On Sunday, September 3, 2023, Simon Wiciak took down the European Poker Tour (EPT) Barcelona Main Event for €1,134,375.
Here are three hands from the final table that helped lead the French poker pro to victory.
4 players remain
Level 34: Blinds 150,000-300,000, 300,000 ante
By the time we’d reached the seventh and final day of this incredible Main Event, it was clear that Simon Wiciak had plenty of tricks up his sleeve.
The 30-year-old pro from La Rochelle was the overnight chip leader for the previous two days, and you don’t hold the lead in a stacked event like this without knowing when to duck, weave, and strike.
But to ride the lead to the title, he’d need to overcome a final table that included PokerStars Team Pro Andre Akkari, UK bracelet winner Carl Shaw, Argentina’s Ezequiel Waigel, Canada’s Santiago Plante, and a player who had proved to be his nemesis at several points in the tournament, Brazil’s João Sydenstricker.
Wiciak and Sydenstricker would end up meeting each other in heads-up play, but their duels began long before Carl Shaw was eliminated in third.
With four players remaining, it folded to Wiciak in the small blind and he completed with A♦ 6♠ . Sydenstricker had him dominated in the big blind with A♥ Q♦ and raised it up 1.2M, which the Frenchman called.
They saw a 9♦ 5♠ 9♣ flop and Wiciak called Sydenstricker’s 650K continuation bet. Both only had ace-high, but the 8♦ gave Wiciak a gutshot. They both checked and the turn was the 10♣ .
“At this stage, [Wiciak] has all the nines,” said PokerStars commentator Griffin Benger. This is down to the fact that Sydenstricker checked back the turn, something he’s very unlikely to do with trips.
“[Wiciak] could also be value-betting an eight,” Benger continued. “And it looks like he’s going to go for it.”
Wiciak loaded the canon and led out for 2.5M, more than half the pot.
A pure bluff.
“This is pretty high-level stuff,” said Benger. “You limp-called pre-flop because you’re probably going to have the best hand a lot. Then you check-call the flop because you have ace-high and you think you’re going to have the best hand a lot.
“Then you find yourself on the river and you think: “Well, they didn’t go for it on the turn so maybe he just had a better ace-high this whole time.”
Sydenstricker used a time bank as he deliberated. Ultimately, he laid down the better-kicked ace.
“Show the bluff!” yelled a member of Wiciak’s rail. He happily obliged.
It wasn’t the biggest or most significant pot at the time, but this hand may well have given Wiciak the confidence he’d then rely on later.
WICIAK’S SCARY CALL
3 players remain
Level 34: Blinds 150,000-300,000, 300,000 ante
Now down to three players, Carl Shaw picked up Q♥ J♥ in the small blind, an attractive hand and one that no one would blame him for raising with.
However, Shaw recognised he would be in a tricky spot if Simon Wiciak opted to three-bet from the big blind. The pot would be bloated, plus he’d be out of position post-flop. But not seeing a flop when your hand has so much potential simply wasn’t an option.
So Shaw just limped, hoping to either see a cheap flop or call and keep the pot smaller if Wiciak raised, and that’s exactly what happened.
Wiciak woke up with a monster in A♠ K♣ and raised it to 1.5M – five big blinds. Shaw wasn’t going anywhere and made the call, taking them to an 8♦ 2♣ 3♦ flop – not exactly a board that smashes either’s range.
After Shaw checked, Wiciak continued for 800K (~2.6 big blinds) hoping to fold out all of Shaw’s give-ups. Q♥ J♥ might normally fall into that bracket, but not this time. Shaw had a plan and check-raised to 3.4M, targeting hands exactly like the one Wiciak held.
PokerStars commentator Griffin Benger liked the play, saying: “If you don’t have the goods, you’re absolutely jailed here. What are you going to do with your ace-highs? He didn’t make it 2.2x the size of the bet, he made it 4.2x your bet.”
But Wiciak would make the call for almost a quarter of his remaining stack, a fantastic call in the moment and one which became even better when the 6♦ landed on the turn, putting three diamonds on board. It might not have improved either hand, but it must have looked scary to Shaw. He slowed down and checked, and Wiciak checked back with a pot-size bet behind.
The 7♥ river completed the board and Shaw had a big decision. Could he represent a flush and shove? Would he ever have checked the turn with a set? Would Wiciak ever check back the turn with something he can call with on the river?
All of these things must have run through the Brit’s mind, but he ultimately decided to play it safe and check. Wiciak, with showdown value and no reason to bet, checked it back and saw the good news: His ace-high was best.
With that, he scooped in a 10M pot and kept himself well in contention.
THE FINAL HAND
2 players remain
Level 35: Blinds 200,000-400,000, 400,000 ante
After a three-handed deal and Carl Shaw’s departure, it was heads up between Simon Wiciak and João Sydenstricker.
The duel didn’t take long.
Sydenstricker opened to 1.1M with Q♥ 10♣ on the button and Wiciak had a pretty suited connector in the 6♣ 5♣ .
“This is not an unreasonable three-bet hand,” said commentator Nick Walsh. “I wouldn’t mind seeing a raisey-daisy.”
Wiciak asked for a count (Sydenstricker had just under 30M to his 33.6M) and then gave Walsh what he wanted. Wiciak bumped it up to 4M and Sydenstricker made the call with the best hand.
The flop came 9♣ 5♦ 2♥ and Wiciak continued for 3M with his middle pair. Sydenstricker was a non-believer and made the call, but he’d need to hit something – either a pair or a card improving him to a straight draw – in order to continue, right?
Well, not when Wiciak checked. Now he could take over the betting lead and fired 3.5M with his queen-high.
“Players at Wiciak’s level will understand that his opponent will have floats here – two overcards, for example,” explained Walsh. “Hands exactly like queen-ten.”
Wiciak made the call and the river was the 9♥ , pairing the board.
Wiciak checked again and Sydenstricker, who had less than pot behind, shoved for 19M into 21M.
The bet was for most of Wiciak’s chips, and all he had was a pair of fives to go with the nines on board. But he also had the confidence he’s shown throughout this event.
“This is a huge moment,” said Walsh. “Imagine making this hero call and claiming victory here in Barcelona.”
Simon Wiciak doesn’t have to imagine. He did it.
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