The John Eames Invitational
Do you know John Eames? If you're part of the British poker community then you almost certainly will. If you're an EPT regular then you really should, and you might have even played in his tournament: The John Eames Invitational.
Eames has taken one tournament and made it his own like no one else*, the 2k EPT side event. The currency doesn't matter, just so long as it has a price tag of around 2,000, Eames will likely win it. So much so that those events have started to become known as 'The John Eames Invitational'.
*Only Philipp 'philbort' Gruissem comes close with his phenomenal record in High Rollers.
"I won the event first in Vienna, then chopped heads up with Michael Tureniec at the next stop in Barcelona. It was then that friends of mine joked about it being my event and called it the 'Invitational'. I then chopped with Roberto (Romanello) in Prague and that sealed it, and it became wider known as my event. Winning again in London surely puts it beyond doubt!" Eames told the PokerStars Blog.
Indeed it does.
John Eames' cashes in The John Eames Invitational
Oct 2010 - EPT Vienna €2,000 No Limit Hold'em, 1st: €123,500 ($172,320)
Nov 2010: EPT Barcelona €2,000 No Limit Hold'em, 2nd: €78,300 ($107,020)
Dec 2011 - EPT Prague, €2,000 No Limit Hold'em, 1st: €101,750 ($136,235)
Mar 2013 - EPT London £2,000 No Limit Hold'em, 1st: £98,430 ($148,120)
The JEI (let's indulge that acronym for the moment) accounts for a third of Eames' live cash winnings: $563,695 of $1,673,929. He reckons that he's played the event 12-15 times for, let's say, a maximum of $40,000 invesment. That's not a bad return in anyone's eyes. So why is he so successful in that particular event?
"I think it's largely coincidence that I've done so well in this event. I felt pressure in London to keep the record up. Going into the final I really wanted the win for that reason. There is something in the way the EPT regulars treat this tournament though. A lot of people don't take it seriously because they're still disappointed from the main event and so try to accumulate too quickly in what is still a good structured, big prize pool tournament. I think I gain a good edge there by taking it that bit more seriously. Also the field is manageable and gets down to less than 30 after day 1," said Eames.
That's some classic Eames for you. Downplaying to the point of being sullen before revealing backhanded analysis that cuts to the chase. Although he's quick to laugh away from the table (often at other people), his renowned for a game face that sports as much joy as a punter watching their riderless horse canter across the line in last place.
While most players would be thrilled to have picked up kings three times in the first 15 hands of an EPT table, Eames, to whom this happened at EPT Copenhagen, just seemed embarrassed. Perhaps it was the fact that he'd seen EPT Main Events as something that he's meant to donate to, a penance of poker success elsewhere.
The Brit has, at his own reckoning, has played a lot of them, "I think I'm up to about 30 now, I've lost count," he mused.
Thanks to that final table in Denmark (where he finished 3rd for $257,011) Eames is probably still slightly ahead on Main Events - making the large assumption that he's bought in direct rather than satellited into the events - with EPT Main Event cashes totalling $283,200.
But as we all know, genuinely tracking poker success is a game of smoke and mirrors. How many did he satellite into? How much had he swapped in his big wins? How much did he have of other players when they made big final tables? Only excel files and little black books know that answer.
"I have swapped with friends in a lot of tournaments over the years, and did get to the point where I felt like I shouldn't swap in the 2k side events. But it's an irrational results orientated way of looking at it, so it doesn't change my outlook. If someone is worth swapping with then there's no reason not to," said Eames.
His straight talking does have limits. When asked about an anecdote we'd heard about David 'Doc' Sands playing the don't-you-know-who-I-am card when trying to strike a deal three-handed with Eames and EPT Tallinn champ Kevin Stani, Eames replied, "I can't be anything but diplomatic and say that he did finish 3rd in that tournament and a deal was done that he might not have been pleased with but agreed to anyway."
No dirt spilled. We tried.
Fellow English grinder Chris Moorman has been crushing the game for years but, as demonstrated at the recent EPT London final table, can't quite bag that big live title and is quite up front about how much he wants a trophy. Eames is in a similar situation but does the silverware matter to Eames?
"I think I'd have to take winning every other 2k over anything else. I just wish I knew this in advance so I could stop turning up for the main and donating €5k. But it would be amazing to win one of the big three titles, and it would be very satisfying. It's all variance and luck at a point though. All I can do is play to the best of my ability and see what happens. I certainly can't complain about how I've done overall."
Eames is currently sat 33rd on the England all-time money list, just one spot behind Team PokerStars Pro Vicky Coren, and you'd be a fool to bet against him scaling that ladder. The three places in front of him, Coren, Toby Lewis and Rupert Elder, have all picked up EPT Main Event trophies. Don't rule him out joining that club quite yet and, whatever you do, don't turn down a swap in any 2k side event with him.
Want to read the EPT London John Eames Invitational report? Click here.
Rick Dacey is staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.