It's the day before the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. You're in Las Vegas but don't happen to have a spare $10,000 knocking around. That is annoying. Then Gus Hansen ambles by, probably checking out the talent on the rail. He offers to buy you in. You play the Big One.
This simply doesn't happen to normal people. The first few steps perhaps, but likely not the part where the Great Dane tosses you a couple of $5k chips to play. It did, however, happen to Jaroslav Tjepan just a few months ago.
However much of a high roller you may think Hansen is he's simply not going to punt $10,000 to a no-hoper. Hansen knew, or likely had been advised by fellow Dane high stakes Omaha cash game player Alexander Petersen, that his countryman had talent. Over the last couple of weeks that belief has been realised as Tjepan, using his surname as his PokerStars ID, topped the Turbo Championship of Online Poker (TCOOP) leader board
Tjpean's TCOOP stats
Final tables: 2
Position on the TCOOP leader board: 1
Money won: $79,819.16 (plus a $16,500 PCA package)
Who is Tjepan?
The 22-year-old, who has been playing poker for a living for the last two years, was born in Ukraine where he lived for seven years before moving to Israel for the next seven years of his life. He's now spent a similar amount of time in Denmark where he lives in Aarhus, which he calls home. He also once ate the biggest burger in a festival in Denmark setting a record which resulted in him "puking for a long time". That kind of competitive instinct does not come cheap.
Although Tjepan's predominantly a turbo heads-up sit-and-go grinder he also plays short-handed and tournaments, a transition that has recently proved to be profitable as you can see from his TCOOP stats.
"It feels amazing winning the title. It is definitely the greatest achievement in my poker career so far. It's kind of hard to explain how good it feels to be number one on that list. I always hoped to become the best, but I never worked hard enough to get there. I realised a short time ago what it really takes to get where I want to be and I tried to do something about it. The TCOOP title is the first step to the main target," Tjepan told the PokerStars Blog.
"My poker ambition is to work hard enough to become one of the best live and online players in the world. It will take some time, but I know I'll get there. I'm trying to enjoy life as much as possible while I'm young and not think ten years forward. Hopefully I'll get a nice house near the beach in a warm county with some dogs and Redbulls to keep me awake playing poker."
As you'd expect of most 22-year-old grinders, there is no wife or children on the scene, but he does have a girlfriend with whom he hopes to go travelling. The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) is one trip already booked thanks to his leader board triumph; a $16,500 package was awarded to the winner. Book a bikini buying session in the post-summer sales.
"I heard lots of good stuff about the PCA in the Bahamas. I'm sad there is a whole year to the event, but I am seeing forward to play it already now," said Tjepan.
Gunning for glory
"I wasn't planning to play all the TCOOP events before my first big cash in event #16. I got the second big cash the day after and then I had to learn all the games to get the best possible result in the leader board," he said.
That step up meant that Tjepan had to quickly learn some new games - stud, hi-lo, etc - but thankfully he was staked for all the events by Petersen.
"My bankroll management couldn't let me play all the turbo events I wanted, especially not the High Roller event which i really wanted to try. I am glad that Alexander believed in me and gave me the opportunity."
It was certainly a belief which was repaid.
The sprint finish
There were just four events left on the TCOOP calendar and Tjepan was still five points behind Tinas21. It seemed likely that he would be able to snatch the lead back and he did that in emphatic manner. A 12th place finish in the High Roller for $20,805 gave Petersen's backing a healthy return and Tjepan 30 points, more than enough to take him back into pole position as Player of the Series.
Then, the celebrations...
"The picture was taken by my friend the morning after celebrations of my leader board win. We were five or six Danish poker players in London and we celebrated in a club by buying too much alcohol and making too many stupid prop bets, as poker players are used to doing. I think I drank a few drinks over the line and my friend who I shared a hotel room with made a little joke out of it."
Two words of advice if you bump into Tjepan at next year's PCA: don't get tangled in a hand with him unnecessarily and, more importantly, don't agree to share a room with him.
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.