EPT Budapest: Poker's new hero

Tournament poker is the perfect arena for making overnight superstars. Put in a decent performance under the studio lights and you can rapidly become a sensation on the world stage. If you've been tuning into the broadcasts of the 2008 World Series Main Event - or if you were reading about it first on PokerStars blog during the summer - you'll know all about this man, who goes by the name of Christian Dragomir:

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Christian Dragomir

For the uninitiated, Dragomir was already familiar enough in Europe from his captaincy of the Romania World Cup of Poker side. But he is now also a bone fide poker hero for standing up to one of the familiar tirades of the self-appointed poker brat Phil Hellmuth at the World Series. Evidently sick of Hellmuth's berating of "idiots" ("idiots" who have sometimes outplayed him), Dragomir turned the tables on the 11-time bracelet winner and formally complained to the tournament officials. "It is my right to play my cards however I want," insisted Dragomir, not unreasonably. He then flew into his own fluent berating of Hellmuth's ego-driven rants, and earned rich applause from the studio audience, as well as various online commentators who have now seen his spectacular performance on television.

Hellmuth, for the record, was given a one-round suspension, which was overturned on appeal. And, to give credit where it is due, he later apologised to Dragomir for his behaviour. We are also already well aware that many of Hellmuth's antics are usually the equivalent of a pantomime villain (or professional wrestler) and largely just for the sake of the watching cameras. But Dragomir's actions have still made him a worthy icon; someone prepared to stand up to the bully boys.

Of course, Dragomir outlasted Hellmuth in that Main Event, and although he still has some way to go to match the achievements of the poker brat, he's working on it on the EPT. Just watch out if any flop has a 10 or a four on it; those were the cards held by the Romanian which sent Hellmuth spiralling into absurdity, and it is now Dragomir's signature hand, whether he likes it or not.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour