EPT Prague: Schleicher stepping up

Among those arriving early to today's action, filling out their forms and riffling their chips before the room filled with others doing the same, was Janek Schleicher, a PokerStars qualifier from Germany, whose face seemed familiar.

"Have you played on the EPT before?" I asked, certain that this was not the first time he had graced these tables. "Yes," came the reply. "I played Budapest*. And the WSOP. And I qualified for the Bahamas. I like playing the 'steps'."

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Janek Schleicher

Schleicher was referring to the PokerStars "steps" satellite tournaments, a series of sit n goes that allow players to earn their shot at the big time for as little as $7.50 (a "step one" satellite) and gradually progressing rung by rung ("step by step") up the ladder. There are slight variations depending on the particular tournament, but largely the winner and second place of a single-table game gets a ticket to the next step, the third and fourth placed finisher gets another shot at the level they're on, and the fifth and sixth get a ticket to one "step" down.

Players can enter at any level, paying a commensurate buy-in, and once you've started, it can be tough to bust out - you end up with a bunch of tickets for level three, a handful for level four, a couple back there for level one and - if you play your cards right - a golden ticket for the big prize.

"What level did you enter?" I asked Schleicher. He looked at me, blew a sharp gust of air upward, and shrugged his shoulders in the universal language of "I haven't got a clue." It seems likely that Schleicher has more than a handful of these tickets, ensuring we'll be seeing plenty more of him at the coming tournaments.

And once you've all but ensured entry for a pittance into the big dances, you can be the kind of player who gets all your chips in during the first couple of hands. So it was with Schleicher. There couldn't have been more than three hands played when I wandered past and saw him re-raising a further couple of thousand looking at a board of 7d-Js-6d. His solitary opponent called, and then checked the 2s turn. Schleicher moved all in, sending his opponent into the tank, and sending the railbirds chattering.

Schleicher's opponent wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan: "I'm all in", prompting an observer to comment: "If he's T-shirt says he's all in, surely he's all in." Only he wasn't. He thought, pondered, tilted his head this way and that, grimaced, thought, pondered and folded. Job done.

*Schleicher came 31st in Hungary, good for more than $12,000.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour