Poker and beauty converge in Austria for EPT Ladies Event

ept-thumb-promo.jpgby Mad Harper

The image of Sisi, Empress of Austria, is prolific in Vienna. There are Sisi walking tours, Sisi exhibitions, Sisi gift shops. The beautiful wife of Franz Joseph I was as much an icon for 19th century Europe as Britain's Princess Diana was for the late 20th century. Her tragic death in 1898 at the hands of anarchist Luigi Lucheni has ensured that, like Diana, she remains a cult figure for centuries to come.

So in Vienna, this elegant city famed for the beauty of one woman, it is more than appropriate that more than 30 stunning women turned up to compete in the €330 EPT Ladies Event yesterday (October 30).

Entrants came from all over Europe and ranged from poker pros like Russian runner-up Natalya Nikitina to recreational players like student Alessandra Cravero from Italy, who won the event.

Among those who competed were part-time photographer Anastasiia "SpringSmile" Syvak from Riga, Latvia, who won the first Ladies Event of EPT Season 7 in Tallinn; Austrian journalist Manuela Richter, who writes for; European Poker Tour dealers Niloufar Shari Marouf and her cousin Nushin; electrical engineering student Ena Zunic from Germany; as well as Birgit Lausecker; one of Austria's top female players.

The 31-player field created a €9,300 prize pool and by the time the bubble was reached, the four remaining players had been competing in the Kursalon Palace tournament room in Vienna's beautiful Stadtpark for over five hours. For another hour, the four players tussled over their chip stacks until finally Austrian player Christa Blieberger, who came third in a €300 No Limit Turbo at EPT Vilamoura and was being enthusiastically railed by her husband, was eliminated.

Dagmar Gebauer from Austria was knocked out shortly afterwards, taking €1,860 for her third place finish. That left just two players--biology student Alessandro Cravero from Rome, 27, a friend of Team PokerStars Pro Dario Minieri and Italian pro Dario Alioto, and Russian pro Natalya Nikitina. The heads-up didn't last too long . . . short-stacked Nikitina, 23, went all-in with A4 and Cravero called with KJ and hit a Jack on the river to win the title and €4,650 first prize.


Runner-up Nikitina--clearly gutted to have lost the tourney--took home €2,790 for second place. Cravero, who mainly plays online cash games, said: "I don't want to turn pro or anything like that, but I feel great. I really enjoy poker and this is the best win I've had so far."

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in PS Women