A truly epic finale to the EPL´s first ever Main Event provided organisers with the dream start they wanted for the series, and also cemented Chino Rheem´s impressive record in live poker events this year.
Rheem, who had three deep runs in the WSOP in June, collected the $1 million first prize at the expense of Eric Seidel ($604,330) and four other leading poker players on a final table that had a combined total of 16 World Series of Poker bracelets, 3 World Poker Tour titles, and over $40,000,000 in career tournament earnings.
Let Battle Commence
At the start of the day (well, 3.00pm local time) the six players took their seats with Hasan Habib (1,655,000) holding a slight chip advantage over Jason Mercier (1,495,000) and Chino Rheem (1,432,000). With blinds at 8,000/16,000 (ante 2,000), neither Eric Seidel (1,109,000) or Gavin Smith (766,000) had cause for immediate concern and even Huck Seed (396,000) had enough big blinds for him to wait if he needed to.
Seed Plants Himself at the Table
The early action was very tentative, with only one hand going to showdown within the first hour. Huck Seed was the beneficiary in that hand, and he collected several more pots with post-flop aggression, Hasan Habib being the big loser when Seed shoved in hand 44 – the first major action of the day! Huck Seed continued to rob blinds and steal pots – more than doubling his overnight stack to 893,000 – but in Hand 79, he eventually ran into a wall in the shape of Jason Mercier.
Mercier Eliminates Seed and Smith
With blinds now at 12,000/24,000 (ante 2,000), Mercier raised the pot to 48,000. Huck Seed re-raised up to 120,000 and Mercier shoved all-in (1,214,000 chips). Seed quickly called and showed J♥ J♠. Mercier laid down A♠ K♣ and flopped top pair when K♠ hit the board. There was no help for Seed on the turn or river, and he departed in sixth, after acquitting himself well for his $107,980 reward. Mercier´s increased stack gave him the chip lead and licence to get involved in more hands. Gavin Smith, who was now the short stack, doubled up against Mercier through 8♦ 8♠, but Mercier had the last laugh when sending Smith ($154,260) to the rail when his Q♠ Q♥ made a set and toppled Smith´s 9♦ 9♣.
Seidel, Habib and Rheem
Meanwhile, Eric Seidel had made massive gains on his overnight stack when doubling up through Chino Rheem and taking the ever increasingly valuable blinds whenever Jason Mercier stood aside. Overnight leader, Habib, and Rheem were engaged in their own battle – splitting a massive pot when both held pocket pairs on a board of J♠ 3♣ 3♦ J♦ 3♥ – and Rheem eventually busting Habib ($237,650) when his pocket Aces held on against Habib´s pair of Jacks. Despite his win, Rheem was now the short stack, with 1,661,000 chips opposed to Mercier´s 2,205,000 and Seidel´s 2,999,000.
Mercier Crushed and Busted
Hand 159 in level 22 (blinds 20,000/40,000 – ante 5,000) was the hand that saw the end of Jason Mercier´s good run. Seidel had been taking a bit of a battering from both Mercier and Rheem and was down to his last 1.2 million chips. When Mercier raised the pot with 5♥ 5♠, Seidel three-bet up to 220,000 and then called with A♦ K♣ when Mercier shoved all-in. Thankfully, for Seidel, the K♦ flopped – enabling Seidel to double up and reduce Mercier´s stack to 640,000. Crippled by this loss, Mercier shoved just a few hands later with 9♣ 8♦, which couldn´t improve against Seidel´s K♣ J♣ and Mercier ($360,970) was reduced to the role of a spectator for the final Heads-Up confrontation.
The Heads-Up Begins …
At the beginning of the Heads-Up, chip counts between the two players were fairly level – Chino Rheem (3,635,000) held a slight advantage over Eric Seidel (3,110,000) and the chips he had just acquired from Jason Mercier. However, Rheem was the more aggressive of the two throughout the early stages and quickly built a million chip advantage over Seidel – an advantage he increased when catching a straight on the turn in a ½ million chip pot to take Seidel below 2 million chips.
… And Ends
Rheem continued to chip away at Seidel – shoving against Seidel´s raises – and after 40 hands of heads-up play it was all over. Eric Seidel raised again and Chino Rheem shoved, as he had been. This time Seidel announced he was all-in and turned over A♣ Q♥. Rheem turned over A♠ K♦ and watched as the flop of A♦ 8♠ 4♦ was followed by 3♦ on the turn and 10♦ on the river, to give him a diamond flush, the title of Epic Poker league Main Event Champion and $1 million.