EPT10 London: Leo McClean comes out from behind the hoodie

Play resumed on Day 5 of EPT London with 16 players still involved. The next player out would earn £25,780, which is an annual salary for many recreational poker players.

For Leo McClean, a 24-year-old year old PokerStars qualifier to this tournament, it could also be used to take his home-game to unprecedented levels. He said this morning that he usually plays with blinds of 25p in a game where the focus is more on getting drunk and having a laugh. He said that they tend to sit "ridiculously deep" to keep the game going long into the night.

McClean is still involved on Day 5 of EPT London and so has already locked up a 103,120 blind buy-in to the next game. How's that for "ridiculously deep". Does anyone have a jar of pennies quite that big?

McClean's spin up is already extraordinary. His total investment into EPT London runs to £93. He played an £11 feeder to a main online satellite, but whiffed it, which meant he needed to invest £82 in the next one. This time he was successful, taking him into the £530 satellite on PokerStars. He was then one of the last three in that tournament, earning him passage to the Connaught Rooms this week and the biggest poker event of his career.

"It's my first EPT, so it's quite exciting," McClean said. "I usually play loads of the medium, and some of the high tournaments on Stars...I don't know what I'm thinking, to be honest. It's very surreal to be this deep in the tournament."


Leo McClean, foreground, and his hardy band of followers

It's been a whirlwind introduction to the world of high stakes tournament poker for a man who usually spends his days working as a project manager, arranging re-fits for retail outlets. He said he had a "terrible" start on Day 1, but by Day 2 was elevated to the feature table alongside a certain American superstar, and was personally responsible for ending the Poker Brat's participation in London.

"I enjoyed the feature table," McClean said. "I was on there on day two with Phil Hellmuth, which was exciting, it was fun. To bust him as well, that was something special."

McClean was back on the feature table for almost all of Day 4, where his friends Richard Milner and Luke Jordan will also have earned themselves some television time. Milner and Jordan were among a small group of friends who surprised McClean by showing up yesterday to rail him, and then stood in the background of the television set with the hoods of their sweatshirts wrapped around their faces, mimicking the pose adopted at the table by McClean.

"The first time I didn't know they'd done it," McClean said. "But then they texted me and were laughing. It's quite cool."
"It is cool," said Milner, who first met McClean three years ago around the poker tables of the Victoria casino in London.


Leo McLean's army of fans

McClean explained the reason behind the distinctive pose, which has been made all the more iconic by the bright yellow colour of his hoodie. "It's just to make me feel comfortable," he said. "It lets me control my breathing more and feel more comfortable when I'm in a pot. It's not for tells or anything, because obviously at this level it's not about the physical tells as much. It's more about the thinking."

So far, the thinking has been spot on. McClean, who is also recovering from a cruciate ligament injury to his knee that has kept him on crutches for 15 weeks and counting, booked himself the whole week off of work for this event, planning on playing some side events had things not gone so well in the Main Event. But now he is focused on sticking around in the ever-dwindling field as long as possible, without permitting himself to get too carried away.

"People ask me what would you do if you won it and I really haven't got a clue," he said. "I really don't know. From day one, I've just been playing poker and going through the tournament...My job is fun and even if I win the tournament, I'd go back to work."

Follow all the action from the EPT London main event on the EPT London Main Event page, with chip counts and hand-by-hand reporting. Follow the High Roller event on the High Roller page. EPT Live is at EPT Live.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour