Monte Carlo is a dear spot to the international poker community, especially for those who still cannot overcome the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia for the European Poker Tour era. The French Riviera ward was home to 11 of EPT’s 12 Grand Final poker festivals, ending seasons of what was Europe’s largest poker tour in style and luxury.
Aside from the EPT Grand Final Main Event, the €100,000 Super High Roller was the other major event within the EPT’s Grand Final festivals to attract the most attention. What is more, it used to attract the attention of some of poker’s biggest players with hefty enough bankrolls to spend big on the opportunity to win a Super High Roller title; players courageous enough, and players skillful enough.
PokerStars replaced the EPT and its other live tours with PokerStars Championship and PokerStars Festival events, but decided to retain Monte Carlo as a stop, building on the success of EPT Grand Finals.
The first-ever PokerStars Championship Monte Carlo kicked off at the French Riviera-based Monte-Carlo Casino on April 25.
As one may expect, the tournament drew some of poker’s best and most prominent high rollers, players that have won multiple titles and millions of dollars over the course of their careers. But aside from the familiar poker faces, there was one other participant who also deserves to be paid attention to – American actor and comedian Kevin Hart.
Hart has recently announced his crusade to change the face of poker and he may well be doing this already. The showman-turned-poker-enthusiast was seen at the tables of the PokerStars Championship Bahamas $100,000 Super High Roller this January and has now returned to high stakes poker to participate in the Monte Carlo equivalent of the prestigious tournament. Unfortunately, he was eliminated during Day 2.
Big poker names like Daniel Negreanu, Igor Kurganov, Dietrich Fast, and Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier entered the tournament and performed quite well, but busted before the bubble was burst.
At the final six players were fighting for the first place.
Raffaele Sorrentino, a 37-year-old professional poker player from Catanzaro in Italy, has lived the life of the travelling pro over the past few years. His permanent residence is officially Malta but he lives primarily out of a suitcase, like many hundreds of others on the circuit. Last week, for instance, he was in Mexico.
But at around 9 pm yesterday evening, on the 5th of May, Sorrentino was parked in Monte Carlo and claiming the biggest title of his career: the Main Event of the PokerStars Championship presented by Monte-Carlo Casino®, worth €466,714.
He didn’t go so far to claim he deserved it, but he said, “I flew 12 hours for this moment.”
Sorrentino said that all he was thinking about as he jetted across the world to play cards was being the last one standing at the end of this PokerStars Championship Main Event. “I’m really happy,” he added. “It’s just a dream come true.”
In many ways, it was a dream final for Sorrentino. Coming to the last six, he had the third biggest stack, but seemed uniquely blessed with the abilities to use it. He was by far the most active player in a tetchy final and won every significant pot. None was more relevant than when he found pocket aces at the same time as Andreas Klatt found pocket queens and every chip in the room was in the pot.
The final day’s play began at 1 pm in the Salle des Etoiles with Michael Kolkowicz narrowly leading a tightly-bunched pack. Only Diego Zeiter, the outright short stack, was in any real peril, but soon Kolkowicz began to dominate leaving Zeiter even further behind.
The deep stages of this tournament had been characterized by their stop-start nature and, following Zeiter’s elimination, we went deep into a period of slowdown. It took another three-and-a-half hour before another player was knocked out, but arguably that was the precise period during which the tournament was won.
Later when the last two Russians departed this tournament resembled a World Cup of soccer. It was Italy vs Germany, or Raffaele Sorrentino vs Andreas Klatt, for the title.
This time it was Sorrentino with the best hand and now the trophy. He joins Salvatore Bonavena and Antonio Buonnano as Italian winners at the most prestigious PokerStars events in Europe and he is the first European to win a Main Event since the inception of the PokerStars Championships.