Quebec’s Erik Cajelais In Contention At WPT Merit Cyprus Classic


The World Poker Tour has kicked off its Season XI schedule in style, heading across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus for its first tournament of the year. As expected, a host of poker’s biggest names has headed that direction as well, looking for the latest action in the tournament poker world.

The non-televised tournament was a $4000 buy in event featuring two Day Ones with a re-entry option for those eliminated on Day 1A. After those two Day Ones was completed on Sunday, 329 players had convened on the Merit Crystal Cove Hotel and Casino in Cyprus, building a nice prize pool of slightly more than $1.2 million. The first place finisher will walk off with a $287,784 bankroll boost as well as a seat to the 2013 WPT Championship.

Only 131 players were left when play began on Monday with former WPT champion David “Chino” Rheem at the helm of the field with 291,500 in chips and a host of notable names chasing him. Two of the Mizrachi brothers – Michael and Robert – were in the mix (after some adventures in actually getting to Cyprus for the tournament) while Canada’s Erik Cajelais came through the Day 1A carnage down the leaderboard a bit with his 71,900 chip count.

Two players who have had an excellent 2012 tournament season to this point clashed early during the Day Two play. Defending WPT World Champion Marvin Rettenmaier went to battle against newly minted World Series of Poker bracelet winner Dominik Nitsche on a Q-6-2 flop, which saw Rettenmaier check-call a bet of 2700 from Nitsche. Another deuce came on the turn and another check-call from Rettenmaier. A King of diamonds on the river brought another check from Rettenmaier, who this time folded his hand after a third bullet from Nitsche.

A few other players couldn’t get much going on Day Two, however. Former European Poker Tour Grand Final champion Nicolas Chouity was dumped from the Cyprus gathering by another former EPT champion, Martin Finger, while Michael Mizrachi was eliminated at the hands of Arthur Voskanyan. The darling of this year’s WSOP Championship Event, France’s Gaelle Baumann, also met the end of her tournament existence at the hands of Sam El Sayed.

There wasn’t much attention paid to Cajelais, who was building a giant stack, until he displayed his typical attacking style in one hand. After a raise and three callers came to Cajelais, he proceeded to fire out a huge 27K chip bet. The four pretenders slunk away from the battle to give the pot to Cajelais, prompting Rheem to ask, “Was it big?” “Big enough,” Cajelais responded as he did something untypical for him, flashing an A-Q to the table as his stack grew to 350K in chips.

By the time the players reached the conclusion of the Day Two proceedings, only 53 players were left standing. Cajelais is one of those in prime contention for the first championship of the Season XI WPT schedule, sitting behind only one player:

Sam El Sayed 375,500
Erik Cajelais 371,500
Robert Mizrachi 365,000
Chino Rheem 361,000
Vyacheslav Stoyanov 356,500
Aubin Cazals 344,500
Andras Nemeth 337,000
Tolga Demirel 298,000
Andrey Shatilov 279,500
Manig Loeser 277,500

Within striking distance of the Top Ten are such notables as Rettenmaier (12th place, 251K) and Oleksii Kovalchuk (166K), while Nitsche (127.5K), Finger (93K) and Day 1A chip leader Maxim Panyak (89K) have their work cut out for them.

Day Three is in action as we speak and it has been a good start for Cajelais, who is looking to add a WPT championship to his WSOP bracelet on his mantle. Currently the Quebecois is at the head of the leaderboard as the only player over the one million mark in chips. Mizrachi is a distant second, while El Sayed has drifted down a bit, but only to fourth. With the final table set for Thursday, it will be an exciting tournament to watch as Erik Cajelais goes for the second leg of poker’s mythical “Triple Crown” at the WPT Cyprus Classic.


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Earl Burton
Earl Burton is a veteran journalist in the poker industry, having covered the game since 2004. He has played the game much longer, however, starting out playing in family games at a very early age. He has covered tournaments across the United States, including the World Poker Tour, the World Series of Poker and various charitable events. Earl’s background includes writing for some of the top poker news sites in the industry as well as other poker media outlets that include Poker Player Newspaper and Canadian Poker Player Magazine. Earl keeps an unblinking eye on the poker world, offering coverage of news from the industry, tournament action, player interviews, strategy and his opinions on the game. Whenever possible, Earl will also step to the tables to demonstrate that there’s more than just writing talent behind his poker game!


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