when, after running jacks into Terry Simpson’s kings, he won several hands in quick succession before Valner sent him to the rail in 6th (£10,600).
Economics graduate Nikolay Ponomarev, who had held the chip lead for much of Day 2, was unlucky to bust in 5th after finding himself all-in with a dominating ace, but picked up £13,000 to add to his growing list of cashes. UK stalwart David Rudling was eliminated in 4th (£18,000) in a hand that propelled John Magnusson up the chip counts, but he was not to make it further in the payouts, his ace-king losing a flip against Valner’s pocket nines.
Heads up, Valner held a near 2:1 chip lead, and after a level of back and forth pots, clinched the win over Terry Simpson. Simpson, an internet entrepreneur whose last couple of years playing live poker have been his most profitable to date, picked up his biggest live score of £37,538.
“This is the best-structured tourney I have ever played,” he said, before the final table even began, “The blind increments are astonishing. It’s my favorite now.”
Valner qualified online for the Main Event, and had already won the last-longer against the other Paf package-winners, guaranteeing him a free trip to MPNPT @ Battle of Malta in October.
MPN Poker Tour London- Main Event Final Table Results:
- Uku Valner – £50,000
- Terry Simpson – £37,538
- John Magnusson – £24,000
- David Rudling – £18,000
- Nikolaj Ponomarev – £13,000
- George Achillea – £10,600
- Gary Miller – £8,700
- James Williams – £6,900
- Chris Da-Silva – £5,200
The final side events of the weekend also awarded their trophies last night, in both Pot Limit Omaha (the £150 buy-in MPNPT London Fantastic Four) and No Limit Hold’em (the £110 buy-in MPNPT London Hitman Bounty). Dwayne Sluis won the former, beating a total field of 56 to take the £2,425 first prize, while the 162-entry Bounty was won by Mikko Pennanen for £2,313. The two-day £200 MPNPT London Mosh Pit was won by Timo Borchmann – officially – after a straight chop heads up with Erik Rydland for £5,285 each.
Three further MPNPT @ Battle of Malta packages worth €1,500 were awarded in last-longer competitions during the Main Event. One went to Oskar Wedde who outlasted four other winning video-makers in the Birthday Boy challenge, and the others to Paul McTaggart and Heiki Raidlepp who’d won their London Main Event seats in the All Roads Lead to London promotion.
Package winners, online qualifiers and thousands of players from around the globe will convene at the Eden Arena at the InterContinental Conference Centre in St Julian’s, Malta from October 15-22. The Battle of Malta Main Event 2018 was the largest poker event ever held in the country, attracting 3,816 entries and awarding €1,850,760 in prize money; this year the guarantee is a cool €1,000,000.