Mikalai Pobal planned to spend his holiday in Prague with his parents, but, ultimately, he did not have much time for sight-seeing. The 35-year-old from Minsk, Belarus surely does not mind – and neither do his parents – as Pobal has just made European Poker Tour (EPT) history, becoming the first male to win two Main Events.
Pobal paired his title from seven years ago, taking down the 1,154-player contest for €1,005,600. He joins Victoria Coren-Mitchell in the exclusive club of double champions.
“Being the first male two-time champion is great,” Pobal said. “But one million euro is also not bad,“ he laughed.
Pobal, whose first triumph came in Barcelona back in 2012, had already secured his EPT legacy. Duplicating his Main Event win, however, has propelled him to the status of an undisputed EPT legend. Many accomplished EPT champions have come close to achieving the elusive feat of a repeat win, but none succeeded – until now.
Incredibly, Pobal may not even have entered the EPT Prague Main Event had he not qualified online at PokerStars. He only needed a €55 investment to turn his “holiday“ into a seven-figure payday. This is the first time the EPT has awarded a €1 million prize in the Czech capital.
Pobal, however, stays humble despite the unprecedented glory and handsome winner’s cheque. “Poker is just a hobby for me, and I don’t plan to turn professional,“ he said.
The number on the winner’s pay check could have been different, but Pobal and Norbert Szecsi did not come to terms on a heads-up deal. Szecsi wanted a little extra, and Pobal was not willing to give up his equity. So Pobal won it all, even though he had not been a favorite when five-handed play recommenced today. Starting lowest in chips, a second title had seemed unlikely.
But such is the structure of the Main Event, and so quick the eliminations yesterday, that all five finalists returned deep-stacked enough to fight with sophistication for over two and a half hours.
A crucial early double for short stack Tomas Paiva gave the 28-year-old Portuguese online specialist a new lease of life; for the rest of the level, he was in accumulation mode, leaving Mikalai Pobal trailing stack-wise. His ascent was to be short-lived; he was pushed off a couple of big pots, and eventually busted in 5th (€241,230).
Though no finalist let dust accumulate on their chips, Norbert Szecsi was particularly active in the middle part of the day, overtaking the start-of-day leader Gaby Livshitz, for whom pocket queens proved final table kryptonite. Pobal’s extraordinary victory would not have taken place but for a quick succession of hands against the Israeli. Livshitz lost a crucial flip when Pobal’s ace-king suited spiked versus his queens; he then called Pobal’s second shove (now with queens of his own) with tens and failed to hit one of his outs.
Suddenly, the chip lead was almost tied between Szecsi and Pobal, with Livshitz and Ricardo Da Rocha trailing. Pobal polished off the last of Livshitz’s stack, sending him to the rail in 4th (€316,780), and Da Rocha followed half an hour later. Da Rocha’s EPT debut performance netted him €421,450, dwarfing the Brazilian pro’s previous highest cash.
Despite starting heads up play fairly even in chips, Szecsi’s offered deal was not accepted, and they commenced battle for over €400,000. The stacks were soon uneven: Pobal won a huge pot with a flopped two pair when Szecsi bet all three streets including a 5 million chip river bluff, then chipped away at his opponent until he held a near 5:1 chip lead.
The final hand brought Szecsi a pocket pair of eights and Pobal kings; the chips unsurprisingly flew in. With no help from the deck, Szecsi had to settle for the runner up spot (and the €598,880 that came with it).
Meanwhile, history was made as Pobal scooped his second EPT Title and over €1 million.
Final table results:
1st - Mikalai Pobal, Belarus, PokerStars qualifier - €1,005,600
2nd - Norbert Szecsi, Hungary - €598,880
3rd - Ricardo Da Rocha, Brazil - €421,450
4th - Gaby Livshitz, Israel - €316,780
5th - Tomas Paiva, Portugal - €241,230
6th - Luke Marsh, UK - €177,420
7th - Laurent Michot, France - €134,610
8th - Dietrich Fast, Germany, PokerStars qualifier - €96,100