Mike Watson
Canadian poker hero Mike Watson became a two-time EPT winner when he took the title in Monte Carlo this weekend, taking home $823,000.

The European Poker Tour’s flagship Main Event has been a source of debate in recent years. With a trimming back of stops on the tour a few years ago, other tour destinations to Monte Carlo came to prominence when the EPT returned in full. In 2023, evidently, the big one is back, and so is Mike Watson.

Becoming the third two-time WPT Main Event champion, Mike ‘Sir Watts’ Watson has stepped into the spotlight once again, carving out another place in poker history after defeating the German player Leonard Maue heads-up.

Watson Survives Day 4 on the River  

A total of 38 players started Day 4 with dreams of making the final table, Watson amongst them. He would get lucky to survive amid the drama of a pulsating day’s poker. For the shorter stacks amongst that number, the target of British player Kenan Taylor at the top of the leaderboard with 243 big blinds seemed a long way away. Taylor’s lead over the field was immense, it being a long way from his stack to his nearest challenger when play began, Lithuanian Arunas Saptivicius with 148 big blinds.

Of the players who were dramatically short of those chip mountains, several were out before getting to warm their chairs. Mark Teltscher exited in 37t place for $21,800, and he was quickly joined on the rail by Ramon Colillas for the same amount as the PokerStars Ambassador lost a flip against Elias Fitz to go down to a single 5k poker chip, which swiftly went.

Across a frantic start to the day, 30 players became 20 players relatively quickly, before Day 2’s end-of-day chip leader Markkos Ladev busted in 19th place for $38,250. British player Andrew Hulme made it to the final two tables, but he busted in 16th place, cashing for $44,000, after he busted in extremely unfortunate fashion, hic KhKc overtaken by Joachim Haraldstad’s AsKs on a cruel board showing QsJh2h2cAd.

Artur Martirosian’s bust-out in 14th place heralded the end of the day. The Russian player was all-in with 4d4c, but he started and ended his final hand well behind Jason Wheeler’s 9d9c, even drawing dead to flushes. Martirosian’s elimination saw the close of Day 4 confirmed, with a ‘lucky’ thirteen returning to compete for a final table place on the penultimate day.

Lady Luck Smiles on Watson

With 13 players beginning, play needed to come down to six players for the bell to toll on the action. Nicola Grieco was the first man to bust, losing out with 7c6h when Ori Hasson’s AdKd managed to get there after all the money went in on a 6d3h3c flop. A 5d on the turn was followed by a 9d on the river to give him Hasson the nut flush.

British player Kenan Taylor had led the field when Day 3 ended, but he found himself on the rail in 12th place, just three places short of the unofficial final table. Haraldstad got his man, all-in with JsJd on the river of a 8h6c2s8c9s board. Taylor called after using his time bank cards and his Kh9h wasn’t good enough.

Later in the day, Canadian poker hero Mike Watson got some good fortune on the river instead of bad. All-in with pocket queens against ‘big slick’, a king on the flop and ace on the turn had given him the shot at only two cards to survive. What happened next shocked even the man himself.

When the final nine gathered, it was the Norwegian player Haraldstad who led the way with 7.2 million chips, some way clear of most, with Mike Watson (3.7m) and Jason Wheeler (2.1m) grappling for a foothold. Wheeler in particular flirted with defeat, but doubled up when he needed to, then turned to stealing pots after the dinner break with only one bust left before the day’s end.

Watson Wins for Double EPT Glory

Of the final six players, several of them were highly experienced. Chief amongst them was Watson, with Wheeler’s exit at the tail-end of Day 5 giving Watson a streamlined aim – beat five less experienced players to the title and enter history. Having been just a single river card away form elimination on Day 4, Watson got the job done in ruthless style on the final day.

Arnauld Enselme lost in sixth place for $198,795 when his TdTc lost to Watson’s JdJd to leave the Frenchman on the rail.

Another domination saw Samy Boujmala go in fifth place, as his KdQc lost to Leo Worthington-Leese’s AhQs to score over a quarter of a million dollars, taking home $258,411. The former chip leader Haraldstad lost in fourth for $335,995, all-in for his last with Kh6s and ahead of Watson’s Ts8s. That was before the flop of ThTc9h set him behind and after the 9s turn, the 3s river saw the field down to three.

Mike Watson
Mike Watson pictured in action during a frantic Day 4 which saw him survive by the barest of margins.

A short time later, Leese was on the rail, losing to Maue’s pocket jacks to give the German a stack of 15.4 million chips, a short way behind Watson’s 17.5 million. The parity of stacks led to a deal between the two players, before the stacks swung both ways. Watson was ahead when a flop of Th7h5c saw a c-bet from Watson with Tc9c called by Maue with 4s3c. The turn of Ad got two checks, but the 7s on the river led to an all-in bluff from Maue and Watson used five time banks before making the winning call to take the title.

Having previously won the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) Main Event, Watson’s second live EPT title puts him on a par with the original double EPT Main Event winner, Victoria Coren-Mitchell (2014), who pipped Mikalai Pobal (2019) to that lofty achievement. The Swedish player ‘WhatIfGod’ won two EPT Online Main Events in consecutive years (2020 and 2021), but at the live felt, Watson is number three in a very short line of double EPT winners.

“It’s an amazing accomplishment,” he admitted after the event to PokerNews. “Winning two main events on the same tour is really hard.  I just feel really lucky that I was able to pull it off today.”

EPT Monte Carlo 2023 Main Event Final Table Results:

Place Player Country Prize
1st Mike Watson Canada $823,558*
2nd Leonard Maue Germany $766,140*
3rd Leo Worthington-Leese United Kingdom $436,766
4th Joachim Haraldstad Norway $335,995
5th Samy Boujmala France $258,411
6th Arnaud Enselme France $198,795
7th Jason Wheeler United States $152,915
8th Arunas Sapitavicius Lithuania $117,639
9th Maduka Meragal Canada $90,496

Photographs courtesy of Danny Maxell and Manuel Kovsca, reproduced with kind permission of PokerStars, the home of the European Poker Tour. You can watch the action play down to a winner on the PokerStars’ Twitch channel.