EPT9 London: Nick Abou Risk leading the UKIPT-EPT transition
Nick Abou Risk was quickly spotted on the UKIPT by well known poker pundit Jesse May who described the eventual winner of UKIPT Edinburgh as a 'terror and destroyer'. Abou Risk had been ripping three-bets into May all day leaving his presenter opponent looking entirely bewildered.
In hindsight, May should feel no shame as Abou Risk has established himself as quite the poker pro grinding mid-stakes fixed-limit hold'em and taking down another UKIPT title on his way to clock up $283,197 in live tournament winnings.
A deep run in last year's WSOP Main Event could have been a huge pay day but Abou Risk bust before the real heady money appeared when he fell in 161st for $52,718. Here in London he's through into the money again and playing well on the feature table (he's currently riding an average stack with around 60 players remaining for a guaranteed £11,000).
Things are looking up for Abou Risk here in London: yesterday he won a key flip against Viktor Blom winning a big ace-king to queens race. Beating that Scandi is always going to be a good sign, surely.
Today the omens didn't look so great when he was drawn against four EPT champions; David Vamplew, Mike McDonald, and Team PokerStars Pros Vicky Coren and Sandra Naujoks (who likes riding horses, we hear).
Despite all of that Abou Risk still doesn't seem that troubled making the transition from UKIPT legend to just another stack on the EPT.
"It's actually been a lot smoother than I thought it would in terms of the level of play... For the amount of the buy-in I expected them to be a lot more full of regs and less spots so I'm pretty happy with that," said Abou Risk.
"It's not that they're not tough," he clarified. "It's just that they're not as tough as I thought they'd be. I intend to play more EPTs depending on where the venue is. If it's somewhere that I want to take a vacation then I'll definitely play them."
Despite his successes Abou Risk hasn't always been a full time grinder. He was a full time Full Tilt-er.
"I used to work on two different teams at Full Tilt. I started on the server team working on a lot of the back-end stuff making sure that tournaments ring games ran properly, adding features to the game and all that kind of stuff. Then I switched to the data analytics team which was pretty cool. It was all hand history based and looking at stats of players for bot detection and collusion detection. It was all about game integrity and was a really interesting field," said Abou Risk.
Being immersed in the numbers, stats and facts every day obviously helped his poker, as did the local home game which involved fellow UKIPT champion Max Silver (you can spot Abou Risk in the winner's photo). You can find out more about that 'learning game' here.
Abou Risk and Silver seemed to carve through UKIPT fields at will, possibly fuelled by an any-ace four-betting strategy. I put that suspicion to Abou Risk who was quick to laugh (I'm taking that as an admission of guilt).
"I've toned down my four-betting a bit but I'm always tempted when I see an ace.
In the UKIPT that's a fine strategy because people three-bet without a plan and they don't five-bet much or peel four-bets that much so you get away with murder. You can't really do that in the EPTs. You have to play a sounder strategy or you'll get someone making a move with seven-five suited," he said.
Looking to the future
Although Abou Risk has scored some great tournament results (I think he won the first two live tournaments he played) he actually specialised in limit poker.
"I still play some fixed-limit Hold'em but those games don't run so often and it can be hard to get action heads-up as everyone bum-hunts so I've been learning some of the mixed games; fixed-limit O8, PLO and would love to learn some of the draws like 2-7 triple draw which is getting really popular."
So can we expect Abou Risk to plead late registration into the £10,300 8-game Championship which started today?
"It's my wife's birthday on St Paddy's day (17 March) and I'm missing her after a week so I need to book a flight back as soon as possible," said Abou Risk in a thinly-veiled there's-a-woman-that-likes-me brag.
Unfortunately for Abou Risk he'll be seeing her sooner than later. He's now out. You can find out more about the UKIPT here.
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.