Nicolas Chouity. Think of that name. What does it mean to you? Does it leap out as a premier league player, one who has taken down one of the biggest tournaments around and has the online results to back it up? Do you put Chouity's name alongside EPT winners such as Bertrand 'ElkY' Grospellier, Sebastian Ruthenberg and Kevin MacPhee? Unless you're an avid blog reader and follower of online results then it's likely that the answers may be: not much, no and no. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that is just an unfortunate case of poor PR. It is time to think again.
When Chouity won the EPT Grand Final in April 2010, getting his photo taken with a huge €1,700,000 pay check and an excitedly waved Lebanese flag, few players knew him. Chouity had made two previous EPT cashes; 50th at the previous year's Grand Final (€31,000) and 124th at Berlin (€8,000). Would he big a one-hit wonder? It seemed distinctly possible. While Chouity dominated his final table, battering his laddering opponents with a dominating chip lead, the opposition was not the toughest the EPT had ever thrown up. But you can only beat what's put in front of you and he did that convincingly.
Since then Chouity has put in some fine performance, including 4th in the €10,000 High Roller turbo at last year's Grand Final for €43,000 and 6th in a $1,500 WSOP event for $115,477 (Team PokerStars Pro Andre Akkari went on to win that one), but has the broader recognition come with it? We'd have to say no.
"Honestly it's nothing to win one tournament," Chouity told us at the break, "you have to win twice just to prove yourself more to people. Many think that winning once is luck. Although I have many successes online and live I'm really hungry to win something big. Maybe an EPT. Nobody knows me because I have a different name but the online world does know me," said Chouity evenly.
"Maybe it's because I live in a different part of the world in the Middle East and Lebanon. It's tough for people to know that there's a good player there," he added.
It's true. It is easier to focus on the poker fraternities, the sponsored pros and their enclaves which travel the circuit and pop up in televised poker events. Notoriety does not dictate skill level or success, nor does the lack of it. Chouity started the day as chip leader with 165,900 and has since run that up to 240,000 in a player style that can described as relaxed. Chouity only seems to half follow the action, frequently gazing into the distance or over to another table, rather than adopting the stare-at-something-until-it-burns intensity of Benny Spindler. Chouity mucks his cards with a mite of contempt, particularly when he didn't find a hand on the button, which is frustrating in anyone's world, but other than that he looks like pressure is something that doesn't exist in his reality.
"I think that my table is not that bad. There's Rupert (Elder) to my left who is the only decent player that I know. The others are Italian and a couple of random players. I think that I had a good draw today. Rupert is short but he's just picked up a couple of pots now but still he has about 50k and is dangerous," said Chouity, proving that he is more than following the action, despite his laconic method of play.
Since then Elder, a couple of seats to Chouity's left, has chipped up further to around 120,000 but it's unlikely Chouity will show any concern, outwardly at least. He is not a one tournament wonder. You need only look towards his online results to see that.
Playing under the username niccc on PokerStars, Chouity has won close to $2,000,000 in online tournaments with his largest online score coming when he claimed a WCOOP title with a $150,947 victory in a $2,100 PLO event. That was his second six-figure pay day online. These kind of results are not easy to come by.
Chouity is one of two Lebanese EPT winners and perhaps his predecessor, the infrequently seen Joseph Mouawad, informed some of the ambivalence towards Chouity but it seems that Lebanon is another country cranking up the poker scale.
"There was no poker four or five years ago but now there is in the casino. There's tournaments and cash games also as well as home games. Many people game in Lebanon and poker is going up every year. Because other types of poker have been played that's what they're used to so (many players) don't have the basics of Hold'em. There are some good players but the majority are still learning," explained Chouity
So it's probably a good place to go on a working holiday then?
"Yes, the best place to be."
Underestimate Chouity at your peril.
Level 11: blinds 600-1,200, ante 100
Players: 239 of 570
Average stack: 71,500
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