Ilios Kamatakis is The Grand Live Thessaloniki Champion!

Kamatakis and lovely wife Tina celebrate victory

Congratulations to Ilios Kamatakis, winner of The Grand Live Thessaloniki for €60,000 and the trophy. It was an accomplished, almost error-free performance from the Greek player on a day of drama and excitement.

Following his victory, the genial Kamatakis’ mood was understandably buoyant:

“It makes me proud to win in Thessaloniki, this was the casino where I became a man.”

There was a great deal of work to be done before he could claim the crown however.The day opened with 31 players still vying for supremacy and early on it was a bloodbath at the felt, shortstacks launching themselves into pots in a bid to chip up or go home early – 13 fallers in the first 90 minutes of play.

As the stack to blind ratio began to increase though, the pace organically slowed and it took around four levels until the field had been shorn to its final 10 competitors.

What followed next was the kind of glamorous scene usually reserved for rockstars and TV celebrities – the players lined up on stage and introduced by enthusiastic emcee Kostas to a variety of soundtracks whilst being dazzled with bright lights and deafened by audience applause. It was an incredible tour de force – the like of which is rarely seen at a poker tournament. The Greeks certainly know how to put on a party.

Their eardrums still ringing from their raucous introduction, the players sat down at the final table, chips arrayed as follows:

Seat 1: Ioannis Volos 331,000
Seat 2: Athanasios Skapetis 700,000
Seat 3: Mladen Kratovic 600,000
Seat 4: Dimitrios Stavaris 520,000
Seat 5: Konstantinos Grammenos 325,000
Seat 6. Ivan Timovic – 1,200,000
Seat 7. Thomas Ziannis – 1,100,000
Seat 8. E.M. (Requested anonymity) – 1,960,000
Seat 9. Jovica Naskovski – 404,000
Seat 10.  Ilios Kamatakis- 1,206,000

Dimitrios Stavaris was the first man down – making a +ev theoretical call in the blinds – only to find it wasn’t so hot when the cards were on their backs – his K-5 failing to conquer Kratovic’s K-Q – €5,550 his reward for 10th.

Host Kostas put on the kind of show dreams are made of

Athanasios Skapetis played out a big flip versus E.M. – his ace-king succumbing to pocket queens. A standard hand but an above average payout you would assume of €6,800 headed his way as he left for the cash desk.

Ivan Timovic had looked dangerous in the early stages – but an AK v AA cooler saw much of his stack disintegrate and Ilios Kamatakis applied the finishing touches to seal his first scalp of the day. €8,200 awaited Timovic as he bustled to the rail.

Hot on his heels was Konstantinos Grammeros – making a move for the blinds only to run into Thomas Ziannis’ monster hand in the blinds – pocket tens. He had a 30% shot to get there with but his outs never arrived and he left proceedings €10,300 richer to salve the blow.

Perhaps the key pot of the final table played out next – Ilios Kamatakis making a bold, cold 4-bet shove with pocket nines – only to run into a pair of kings in E.M’s hand. It looked like Kamatakis’ tilt at the title was about to be undermined – but a spiked nine preserved his tournament life, gave him a monster stack and meant E.M. had dropped from chip leader to endangered species in one fell swoop.

E.M. never recovered and Kamatakis threw his dog tag on the pile when his A-Q flush draw  got there versus E.M.’s second pair. €12,800 for M.E. who wound up 6th.

At this point, Kamatakis was beginning to run the table with his corpulent stack. Mladen Kratovic fell next – K-Q failing to win the flip versus Kamatakis’ A-2 suited.

Runner up Ziannis battled hard – but destiny couldn’t be denied

A long period of dominance and chip garnering from the Kamatakis followed before he won a further flip to send Ioannis Volos flying out in 4th spot for €20,500. Kamatakis was manipulating his ICM situation with great aplomb and it really looked like there could be only one winner at this stage.

Three-handed, it was all but done. Kamatakis had the vast majority of chips in play and once the players hammered out a deal – €60,000 to Kamatakis and €33,400 for the rest, they played on for the trophy.

There was no denying Kamatakis even this. Jovica Naskovski fell next after some impressive money spot climbing before Thomas Ziannis became the last victim of the rampaging Greek, free at last to light the cigarette that had been dangling unfired from his mouth for much of the tournament.

We had our winner! Kamatakis beleived it was destined to be so. “I saw it from the start of the day, how it is now,” he said.

“Okay, maybe it doesn’t always work out, but you have to believe, to believe you are going to win.”

He proved himself a winner today, and deservedly took a huge round of applause at the end. He wasn’t the only one to be blessed today however. The organisers, staff, locals and players have combined here in Thessaloniki to create a magical environment to play poker. It has been a joy to cover and a wonderful experience. These gushing sentiments are sincere – I think everyone here has a new respect and love for the Greek people, especially in Thessaloniki. We hope to return sometime. It would be a true pleasure.

For now though, that’s it. Thanks for following our journey to crown the latest Grand Live Champion. We hope you’ve enjoyed the ride. Sleep well poker fans and take care.

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Jovica Naskovski out in third (€33,400)

A deal has been struck. 

Jovica Naskovski was guaranteed almost 6,000 Euros above the €26,500 third place for it and that may have factored into how he played the following hand. 

Kamatakis raised on the button to 225,000 at 40,000/80,000 with a 10,000 ante and Naskovski moved all-in for less than one million. 

Kamatakis had an easy call with

Naskovski would need some help, holding

The flop did provide some of that help, but it wouldn’t be enough on its own. 

The turn meant we were one card away from heads-up, so long as it wasn’t a ten, nine, or queen. 

It was the

Naskovski opened his game up short-handed, making moves when he needed to and did well to finish third considering how dire his straits were at crucial junctures today. 

Kamatakis now has a seven to one chip lead. He and Ziannis are playing for the trophy only — all the money has been divvied up. 

Well done Jovica Naskovski on third place and €33,400!

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Volos and Kamatakis duelling

Ioannis Volos min-raised, unusually, first in during four-handed play. 

This was on Ilios Kamatakis’ big blind and after some consideration he called. 

The flop came and the action was checked through. 

The turn came the , Kamatakis checked again. Now Volos made a small bet, 125,000. 

What happened next caught most by surprise, Kamatakis moved all-in. Volos had about 750,000 behind and went long into the tank to think about it. He began talking through various possibilities. 

At long last he folded. Kamatakis rewarded him by showing : Td

Kamatakis still in the driver’s seat. 

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Ioannis Volos flips, out in 4th €20,500

It was all building to this really. 

For the nth time Ilios Kamatakis moved all-in from the button, applying maximum pressure on the blinds, with Jovica Naskovi having folded first, and being short. 

Ilios found an instant call from Ioannis Volos in the small blind. Thomas Ziannis ducked out of the way wisely. 

The cards on their backs: 



The flop came


and Volos was now able to make the best hand with a queen, a king, a ten, or an ace. Lots of outs and two cards to hit one. 


Volos even added an eight to his host of outs, though an eight would chop the pot. 


Kamatakis scooped a monster pot of 3,200,000, had he lost he would have had yeoman’s work ahead of him. But now he has just two short trees to chop down to get all the way to the finish. 

Volos played admirably over the past few days, making moves, staying patient, and keeping a positive energy about him. He became a fan favourite by the railers and his competitors alike.  A €20,500 isn’t too bad either. 

The stack as they stand now: 

Ilios Kamatakis — 5,830,000

Thomas Ziannis — 1,405,000

Jovica Naskovi.  – 1,040,000

And let’s remind you of what they are playing for. 

1st: €61,250

2nd: €39,050

3rd: €26,500


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Three way all-in!

Incredible scenes.

Ilios Kamatakis picked up a stack of yellows on the button and announced all-in. Ioannis Volos looked at his cards, threw in a chip. “Call.”

Ziannis checked his cards. “Call.”

Just like that the action had ramped up considerably. Volos hated the call behind him – a yell of “malaka”  ringing out, however when the cards were on their backs, he was in good shape.




The board was dramatic.

– a turned set and suddenly Ziannis had a lock on the pot – well almost.

The on the river meant the board was a straight and the three chopped it up. “YES!” shouted Volos at the top of his lungs – passion consuming him at this heated moment. As you were, they continue four-handed.

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Easy game

Creating a lighter mood

Sometimes poker presents some tricky situations. Just rarely though, things become smooth and easy. It’s a beautiful feeling – and Ilios Kamatakis is experiencing this just now.

His enormous relative stack and the fact his three opponents are so close together in chips mean he is absolutely steam-rolling them – jamming regularly – knowing his opponents are forced to fold almost all their hands for fear of being the next to fall. There is almost nothing they can do until there are more eliminations or they get parity with Kamatakis.

The latter situation seems a long way off right now. Bonhomie has not evaporated however despite this onslaught – Jovica Naskovski and Thomas Ziannis both playing with unlit cigarette and cigar respectively in their mouths. Ziannis jokingly leaned over and pulled out a lighter to ignite Naskovski’s oral occupant (smoking not allowed at the table) and the pair laughed as Naskovski swayed out of the way – dodging that bullet.

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Kamatakis gets thin for the win

Ilios Kamatakis is in control and playing in flow. 

Witness this hand where he went, if we can inject an opinion, above the rim. 

It folded to the chip-leader in the small blind and he completed, with Ioannis Volos awaiting his action in the big. 

Volos checked his option, playing about a million. The flop came:

Check check. 

The turn was the and Kamatakis decided to bet out 65,000, just a shade over one big blind. 

Volos called quickly. 

Kamatakis: locked in and loaded

Kamatakis: locked in and loaded

The river was the , changing little. 

Kamatakis took his time before counting out 80,000. 

Volos called again quickly. 

was what Kamatakis tabled face up. It was good. Volos mucked quietly. 

Now this may have been a small pot but the mark of a professional is to find value where others wouldn’t, to squeeze water out of a rock. And that’s exactly what Kamatakis did this hand. You have to take your hat off to him. 

This tournament now appears as if it is his to win. 

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Poker’s a Vol-atile game

Easy come, easy go

Double up one minute, slapped back down the next. That’s the way poker goes sometimes – yyou need a strong and temperate disposition to take the swings in your stride.

Iannos Volos is the man being tested right now.

Having only just doubled up through Ilios Kamatakis, he immediately gave up the proceeds of this coup to Jovica Naskovski.

Naskovski made a somewhat large raise of 200,000 (850,000 back) and Volos made a quick shove all-in. Naskovski didn’t take long to call with and was rewarded when Volos showed him .

The decisive board of saw Naskovski make the nut flush. Volos tappped the table and nodded, sportingly acknowledging his opponent’s hand.

He then handed over half his stack – Naskovski rising to 2 million in the process.

Volos meanwhile is back in 15BB territory with 1 million chips. Let’s see how well he shakes off this setback…

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Volos doubles through Kamatakis

Four-handed play has slowed down the action remarkably. 

Ilios Kamatakis is wielding the big stack and people are getting out of his way. Finally Ioannis Volos made a stand in blind versus blind. 

It folded to Kamatakis who open shoved at the 30,000-60,000 (5,000) level for Volos’ effective stack, which was 940,000. 

Volos made a brave call with the . He was rewarded with a dominating situation. 

Kamatakis held

The flop held a backdoor straight draw for the chip-leader, but the turn meant he would need a six and only a six to eliminate the young upstart. 

The river was the , Volos was pumped (not as pumped as when the cards first hit their backs) and four-handed play continues. Things just got a bit more interesting. 

Volos has 2,000,000 now. 

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Kratovic crashes out 5th (€16,150)

Rocked and rolled his way to 5th.

Ilios Kamatakis is beginning to look unstoppable. Ever since he took a huge chunk out of M.E.’s stack by spiking that critical nine, he hasn’t looked back, booking several eliminations – and he’s just added one more.

Holding on the button, with two sub 15BB stacks in the small and big blind, he just jammed all-in – an understandable play with a hand that was likely to be ahead but didn’t flop well.

In the big blind, Mladen Kratovic squeezed – not really able to fold with ten big blinds. He took a few moments to make sure he was doing the right thing – and called.

Cards on their backs.

“I am ahead right?” joked Illias. He was – but not by much…

The board came – live till the river – finally the door shut on Kratovic’s title bid. He finishes 5th for €16,150 – a very healthy payday and an impressive performance. Well played – you did Serbia well!

4 handed we continue, Kamatakis with an ever-more dominating stack. He will be a tough man to stop at this point…

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