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.
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.
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.