EPT Prague: Local hero for a second time

Poker has proved popular among former sports stars. Soccer players, athletes; even tennis players like Boris Becker has joined Team PokerStars (Becker makes his EPT debut in Dortmund next month).

There’s something about poker that meets their requirements for competition, a welcome boost of adrenaline with lots at stake and big rewards. One such champion sits in the day 1a crowd - Pavel Blatny.

PokerStars qualifier and chess grand master Pavel Blatny

Pavel learned to play chess at 5 years of age and was professional by 7. Poker players may learn young but few making a living that early. As a grand master he went on to a long chess career, winning the national championships four times. Now, as a general manager in a luxury hotel chain in his home town of Brno, he has turned his attention to poker, showing some class last month when he finished tenth in the Master Classics in Amsterdam.

A quick Google finds him on multiple chess sites; evidence that he opts for the Sicilian defence more than any other when playing with white pieces. (Ruy Lopez when black), accounts of his prowess and victories and all in as much depth as you’d find on many poker sites.

“I started playing poker 3 or 4 years ago. It’s kind of more interesting” said Pavel at the break. “I had a successful career in chess but poker allows for more creativity – there is no one perfect solution to a situation. If you ask three top professional players something each of them gives a different answer, depending on style or situation. So psychologically and analytically that’s very interesting.”

But as a PokerStars qualifier things have been a little tricky in these early levels, down to just over 2k he was forced all in a short while ago, thankfully doubling up with a flush and making the kind of relief noises probably frowned upon on the chess circuit. But it’s still touch and go.

“I didn’t get such a good start. In a tournament you have to win the key hands and not get into hands that cost you a lot of chips.” Said Pavel, reeling from earlier hands that saw his two pair crushed on the river when an opponent made a flush.

“I hope I get some breaks. It’s like a stat anomaly! The best hand I’ve seen so far is jacks and ace-king. That was a few minutes ago. Before that only nines. Playing the short stack is kind of hard. I already got lucky, I must admit.”

Still, Pavel remains in good spirits. The grand master looking to dominate a new game he considers as much a sport as chess.

“It’s very important that poker gets recognised as sport. Tournaments here are very similar to chess tournaments, although of course you have to be quiet. It’s getting more popular in the Czech Republic in clubs and online. It’s definitely all poker for me now.”

Tournament update:

Bengt Sonnert – Sweden – 10,400
Christer Johansson – Sweden – 9,600
Katja Thater – Team PokerStars Pro – Germany – 14,000
Maximillian Bassil – PokerStars qualifier – Norway – 6,500
Ken Lennaard – Sweden – 39,000
Richard Toth – Hungary – 24,000
Jonas Molander – Sweden – 9,500
Christian Grundtvig – Denmark – 5,900
Gunnar Osterbrod – Sweden – 6,500
Rob Hollink – Holland – 31,000
Rolf Slotboom – Holland – 16,500 (and a tangerine)
Peter Mansson – PokerStars qualifier – Sweden – 4,100
Magnus Petersson – Sweden – 14,000
Pavel Blatny – PokerStars qualifier – Czech Republic – 18,000

Pavel: "It worked! It was just the statistical anomaly! I’ve had aces. I’m up to 18k! Of course that could all change in twenty minutes...”

Markus Golser – Austria – 6,000
Martin Wendt – 42,000 (in mostly black chips)
Michel Abecassis – France – 34,000
Nicolas Levi – France – 10,400
Joris Jaspers – PokerStars player – Holland – 8,000

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in